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A federal appeals court has ordered the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to reconsider a rule it adopted to expand scrutiny of annuities linked to equity indexes. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the SEC “failed to properly consider the effect of the rule upon efficiency, competition and capital formation.” The SEC had agreed to define annuity contracts and optional annuity contracts as securities so it could better police the fast-growing market. The SEC’s new definition applies to indexed annuities issued on or after Jan. 12, 2011. The court sent the rule back to the agency for reconsideration. Annuities are insurance products in which the insurer promises to make periodic payments to the customer. Equity indexed annuities possess insurance-product features, such as a guaranteed minimum return, and securities elements, such as a return linked to an equity market. They have the potential to generate higher returns but are riskier than a traditional fixed annuity.

Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. will announce second quarter 2009 results on Aug. 5 in a news release to be issued before markets open. The release will be available at www.mmc.com. Also on that date, Brian Duperreault, president and CEO, and Vanessa Wittman, executive vice president and chief financial officer, will lead a discussion with investors on financial results at 7:30 a.m. Iowa time. To participate in the teleconference, dial (888) 471-3836. The access code is 4865669. A live audio webcast may be accessed at <a href = "http://www.mmc.com"www.mmc.com. A replay of the webcast will be available approximately two hours after the event at the same Web site.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp reported a big slide in second-quarter profits due to credit losses and repayments on the federal bailout, but it still beat analysts’ expectations, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported. The parent of U.S. Bank reported net income applicable to common shareholders of $221 million, or 12 cents per share for the quarter, compared with $926 million, or 53 cents per share, for the same period last year. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a profit of 10 cents per share. The company reported net revenues of $4.16 billion, up 9 percent from one year ago. U.S. Bancorp reported that falling home prices and the slumping economy caused it to set aside $1.4 billion in credit-loss reserves during the quarter, and that it had net charge-offs of $929 million. Second-quarter results also included an 8-cents-per-share charge tied to the bank’s repayment of $6.6 billion in government bailout funds.

U.S. home prices had the smallest annual drop in 10 months in May, signaling the worst may be over for the three-year housing slump at the center of a global recession, Bloomberg reported. Prices fell 5.6 percent from a year earlier and rose 0.9 from April, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in Washington said today. Economists expected a 0.2 percent drop for the month, according to the median of 16 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Five U.S. regions showed price increases in May from April, the FHFA said.

Morgan Stanley lost $1.26 billion in the quarter ended June 30, its third straight quarterly loss, CNNMoney.com reported today. The second-quarter loss compares with a year-ago profit of $1.06 billion, or $1.02 a share. The company said that its net loss from continuing operations was $159 million, or $1.37 a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were looking for a 49-cent loss.

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