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FEDERAL RESERVE MAKES NEW MOVE TO UNJAM CREDIT

The Fed will buy assets from money market mutual funds.

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday introduced a new program to finance the purchases of assets from money market mutual funds as the government continued to search for ways to battle a severe credit crisis.

"The short-term debt markets have been under considerable strain in recent weeks as money market mutual funds and other investors have had difficulty selling assets to satisfy redemption requests," the Fed said in an announcement of its new effort.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. was chosen to run five special funds that will buy certificates of deposit, bank notes and commercial paper from money market mutual funds. The Fed will lend up to $540-billion to the five funds to support the effort.

Fed officials said that about $500-billion had flowed out of prime money-market funds since August as investors began to worry about their ability to redeem their investments. On Sept. 18, the Treasury Department announced it was tapping a $50-billion Treasury fund to provide guarantees for the assets in the funds. The Fed initiative is designed to bolster them further.

Meanwhile, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing Tuesday in which experts discussed what needs to be done to improve the government's regulatory structure. The aim is to find a way to better manage the financial system to prevent another financial crisis.

Democrats in Congress were also pushing ahead with efforts to assemble a second economic stimulus program. That effort got a timely endorsement on Monday from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The White House said Monday that President Bush was at least willing to consider a second stimulus measure to follow a $168-billion program passed in February and a $700-billion financial system rescue plan passed on Oct. 3.

Democrats say any stimulus bill would include items previously rejected by Bush such as road and bridge construction money and help for state budgets. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted Congress would return after Election Day to work on a measure equal to or exceeding February's $168-billion package.

Fast facts

Accounting firms to manage bailout

The Treasury Department announced Tuesday that it had selected two major accounting firms to help manage the government's $700-billion rescue program for the financial system. The department selected PricewaterhouseCoopers to be an auditor for the program that will purchase troubled assets from financial institutions, while Ernst & Young was chosen to provide general accounting support.

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