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News In Brief

MID-DAY UPDATE: Potential furloughs, Portugal asks for bailout

Katharine Crnko Apr 7, 2011

Here are today’s top headlines from the Marketplace Morning Report and from around the web.

Portugal has officially asked the European Union for a bailout. The country’s mired in debt, and is looking for somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion. What’s not gonna help Portugal is the European Central Bank’s decision today to raise its main interest rate by a quarter percent. That means it’ll cost more — for people, and countries — to borrow money. It’s the first time the ECB’s raised rates in three years. The Bank of England kept its rate steady. You can read all of Marketplace’s coverage of this topic here.

The United Nations said today its Food Price Index fell last month. The first drop in eight months.

Two people were arrested yesterday — charged with running the longest insider trading scheme ever uncovered — over a 17-year period. Authorities say former lawyer Matthew Kluger passed on information about upcoming mergers to a middleman who would then pass on the details to stock trader Garrett Bauer. Kluger and Bauer are said to have made $32 million in profit.

And finally — let me make a quick phone call. Oh, hold music again. Well, now it appears, there’s an app for that. It’s called FastCustomer — and it waits on hold for you. Then when the operator picks up it tells them to dial 1 to be connected to you. How’s that for turning the tables? There is one little catch — while you’re waiting for your phone to ring, you do have to remember why you were calling in the first place.

On to the potential shutdown… If the federal government does shut down tomorrow night, non-essential employees won’t be the only ones temporarily out of work. Their government-issued smartphones will get the boot as well. An administration official tells the Wall Street Journal if a federal worker is furloughed, it is illegal to work — a criminal violation. That includes looking at and responding to work-related emails. One government staffer says she’s thinking about a 12-step Blackberry withdrawal program.

Today Defense Secretary Robert Gates told troops in Iraq that if the government does close their pay may be delayed.

The real estate research company Reis says last quarter mall vacancies were at 9.1 percent — the highest level in 11 years. Here is Marketplace’s coverage.

More good news for the job market. The Labor Department told us this morning that the number of people applying for first time unemployment benefits dropped last week to 382,000. To put that number in perspective, at the peak of the recession weekly applications hit 659,000.

You can read the rest of today’s stories from the Marketplace Morning Report here.

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