Wal-Mart's co-chief of apparel resigns

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. apparel chief Dottie Mattison resigned, less than two months after the retailer decided to split her responsibilities with another executive because of slow growth in clothing sales. The resignation was effective Thursday, a Wal-Mart spokesman said. Mattison reported to Chief Merchandising Officer John Fleming, who is leaving the company Aug. 1. Lisa Rhodes, who had worked under Mattison, was tapped by Wal-Mart in June to co-run the apparel business. Both work in Wal-Mart's New York design office.

GM to buy subprime auto loan company

General Motors Co., majority-owned by taxpayers, is buying a company that makes car loans to shoppers with poor credit. Unlike home loans, though, the risk in subprime auto lending is relatively low and may reward GM. The company hopes to boost sales by making loans and leases to buyers that it must now turn away for lack of financing. GM will pay $3.5 billion in cash for AmeriCredit Inc., a Texas company with 800,000 customers and a $9 billion portfolio of subprime auto loans. GM's purchase will be made out of its $30 billion cash stockpile.

Bernanke to Congress: Don't slash stimulus

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress that the fragile economy needs government stimulus spending to strengthen the recovery and help reduce unemployment. Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, Bernanke urged lawmakers to come up with a credible plan to reduce the government's record-high budget deficits in the long run. But he said they shouldn't move now to slash spending or boost taxes in the near future. "I believe we should maintain our stimulus in the short term," Bernanke said.

Merger to create salty-snack conglomerate

Sandwich cracker maker Lance Inc. and privately held pretzel maker Snyder's of Hanover plan to combine into the country's No. 2 producer of salty snacks after Frito-Lay. The all-stock transaction would leave Snyder's shareholders with 50.1 percent and Lance shareholders 49.9 percent of the combined company, to be called Snyder's-Lance Inc. and based in Charlotte, N.C. Lance, founded in 1913, is best known for crackers sandwiched around a layer of peanut butter or cheese. It also produces Cape Cod potato chips and Archway cookies.

Rates on 30-year mortgages fall even lower

The lowest mortgage rates in decades are just too good for some people to pass up. Brokers are reporting rising interest in home refinancings as rates on a 30-year fixed loans have hit record lows in four of the past five weeks. This week the average rate fell to 4.56 percent, the lowest since mortgage company Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971. Weekly applications to refinance home loans have nearly doubled in July from April, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Amazon gets exclusive deal for classic books

Amazon.com Inc. said it has struck a deal that will give it exclusive rights to sell some of the great works of 20th century literature in electronic form. An agreement with the Wylie Agency gives Amazon exclusive rights for two years to sell e-book versions of novels including Saul Bellow's "The Adventures of Augie March" and Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint" among others. Amazon said it is the first time any of these books have been available for electronic readers. They are being published under a new imprint from Wylie called Odyssey Editions.

FROM NEWS SERVICES