Treasury takes step to sell stake in auto lender Ally

The Treasury Department says it has taken a step to recover the taxpayer funds invested in Ally Financial, the auto lender formerly known as GMAC.

The government is converting about a third of its $17.2 billion investment from preferred securities to common stock. That should make it easier to sell its stake, Treasury officials said. The conversion increases the government’s ownership of Ally to 74 percent from 56 percent.

The Treasury Department first bailed out the company in late 2008, as part of the Bush administration’s assistance to the U.S. auto industry. The Obama administration invested additional sums.

Hearst, DirecTV reach deal on U.S. programming fees

Hearst and DirecTV say they’ve signed a new contract on programming fees. Without a deal by today, DirecTV subscribers around the country could have lost one of their network TV channels.

Hearst Corp. owns 29 local TV stations in Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and other markets. They include affiliates of all the major networks aside from Fox.

The company says it reached a deal Thursday with DirecTV on how much the satellite company will pay for the right to include those stations in its channel lineup after midnight tonight. Terms have not been disclosed.

Germany’s exports climb 21 percent in third quarter

Germany’s exports continued to surge in the third quarter, rising 21.5 percent to 245 billion euros ($322 billion) from 202 billion euros a year earlier, officials said Thursday.

A more detailed look at the figures showed that trade with other European Union members rose 16.5 percent and amounted to almost 60 percent of all exports between July and September, Germany’s Federal Statistical Office said.