WASHINGTON - Congressional leaders said yesterday that they are close to hammering out an agreement with the Bush administration on legislation that would give the secretary of the Treasury broad authority to purchase up to $700 billion of "troubled" securities sold by financial firms, including illiquid auction-rate securities issued by state and local governments.

WASHINGTON - The Treasury Department sent waves of relief through the municipal market yesterday by making clear that tax-free funds can participate in its recently announced $50 billion temporary insurance program for money market funds without jeopardizing the tax-exempt status of the muni bonds they hold.

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