Visa Trumpets Record Holiday Volume

SAN FRANCISCO - Visa International reported a record holiday spending binge by consumers, driven, in part, by purchases made on-line.During the peak shopping period of Nov. 25 through Dec. 27, $74.9 billion worth of transactions were processed over the Visa network, which is a 25% increase from the year-earlier period. Each of the six Visa regions contributed to this volume. "We are seeing a huge increase in electronic commerce," said Visa spokeswoman Cheryl Heinonen.

Globally, Visa reached a peak transaction rate of 3,865 transactions per second on Dec. 24, a 26% increase over the same day in 1998. The U.S.-based processing centers hit a peak transaction rate of 3,359 transactions per second on the same day, a 24% increase over the previous year.

- Lisa Fickenscher

United Cos. Selling Some Assets to Bear Stearns

BATON ROUGE, La. - United Companies Financial Corp., in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since March, said last week that it has agreed to sell some assets to a unit of Bear, Stearns & Co. for $895 million.United, a home equity and mortgage lender, plans to sell its mortgage servicing, whole loan portfolio, and residual interests to EMC Mortgage Corp., which is owned by Bear Stearns. Cash on hand and some other assets are not included, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

The debt-ridden Baton Rouge-based United - which had 3,200 employees and offices in 50 states - filed for protection from its creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington. It listed $1.36 billion of assets and $1.23 billion in liabilities in bankruptcy papers.

Bear Stearns has been building up its mortgage unit. It was No. 4 in mortgage-backed bonds in the first nine months of 1999. The firm is a leading underwriter of collateralized mortgage obligations, or repackaged mortgage securities, selling a record $295 billion of them since 1989.

The sale is subject to court sanction.

Resource Bancshares Originations Off 59%

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Resource Bancshares Mortgage Group originated $592 million of home loans in November, down 59% from a year earlier, the company said last week.Its production of loans to subprime borrowers was off 10%, at $57 million. Resource's total production for the first 11 months of the year was $9.1 billion, down 39%. Subprime production totaled $670 million, up 23%.

The company's pipeline of applications for loans eligible for sale to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac was $900 million on Nov. 3 - half the year-earlier figure.

Resource was servicing $8.5 billion of loans at the end of November, down 47% from a year earlier. The portfolio had a weighted average note rate of 7.5% and a delinquency rate of 2.64%.

Last month the company said it would cut its work force by 18%, or 242 people, joining a long list of home lenders that decided to downsize as interest rates rose.

Mutual Fund Assets Climb 3.6% in Month

WASHINGTON - Mutual fund assets rose 3.6%, to $6.452 trillion in November, according to a recent study by the Investment Company Institute.Assets in stock funds, hybrid funds, taxable bond funds, and taxable and tax-free money market funds all rose, while assets in municipal bond funds fell 0.4%, the study said. Meanwhile, cash flow - which takes into account new sales, reinvested dividends, exchanges, and redemptions - declined in several categories.

Cash flow into domestic stocks, for example, was $17.9 billion in November, compared with $16 billion in October. Cash flow to foreign stocks fell to $1.18 billion, from $5.06 billion in October. And growth and income funds had outflows in November of $1.8 billion, compared with inflows of $2.09 billion in October.

The report covered a total of 7,740 mutual funds, compared with 7,662 funds in October.

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