AIG narrows 4Q loss, continues restructuring

AIG said Friday it lost $8.87 billion in the fourth quarter as its general insurance business remained weak and the company ran up expenses from paying back government loans.

The troubled insurer also said in an annual regulatory filing that it may need additional support from the government. However, AIG has included such warnings in past filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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The fourth-quarter results were an improvement from the $61.7 billion AIG lost in the year ago period, but they were worse than analysts expected. They also followed two straight profitable quarters.

The company reported a 2.2 percent drop in new premiums in its Chartis general insurance business, compared with a year earlier. AIG attributed the slide in part to the weak economy. That was a better result than in previous quarters, as the company said it was able to hold on to current customers while also bringing in new business. [Read the full article]

As a value investor, it’s my goal to identify and buy as many of the proverbial “50-cent dollars” as I can. Sometimes that means taking positions in what appear to be misfit companies — you know, the ones that have seen better days and have some fairly serious issues that have caused other investors to bail. At the extreme, some may even call this pursuit “dumpster diving” (and if you saw some of the names in my portfolio that are either too small or too illiquid to mention in this column, you might suggest an even worse term).

Of course, the past couple of years have been a prime picking ground for misfits. Just as a good company can be a bad stock for one reason or another, the reverse can be true as well. Extreme market moves can certainly exacerbate this, especially for those names that are seen as at risk or in transition, which tend to get pounded even harder. [Read the full article]

Magazines 13-City Smartphone Tests Show Sprint as Indisputable Winner in the Bay Area with 95 Percent Connectivity Rate in San Jose, 90 Percent in San Francisco

Sure, you can have an app for this or a map for that, but it won’t do you any good if you can’t connect when you want to. Maligned smartphone users in the Bay Area take note: Sprint (NYSE:S – News) and the Now Network™ was named the Bay Are most reliable 3G network in a recent smartphone test by PC World, comparing the performance of the top four carrier 3G networks while using a popular smartphone available for each one.

Reliable? Yes. Dependable? Definitely. Steadfast? No doubt. [Read the full article]

The economy is now likely expanding at just half the brisk 5.9 percent pace at which the government on Friday estimated it grew last quarter. Business spending will make up for some of a slowdown in consumer spending — but not likely enough to reduce the jobless rate much.

All that adds up to a long slog ahead for an economy trying to get back on firm footing after the worst recession since the 1930s. The economy continues to grow. But it won’t feel like much of a recovery this year amid high unemployment, record-high home foreclosures and tight credit.

Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, called the year-end growth spurt “a one-hit wonder.”

In a fresh reading on the nation’s economic standing, the Commerce Department bumped up its growth estimate for the final quarter of 2009, from a 5.7 percent growth rate estimated a month ago. [Read the full article]

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