Officials Hope for Foreclosure Deal Within Two Months

ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- Federal officials leading the investigation into allegations that mortgage companies broke state laws when processing foreclosures said Monday they hope to agree on a final settlement with banks within two months.
“What we’re really trying to do is change a dysfunctional system....We’re hopeful that we can reach a resolution that will be good for homeowners and good for the banks in the long run and most importantly good for the country,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is leading the 50-state investigation, told reporters at a press conference in Washington on Monday.
Miller said he is hopeful they can wrap up the process in the next two months. “I mean a soft two, not quite a literal two, but I’m hoping,” he said.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper warned they should move quickly so uncertainty doesn’t linger too long. “We realize that the result that we come to can have an impact on the housing market and hence the economy. That’s why all of us at the table want it to be a positive impact and part of that is moving as quickly as we can,” he said.
Regulators and the state attorneys general are hoping to negotiate a settlement over the reported mortgage servicing problems, including the use of so-called “robo-signers” who rushed foreclosures through the system without properly reviewing the details of the cases.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Middle East Unrest Continues to Affect Stocks, Oil

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Monday was the second anniversary of the bull market.  But stocks added to Friday's losses.

Stocks gave up earlier gains, as higher oil prices continued to be a drag on the market. Oil prices continued to rise as fighting intensified between Libyan government forces and rebels, hitting a two-year high. Prices moved close to $107 a barrel before retreating to about $105.

The Dow lost 80 points at 12,090 while NASDAQ was down 39 points. S&P closed down 11.

Economic growth across the Middle East could take a significant hit because of the political upheaval in the region.  A senior analyst at Moody's credit agency said as much as two percent of economic growth could be wiped out this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Soaring Fuel Costs Spark New Airline Fees

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Feel like you’ve been nickled and dimed to death by the airlines? If so, get ready for even more new fees.

“I don’t think that there’s anything that’s off the table in the airline industry,” said Rick Seaney, CEO of the travel website

“The major new one that’s out there is actually charging for your seat assignment,” Seaney said.  “I think families of four will start paying anywhere from $10 to $16 to start picking their seats.”

Only elite or business and first-class passengers would be exempt from the airlines’ proposed seat assignment fee.  “What they’ll do probably is allow you to have it for free only if you want to book it in the last 24 hours.  But if you want to have it pre-confirmed you’ll have to pay a fee.”

Sky-high fuel costs are behind the latest round of added fees.  The soaring price of oil is burning through the industry’s profit margins.  American Airlines, United Continental and Delta are among the carriers considering various new fees that include charging for customized travel experiences.  In future, you may be able to get fancy food and champagne in economy class – if you pay extra. Access to priority security lines and travel concierge services are also being considered.

Airlines prefer complex fees to additional fare hikes.  Already the industry has announced six domestic fare increases this year.

JetBlue and Southwest don’t charge an extra fee for checked bags.  But other airlines do.  If more fees are added by some airlines, but not others, it makes it harder for consumers to make comparisons.  

Seaney says when you book a trip, make sure to understand the total cost, which includes all fees and taxes – and be flexible.

“Airlines love people who have to go on a certain day at a certain time,” Seaney said.

Those passengers will always pay more than bargain hunters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gas: California Most Expensive State Average, $5.39 in Orlando

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As hostilities continued in Libya, crude oil futures reached $106.95 a barrel in early trading Monday -- up $2.53 from Friday's settled price of $104.42 -- according to the New York Mercantile Exchange . Analysts expect the Department of Energy's weekly national average gas price, released at 5 p.m. ET, to increase as well.

After the biggest one-week rise in oil prices in two years, weekly gas prices increased 6 percent last week, according to the Department of Energy. The national average is $3.38 per gallon, an increase of 19 cents from the previous week and 68 cents from the previous year. The least expensive gas is in the Rocky Mountain region: $3.18 a gallon. According to AAA's daily gas prices, California has the most expensive gas at $3.90 for regular grade.

In Orlando, Fla., one gas station that is closest to the airport was selling gas at $5.39 on Monday, 10 cents more than last week's price of $5.29.

Although unrest in Libya has not yet disrupted global oil supply significantly, analysts have said the markets remain concerned the revolts percolating in the Middle East will affect supplies in the top oil exporters in the world, such as Algeria, Iran, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

And as concerns about oil prices continue to increase, so has discussion about opening up the nation's petroleum reserve.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stocks Down in Midday Trading; Fed Prepping for QE3?

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- QE3: It might be coming if oil prices continue to soar.

A top official at the Federal Reserve predicts further easing of monetary policy might happen. Right now the Fed is buying government bonds to boost the economy. That policy -- quantitative easing -- has been dubbed QE2. Dennis Lockhart, head of the Atlanta Fed, says an expansion is possible if another recession is considered likely.

Rising gasoline prices threaten to cut other forms of spending by consumers. Global crude rose again early Monday morning -- since then, oil futures are off their highs.

Stocks are down so far Monday with concerns about what oil will do to the economy. Gold is up $3 an ounce to $1431 an ounce.

Greece's debt rating has been cut with fresh concerns about a default.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Considering Retirement? Don't Put Off Planning

Jupiterimages/Pixland(NEW YORK) -- So you're planning for your retirement. Do you know what factors you need to consider?

Creating a retirement plan can be a fairly painless process, and one experts say you should not put off. The earlier you have a plan, the earlier you'll be able to implement it -- and the earlier you'll be able to see your nest egg growing.

First, you'll want to determine your retirement goals. Do you want to open up your own business after you retire? Buy a house in Florida and lay on the beach? Or do you want to volunteer around the world? No matter what you want to do, you are going to have to save a lot of money. Remember, social security will help, but the average payout is approximately $1,100 a month, so it is definitely something you cannot rely upon to take care of all your needs.

Once you have established your goals you will need to determine how much money you will need to reach those goals. There are many websites that have useful "retirement calculators" to help you find the level of savings you will need to achieve your goals while taking into account your current circumstances. A retirement calculator will allow you to adjust multiple variables to see how they can affect your retirement savings. For example, if you go with a riskier portfolio or if you take social security one year later than you expected, how will these things affect your retirement?

What adjustments should you make to your 401k? You can find a great example of a retirement calculator at

Now that you are well on your way to enjoying your golden years, keep in mind that goals and situations are constantly changing; what you wanted last year may not be your dream retirement this year. Experts advise prospective retirees to update their goals and savings strategy annually to keep up.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Even Electric Cars Are No Safe Haven from High Gas Prices

Nissan Motor Co(NEW YORK) -- While oil and gas prices have been pushed higher by unrest in the Middle East, consumers have not yet run to the newest electric vehicles on the market.  President Obama has said he hopes to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, in part to decrease American dependency on foreign oil.

An electric vehicle can allow consumers to purchase less gas and decrease our dependency on oil, but the cost savings vary both by consumer and by car.

Because both electric and hybrid vehicles are more expensive than most other vehicles, they may not give you any savings over a conventional car, said Eric Evarts, associate autos editor with Consumer Reports.

The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF, both released in December, are the most recent additions to the mainstream electric car market.  Both have gasoline engines, but only to supplement their electric motors.  Drivers plug them in to recharge their batteries while they're parked.

The Chevy Volt car has a base price of $40,280, while the Nissan LEAF can cost from $32,780 to $33,720, according to  Chevrolet's website touts a $32,780 price after a maximum $7,500 federal tax credit.  Similarly, Nissan says you'll pay $25,280 after those tax savings.

"They're not going to save money buying these cars," Evarts said about drivers who may purchase these two latest electric vehicles.  "With gas and electricity expenses as they are, you're not going to pay them off any time soon."

General Motors, parent company of Chevrolet, announced this week that it sold just 281 Volt cars in February, down from 321 in January.  Nissan sold 67 LEAF cars in February, down from 87 in January.  In December, Nissan sold 19 LEAF vehicles while GM sold 326 Volts.

Evarts said one reason these electric cars are not flying out of showrooms just yet is that there are less expensive cars, similar in size to the Volt and LEAF, that have good fuel efficiency.  He points to the Toyota Prius, a hybrid vehicle, as a possible fit for drivers with longer commutes.

"The Prius has more cargo, is likely more reliable with better mileage than the Volt on gas," said Everts, "and it costs half as much." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Economists Shift Concern to Federal Deficit

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The jobs market appears to be getting better at last, and consumers are spending more.  So what's the biggest thing that now has economists worried?

"I think that the number-one issue is the deficit," Chad Moutray with the National Association for Business Economics said.  "There definitely is a concern about getting the deficit down."

Moutray added that most economists backed the stimulus but now the government must start cutting the budget deficit, and soon.

"The more we continue to borrow, the more we continue to depend on deficit spending to be able to do all the programs we are doing, the less likely we're going to be able to maintain our standard of living going forward," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stock Market Futures Up Slightly Amid Rising Oil Prices

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Oil prices are up again Monday morning, and if that holds, it means gasoline prices will continue to rise.

West Texas crude is now around $106 a barrel, the highest it's been in nearly two-and-a-half years.  Gasoline prices are now nearly 80 cents higher than they were this time a year ago.  One survey says the average price for motorists has been up 33 cents in the past couple of weeks.

The latest price rise comes as the fighting continues in Libya, and with it worries that the unrest could spread to oil rich regions of the Persian Gulf.  The last time prices went up faster than this was in 2005 after hurricane Katrina hit, disrupting oil production in Texas, Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile in trading, Asian stocks closed lower overnight, while European markets are mixed.  Over in the U.S., stock futures are up slightly.

On another note, Toyota shares dropped two-and-a-half percent after a credit downgrade by Standard & Poor's.  The Japanese automaker has been suffering from bad publicity for more than a year over recalls.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tax Tip: Tax Changes for 2011

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Back in December, President Obama and Congress agreed on a number of tax cuts for this year.

“One of the little goodies in there was this two percent payroll tax holiday, and that's a reduction of Social Security tax," said Kathy Pickering of H&R Block. “You don't have to file anything, you don't have to do anything, it's just automatically calculated in your paycheck."

That's a big saving for wage earners and the self employed.

“If you make $50,000 a year you could be getting back $1,000 across the year in your paycheck," Pickering said.

That tax deal brought other benefits, including one that involves paying for college.

"The American Opportunity Credit got extended because that was set to expire,” Pickering said of the tax deduction for tuition and fees. 

Pickering says there was another benefit for home owners in the tax deal.  “The energy credit was extended, but that's being reduced from $1,500 to $500.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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