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Weekly Web Flash


MFMarketnews.com is keeping abreast of the industry's latest developments with postings twice a day. If you didn't log on last week here are some Web exclusives you missed:

* Sagging equity markets and the Sept. 11 tragedy amounted to a tough third quarter for insurance giant Marsh & McLennan Cos. and its subsidiary, Putnam Investments. Marsh's third quarter profits plummeted 40% and Putnam's third quarter operating income dropped 30% from the same period last year. Putnam's third quarter revenues fell 29% to $616 million and it experienced $3 billion in net redemptions for the third quarter.It ended the third quarter with $286 billion in assets under management compared to $406 billion for the same period the prior year, the company said.

* On Dec. 10, American Skandia will launch its Nevada-based 529 plan in partnership with Strong Capital Management. The American Skandia College Savings Program will be available in A- and C-class shares and is designed to offer a variety of investment style options.

* The House Ways and Means Committee last week approved a bill that seeks to make it easier for companies to offer investment advice to 401(k) participants. The bill, known as the Retirement Security Advice Act, was approved by the committee in a 25-15 vote.

* The Securities and Exchange Commission issued a concept release last week seeking public comment on actively managed exchange-traded funds. The SEC wants the public's input on possible structures, operations, benefits, uses, and potential regulatory issues for actively managed ETFs. The SEC staff will also investigate the possibility of a pilot program that would allow for the introduction of ETFs, the SEC said.

* Low-income Americans who participate fully in a 401(k) plan or similar tax-deferred savings plan can pay more taxes over the course of their lifetimes, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. A 25-year-old couple that earns initially $50,000 a year with a 6% real rate of return would raise its tax bill by 1.1% and lower its lifetime expenditures by 0.4% if they participate fully in a 401(k) plan. If the couple earns an 8% real rate of return, the lifetime tax increase is 6.4% and lifetime spending reduction is 1.7%, the research found.

* T. Rowe Price, laid off about 180 workers last week, according to published reports. The firm slashed most of the jobs from its technology and call center units and froze most hiring.

* Seattle-based insurance and investment provider SAFECO will offer two new growth funds, the U.S. Growth fund and the Small Company Growth fund. The represent SAFECO's first growth funds and will be subadvised by growth manager Dresdner RCM Global Investors of San Francisco.