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Tuesday
Feb222011

Obama Sits Down with Small Business Owners, Talks Job Creation

Photo Courtesy - JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- President Obama continued his road show pushing his State of the Union message of “Winning the Future,” traveling to Cleveland Tuesday with several members of his cabinet for a forum with small business owners.

Obama did not mention the big news items of the day: Libya, the murder of the four Americans by pirates, and the demonstrations in Wisconsin and Ohio over state budget cuts and proposal to end collective bargaining for public employees.

The president said he came to Cleveland not to talk but to listen, because small businesses are the “anchors of Main Street” and “help drive America’s economic growth and create two out of every three new jobs.”

 “What would make it easier for you to grow?” he asked. “What would make it easier for you to create new jobs? How can America help you succeed so that you can help America succeed?”

He heard from several small business owners who said one of their biggest hurdles is access to capital, which Obama said he expected would be a popular topic.

The president also took questions submitted via the Internet and again focused on the need for small businesses to get the capital they need in order to invest and grow.

The president emphasized the steps that his administration has taken to get capital flowing including SBA guarantees to banks that loan to small businesses, eliminating some fees on such loans and funding through the Treasury Department to facilitate lending.

The trip is the latest in a series of presidential stops in key political battleground states. Since his address to Congress last month, Obama has talked innovation and investment in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and now the Buckeye State – all states that were critical to his victory in 2008 and will be once again in 2012.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb222011

Microsoft to Bring Kinect Gaming Device to PCs

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(REDMOND, Wash.) -- Microsoft is set to bring its popular Kinect to PCs. The company is letting software developers create apps for Windows computers that take advantage of the controller-free system designed for the Xbox.

The first apps are scheduled to be released in late June.

Microsoft sold eight million Kinects in its first months on the market.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb222011

Firing Up Big Labor in the Midwest?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As Republican governors seek to rein in organized labor as part of efforts to address budget crises, they’re sparking intense backlashes in the states as organized labor rallies to preserve rights and benefits for unionized workers.

Former Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas, told ABC News on Tuesday that the battles in states including Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa could wind up benefiting President Obama politically, particularly since the battles are being waged in critical presidential battleground states.

“He's somehow got to show that he's with the workers, that he's with people who are concerned about their jobs,” Frost said. “And what Republicans have done is give him a golden opportunity to show them that he is on the side of the working men and women. The labor movement had been kind of on the sidelines until recently. Now he may be able to motivate his base. This may actually long-term help him in the election” in 2012.

The fights could serve to remind voters of the importance of labor unions, Frost said.

“Motivating labor is something that the Republicans may have made a mistake on, because if labor gets fired up in the 2012 election, Obama will carry those Midwestern states that he needs to win.”

Frost also said that Republicans in Congress are “playing with dynamite” by potentially risking a government shutdown in their standoff with Democrats over spending, though he acknowledged that a repeat of the 1995 shutdown is unlikely.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb222011

Credit Card Industry Praised on Anniversary of Credit CARD Act

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Elizabeth Warren, assistant to the president and special advisor to the secretary of the treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, kicked off a conference Tuesday for the anniversary of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, by praising the credit card industry for going beyond the requirements of the law to ensure clarity and transparency for consumers.

“A year later, the CARD act has brought about major changes in the way the industry operates,” Warren said in the keynote address.   “Much of the industry has gone further than the law requires in curbing repricing and over limit fees.   A number of issuers have eliminated some of the practices that can confuse customers and cost them money they reasonably did not expect to pay.   Lenders in the industry deserve credit for moving in the right direction.”

Implemented last year, the Credit CARD Act aims to protect consumers from predatory lending practices, penalties and interest rate hikes instituted by credit card companies.   Under the act, credit card companies must give borrowers a 45-day notice before raising interest rates or making other significant changes, must adhere to limiting fees on credit card holders’ accounts, and make it more difficult for students to obtain credit cards, requiring a co-signor for people under the age of 21.

“When the act was signed into law in May 2009, it was clear that the credit card market was in need of serious reform,” Warren said.   “The CARD Act was designed to reduce surprises in the repricing of accounts and to take a major step in improving the overall transparency of credit card costs.   As a result of the CARD Act, consumers now have better information about how much they're paying for credit and how much they might save on interest if they pay down their balances more quickly.” 

Warren also lauded the work of the CFPB but assured that more work needs to be done to ensure clarity for consumers to understand the costs and benefits associated with various credit cards.

“In the credit card market, we have more work to do and the task is formidable,” she said.   “It is still difficult for many consumers to understand the costs and risks of each individual credit card or to compare cards directly.   Our next challenges will be about further clarifying price and risks and making it easier for consumers to make direct product comparisons.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb222011

Home Depot Reports 72 Percent Increase in Fourth Quarter Earnings

Photo Courtesy - Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Home Depot came out with its latest financial report Tuesday, showing an increase in net earnings by 72 percent in the fourth quarter.

The world's largest home improvement retailer said earnings went up to $587 million, or 36 cents per diluted share, for the three months ended Jan. 30, compared to the $342 million it earned in the same time period the year before.

The retailer also said sales increased by 3.8 percent to $15.13 billion in the fourth quarter, up from $14.57 billion in the same quarter the previous year.

"In 2010, we continued to invest in our business and made solid progress against our key initiatives," Frank Blake, chairman and CEO of Home Depot, said.  "We completed the rollout of our Rapid Deployment Centers, an important part of our distribution network; we saw year-over-year improvement in customer service ratings; and we continued progress on our merchandising transformation.  Our actions, coupled with an improving economy, resulted in positive sales growth for the year, the first time since 2006."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb222011

Oil Prices Soar Above $93 a Barrel; Expect Higher Prices at the Pump

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Oil prices jumped above $93 a barrel in Asia Tuesday amid fears the violent protests in Libya could disrupt crude oil supplies.

The latest spike comes a day after prices settled at $91.45 a barrel in electronic trading, marking the biggest one-day jump in almost three years.

Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, says Libya is mainly to blame for the increase.

Unlike Egypt and Bahrain, he says, Libya is a significant exporter of light sweet crude, most of which gets exported to Europe: Italy, Germany, France and Spain.  The U.S. imports 40 percent of its crude from Europe, refines it, and then exports it back as distillates, including gasoline and diesel.  So, any disruption in Europe gets felt in the 50 states.

"You hear that we import a lot of crude," says Lipow.  "And yes, we import about nine million barrels a day.  But less than one percent of that comes from Libya.  What the oil market is worried about now is, we've seen unrest spread throughout the Middle East -- Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Egypt.  What if that should spread to Saudi Arabia, which accounts for nine percent of the world's supply?  They are the supplier of 11 percent of our crude oil.  The market is worried about that supply being disrupted."

Over the next seven to 10 days, says Lipow, the U.S. consumer is going to see rising prices -- almost immediately.  That's because there's not a lot of lag time when it comes to pricing.

"Much of our imported crude and imported product (gasoline, diesel) is priced the minute it lands in the U.S.," he says.

Prices will get worse, he predicts, if the unrest gets worse.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb222011

Tax Tip: Taking Advantage of Health Savings Accounts

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's been around for about a decade now, but many people still don't understand how a health savings account works.

As one person decribes it, think of it as an IRA for your health care expenses, with triple tax savings.

"You put your money into the health savings account tax free, and then it grows tax free.  The interest you earn on it is tax free, and when you take money out for qualified medical expenses, that's tax free as well," says Kathy Pickering with H&R Block.

Pickering says health savings accounts can no longer be used for over-the-counter medication, but many doctors will write prescriptions for those drugs.  And unlike a flexible savings account, the health savings account money rolls over year to year.

"If you can hold on to your health savings account, say as you lose your job, if you move to a new job, you can still use those funds and then if you can hold onto it until retirement.  That's just additional money that you can use later when you need it," she says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

Blockbuster Announces Start of Auction Process

Photo Courtesy - Blockbuster Inc.(DALLAS) -- Video rental company Blockbuster said Monday that it has initiated the process to auction the company in an effort to maximize value for its stakeholders.  An initial bid of $290 million was established by four large creditors, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
 
Blockbuster decided to sell the company when creditors could not come to an agreement about a recapitalization plan for the company, which filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy last fall.

The companies which participated in the "stalking horse" or initial bid to set the minimum acceptable bid are Blockbuster debtors Monarch Alternative Capital, Owl Creek Asset Management, Stonehill Capital Managemen, Varde Partners and Colbalt Video Holdco (managed by Monarch Alternative Capital).

The initial bid did not include billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who also owns are large amount of Blockbuster's debt.

Blockbuster expects to close a sale no later than April 20.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Feb212011

BP Partners with Indian Company Reliance for Oil, Gas Stakes

Photo Courtesy - Jim Watson/AFP/ Getty Images(LONDON) -- BP announced Monday it will partner with India's largest private sector company, Reliance Industries Limited, taking a 30 percent stake in 23 oil and gas production contracts operated by Reliance.

BP will intially pay Reliance $7.2 billion for the stake, and could later pay the Indian-based company payments of $1.8 billion based on the development of commercial discoveries that result from successful exploration.  All combined, the payments could amount to $20 billion.

The partnership will form a 50/50 joint venture between both companies for the sourcing and marketing of gas in India and will try to speed up the creation of infrastructure for receiving, transporting, and marketing the fuel source in the country.

Mukesh Ambani, the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Limited, said, "We are delighted to partner with BP, one of the largest energy majors and one of the finest deep water exploration companies in the world.  This partnership combines the skills of both companies and will be focused on finding more hydrocarbons in the deep water blocks of India and significantly contribute to India's energy security."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb212011

Seven-Day Hackathon Leads to New Popular App

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The idea of typing out a bibliography is something that still sends shivers up college students' spines. That long list of sources, authors, and book titles is something that everyone remembers dreading, long after they have left the world of term papers behind.

A new application for iPhones and Androids, however, is making that horror a thing of the past. This 99-cent app automates the bibliography process by using the camera on a smartphone to scan the barcode on the back of a book. The user then gets an e-mail which includes a citation formatted to fit one of the four common styles used for bibliographies. A little cutting, pasting and proofreading later and the work is done -- a lot faster than the old-fashioned way.

The application was the brainchild of seven students from the University of Waterloo in Canada, who came up with the idea in their group "7 Cubed." The project began during a late-night conversation where the group of friends decided to tackle their boredom with school by holding a seven-day "hackathon."

"Quick Cite" was one of the final applications created that week that involved a whole lot of coffee and very little sleep. While all the members of the group were excited with their final products, they had no expectations that the applications would become hits.

"It became popular because a single blog picked it up, and then other people picked up that blog post until it made its way to PC Magazine and Business Insider," said Gareth MacLeod, one of the members of the group, adding that the team feels very lucky about its newfound popularity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio