Tiffany & Co. making “patchy” progress as its sales see some global increase

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) – BBC News reports one retail expert calls Tiffany & Co.’s growth “patchy” after analyzing its reported earnings between November and January of this past year.

The high-end jewelry firm saw its sales increase by 1.3% in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to increased sales in Japan and China. However, its net sales declined 3% over the past four quarters compared to the previous year's (net earnings were $446 million in 2016 and $464 in 2015).

The company called its performance “soft across all jewelry categories.”

Sales at its flagship store in New York, which BBC News reports can sometimes count up to as much as 10% of its group sales, could increase now that President Donald Trump has moved to Washington. With extra security at the Trump Towers, which the flagship store sits closely to, access has been disrupted. First Lady Melania and son Barron still live in Trump Towers in New York.

According to BBC News, Neil Saunders, managing director at Managing Director of GlobalData Retail, says American consumers continue to overlook Tiffany & Co. and recognize its products as “old-world luxury.”

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Are biometric scans the checkpoint of the future?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Could the frustration of waiting in line at airport security become a thing of the past?

One company is already using biometrics to identify registered travelers and significantly cut wait times.

Clear, a company based in New York City, has kiosks in more than 20 participating airports around the United States. When a passenger arrives at an airport security checkpoint, Clear uses biometrics to identify the passenger before allowing him or her to proceed directly to the screening area. A computer scans the traveler's irises and fingerprints in addition to asking for some personal information.

All this means no more waiting in line to check IDs.

David Cohen, chief administrative officer of Clear, told ABC News the company's goal is for a registered traveler to keep moving from the moment he or she enters the fast-access lane to the moment of TSA screening.

"Next year we may be using passive iris scanning, which allows you to be identified as you are coming into the lane," said Cohen.

The former head of TSA told ABC News that biometrics could one day make a plane ticket obsolete.

"Your iris could be your boarding pass; facial recognition could be your boarding pass," said Adm. Peter Neffenger.

The fee for a five-year membership to TSA PreCheck is $85. An annual membership in Clear is $179.

The TSA and Department of Homeland Security have authorized Clear to operate, but the company also partners with various airport authorities.

The Clear program has expanded to sports as well. Major League Baseball stadiums in New York, Denver, Miami and San Fransisco all are using Clear to expedite registered visitors into their ballparks.

The scanning of bags may also undergo a significant development. The TSA and private companies are testing a new system that will create a 360 degree image of the items in passengers' luggage that will be examined in a monitor by a remote human employee.

Some of it may look like a science-fiction movie set, but the day where your eyes and hands are your ID has arrived.

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JCPenney announces which stores it will be closing

Noam Galai/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Last month, JCPenney announced it would be closing up to 140 of its stores in an effort to sustain profitability and compete against online retailers. And now, the company has revealed which of its locations will be affected.

In all, 138 stores will be closed, along with a supply chain facility in Lakeland, Florida. Another supply chain facility in Buena Park, California will be relocated.


JCPenney said most stores will close in June but begin the liquidation process on April 17.

"Our decision to close stores will allow us to raise the overall brand standard of the Company and allocate capital more efficiently," JCPenney CEO Marvin Ellison explained in a statement last month.

"We believe closing stores will also allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers," he added.

Approximately 5,000 positions will be affected by the store closures across the U.S., JCPenney said.

The retailer said affected workers will receive separation benefits, which include help finding other employment opportunities as well as assistance in writing resumes and preparing for interviews.

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Tax Tip: Don't cheat on your taxes

iStock/ThinkstockYou might've heard, due to budget constraints, that the IRS doesn't audit as many people as it used to. But that doesn't mean you should get any ideas.

"I think honesty is absolutely the best policy. You'll sleep at night," says tax accountant Janice Hayman.

Besides, she says, you should assume the IRS already knows everything.

"So much of our information now is documented. It's being reported by others to the IRS," Hayman notes. Which means you need to report it too or risk raising a red flag.

That said, don't lose sleep because you're worried about making a small mistake.

"The IRS can certainly tell when something is just an oversight. Normally it's not a large sum of money," Hayman says.

But, she says, "For an average taxpayer, forgetting to pay a large sum of money looks suspiciously like fraud, so you want to avoid that at all costs."

If you make an honest mistake, that's not fraud -- it can be amended.

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McDonald's confirms Twitter account was 'hacked by an external source' after anti-Trump tweet posted

McDonald’s(NEW YORK) — McDonald's confirmed Thursday night that one of its Twitter accounts was indeed hacked, after a tweet that called Donald Trump "a disgusting excuse of a president" was posted earlier in the day to its @McDonaldsCorp account.

The tweet read: “@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands.”

The tweet was posted at 9:16 a.m. ET and was retweeted hundreds of times before it was deleted.

McDonald's spokeswoman Terri Hickey said Thursday night that the company has determined a hack was the culprit. "Based on our investigation, we have determined that our Twitter account was hacked by an external source," she said. "We took swift action to secure it, and we apologize this tweet was sent through our corporate McDonald’s account."

Initially, McDonald's said that the account had been "compromised" and that company officials were looking into the incident.

"Twitter notified us that our account was compromised," Hickey said in a statement to ABC News about an hour after the tweet was posted. "We deleted the tweet, secured our account and are now investigating this."

Twitter would not confirm to ABC News that it had communicated with McDonald's, saying only, "We do not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons."

Trump, who is an apparent fan of the fast-food giant, appeared in a McDonald’s commercial alongside one of the company’s mascots in 2002. He was also spotted chowing down on a McDonald’s burger and fries during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The tweet likely kicked off a busy morning for McDonald's global chief communications officer, Robert Gibbs, who served as press secretary during President Obama’s first two years in office.

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Charter CEO gets $98.5 million to stay on job until 2021

BernardaSv/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thomas Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, will get $98.5 million as part of a new employment agreement with the company that will keep him on for at least four more years.

Bloomberg News reports that the deal was signed in 2016.

The 63-year-old Rutledge is also the company's chairman. He received $78 million in stock options, according to a regulatory filing on Thursday, and earned $16.4 million in total pay in 2016. He will earn no compensation besides the options through 2020.

According to Bloomberg, those options would vest if the company's average share price "reaches hurdles ranging from $289.76 to $564.04 over a 60-day period." They will not vest before April 2019.

Charter completed its takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc. and Bright House Networks last year, giving them 13 million new customers in New York City and Los Angeles.

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Wall Street gives back some of Wednesday's gains despite lower unemployment numbers

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One day after the Federal Reserve's announcement that it would hike interest rates, Wall Street gave back some of the gains from Wednesday's post-announcement rally.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 15.55 to a close of 20,934.55.

The Nasdaq gained 0.71 points, finishing the session at 5,900.76, while the S&P 500 ended the day at 2,381.38, down 3.88 from its open.

While the Fed cited economic growth and and strengthening labor market led to the decision to hike interest rates, the government's unemployment report showed fewer Americans filed for benefits last week. That figure dropped by 2,000, following an early report that showed strong jobs growth.

Freddie Mac says mortgage rates rose this week, and with the interest rate hike coming, they're expect to climb even more. The average rate on a 30-year loan is now 4.30 percent. Fifteen-year loans average a rate of 3.5 percent.

The Commerce Department said more people are building homes. Housing starts climbed by three percent last month. Most of that from single-family homes.

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Read the full White House budget blueprint

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- The Office of Management and Budget has released its blueprint for the 2018 budget: "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again."

The proposed budget slashes funding for the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency and calls for a 10 percent increase in defense spending.

The president's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told reporters Wednesday: “We wrote it using the president's own words. We went through his speeches, we went the articles that have been written about his policies...and we turned those policies into numbers."

You can read the full White House budget proposal HERE.

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Tax Tip: Deducting medical expenses

iStock/ThinkstockThe cost of health care and medicine can add up quickly. But in order for it to be deductible for tax purposes, you have to spend a minimum amount.

"Medical expenses were always subject to a floor," explains tax accountant Janice Hayman. "They had to exceed a certain percent of your adjusted gross income. And recently they had raised that from 7.5 percent to 10 percent."

That means if your adjusted gross income is $45,000, you have to spend $4,500 on medical expenses before a single dollar is deductible.

"With the exception of those 65 or older. However, after Dec. 21, 2016, the 65 and older group also will have to surpass 10 percent of their income before the first dollar of medical is deductible," Hayman says.

That means -- for tax purposes this year -- people 65 and older are still able to deduct a little bit more.

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Man reads Kindle's 'terms and conditions' -- and it takes nine hours

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you purchase a new device or sign any online contract nowadays, you'll inevitably come across a "terms and conditions" rider. And if you're like most people, you'll probably scroll to the bottom of the legally-binding document without reading it and click "accept."

The Australian consumer group Choice isn't like most people. They hired an actor to read the entire "terms and conditions" section -- composed of nearly 73,200 words -- that came with an Amazon Kindle, as if it were a book.

Any guesses how long it took? Would you believe nine hours?

If you're interested in watching, Choice popped the entire reading in one-hour chunks on YouTube.

The idea, of course, is to highlight how long and complicated the contracts are, in hopes of convincing the powers that be to make them more manageable.

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