News In Brief

MID-DAY UPDATE: Fannie and Freddie, commercial real estate, Jordanian tourism

Katharine Crnko Feb 9, 2011

The Mortgage Bankers Association this morning reported that applications for home mortgages dropped 5.5 percent last week. And the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be on the chopping block. The White House is hoping to decide the future of the government-backed mortgage companies this week.

Meanwhile, commercial real estate may be showing signs of recovery. According to Faith Hope Consolo of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, law firms and accounting firms are expanding and moving into vacant commercial spaces. Businesses are encouraged by lower rents and longer rent-free periods, a perk Consolo says she has “never seen before for offices.”

Tomatoes and wheat dominated the food news today. Droughts in China are threatening the global wheat supply, as the country’s northeastern breadbasket weathers a severe winter. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization warns that price spikes could affect everything from noodles to Wheaties. And Italians are being urged to boycott “connected” tomatoes. Daytime talk show host Alessandro di Pietro is petitioning Italian housewives to boycott Pachino tomatoes, claiming that the mafia is controlling the distribution of Sicily’s famous tomato.

Alisa Roth is reporting today from Amman, Jordan, where businesses are beginning to feel the economic strain on tourism. Some tourists are avoiding the entire Middle East region because of ongoing protests in Egypt and the potential destabilizing affect on surrounding countries.

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