Geithner: China's Currency 'Substantially Undervalued'

Photo Courtesy - Darren McCollester/Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called China’s currency “substantially undervalued” and stressed the need for China to revamp its economic system, from the exchange rate to its stance on intellectual property, in a speech at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

“This is not a tenable policy for China or for the world economy,” Geithner said.  “We believe it is in China’s interest to allow the currency to appreciate more rapidly in response to market forces.  And we believe China will do so because the alternative will be too costly --for China and for China’s relations with the rest of the world.”

Speaking at his alma mater, Geithner’s remarks offered a preview of the administration’s position on U.S./China economic relations leading into President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington next week.

“China of course presents enormous economic opportunities for the United States and for the world but its size, the speed of its ascent, and its policies are a growing source of concern both here and in countries around the world.”

Geithner voiced the administration’s concern with an economy dominated by the Chinese government, theft of intellectual property, and policies that favor Chinese technology over foreign technology.  Geithner urged China to move away from its dependence on export driven growth and emphasize domestic consumption and innovation.

Despite being direct competitors, Geithner called the economic relationship between the U.S. and China “largely complementary” and resolved to encourage improvement in China’s economy.

“The prosperity of Americans depends overwhelmingly on the economic policies we pursue to strengthen American competitiveness.  Even as we work to encourage further reforms in China, we need to understand that our strength as a nation will depend, not on choices made by China’s leaders, but on the choices we make here at home.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Consumer Confidence Jumps to Two-and-a-Half-Year High

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Consumer confidence jumped to its highest level in more than two and a half years this week, led by improved ratings of the buying climate and national economy.

The Consumer Comfort Index advanced by five points, a sharp one-week gain that’s been matched or exceeded only 24 times in more than 1,300 weeks of ongoing polling since late 1985. It follows a mid-December drop in economic pessimism, measured separately, to a six-year low.

Shifts this big do not always mean continued improvements in consumer sentiment down the road. But one particular data point offers hope: A five-point jump in the CCI in March 1993 marked the start of the index’s climb out of the 1990-91 recession and its hangover. Still, it was a long road; the CCI didn’t regain its pre-recession level until November 1994.

This advance follows last week’s report that unemployment fell to 9.4 percent in December, its lowest since July 2009. That in turn followed a dip in weekly initial unemployment claims for the last week of December to their lowest since July 2008. (Last week’s report, though, worsened.) As noted last week, the CCI correlates closely with unemployment as well as with a variety of other indicators. (One, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, rose 11 percent last year.)

This week’s jump in confidence occurred chiefly among groups that often are hit hardest by unemployment. The CCI reached its best in more than two and a half years among adults who are under age 34, singles and Democrats, and also has risen among unmarried adults, renters and low-earners. It’s matched a two-and-a-half-year high among women as well.

The CCI, produced by Langer Research Associates, is based on Americans’ ratings of the current national economy, the buying climate and their personal finances.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


MySpace Confirms Major Staff Reduction

Photo Courtesy - MySpace [dot] com(BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.) -- MySpace Inc. confirmed on Tuesday that the once-dominant, now dwindling social networking site is cutting nearly half of its work force. The site reportedly plans to eliminate around 500 jobs, or 47 percent of its total staff.

"Today's tough but necessary changes were taken in order to provide the company with a clear path for sustained growth and profitability," MySpace CEO Mike Jones said in a statement.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported the company had planned nearly 1,100 cuts.

In October, the site underwent a major overhaul in an effort to rebound from the network's losses.

MySpace's monthly visitor count dropped in November to 54 million -- down 3.7 million from October, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Advertising revenue has also fallen 26 percent from a year ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


iPhone Coming to Verizon Wireless

Photo Courtesy - Aaron Katersky/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The anticipation is finally over. Verizon Wireless announced Tuesday it will begin selling Apple's iPhone 4 on Feb. 10. Qualified Verizon Wireless customers will be able to pre-order the iPhone online on Feb. 3.

The announcement means Verizon will break the exclusive hold AT&T has had on the device since the June 2007 launch.

While those loyal to Verizon celebrated the long-awaited option for one of the most popular smart-phones in the world, tech aficionados say some of the features are lacking. There are also some concerns over how millions of new iPhone customers will affect Verizon's network for other users.

AT&T iPhone users have long complained of dropped calls and slowdowns, particularly in major cities. AT&T began limiting data usage last summer. iPhone users had previously enjoyed unlimited data plans.

Verizon has said it has built its network to prepare for the new users.

The Verizon iPhone will be similar to the current iPhone 4 but will use Verizon's CDMA technology and 3G network. The phone will allow customers to use their phone to connect up to five wi-fi enabled devices, with its new "Personal Hotspot" feature.

iPhone pricing for Verizon customers is identical to the current models available with AT&T service: $199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB model with a new two-year contract.

The iPhone 4 will be available at Verizon Wireless stores, Apple stores and the websites of both Verizon and Apple.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Broken Pipeline Pushes Oil Prices Higher

(NEW YORK) -- The 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which carries 650,000 barrels per day, has shut down oil shipments from the North Slope to the Valdez Marine Terminal due to an apparent oil leak on Saturday.

The leak was discovered this weekend in the first of the pipeline's pumping stations. Since the discovery, the leak has reportedly been contained to a basement in the pumping station, and about 10 barrels from the leak have been recovered.

According to the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the pipeline is working at only five percent of total capacity because of the shutdown. As a result, oil traders are pushing oil prices 1.5 percent higher on Monday (near $90 a barrel).

Much of the West Coast of the U.S. relies on the 12 percent of U.S. oil production pushed through the pipeline.

Engineers are developing a plan to attempt to bypass the affected pipe and analysts believe the shutdown should be short-lived.

Copyright 2011 ABC Radio News


Unemployment Numbers Rise for Young Veterans

Image Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – Despite promising economic news in the first week of January that unemployment had fallen to a 19-month low, unemployment among veterans who have served since 2001 has risen, according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor.

The numbers say that unemployment jumped to 11.7 percent in December from 10 percent in November for veterans who have served in the Armed Forces since September 2001.

"Primarily, employers resist hiring people – such as veterans – who have been out of the domestic workforce for an extended period of time. Besides that, some potential employers have difficulty understanding how specialized skills and expertise gained in the service translate into their own needs,” said Jimmie Foster, national commander of The American Legion.

Most Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are men 25 to 34 years old, and 46 percent have some college education or an associate’s degree, compared with just 28 percent of non-veterans in the same age group.

The American Legion helps to hold job workshops across the country in order to find employment for veterans.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Mac App Store Tops 1 Million Downloads, Apple Says

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- Apple is having instant success with the online Mac App Store. The company said the store had more than one million downloads on its first day, this past Thursday.

“We’re amazed at the incredible response the Mac App Store is getting,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Users with Apple's Snow Leopard operating system can download the Mac App Store through a basic software update.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Volt Named Car of the Year

Chevrolet[dot]com(DETROIT) -- Automotive journalists selected the Chevrolet Volt as the North American car of the year for 2011 on Monday. 

It will be next year before the Volt goes on sale nationwide. "We are very bullish on the Volt so we are continuously monitoring and watching and when the time presents itself when the country is ready for more we are absolutely prepared and interested in giving them more Volts", says Chevrolet's Pamela Fletcher, who expects to sell about 45,000 of them. 

The cars run on electricity for 40 miles before a backup gas engine takes over. The Volt costs about $41,000 before a $7,500 tax credit drops the price. 

Nissan is ramping up production of the Leaf and Ford just introduced the electric Focus. "It's important that we get these vehicles out there, get them launched and then get the customers and country frankly to realize these are important vehicles and this is the way we ought to go in the country", says Ford Chairman Bill Ford. With gas prices rising he expects demand for electric cars to grow, though it'll be next year before most Americans have the opportunity to drive them. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DOT Forces More Disclosure by Regional Airlines

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government is cracking down on airlines and third-party ticketing sites that make it difficult for travelers to decipher who is really flying their plane.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Aviation Enforcement Office announced Monday it is giving airlines and online ticket agents 60 days to modify websites to make it easier for travelers to learn if their flight is being flown by a large airline like Continental or Delta or a smaller regional airline operating under the mainline carrier's banner.

Under code-sharing, an airline sells tickets on flights that use the airline's code, but are actually operated by a different carrier. Longstanding DOT rules require airlines to disclose code-sharing arrangements to consumers before they book a flight, but legislation adopted in August 2010 has also clarified the requirements for Internet websites that sell airline tickets.

"When passengers buy an airline ticket, they have the right to know which airline will be operating their flight," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "For years we've required airlines to inform consumers about code-sharing arrangements, and we'll be monitoring the industry closely to make sure they comply with the provisions of the new legislation."

Federal law requires airlines and independent booking sites to disclose upfront when a flight is operated by somebody else, like a regional airline. But many sites never disclose the name of the actual airline or require several clicks to learn the identity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ford to Add 7,000 U.S. Workers in Next Two Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DETROIT) -- Ford Motor Company announced Monday it will add 7,000 new hourly and salaried jobs between this year and next in the United States. 
This year alone, Ford is adding nearly 4,000 hourly jobs at several of its U.S. plants, including 1,800 at Louisville Assembly Plant, which is preparing to launch the next-generation Ford Escape late in the year. Ford also will add 750 salaried engineering jobs in product development and manufacturing. Next year, Ford expects to add at least 2,500 more new manufacturing positions.
“Ford is committed to American manufacturing, and we are on a path to add more than 7,000 American workers over the next two years as we continue to grow our product lineup,” said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas. “Working with our partners, including the UAW, Ford is finding competitive ways to engineer and build even more high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles with technologies American consumers really want.”
Ford is recruiting salaried engineers specializing in batteries, system controls, software and energy storage to work on electric vehicles in Detroit and eight other cities including Boston; Chicago; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Milwaukee; Raleigh and Durham, N.C.; and San Jose, Calif. This recruitment launches at the 2011 North American International Auto Show during industry preview days on Jan. 12 and Jan. 13.

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