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Wednesday
Jun012011

Sprint Asks FCC to Block AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

AT&T(WASHINGTON) -- Sprint wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to step in and put a stop to AT&T's proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA.

The wireless carrier announced Tuesday that it has formally put in a request with the FCC to block the transaction, which would merge the second and fourth largest wireless providers in the country and reduce market competition.

Sprint told the FCC that if the merger were to go forth, it would "harm the broadband economy, competition and consumers," as well as "innovation and investment."  Consumers would be left with fewer choices when choosing cellphone providers, which could result in higher prices for them, Sprint noted.

Furthermore, the transaction would bump up AT&T's power, making it and Verizon "the gatekeepers of the digital ecosystem, stifling innovation and choice in new devices and applications."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

Sealed Air Acquires Diversey for $2.9 Billion

Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sealed Air Corp. announced Wednesday plans to buy cleaning products maker Diversey Holdings Inc. for $2.9 billion in cash and stock.

The move comes as part of Sealed Air's effort to diversify, with the acquisition giving it leverage into the chemical cleaning and hygiene industry.

Diversey is privately owned and controlled by members of the Johnson family as well as the private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. The company will receive $2.1 billion in cash and 31.7 million in Sealed Air shares.

According to Sealed Air, the deal is valued at $4.3 billion and includes debt assumption.

The deal is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

Toyota Recalls 52,000 Prius Vehicles

Mark Renders/Getty Images(TORRANCE, Calif.) -- Toyota has issued a voluntary recall for 52,000 Prius vehicles sold in the U.S. that the company is saying could experience steering problems.

"If the steering wheel is repeatedly and strongly turned to the full-lock position, there is a possibility the nuts securing the pinion shaft in the steering gear box assembly may become loose," the company said in a press release Wednesday.

Toyota says that if the vehicle is continuously operated in that fashion, operators -- over time -- will "gradually notice significant increased steering effort when making a left turn."

The recall affects Prius model years 2001-2003.

The automaker says dealers will make safety upgrades at no charge.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Gas Prices Fall Slightly, Still 39 Percent More Expensive than Last Year

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Energy Department reports Tuesday the national average price of gasoline fell six cents during the past week. Drivers who filled up during the Memorial Day weekend saw pumps posting an average of $3.79 a gallon.

Even with the recent drop in gas prices, drivers are paying 39 percent more than they were a year ago ($2.73 a gallon).

A weaker dollar and shutdown of a pipeline in Kansas helped move oil prices higher Tuesday, hinting that the recent respite in gas prices might reverse in the coming weeks. Crude oil added $2.11 to settle at $102.70 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at the close.

Should Friday’s May jobs report come in better than the 185,000 new jobs economists are expecting, there would likely be fuel for a quick uptick in retail gas prices.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Rent or Buy? Six Tips to Help You Make the Right Decision

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow, and Celia Chen, senior director at Moody's Analytics, spoke with ABC News about what potential homeowners need to consider before deciding whether to buy or rent. Here are their tips:

1. Time

On average, if you are planning on living in a home for five years or more, you should consider buying. If not, renting is usually the best option.

Chen: "The first question you want to think about is how long you're going to live in a place. When you purchase a home there are a lot of transaction costs related to the home purchase, and these are sunk costs that will be difficult to make back."

2. Income Stability

If you do not have a sustained and stable income, you should look to rent because it is easier to change your living situation depending on how much money you are earning.

3. Percent of Income

You don't want to spend more than a third of your income on all housing-related expenses. That includes mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance and any other housing-related costs.

4. Price-to-Rent Ratio

The price-to-rent ratio is the real estate price divided by the annual rent. If a house has a price-to-rent ratio of 15, that means the price of the house is 15 times the annual rent that home would earn. The New York Times has an easy-to-use calculator that will help you crunch the numbers.

Humphries: "The higher that ratio is, the more renting is going to become favorable. Typically, the break point there is something in the 15 to 20 range. So if that ratio is 15 to 20, meaning that buying a home is 15 to 20 times more expensive than the annual rent, you would spend on the same house. Then that's a range in which renting is more advantageous....The higher that ratio is the less attractive buying looks, and the more attractive renting looks."

5. Quality and Inventory

The rental and for sale markets vary in the quality and inventory they offer. It is important to compare the markets and see where you are able to find the place that fits you the best. In a normal market, it is usually easier to find what you are a looking for in the for sale market. However, with the increased number of people looking to rent, many investors are converting single family homes that were once for sale into rentals. The quality and inventory vary greatly by the market you are looking in.

6. Research

Research the overall economic health of the neighborhood. Chen recommends using websites such as RealtyTrac and Foreclosure.com to see the number of foreclosed and distressed homes in the area. She says there is a likelihood that in communities with more foreclosures that price corrections will be much more severe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Sand Dune Lizard Could Cost Texas Jobs If Added to Endangered List

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(MIDLAND, Texas) -- The sand dune lizard is a small reptile that has become the scourge of the Texas oil industry, not because it is dangerous but because the threatened species could put land ripe for oil exploration off-limits.

"As far as I am concerned, it is Godzilla," Texas land commissioner Jerry Paterson told ABC News. "[It's] the biggest threat facing the oil business in memory," said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. They believe the small tan-colored, insectivorous lizard could cost the oil industry and surrounding communities thousands of jobs.

About 63,000 Americans work in the oil and gas well industry as of September 2009, the most recent period available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program. Most of those jobs are in Texas.

The federal government said the sand lizard is on the verge of extinction, and it is expected to place it on the endangered species list soon.

If the species makes the list, its 800,000-acre habitat in the shinnery oak sand dune communities of southeastern New Mexico and southwestern Texas would receive protected status. That habitat happens to be right in the heart of Texas oil country.

"If the lizard is put on the endangered species list, then [rigs] would [be] shutdown," Leslyn Wallace, a land manager at RSP Permian, told ABC News. That would cost many Texans their jobs.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told ABC News the economic impact wouldn't be as dramatic as the oil industry says, but whether it lists lizard as endangered depends solely on the fate of the lizard, not its economic impact.

"The law says we need to look at the science," Michelle Shaughnessy, assistant regional director at the Fish and Wildlife Service, told ABC News.

In a region where virtually every job is tied to oil, that is not reassuring for residents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Stocks End the Month with Gains

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The markets are finally rising after a month of declines.

The Dow closed up 128 points, the Nasdaq added 38 and the S&P gained 14 Tuesday.

The increases come despite a couple of pessimistic reports on the economy.  The Conference Board's latest Consumer Confidence Survey shows we're not so optimistic about the recovery -- especially when it comes to jobs and inflation.

That said, prices at the pumps are dropping.  Private surveys are showing the national average is down 6 cents to $3.37 a gallon.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Rich Keep Getting Richer, New Report Claims

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The world's rich continued to get richer over the last year, according to a report from The Boston Consulting Group issued Tuesday.

Their figures show that globally, there is about $121.8 trillion in global wealth around the world today, up $20 trillion since the depths of the financial crisis. The firm, which looks at investable global wealth assets like cash, money market, stocks and bonds, excludes from their calculations the value of a person's owned businesses, homes and luxury goods.

According to BCG's data, millionaire households represent just 0.9 percent of the global population, but control some 39 percent of the planet's wealth -- up from the 37 percent the group represented in 2009.

The U.S. has the largest population of millionaire households (5.2 million), but Singapore has the densest population of wealth with 15.5 percent of the city-state’s population qualifying as super rich.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Home Prices Drop 4.2% In First Quarter of 2011

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For the real estate market, 2011 feels like 2002. Nationwide home prices dropped more than 4 percent in the first few months of the year, wiping out nine years of value and, says Maureen Maitland at Standard & Poor's, pushing home prices to a new low.

"While the economy is turning around slowly, the housing market isn't," she said.

Record foreclosures force prices down and Maitland expects them to keep falling for the rest of the year.

"We had originally seen home prices hit their low in April 2009 right around the first quarter," Maitland said. "What we saw with today's report...is that it now hit a new low, which says that the housing market is still very much in recession."

Some of the most severe declines are in cities hit hardest by foreclosures like Phoenix, Tampa, and Las Vegas, but home prices also fell in Chicago, Miami, and New York.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

Apple CEO Steve Jobs to Deliver Keynote Next Week

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- Steve Jobs will deliver the keynote address at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, where the company says it plans to unveil some major software updates and a new cloud-based initiative.

Though the Apple CEO remains on medical leave, the company said Tuesday that Jobs and a team of executives will debut Lion -- its latest update to Mac OS X -- and iOS 5, the next version of the company’s operating system used in iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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