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Looking back, Greenspan says Wall Street needs tighter rein

WASHINGTON — Is Alan Greenspan, famous for his libertarian leanings and hands-off approach to Wall Street, having some second thoughts?

After more than six decades as a skeptic of big government, the former Federal Reserve chairman, 84, is gingerly suggesting that perhaps regulators should help rein in giant financial institutions by requiring them to hold more capital.

Greenspan, once celebrated as the “maestro” of economic policy, has seen his reputation dim after failing to avert the credit bubble that nearly brought down the financial system. In a 48-page paper that is by turns analytical and apologetic, he is calling for a degree of greater banking regulation in several areas.

The report, which he is to present Friday to the Brookings Institution, is by no means a mea culpa. But in his customarily sober language, Greenspan, who has long argued that the market is often a more effective regulator than the government, has adopted a more expansive view of the proper role of the state.

An outsider with web experience takes over as
chief at Barnes & Noble

Determined to stake out a strong digital future, Barnes & Noble on Thursday named William Lynch, president of the company’s Web division, as chief executive, succeeding Stephen Riggio, who will remain as vice chairman.

In the unexpected move, Lynch, 39, was named to the top spot a little over a year after arriving at the company with no experience in the book business. He is also the first person outside of the Riggio family to be named chief executive since Leonard Riggio, the company’s chairman, bought the company in 1971. He appointed his younger brother, Stephen, 55, in 2002.

“There really has not been much change here in all these years,” said Leonard Riggio in an interview at the company’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan. Because of Lynch’s background in e-commerce and technology, Riggio said, “by appointing him, it sends a signal to the marketplace that we are serious about the business and the way this business is evolving.” But he added that neither he nor his brother were retiring.

Prices of consumer goods hold steady in month of February

The price of consumer goods held steady in February, the government reported Thursday, the latest sign that near-zero interest rates and billions of dollars in stimulus money had yet to set off inflation.

Prices showed no movement overall last month, the Labor Department said, but when volatile food and fuel costs were excluded, costs as measured by the Consumer Price Index rose 0.1 percent.

The index also indicated that the price of cars rose last month, with used vehicles rising 0.7 percent and new vehicles climbing by 0.4 percent. Medical care costs increased 0.5 percent, and food prices rose 0.1 percent. But the increases were offset by a 0.5 percent drop in energy costs, tied to a drop in gasoline prices.

As the United States tries to emerge from a deep downturn, the stability in prices offered reassurance that the government’s efforts to stimulate the economy had not yet spurred inflation. The Federal Reserve has set a target inflation rate near 2 percent, and since February 2009, prices have increased 1.3 percent, excluding food and fuel.