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Controversy over Fed loans Questions are being raised in the United States after Federal Reserve data showed that a Libyan-owned bank borrowed 73 times from the Fed at the height of the financial crisis.

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As The Globe and Mail's New York correspondent Joanna Slater reports today, the U.S. central bank yesterday provided 25,000 pages of documents disclosing which banks borrowed what after the collapse of Lehman Bros. in mid-September of 2008 plunged the world into an economic tailspin.

Among those pages were documents showing that Arab Banking Corp., then part-owned by Libya's central bank, had aggregate loans of $35-billion (U.S.) in the 18-month period following the failure of Lehman.

According to Bloomberg News today, the Libyan bank took several loans totaling more than $2-billion at the Fed's discount window, the largest being $1.2-billion.

Libya is now subject to sanctions, of course, as violence rages amid popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, and billions in assets have been frozen around the world.

In a letter to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and another official yesterday, independent Senator Bernard Sanders raised serious questions about the move.

"It is incomprehensible to me that while credit worthy small businesses in Vermont and throughout the country could not receive affordable loans, the Federal Reserve was providing tens of billions of dollars in credit to a bank that is substantially owned by the Central Bank of Libya," he wrote.

"To make matters worse, our assistance to this Libyan-controlled bank did not end there," he added in the letter released publicly. "On March 4, the Treasury Department exempted from economic sanctions the Arab Banking Corp. and any other bank that is owned or controlled by the Libyan government operating under the laws of a different country."

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And here's one more issue for the senator:

"As a result of a provision I authored in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, we learned that from Dec. 20, 2007 through March 11, 2010, the Federal Reserve provided over 45 emergency loans to the Arab Banking Corp. with an interest rate as low as 0.25 per cent.

"All of these loans were backed by collateral in U.S. Treasury securities purchased by the Arab Banking Corp. In other words, at the same time that the Arab Banking Corp. was borrowing money from one arm of the U.S. government at near zero interest rates, it was also lending money to the U.S. Treasury and receiving a higher interest rate."

Nasdaq tries to bust NYSE marriage with Germans Nasdaq OMX and IntercontinentalExchange , or ICE, launched rival bid today for NYSE-Euronext , a move that could break up the proposed marriage of the Big Board operator and Deutsche Boerse.

The offer, the rival suitors said, is worth $11.3-billion (U.S.), at $42.50 a share, or 19 per cent more than the German bid.

"Our industry is undergoing a period of historic change," Nasdaq chief executive officer Jeffrey Sprecher said in a statement announcing the offer.

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"... The combination of the two leading U.S. exchanges delivers an opportunity to build a global exchange platform that has the scale and growth potential to benefit investors, issuers and other market participants. We believe it would increase transparency and liquidity in U.S. markets and create jobs as new companies raise capital. For Europe, it strengthens the equity markets by creating a new, truly pan-European equity trading platform and solidifies Paris and London as premier financial hubs."

U.S. jobless rate dips Bit by bit, the United States is clawing its way out of its job crisis. But it's still a long, hard grind.

The U.S. economy churned out 213,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.8 per cent, the Labor Department said today. The private sector added 230,000 jobs, while the public sector cut back.

While today's reading was slightly better than expected, and a good sign, there are still some 13.5 million people in the U.S. who want to work, but can't find it.

"After a long winter, the U.S. labour market is showing real signs of a spring thaw," said senior economist James Marple of Toronto-Dominion Bank.

"Private job creation in the first three months of 2011 marks the fastest pace the U.S. recovery has seen to date. This is the strongest signal yet that the U.S. recovery has entered a new phase of self-sustained private demand driven growth."

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Avery Shenfeld, the chief economist at CIBC World Markets, noted, too, that wages were flat last week, which shows "workers falling well behind inflation and therefore squeezed in terms of purchasing power."

Quebec court rules against regulator The Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled a proposed national securities regulator is unconstitutional because the federal government does not have jurisdiction to regulate the securities sector, The Globe and Mail's Janet McFarland reports.

The decision from Quebec's top court, released late yesterday, echoes a similar ruling from the Alberta Court of Appeal last month, which also ruled the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to regulate the securities industry.

RBC boosts TransCanada Royal Bank of Canada has boosted its price target on shares of TransCanada Corp. , believing President Barack Obama's energy plan will bode well for the company's Keystone XL pipeline.

RBC Dominion Securities analyst Robert Kwan bumped up his target to $43 from $41.

While the president didn't mention Keystone XL in his speech earlier this week, he did mention Canada as a neighbour with "steady and reliable oil resources."

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As Globe and Mail energy writer Shawn McCarthy reported yesterday, that could indeed be good news for the oil patch, which hopes to grab a bigger share of a smaller pie. And as our Washington correspondent Kevin Carmichael reports today, Republicans are pushing TransCanada's plan for a pipeline that would ship 500,000 barrels of Alberta oil a day to refineries in Texas.

"We believe the State Department will ultimately approve the pipeline so supporters of the project will be happy, while showing the opponents of the project that the Administration is diligent enough to re-examine the issues," Mr. Kwan said in a research note.

"Also, TransCanada had already prepped the market for a delay. We expect the State Department to ask TransCanada to make relatively minor modifications to the project (to show that it has done something to protect the environment) and then issue the Presidential Permit. Although this has become a political issue, we note that no approval by Congress is required."

UBS keen on Bombardier UBS Securities Canada today bumped up its 12-month price target on shares of Bombardier Inc. after the aersopace and train giant's stellar earnings yesterday.

Analyst Tasneem Azim boosted her target to $8.25 from $7.75, citing the "blowout" fourth-quarter results.

"Following the 13-per-cent run in the stock following the [fourth-quarter]beat, we acknowledge that [Bombardier's]share remain vulnerable to a pullback in the near-term due to investor profit-taking and volatility," she said. "Over the medium-to-long term however, we believe the stock will continue to be driven by fundamental improvement in the outlook for aircraft orders, margin expansion and free cash flow generation."

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Desjardins also raised its price target to $9 from $8.

In Economy Lab today

Alberta is rebounding from the great slump, and some of the province's old problems are coming back too, research from BMO Nesbitt Burns shows.

In Personal Finance today

The chance of a 20-million tonne asteroid called Apophis hitting Earth is 300 times better than your chance of winning the lottery, writes Home Cents blogger Sonali Verma.

If you're going to diversify, do it right, Preet Banerjee says. Holding too many stocks or overlapping investments could be bad for your portfolio.

From insurance to estate planning, there are advantages to being decisive, Ted Rechtshaffen says.

From today's Report on Business

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