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Tuesday
Mar292011

Subaru Curbing Car Production in US; Stocks Down Overseas

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. car manufacturing is continuing to take a hit from the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, with Subaru being the latest automaker to face production troubles.

Facing a parts shortage, Subaru of America now says it will slow down production at its plant in Lafayette, Indiana.  Subaru joins Toyota and other Japanese car makers who have already considered or acted on curbing production in the U.S. in response to a disruption in business operations in Japan.

Over in the stock market, shares of Japanese automakers have especially faced selling pressure with production problems.  Averages in Asia, as well as in Europe, are down Monday.

Meanwhile, U.S. stock futures are up Monday after a modest loss the day before.  The Dow fell 23 points, while the Nasdaq dropped 12 points and the S&P went down by 4.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

'Grandparent Scams' Among 60,000 Imposter Scams Reported Last Year

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A growing number of scam artists who target senior citizens have stolen thousands of dollars from victims in what is known as the "grandparent scam," officials say.

The con is within a category of "imposter scams" for which there were 60,000 complaints last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.  And officials have urged the public to report the scams to law enforcement.

For example, Jim and his wife, of Wilmington, North Carolina, received a call last month from a man saying he was their grandson.  The man said he had been in a car accident while traveling in the Dominican Republic.  After explaining his injuries and that he badly needed money to get out of jail and return to the United States, the man begged Jim, 78, not to tell his "parents" and blamed his voice change on the accident.

"'Con man' is short for confidence man," Steve Baker, director of the FTC's Midwest region, said.  "Their expertise is gaining your confidence."

Jim, who asked ABC News not to publish his last name, worried about his grandson's safety and health, followed the man's instructions and wired him several installments totaling $7,200 through Western Union.  He and his wife had not spoken to their several grandsons in weeks, all of whom live out of state.

Jim learned he was the victim of an imposter scam when he called his son after a day to check up on him, and the grandson was fine at home.

"I obviously felt terrible about it," Jim said.  "My first reaction was I felt stupid.  I can think of 1,000 questions that would have stopped it."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper's Consumer Protection Division has seen a spike in the grandparent scam targeting the elderly in North Carolina.  From Jan. 20 to March 17, the office received 12 complaints from people ranging in ages from 72 to 88 targeted by scammers posing as their grandchildren or other family members.  The scammers stole from $1,200 to $25,549 from each individual, with a total loss of $129,889 in the period.

The Federal Trade Commission said that complaints of "imposter scams" have been growing for several years and was the sixth most frequent FTC complaint last year, breaking into the top-10 list for the first time. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Anheuser-Busch to Buy Chicago-Based Goose Island Beer

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Anheuser-Busch will buy the Chicago-based beer brewery Goose Island.

The $22.5 million deal was announced Monday. Anheuser-Busch, which is owned by the Belgian firm InBev, already produces the Budweiser, Busch and Michelob labels.

Goose Island, which was founded in 1988, will continue its current production methods in Chicago. The original brewery is currently located at 1800 N. Clybourn Avenue. Founder and president John Hall will remain in his current position as CEO.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Survey: Rising Gas Prices Squeezing Budgets, Stressing Consumers

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- High gas prices are putting a squeeze on many family budgets and it's starting to take a toll on consumers, according to a new survey by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

John Gannan, who works for FINRA, says the survey shows that many people are stressed.

"Sixty-one percent of our survey respondents reported basic difficulty covering monthly expenses and paying bills," Gannan says.

Gannan advises that a weekly spending budget can ease consumers' troubles, adding that "everyone can find something that they can cut."

"People need to look at how much they're spending versus how much they're saving and make some tough decisions about things they can cut out of their monthly expenses and bills," he says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Consumer Spending Picks Up in February

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Americans didn't spend like never before last February, but as least they spent more than they have since last October.

Unfortunately, much of their disposable income went into their gas tanks.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that consumer spending increased by 0.7 percent in February, representing the eighth consecutive month of gains.

However, when the numbers were adjusted for inflation, particularly for a whopping increase in the cost of gasoline, consumption was actually closer to 0.3 percent.

Still, higher prices at the pump didn't deter Americans from going shopping, thanks in a large part to the extra money they saw in their paychecks due to Congress slicing the Social Security payroll tax.  This has provided a cushion enabling consumers to endure the extra cost of driving to and from their favorite stores.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Majority of British Women Flirt for Discounts

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- British women don’t just rely on sales and coupons to save money, they also use their feminine charms.  A new survey conducted in the UK shows 85 percent of women admit using flirting techniques, including hair tossing, giggling, strong eye contact and being overly friendly, to get the best price on a product.

Additional survey findings:

    * The survey found that women were most likely to turn on their feminine charms to receive discounts at bars, electronics and appliance retailers, gyms and travel agents.
    * More than 56 percent of the women surveyed have managed to obtain a service or product free of charge because they flirted.
    * Women save on average $225 a year by flirting with store staffers until they get a discount.  In comparison, men save more money by haggling for the best price and offering to pay for items with cash.

The survey of 3,000 British adults was commissioned by PromoCodes.co.uk, an online coupon company.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar282011

Stocks Close Lower Monday Amid Continued Uncertainty for Japan, Middle East

John Foxx/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The market was dogged by persistent concerns about Japan and the Middle East Monday. Traders kept one eye on developments in Japan and the Arab world, the other on U.S. economic news.  

By Monday's end, Wall Street saw a selloff in light trading as uncertainty gripped the market.  The Dow finished 23 points lower at 12,198, the Nasdaq was off by 12 and the S&P closed down 3.6 points.

Before the stocks' drop late Monday, there was a slight boost, according to The Wall Street Journal, due to a reported 0.7 percent increase in last month's consumer spending.  The increase was the highest since October and exceeded economist projections.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar282011

British Airways Crew Votes for More Strikes

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(LONDON) -- It's possible yet another strike at British Airways could come at a very inopportune time. 
   
British Airways cabin crew has voted to hold more strikes in their long-running dispute with the airline, raising the prospect of possible walk-outs during a busy spring that includes the royal wedding and the Easter holiday.

The union did not immediately announce new strike dates after revealing that its members voted eight-to-one in favor of taking further action, saying it would continue to seek talks with British Airways management, first.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar282011

Housing Market on the Rise

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More Americans signed contracts to buy homes last month, a hint the housing market might be coming off the bottom. The National Association of Realtors' pending homes index rose in most parts of the country. Contract signings are now more than 19 percent up on the record low which was last June. Completed sales of new and existing homes have been way below normal levels, but despite that, stock averages are up after a strong gain last week.

Consumer spending rose in February, but most of that rise went for higher gas prices. The Commerce Department says spending rose seven-tenths of one percent. There was also a strong gain in January as earnings were also up, but oil prices slipped from their recent highs to about $104 a barrel. Gold is down $6 an ounce and the ten year treasury is at 3.43 percent.

The airlines latest attempt to hike domestic fares has crumbled. United and Continental pushed fares up last week, but discount carriers refused to go along, despite high fuel costs. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar282011

High Gas and Oil Prices: It's Not Just About the Middle East 

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Gas prices are still at their highest levels since 2008, in part because of the Japan earthquake and turmoil in the oil-producing Middle East. But analysts say the price of oil and gas would still hover at a surprisingly high level despite geopolitical concerns.

Oil futures settled at $105.40 a barrel Friday, the third consecutive day above $105, according to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group.

On Monday, the Department of Energy will release its weekly gas prices and analysts expect they will remain mostly unchanged. Last week's national average was $3.51 per gallon for regular gas, an increase of 74 cents from a year ago, and .05 cents from the prior week. Last week was the 13th consecutive week that the average was above $3 a barrel. The last time gas passed was above $3.50 was Sept. 29, 2008, when the weekly average was $3.64.

Robert Powell, Middle East analyst with The Economist Intelligence Unit, estimates that even without the current conflicts in countries including Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya, oil would still be around $90 a barrel. Why? The simple rules of supply and demand, he said.

"The fourth quarter of last year was pretty robust globally," Powell said.

In fact, the Commerce Department announced Friday the U.S. economy grew quicker than first thought. Gross domestic product in the U.S. grew at an annualized rate of 3.1 percent, revised from 2.8 percent.

Charles Dewhurst, national energy practice leader at BDO, agrees with Powell that without the recent global events, oil prices would be around $90 a barrel. He points to events in Libya and Japan, in particular, as contributors to the high price of oil.

"My perspective is there probably is a $15 price premium right now because of those two events," Dewhurst said. "The Japanese economy is going to need its electric power from oil-based sources as a backup to their nuclear problems. Their demand for oil has already increased."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio