C.F.T.C. Pushes Compromise on Trading Limits

Banks Looking At New Fees

Banks, in an attempt to wring more revenue out of customer accounts, are planning new ways to raise fees on basic products like debit cards, cash machines and checking accounts.

As regulation curtailing financial institutions from levying certain charges on consumers has mounted over the past year, banks have had to come up with new fees to replace those trimmed by laws. Credit-card users have experienced new inactivity fees and foreign-exchange charges, while checking accounts have gotten hit with new monthly maintenance fees.

Banks are considering additional fees on credit cards and checking accounts. But they also are looking at new ways to make money on cash machines and especially debit cards as regulators pinch the cards’ conventional revenue streams.

Some experts believe that to counter that lost revenue, banks are thinking about imposing annual fees of $25 or $30 on debit cards.

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MicroLenders, Once Honored, Now Struggling

Microcredit is losing its halo in many developing countries.

Microcredit was once extolled by world leaders like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, as a powerful tool that could help eliminate poverty, through loans as small as $50 to cowherds, basket weavers and other poor people for starting or expanding businesses. But now microloans have met with political hostility in Bangladesh, India, Nicaragua and other developing countries.

In December, the prime minister of Bangladesh,Sheik  Hasina Wazed— who had championed microloans alongside Mr. Clinton at talks in Washington in 1997, while Mr. Clinton was president — turned her back on them. She said microlenders were “sucking blood from the poor in the name of poverty alleviation,” and she ordered an investigation into Grameen Bank, which had pioneered microcredit and which, along with its founder, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

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As regulators propose hundreds of new rules for banks, hedge funds and other big financial players, trading limits for wheat and corn are proving the most resistant to change..

The Commodities Futures Trading Commission was supposed to set so-called position limits on agriculture products and the like weeks ago. But they’ve been at an impasse, as the agency’s commissioners batlle over how tough the limits should be.

The stalemate may soon be over as a compromise proposal finally emerged.

Commissioner Bart Chilton, who refused to support an earlier phased-in proposal that he found too weak, has now agreed to a temporary position “points” plan, which would alert the agency when a trader becomes overexposed. This method would help the C.F.T.C. monitor the exposure firms have to certain commodities, such as wheat, oil and metals.

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