SEARCH

Friday
Mar182011

Coke, Diet Coke Reigning Over Pepsi

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Coke is not only winning the cola wars, it's winning big.

For as long as anyone can remember, Coke and Pepsi have run one-two in U.S. soda pop consumption.  But that's changed now with the appearance of a new number two: Diet Coke.

Regular Coke controls a 17 percent share of the U.S. market, followed by Diet Coke at 9.9 percent and Pepsi at 9.5 percent.

Industry analysts fault Pepsi for scaling back on more product-oriented advertising and marketing, including its recent decision not to run a commercial during the Super Bowl for the first time in 23 years.  Coke has had ads running during the annual most-watched TV program for the past five years.

While Pepsi tries to regroup, the entire soda industry may be rethinking its strategy.  Sales of carbonated soft drinks have declined steadily in recent years as people turn to healthier beverage alternatives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

Tax Tip: Electronically Filing Your Taxes for Free

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The IRS is not mailing out tax forms this year, since millions of tax filers pay $20 or $30 for a software program to do their taxes for them. But many of those people could do it for free.

“The majority of Americans, about 70 percent, qualify for free e-filing through IRS.gov,” said Mary Beth Franklin with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, who notes that you have to make less than $58,000 a year to qualify.

“They have a partnership with about 20 different software vendors and you can prepare and file your income taxes for free,” she said.

No need to worry about keeping up with the latest tax law changes.

“It is absolutely up to date reflecting all the changes and there are many for the 2010 tax filing season,” Franklin said.

Even if you don't qualify for free filing, you can still use the Free File Fillable Forms. Just put in the numbers, and they will often do the math for you.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

Airlines Changing Ticket Policies Amid Japan Crisis

John Foxx/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Canceling travel plans can be costly to consumers, and with the crisis in Japan leaving many international travelers scrambling, some airlines are making changes.

American Airlines is the latest carrier to announce changes in ticket policies for people traveling to and from Japan.

"American Airlines decided much to their credit that they were going to give a full refund to anyone who wanted one in the form of the original payment even in the form of a non-refundable ticket," says George Hobica with AirfareWatchdog.com.

Hobica advises travelers to be aware of an airlines policy on changes or cancellations when booking any flight.

"It's a good idea to get travel insurance especially if you're traveling during a period of bad weather such as during the winter," he says.  "Travel insurance would certainly protect people in the Japan situation."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Banks Increasing ATM Fees as High as $5

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People can soon expect to pay higher fees at the ATM. 

Banks are boosting fees on automated teller machines, which could prove costly for those who use ATMs at banks other than their own, according to Credit.com, an online credit guide.

ATM customers in Illinois are already seeing fees as $5 for non-customer withdrawals at Chase machines.  The bank has also introduced a $4 fee to non-customers in Texas, according to a JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman.

And not only are banks increasing ATM fees, but some financial institutions like TD Bank and PNC Bank have stopped reimbursing customers for fees incurred by using ATMs from other banks.

Banking industry experts say the fee increases may be due to recent legislation limiting banks' income form debit card fees.  Last year, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act imposed costly compliance regulations on banks.

"The new regulations add up to big money," Bill Bradway of Bradway Research, a bank consulting firm, told Credit.com.  "If the banks don't do anything, their income goes down.  So they're looking for new ways to replace that income, and increasing ATM fees is one way to do that."

But critics of this argument say the growing fees are just due to general banking trends over the last decade.

Whatever the reason, experts agree that using another bank's ATM is not the way to go.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Mar172011

Lincoln Tops 2011 Vehicle Dependability Report

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- J.D. Power and Associates, a global marketing information firm, released the findings of its vehicle dependability study Thursday. 

The company said that overall vehicle dependability has improved from last year, noting the success of auto manufacturers for cutting down on problem rates.  However, newer technologies and features presented some hurdles for automakers, according to the report.

The comprehensive study, used by and large by automakers to improve design and build better vehicles, also helps consumers to make more informed decisions when purchasing both new and used vehicles.  The company conducts the study annually based on the problems experienced in the last 12 months by the original owners of three-year-old  (2008 model year) vehicles.  This year's study included feedback from 43,700 respondents.

Lincoln received the highest score for durability, leading in overall nameplate rankings.  Lexus, Jaguar, Porsche and Toyota rounded out the top five nameplates for 2011, the study found.

As for long-term dependability, imported brands outperformed domestic in 2011,  though the report notes that domestic manufacturers have closed the gap considerably in initial quality.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Stocks Up at Thursday's Close after Positive Jobs Report

John Foxx | Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An encouraging jobs report helped stocks recover after this week's big drops.  The Dow closed up 161 points, the Nasdaq gained 19 and the S&P added 17.

The number of people filing for first-time unemployment claims dropped last week by much more than economists had expected.  A forward-looking gauge of economic activity didn't hurt things either.  The conference board's index of leading indicators rose eight-tenths of a percent last month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

US Energy Official: Nuclear Crisis In Japan Could Have Slight Impact on Gas Prices

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the nuclear crisis in Japan, some members of Congress are asking how the situation will impact gas prices at the pump, but an energy department official said the impact could be slight.

“In terms of Japan, yesterday in terms of immediate response, we’d actually seen a decline in oil prices  which I think most of us would associate to a concern there would actually be a decline in economic activity,” Richard Newell, an administrator with the Energy Information Administration, said at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing.  “As of yesterday, the price of oil was down significantly.  Today, it’s back up again.”

“In terms of how this all shakes out, there’s really a number of competing things going on right now in global oil markets,” Newell said in the hearing.  “A principal one is the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.  Japan was weighing on that yesterday, but today it seems like the resurgence is more associated with again turning to unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Earlier this month, the EIA projected regular gas at the pump will average $3.70 per gallon this summer and $3.56 per gallon for 2011.

The focus of the hearing was “Harnessing American Resources to Create Jobs and Address Rising Gasoline Prices," and Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., accused the Obama administration of stifling efforts to produce American jobs and lower gas prices.

“Since the President’s earliest days in office, his administration has blocked, delayed, hindered and obstructed energy production across America from coast to coast, on-shore and off-shore all the way to Alaska,” Hastings said.  “All of these actions cost American jobs and lead to higher gasoline and energy costs.”

But Ranking Member Ed Markey, D-Mass., countered Hastings with a horse racing analogy, calling the Republican’s position of “Drill Baby Drill” an “old horse, the one running flat out for decades,” in contrast to the “much recent entry in the race” -- clean energy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Mar172011

'New York Times' to Start Charging for Web Access

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Struggling with its business model as readers migrate to online news, the New York Times said Thursday it will being charging for readers to access its website as of March 28.

"Today marks a significant transition for the New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions," publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a letter to readers. "It's an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in the Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform. The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our website and on mobile applications."

The newspaper will roll out the paywall first to its readers in Canada, to "fine-tune the customer experience" before the global launch. On March 28, the following pricing begins in the U.S:

On NYTimes.com, readers can view 20 articles each month for free, including slide shows, videos and other features. After 20 articles, the charge is $15 a month for full access to the site and smartphone apps.

Website and tablet apps like iPad will be $15 to $20 a month. For $35 a month, readers get full access on all platforms. Home delivery subscribers will get all access for no extra charge.

Readers who come to Times through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter can access those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit, the newspaper said. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

The home page at NYTimes.com and section fronts will be free to browse for all users, the same system the Wall Street Journal, the largest pay site, currently uses.

The Times tried a pay model for its columnists six years ago but dropped the charges so it could build traffic to its website.

The newspaper has faced declining sales and profit for several years. Lazard Capital Markets rates the shares a "sell," saying the company has increasingly been a laggard in the shift to digital.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Major Stocks Regain Ground after Wednesday Sell-Off

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks opened higher Thursday, a day after taking their worst losses in seven months, a sign investors are signaling they're ready to move on.

In addition to the good news on Wall Street, there are encouraging news on the jobs front. The government said first-time applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week by 16-thousand, marking the third decline in the past four weeks.

Americans paid more, for food and gas, last month as consumer prices rose half a percent, their fastest pace in nearly two years. Outside of those volatile categories, inflation was tame. The conference board's index of leading economic indicators rose four-fifths of a percent, last month -- that's eight consecutive months of gains.

Factories produced more cars, appliances, computers and furniture in February, lifting manufacturing output for the sixth straight month and helping the job market.

Fixed mortgage rates tumbled this week as the 15-year fixed, dipped below four percent for the first time in three months. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.76 percent . 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Claims for Unemployment Benefits Drop by 16,000

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The number of people filing for unemployment benefits in the second week of March decreased, according to Labor Department data released Thursday.

For the week ending March 12, the department said claims went down by 16,000 to 385,000.  The previous week, claims stood at 401,000.

The four-week average, in turn, also saw an decrease of 7,000 claims, falling to 386,250 from the previous week's average of 393,250.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio