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Friday
Feb112011

Tax Tip: Save the Stress, Hire a Tax Preparer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Choosing the right tax preparer could save you time and money.

Six in 10 Americans use the help of a preparer come tax season, according to the IRS, but Kiplinger’s Mary Beth Franklin says that most people can do it themselves if they have a straightforward return.

H&R Block’s Kathy Pickering says it often comes down to time.

“Even if they feel like they can do their taxes, they just don’t want to take the time, they don’t want to be bothered with the hassle factor,” Pickering said.

When choosing a tax preparer, make sure they have an IRS tax identification number. Jodie Reynolds of the Internal Revenue Service also suggests having the preparer sign your tax returns with that number.

“You’ll want to find out what their service fees are because if you go to a preparer that’s going to base their fee on a percentage of your refund, that should be a red flag,” Reynolds said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb112011

Hawaiian Airlines Ranks as Best On-Time Carrier for 7th Straight Year

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/Hawaiian Airlines/Chad Slattery(HONOLULU) -- For the seventh straight year, Hawaiian Airlines ranked as the nation's number one airline for on-time performance in 2010, according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday.

The carrier's flights averaged a punctuality rate of 92.5 percent for the year and 87.6 percent for the month of December alone.  Hawaiian also led all carriers in the U.S. in on-time performance for each month of 2010.

"Being the nation's most punctual airline for seven straight years is a credit to the dedication of our employees, whose hard work drives this industry-leading performance day in and day out, year after year," said Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and CEO.

The report also found that Hawaiian had the fewest cancelled flights last year among carriers, ranking in first place for 10 of the 12 months.  For the year, the carrier canceled 55 out of 67,649 total flights, which averages out to about 0.1 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb112011

Hewlett-Packard Unveils New Tablet TouchPad

Photo Courtesy - Hewlett-Packard/ Palm(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Hewlett-Packard unveiled its answer to the iPad Wednesday -- the TouchPad.

The new tablet computer will run on software developed for Palm phones, and has similar dimensions to the iPad, but it also includes a front-facing camera for video chats.  The New York Times' Nick Bilton says it has one other advantage over Apple's tablet.

"One of the major reasons that I think people will actually opt for this device over the iPad is the fact that it runs Flash," Bilton said.  "For people that teach in schools, for example, there's a lot of applications that are Flash-based that they can't use on an iPad which they'll be able to use on the HP device."

Hewlett-Packard says the TouchPad will be available this summer, but the company did not reveal a price.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

Pre-Bubble Housing Prices: Buyers in 'Driver's Seat'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Home buyers take notice: U.S. home values posted their largest decline in the quarter ended Dec. 31 in two years, some returning to prices not seen since before the housing bubble.

And some housing market economists are saying prices have not hit bottom yet.

According to the real estate website Zillow.com, U.S. home values fell 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 to a median value of $175,200.

Of the largest 25 metropolitan areas covered by Zillow, the highest median was in San Francisco, at $485,700, despite a quarterly decrease of 4.1 percent in that region. Of the 25, Detroit had the lowest median, at $73,200, a 7.5 percent decrease in that area.

Zillow attributed the overall decline, in part, to the waning effect of homebuyer tax credit stimulus.

Amy Bohutinsky, vice president of marketing at Zillow.com, said with home values and mortgage rates remaining near-record lows, the next six to 18 months may be a good time to buy, depending on the market and if you plan to hold onto a home for five to seven years.

"Buyers are in the driver's seat right now in most markets," said Bohutinsky. "Nationally, prices have reset to 2003 levels."

Bohutinsky said home values have fallen 27 percent since the peak of the market in 2006. She said the rate of homes selling for a loss has steadily increased over the past six months, but the housing market has not seen the bottom yet. Bohutinsky expects home values to fall another 3 to 5 percent this year.

"We expect sales to pick up in early 2011, and home values will stabilize after several months of increased sales activity," she said. "We will likely reach a bottom in home values in the latter half of the year."

Prices will continue to fall, especially in hard-hit markets like Las Vegas, Atlanta, Detroit and Phoenix, Bohutinsky said.

Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas and Stockton, Calif., also likely will see significant declines, attributable to high rates of monthly depreciation in these areas, she said. And, she added, it will take some time before the housing values in those areas reach bottom. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

Future of Harry and David in Doubt

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MEDFORD, Ore.) -- After suffering major losses during the past year, gourmet food distributor Harry and David says it is unsure what it will take to continue to be successful and says the company now faces an uncertain future.

Harry and David previously announced more than $57 million in losses during the past year and now the company says it will take major restructuring to try to bounce back. The company is also keeping expectations in check, saying in a statement, "There can be no assurance that our efforts to obtain new capital and restructure our obligations will be successful, and therefore, there is substantial doubt as to our ability to continue."

Harry and David's public relations firm in New York says the company is continuing to operate, and look at all options in order to continue to be successful.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

Germans in Talks to Acquire New York Stock Exchange

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One of the crown jewels of U.S. capitalism may soon fall into foreign hands.

The New York Stock Exchange is in negotiations to be acquired by German stock exchange Deutsche Borse AG.

While both companies suggest it is a merger of equals, Deutsche Borse shareholders would control about 60 percent of the combined company.

News of the planned merger comes after years of consolidation among stock markets around the world, but the thought of the storied Wall Street exchange falling under German control might rankle some people, including members of Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reports Thursday that the acquisition is symbolic of New York's "fading dominance" as a global financial center.  The NYSE traces its history on Wall Street to 1792. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

Bank of America Announces Program to Help Military Homeowners 

Photo Courtesy - Bank of America Logo/PRNews Foto(NEW YORK) -- Bank of America announced Thursday on Good Morning America it will help members of the military who have trouble meeting their mortgage payments by creating a new program to assist those active duty soldiers.

“What we’re going to do is set up a program of our own that allows us to reduce their principal if they get in trouble, extend their payments, bring their rates down,” Larry DiRita, a spokesman for Bank of America, said.

“Our goal is, look, if you are a military person, you are deployed, you don’t need to be worrying about your house. If you do find yourself in a distressed situation let us know and we will start working with you right away,” he said.

ABC News received an email last month from Sgt. Keith Oliver, a soldier currently deployed in Iraq. He wrote that after Bank of America had reduced his payments for two years the bank suddenly came back and said he owed about $19,000 or else he would face foreclosure.

He kept calling the bank to explain he was deployed but Oliver said he bounced from one department to another until finally he contacted us to ask for help.

When ABC News called Bank of America, it quickly realized the error and fixed the situation with Oliver.

“I guess when ABC News called them they said, ‘Okay, well this person is pretty serious,” Oliver said.

DiRita says the situation is serious and wants to help other soldiers in similar circumstances.

“Our goal is, look, you are overseas defending the homeland we are going to take care of your home,” DiRita said.

“It is very important that people tell us up front ‘I’m in the military, I need some help.’ We’ll put you into this new unit and we’ll go from there,” he explained.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

Foreclosure Activity on the Decline?? Not So Fast

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(IRVINE, Calif.) -- New numbers out Thursday from the firm RealtyTrac show foreclosure activity dropped 17 percent in January compared to a year ago. 

About 261,000 properties across the U.S. received foreclosure notices in January, up one percent from December but down sharply from January, 2010.  RealtyTrac, which monitors such activity, reports Nevada had the most foreclosures of any state for the 49th month in a row. RealtyTrac says Nevada and other states with high numbers face a couple of challenges, so by definition they're going to have higher numbers.  They had a lot of underlying conditions including over-priced homes and risky lending practices.

RealtyTrac says overall, foreclosure rates have only dropped because banks are bogged down with legal paperwork, and that numbers will likely go back up.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

Unemployment Claims Drop for Second Straight Week to 383,000

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The number of people filing for unemployment benefits continued to drop for a second straight week, according to the Labor Department's latest report released Thursday.

For the week ending Feb. 5, the department said jobless claims dropped by 36,000 to 383,000.  The previous week, claims stood at 419,000.

The four-week average also went down, decreasing by 16,000 to 415,500 from the previous week's average of 431,500.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

Report: Twitter Worth Close to $10 Billion

Photo Courtesy - Nicholas Kamm/AFP/ Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Twitter, the online messaging network, estimates its revenue will reach a reported $100 million this year, but its value is estimated to be 100 times that amount, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal reported Thursday Twitter is believed to be worth between $8 billion and $10 billion.

Meanwhile, the messaging service, which had a revenue of $45 million in 2010, estimates its revenue will more than double this year to $100 million to $110 million.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio