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Wednesday
Feb162011

Will New High-Tech Monopoly Game Pass Go?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Don't count on stealing from the banker in this version of Monopoly.

In its latest update to the classic board game, Hasbro has added a computerized twist that makes paper money, dice -- and even cheating -- a thing of the past.

Monopoly Live, introduced by the company this week at the annual Toy Fair in New York, features a computerized tower in the center of the board that essentially manages the game.

The so-called "Tower of Power" contains an infrared camera that follows players' movements on the board and a speaker to deliver instructions. It also keeps track of players' money and makes sure that they stick to the rules.

"Kids are always telling that they really love playing board games and … video games. For us it was a great opportunity to bring the two worlds together," said Jane Ritson-Parsons, the global brand leader for Monopoly.

The new game, which will cost $50 when it goes on sale this fall, isn't intended to replace the old version, but to help the company engage an audience that's quickly moving to new platforms.

Monopoly lovers still enjoy the classic game that's been around for about 75 years, she said, but they're also opting for the higher-tech versions. The game exists on the iPhone and the iPad, and today Hasbro unveiled a version for Facebook.

"We're always looking to bring new ways to play to our audience because it is so broad," she said. "As you can imagine, the Monopoly audience is from 5 to 105."

The core audience for Monopoly board games are 8- to 12-year-olds, she said, but Monopoly Live is for kids and teenagers to play with each other and their families.

The basic premise of the game remains unchanged, but Ritson-Parsons said the new version "takes away the referee" -- no more rule books, no more banker, no more Community Chest or Chance cards stacked in the center of the game.

Instead, the Tower "hosts" the game. It knows if players haven't moved to the right spot on the board and it introduces unexpected opportunities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb162011

Home Construction Jumped in January

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Home construction skyrocketed in January, growing at the fastest pace in 20 months, but single-family starts stayed virtually level and the market remains slow-growing.

Apartment building starts leaped by 80 percent and David Crowe, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, says this spike is not unusual and is due to the way the survey is done. "Total housing starts were up almost fifteen per cent in January, but that increase was almost entirely due to increases in apartment construction."

Crowe believes the market will stay weak for awhile and says, "Until the consumer has a little more confidence in the future, until there's a more sustained positive growth, then I think the momentum will build and we'll see better housing towards the latter part of this year and into 2012."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb162011

Borders Files for Bankruptcy Relief Under Chapter 11

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/Borders Group, Inc.(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Borders Group, the second-largest bookseller in the U.S., announced Wednesday it filed for bankruptcy protection.

Borders Group President, Mike Edwards, said, "It has become increasingly clear that in light of the environment of curtailed customer spending, our ongoing discussions with publishers and other vendor related parties, and the company's lack of liquidity, Borders Group does not have the capital resources it needs to be a viable competitor and which are essential for it to move forward with its business strategy to reposition itself successfully for the long term."

"To position Borders to remedy this condition, Borders Group, with the authorization of its board of directors, has filed a petition for reorganization relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code," Edwards added.

In its petition, filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, the bookstore chain listed $1.29 billion in debt and $1.28 billion in assets.

Borders also announced that it has "received commitments for $505 million in Debtor-in-Possession (DIP) financing led by GE Capital" to keep the company afloat while it reorganizes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb162011

Toyota Opens New Plant in Japan

Photo Courtesy - Mark Renders/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- A rare celebration for Toyota as the car maker opened a new manufacturing plant in Japan for the first time in 18 years.  

The Ohira factory in rural Japan, is part of Toyota's promise to keep jobs in its home country.

Nine hundred employees will produce 120-thousand cars a year, starting with the Corolla, in April.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb162011

Banks Call for Larger Down Payments; Average Jumps to 22 Percent

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Down payments on homes have gone up sharply in the past three years, according to a new survey by the real estate website Zillow for The Wall Street Journal.

The survey tracked nine cities and found that the average down payment rose to 22 percent last year, which is double the average amount paid three years ago.  The new percentage also marks the highest average for down payments since 1997, when data were first recorded.

Lenders are insisting that buyers have more skin in the game -- being that larger down payments lead to fewer delinquencies and late payments.

Higher borrowing costs and rising mortgage rates could put more downward pressure on home prices.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb162011

Tax Tip: An Unwelcome Tax Bill for the Unemployed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Millions of Americans received unemployment benefits in 2010, and for many of them, there's going to be a tax surprise.

In 2009, the first $2,400 of unemployment was untaxed, but that break was not extended last year.

"There's no taxes withheld from unemployment income when you register for it," said Kathy Pickering with H&R Block.  "You need to request that they withhold taxes on your behalf from that income."

Pickering said that means you will get a tax bill this year for that income.  And you might owe more than that, according to accountant Janie Hayman.

"They may have had debt forgiveness with credit cards and this could be an area of concern as well.  It could be taxable," Hayman said.

It's a hard pill to swallow for some who are barely scraping by, but Eric Smith with the Internal Revenue Service says the agency will work with you.

"Contact the IRS if you're having financial difficulties and let's see what may be possible to make sure the taxes aren't an undue burden," Smith said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb152011

Microsoft Plans for Windows Phone 7 Upgrade

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(REDMOND, Wash.) -- Microsoft is the latest company looking to turn smartphones into video game remotes. Microsoft says it hopes to connect phones running on its Windows Phone 7 software to its Xbox video game console.

The company showed a video of one player using the Xbox Kinect while two others joined in on their phones.

The new feature is expected to be added later this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Feb152011

What's in a Name? It's an Issue in New York Stock Exchange Merger

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The New York Stock Exchange and Deutsche Borse are both winners in the merger between the two large stock exchanges. Their costs will decrease as they share technology and resources to create the largest stock exchange in the world. And ideally, those cost savings will pass onto a larger pool of global investors.

As the 220-year-old NYSE and German stock exchange officially announced their merger Tuesday morning, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said New York ought to come first in the new name.

"An outstanding issue that is important to me is the name of the new exchange," Schumer said in a statement. "NYSE is one of the most preeminent brands in the financial industry, and there is no reason it shouldn't come first in the new exchange's name."

During the press conference announcing the merger, Duncan Niederauer, CEO of the NYSE, said no decision has been made regarding a new name.

Sen. Schumer said if New York loses out, the merger process could be in jeopardy.

"If Deutsche Borse pushes any alternative name, it would be an indication that they are not viewing this deal as a merger of equals, and that could have negative consequences with regard to future decisions on the merger's implementations," said Schumer.

Reena Aggarwal, professor of business administration and finance at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business in Washington, D.C., said many people like Schumer feel strongly regarding the name because of its symbolism.

"Countries see it as a prestige issue," said Aggarwal. "In the old days an exchange was a huge prestige issue for the country. And every country wanted to have an exchange."

But she said the NYSE has been facing business challenges. It has trouble attracting initial public offerings. She also said the merger will allow the NYSE to globalize. Even Schumer acknowledged that the merger was a positive business move.

"The New York Stock Exchange will be the crown jewel in this new operation, and the name of the new company should reflect that," said Schumer.

Schumer said he would keep an open mind until the name issue is settled.

Aggarwal said possible names under consideration have been rumored to be NYSE-DB or the Global Exchange.

"Certainly the NYSE has existed for a very long time and the name has been associated with American capitalism. So I can see that some people would have problems if that name goes away completely," Aggarwal said. "But from a business point of view, it doesn't matter so much, but countries see it as a prestige issue."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Feb152011

Global Food Prices Continue Record Rise

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ROME) - A new report by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization warns that global food prices - already at record levels - will continue to grow higher. Rising food prices have been cited as one of the reasons behind recent instability in regions like the Middle East.

World food prices, which have hit new peaks every month for the past seven months, surged 3.4 percent in January, according to the Food Price Index. The index reached 231 points in January, the highest level since its inception in 1990.

"The new figures clearly show that the upward pressure on world food prices is not abating," said FAO economist and grains expert Abdolreza Abbassian. "These high prices are likely to persist in the months to come. High food prices are of major concern, especially for low-income food deficit countries that may face problems in financing food imports and for poor households which spend a large share of their income on food."
  
Indexes that measure the price of cereal, wheat, maize, oils/fats, sugar and dairy all showed an increase in January. The FAO Meat Price Index, however, remained steady amid declining meat prices in Europe and a slight increase in the cost of meat exports from Brazil and the United States.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb152011

U.S. Air Travel to Double in Next 20 Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) - If airline crowds already make you cringe, expect them to get much worse. The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday it expects airline crowds to double over the next 20 years.

The FAA has predicted that 737 million passengers will take to the skies this year, with that number reaching 1.3 billion by 2031.  The agency has used the new figures to reinforce their call for moving to a more modern air traffic control system – one based on satellite navigation rather than radar –  in order to meet airspace demand.

“We need to invest in aviation today to make sure America’s economy remains competitive,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Innovative NextGen technology will help meet the demands of the future by getting passengers to their destinations safely and more quickly.”

The FAA has said that NextGen, the Next Generation Air Transportation System, will also provide more precise routes, save on fuel and reduce emissions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio