Dollars & Sense

General Motors faces sea of red ink

For all the good in GM's 2007 results -- the near- record sales worldwide,and the reductions in labor costs and in retiree health obligations -- there is no getting around the $38.7 billion in red ink. The largest annual loss in the history of the auto industry signals that even with a garage full of hot vehicles and a historic new labor contract, GM has little hope of making a profit again before 2010 as the weak U.S. economy and competition eat away at its gains. GM reported the record-setting loss Tuesday and promptly offered a new round of buyouts to 74,000 U.S. hourly workers in hopes of replacing some of them with lower-paid employees.

Bond offer rejected

Two of the three troubled bond insurers billionaire investor Warren Buffett offered to help have rejected extra guarantees on municipal bonds. Ambac Financial Group Inc. said in a statement Tuesday that the reinsurance that Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is offering wouldn't be in the best interests of the bond insurer or all of its policyholders. Buffett said Tuesday morning that one of the three bond insurers to which Berkshire offered reinsurance already had said no, but he didn't say which one declined. Ambac spokesman Peter Poillon said his company was not the one Buffett referred to and that Ambac did not respond directly to Berkshire. Buffett offered a second level of insurance on as much as $800 billion in municipal bonds.

Boost your business

Even in a slow economy, it's possible to increase one's business. Learning how to do that is the subject of an event Friday at the Galaxy Theatre in Riverbank, with tips from business owners. The event, which will begin with breakfast at 7 a.m. and a program at 8, includes an overview of the local economy, suggestions for a marketing plan and a roundtable discussion with longtime business owners. Sponsors include the chambers of commerce in Modesto, Oakdale and Riverbank and the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance. Registration is $10 and can be made through the Modesto Chamber of Commerce at 577-5757 or the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce at 847-2244. The theater is at 2525 Patterson Road.

Coming Thursday

Internet service providers have been selling an all-you-can-eat buffet of service for years, but overconsumption is prompting changes.