SEARCH

Wednesday
Nov102010

Housing Downturn Reaching Great Depression-Era Declines

(SEATTLE) – As the U.S. housing market slips into its 17th consecutive quarter of decline, a new report warns that the housing crisis may reach depths not seen since the Great Depression.

According to third-quarter Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, home values have fallen 25 percent since peaking in 2006, a drop reminiscent of the Great Depression era, which saw a 25.9-percent drop in home values over five years.

"While not unexpected, the unceasing declines in home values signal that we're in for a long, bleak winter of continued troubles for the housing market," said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist.

The percentage of homeowners underwater on their mortgage has also reached a new peak. In the third quarter, 23.2 percent of single-family homeowners were in trouble with their mortgage. That is the highest percentage since Zillow started to track the figure in 2009.
 
Foreclosures have also reached an all-time high as 1.2 out of every 1,000 homeowners in the U.S. lost their homes to foreclosure in September.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Labor Board Says Firing Employee Over Facebook Comments May Be Unfair, Company's Internet Policy Too Broad 

Photo Courtesy - NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time ever, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint that an employer engaged in unfair labor practices for firing an employee who made derogatory posts about her supervisor on Facebook.

The labor board issued the complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut last week for firing medical technician Dawnmarie Souza after she criticized her supervisor online. The board also said that the firm had an overly-broad employee Internet policy.

Images of Souza's Facebook page, provided by a lawyer for the company, show remarks including, "looks like I'm getting some time off. love how the company allows a 17 to become a supervisor," using the company's terminology for a psychiatric patient. Another post describes the supervisor with expletives.

Calls to Souza were not immediately returned.

An attorney for American Medical Response, which provides emergency response and dispatch services, said that Facebook comments were not the reason for the termination of Souza on Dec. 1, 2009. John Barr, a partner with Jackson Lewis, said there were two complaints about Souza from patients and hospital staff within 10 days of each other from October to November 2009.

Barr said the company, based in Colorado, began an investigation into the two behavioral complaints. Souza, who is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 443 union, requested that a union representative be present during an investigatory interview on Nov. 8, 2009. The request was denied by her supervisors, which is when Souza engaged in "concerted activities with other employees" criticizing her supervisor on Facebook, according to the NLRB complaint.

"The chief reason she was terminated was her rude and unprofessional conduct," said Barr. "The two complaints were the reason for the termination. If she had not engaged in this inappropriate conduct, it's very unlikely that she would have been terminated."

The labor relations complaint against American Medical Response also stated the company's "blogging and Internet posting policy" in its employee handbook is too broad.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Obama Urges G-20 Leaders to Back Plans for US Economic Growth

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JAKARTA, Indonesia) -- Amidst criticisms the U.S. is trying to ‘devalue its way back to prosperity,’ President Obama wrote a letter to G-20 leaders arguing the world needs the American economy to recover, adding the U.S. dollar's strength and global economic health hinge upon it.

“A strong recovery that creates jobs, income and spending is the most important contribution the United States can make to the global recovery,” President Obama wrote on the eve of the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea.  “The dollar’s strength ultimately rests on the fundamental strength of the U.S. economy.”

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s plan for “quantitative easing” -- which essentially means pumping $600 billion into the U.S.  economy through the purchase of Treasury securities -- has met with criticism from fellow G-20 nations.

At the International Finance Forum in Beijing, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China Ma Delun said this week that the Fed plan  "may add risks to the global economic imbalance, put pressure on emerging markets to adjust their international balance of payments and could also stir the formation of asset bubbles, all of which require our vigilance.”

And German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in an interview with Der Spiegel called the move “clueless” and said he has “great doubts about whether it makes sense to pump unlimited amounts of money into the markets.  There is no shortage of liquidity in the U.S. economy.  I can't see the economic argument for this move."

Schaeuble said “it doesn’t add up when the Americans accuse the Chinese of currency manipulation and then, with the help of their central bank’s printing presses, artificially lower the value of the dollar.”

Asked in India if the move by the Fed may look hypocritical to other world leaders, President Obama said “the Federal Reserve is an independent body.  It doesn’t take orders from the White House, and it’s important as a policy matter, as an institutional matter, that we don’t comment on particular Fed actions.  I will say that the Fed’s mandate, my mandate, is to grow our economy.  And that’s not just good for the United States, that’s good for the world as a whole.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

IBM Wants to Make 100 Cities ‘Smarter'

Photo Courtesy of IBM(ARMONK, N.Y.) – IBM on Tuesday announced an initiative to create 100 smarter cities across the globe. Through the Smarter Cities Challenge, IBM plans to provide $50 million in technologies and services to improve the growth, services, efficiency and citizen engagement in 100 cities that make the strongest case for their involvement.

Pilot grants have begun in Baltimore; Austin, Texas; and Mecklenburg County, N.C. to ensure the program’s success.

The Smarter Cities Challenge represents the single largest philanthropic investment currently planned by IBM.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

Gingrich: Bernanke 'Fundamentally Wrong,' 'Misreading Economy'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- They could soon be political opponents if Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin decide to make a run for the Oval Office, but speaking to ABC News on Tuesday, the former speaker of the House agreed with Palin’s criticism of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

“I would say that Bernanke is fundamentally wrong,” Gingrich said. “He is fundamentally misreading the economy. This economy lacks confidence in the government, it doesn’t lack cash.”

Palin on Monday called on Bernanke to “cease and desist” with his plan to buy $600 billion worth of bonds and cited a warning from the German minister of finance, according to the National Review.

Gingrich said it is “interesting” that Palin and Germany are on the same side – but added America should take a look at what the country accomplished.
 
“Germany right now has its lowest unemployment rate in 18 years. They are the only exporting country in Europe that can compete with China,” he said.

So what will help the U.S. economy? Gingrich said we need certainty on taxes.

“When the Democrats left Congress without having passed a tax bill they guaranteed that no company in America, no investor in America has a clue on January 1 what their taxes are,” he said. “That’s an environment where you don’t create jobs. And pouring out more paper money and increasing the risk of inflation is not a very clever way of trying to solve that.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

First Lady's Clothing Picks: Big Gains for Designers, Department Stores

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Michelle Obama is hailed as one of the world's best-dressed women. From couture creations to off-the-rack ensembles, the clothes she wears fly off the shelves.

The designers whose creations are picked by the first lady not only experience a surge in popularity, but, according to the results of a study published in the October issue of the Harvard Business Review, their stocks can get a significant boost.

The study's author, David Yermack, professor of finance and business at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business, performed a year-long analysis of the economic impact of Obama's apparel selections.

He found that her choices had a major influence on clothing markets.

Obama's Choices Benefit Seventh Avenue and Wall Street

"Each single appearance of hers could move a stock price by $14 million," Yermack told "Good Morning America."

According to Yermack's results, Obama made 189 public appearances between November 2008 and December 2009. During that time, she wore items from 29 publicly traded companies, including J.Crew, the Gap, Saks Fifth Avenue and Target.

Those companies raked in an estimated $2.7 billion as a result of Obama's donning their apparel, Yermack calculated.

J.Crew has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the first lady's sartorial selections. Obama has sported outfits from the popular mall chain on several high-profile occasions.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

Employers Offer Fewer Jobs in Sept., Labor Department Says

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Job openings fell sharply in September, the Labor Department announced Tuesday. Employers advertised 2.9 million jobs -- a drop of 5.3 percent from the previous month.

Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago, says last month's numbers should be more significant.

“We've yet to see how sustainable the increase in jobs in October was,” she said. “It was a meaningful turnaround along with the revisions we saw over the summer that showed smaller declines in employment, but…we're still digging ourselves out of a very deep hole when it comes to employment.”

“The good news is that retailers are hiring a little bit more than they were a year ago,” Swonk said. “We're starting to see some of the services employment come back a bit. We've also seen temporary hires pick up.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

Commerce Dept: Wholesale Inventories, Sales Up in Sept.

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Inventories at the wholesale level rose for a ninth consecutive month in September, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Sales were up for a third straight month.

While it’s positive news for the economy, Mesirow Financial chief economist Diane Swonk says inventories are not as large an economic factor as they once were.

“Inventories, although they're continuing to rise, the rise in inventories is no longer the tailwind it once was in supporting manufacturing activity and economic growth,” she said.

“We're still not seeing enough. What we're seeing is inventories that continue to grow, but at a slower pace,” Swonk said. “As they continue to do that, we'll see their additions to the U.S. economy wane.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

Goodbye, Mr. Goodwrench: GM to Retire Iconic Service Brand

Photo Courtesy - GM/YouTube(DETROIT) -- General Motors is putting Mr. Goodwrench out to pasture.

The iconic auto repair brand will be replaced early next year as GM and the American auto industry continue to rebuild.

General Motors is replacing its Goodwrench service with more specific labels such as Chevrolet Certified Service, Buick Certified Service, GMC Certified Service and Cadillac Certified Service.

“Our number one priority is providing a world-class ownership experience that creates positive long-lasting relationships with our customers,” said Steve Hill, vice president and general manager, GM Customer Care and Aftersales.

The automaker says it plans to retire the Goodwrench name effective Feb. 1, 2011.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

Holiday Hiring Season on Track to Be One of Strongest in Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The job outlook for this holiday season is seeing its strongest start in four years, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The latest jobs report showed a net gain of 150,900 retail jobs in October, three times greater than the number of retail positions added in the same month last year and nearly four times greater than those added in 2008.  The last time similar numbers were posted was back in 2006, when retail payrolls expanded by 150,600.

“This is a good sign that retailers feel more optimistic this year.  Even if November and December hiring remains flat from a year ago, seasonal job growth will top 600,000 for the first time since 2007,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio