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Thursday
Nov182010

Call of Duty: Black Ops Sets New Five Day Entertainment Industry Record

Photo Courtesy - ActiVision[dot]com(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) -- Activision Publishing, Inc. announced Thursday that Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops has shattered theatrical box office, book and video game sales records for five-day worldwide sell through in dollars.  The game established an all-new five-day worldwide sell-through record of more than $650 million, exceeding Activision's previous five-day worldwide record of $550 million set by last year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, according to internal Activision estimates.

"
Call of Duty has become the first entertainment property in history to set five-day launch records for two consecutive years across all forms of entertainment," said Robert Kotick, CEO, Activision Blizzard.  "The title's success illustrates the mass appeal of interactive entertainment as millions of consumers are choosing to play Call of Duty: Black Ops at unprecedented levels rather than engage in other forms of media.  The number of people playing online and the number of hours they are playing demonstrates how online gaming has become a mainstream form of entertainment and certainly validates Activision Blizzard's leadership role in online entertainment."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov182010

Grab Bag of Tax, Spending Proposals Eyed to Cut Deficit 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While taxpayers are impatiently waiting to hear if Congress will allow the Bush-era tax to cuts expire in January, this week two groups introduced plans to cut federal expenditures and shrink the $13.7 trillion national debt with tax and policy changes. The authors' methods run the gamit, but are sure to affect everyone's pockets should they be enacted.

The first recommendation came Nov. 10 from the co-chairs of the White House's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, or the fiscal commission. It has been called the Bowles-Simpson draft proposal after the authors, Erskin Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system and former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, and Alan Simpson, former Republican senator of Wyoming.

That 24-page document and corresponding 50-slide presentation differs greatly from the 140-page proposal from Wednesday's Bipartisan Policy Center's debt reduction task force. That recommendation has been called the debt reduction or Domenici-Rivlin plan, after former Republican Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Alice Rivlin, former vice chair of the Federal Reserve and also on the board of the fiscal commission.

One of the most dramatic proposals may have been Wednesday's debt reduction plan's "payroll tax holiday" that suspends Social Security payroll taxes for all of 2011. This move aims to keep money in employee paychecks and incentivize companies to hire more people.

While dramatic, the task force said the payroll holiday will immediately spur economic growth.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov182010

Delinquent Mortgage Loans, Foreclosure Inventory Down in Third Quarter

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Mortgage Bankers Association released new numbers Thursday showing that fewer Americans were late in paying their mortgages in the July to September time period, while the number of homes in the foreclosure process were down slightly as well.

Overall, roughly 88 percent of American homeowners are paying their mortgages on-time, according to the report.  The new data also shows that 9.13 percent of home loans were at least one payment late at the end of the quarter, down from 9.85 percent at the end of the second quarter.

In addition, 4.39 percent of home loans were in the foreclosure process at the end of September, down from 4.57 percent.  Foreclosure starts -- homes which received a notice to start foreclosure proceedings -- was up during the quarter at 1.34 percent to a record rate.

The MBA says the slight improvement in the national delinquency rate can be attributed to a slight improvement in the employment situation in the U.S.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov182010

Mary Kay, McDonald's: American Businesses Booming in China

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(BEIJING) -- Mary Kay, the classic American makeup company, took its pink hats and pink Buicks 7,000 miles to China -- and after 15 years of trial and error, business is booming there.  Nearly 20 percent of the company's business now comes from China, said K.K. Chua, president of Mary Kay's Asia Pacific region.

"We're just scratching the surface in China right now considering that China is a country with more than 1.4 billion people," Chua said.  "I think in the time to come, we will see the business having a lot more lengths to run."

Mary Kay's success in China meant shifting from their well-known model of paying home visits to setting up "beauty centers."  The company also created specific products that appeal to Chinese women.

Mary Kay is one of several big American brands finding their way to Chinese consumers.  Another major American brand making big waves in China is McDonald's.  The company has spent 20 years working in the country and now opens a new location every other day.

The Gap, an American clothing brand, also just opened a string of stores in Beijing and Shanghai after two years of intense research.  The company redesigned some of its trademark jeans to appeal to Chinese consumers, even designing specific clothes for different cities in China.

Because the Chinese do like American brands and American know-how -- everything from U.S. architects to management experts -- there is potential to tap into vast amounts of money and benefits to American stockholders.

The boom in consumption by Chinese consumers could be good for American workers, too.  One estimate suggests that a 20 percent rise in Chinese consumption theoretically could lead to an extra $25 billion of American exports, creating more than 200,000 American jobs.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov172010

General Motors Sets Public Offering of Common and Preferred Stock

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(DETROIT) -- General Motors announced Wednesday that they will begin a public offer of common and mandatory convertible junior preferred stock that will begin trading on November 18th.

The company will offer as much as $23.1 billion of the stocks to the public, depending on the amount taken by underwriters. 

"As we prepare to enter the equity markets, all of us at GM are excited about this historic milestone.  We are especially appreciative of those who stood by us through the toughest times, and we are dedicated to creating value for all of our stakeholders," said GM Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell.

The issue included 478 million shares of common stock, which has been valued at $33 per share, for a total of $15.77 billion. The public offering also included 87 million shares of mandatory convertible junior preferred stock for a total of $4.35 billion.
 
The closing of both offerings is scheduled to take place on November 23rd, 2010. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov172010

Unemployment Down, Underemployment Reaches Lowest Level of 2010

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(PRINCETON, NJ) – Unemployment has reached one of the lowest levels of the year, according to a new Gallup Poll, indicating that the job market has continued to improve.

The poll found that unemployment dropped to 9.2 percent during the first half of November. That figure is down from 10 percent in mid-October and 9.4 percent during the last half of October.

Underemployment has also dropped to reach its lowest point this year. The drop in unemployment combined with a decrease in the number of part-time workers seeking full-time employment has brought the underemployment rate to 17.7 percent.
 
The new figures, however, do not account for improvement that may have been caused due to holiday hiring, as Gallup's U.S. unemployment rate and underemployment measure are not seasonally adjusted.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov172010

Four Loko Manufacturer to Remove Caffeine from Products

Photo Courtesy - ABC News/WABC-TV New York(CHICAGO) -- Phusion Projects, the manufacturer of the caffeinated alcoholic drink Four Loko, announced Tuesday that it will reformulate its products, removing caffeine from its drinks.  The company's announcement comes just as the Food and Drug Administration is set to ban Four Loko.

Along with the removal of caffeine, Phusion Projects will also extract guarana and taurine from its products nationwide.

In a statement, the company's three co-founders said, "We are taking this step after trying – unsuccessfully – to navigate a difficult and politically-charged regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels."

The FDA's position on caffeinated alcoholic drinks could come as early as Wednesday.  Four states -- Washington, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma -- have already banned Four Loko in response to several recent incidents in which college students were hospitalized after consuming the drink.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov172010

Google Unveils New Fashion E-Commerce Site

Photo Courtesy - Boutiques [dot] com/ Google(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) -- As many in the fashion world expected, Google took the wraps off of a new fashion e-commerce site, Boutiques.com, on Wednesday.

Launched with technology made possible by Google's summer acquisition of Like.com, a shopping site with a sophisticated visual search program, the new site lets visitors not only browse colorful virtual boutiques set up by celebrities and designers but create -- and share -- their own personalized online shops.

Visitors to Boutiques.com don't actually complete purchases on the site, but it makes it easy and intuitive for shoppers to identify and search for their favorite styles and items.  It also lets them follow the styles of designer, celebrity and fashion blogger "tastemakers."

Boutiques.com makes money when shoppers click through to other e-retailers or brands' online stores.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov172010

Senate to Vote on Bill to Reduce Wage Disparities Among Sexes

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is set to take up a controversial bill designed to ensure equal pay for equal work and reduce pay disparities between men and women.

On Wednesday, senators will convene on Capitol Hill to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has already passed the House.  President Obama calls it a "common sense bill" that would make it easier for women to file class action lawsuits against employers accused of sex based pay discrimination.  It will also require companies to be more aware of pay practices.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis this legislation is long overdue.  "The last time we actually made any changes in this law was back in 1966, almost 50 years ago, through the Equal Pay Act," she says.  "That was supposed to help end sex based wage discrimination and yet we find that we have not made enough of an impact, therefore we need this, and it helps to close those loopholes."

But some say the new act will burden businesses with extra paperwork.

"You're basically putting this huge paperwork burden on a company to report to the federal government -- to report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," says Brian Darling, Director of Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.  "And in the end, it's not going to do anything to help women make more money.  It's just going to enrich trial lawyers."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Pledges $500 Million to Bring Financial Services to World's Poorest

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, urged nearly 200 influential world leaders to work together to build a financial structure that will "bring savings to the poor." 

To that end, Gates, whose husband Bill Gates is chairman of Microsoft Corporation, also pledged $500 million over the next five years from the charitable foundation the couple founded.

On Tuesday, world leaders gathered in Seattle at the Global Savings Forum, billed as "the first global gathering focused on the role of savings in the developing world," where Gates spoke about bringing financial services, specifically savings accounts, to the millions of people worldwide that are living on less than $2 per day.

"This is an amazing moment.  The stage is set for incredible breakthroughs," Gates told forum attendees.

Gates added that statements last week on savings by the G20 "proves financial inclusion is on the global agenda at the highest level."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 







ABC News Radio