Archive for July, 2009

Meltdown changes key agency

Almost anyone can get into financial trouble.

No one knows that more than Suzanne Boas, who for nearly two decades has guided a non-profit agency that tries to help thousands of distressed consumers each year.

In this economic meltdown, however, the clients are different — and so is Boas and her agency.

“The problems we’re seeing are far, far deeper than anything we’ve experienced before,” said Boas, president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

From mounting credit-card debt to foreclosures and bankruptcies, a few stats tell the story:

– In 2008, CCCS conducted 193,000 bankruptcy counseling sessions — a 70 percent increase in two years. Housing counseling skyrocketed eight-fold to nearly 73,000 sessions. And budget counseling rose to nearly 77,000 sessions, a 64 percent increase in two years.

– The people in trouble earned considerably more money than in the past. Those who received foreclosure counseling this year had an average gross income of …

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Power Breakfast: Home sales, DOT, Delta, health care

When you’re talking about the economy, sometimes bad news in the short-term can be good news over the long-term.

The Census Bureau reported fewer building permits for new construction were issued in metro Atlanta in June, compared to May and the same period last year.

But that could help our housing market, writes AJC reporter Michelle Shaw. The slowdown is a critical step to clearing out the oversaturated supply of homes, Eugene James, division director for MetroStudy in Atlanta, told Shaw.

“It’s not good for the job market because it impacts construction jobs, but it really is good for the region, in terms of reducing inventory,” he said. “We’ve got to get rid of what we have before we start building more.”

The tremendous inventory of unsold homes and condos has been dragging down our market for two years now.

Nationally, new home sales are up a surprising 11 percent over May. Local analysts, including James, expect Atlanta’s numbers to show the same trend when …

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Mastering math pays off big for college grads

These days, the ticket to a good job is through math.

All the 15 top-paying college degrees have one thing in common — math skills, CNNMoney.com reports.

That’s according to a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which tracks college graduates’ job offers.

Engineering degrees accounted for 12 of the 15 the top-paying majors, according to NACE data, collected by surveying 200 college career centers.

Three of the 15 top paying degrees were outside the field of engineering — but they still required math skills: Computer science, actuarial science and construction management.

The top 15 salaries ranged from $53,000 for construction management to $83,000 for petroleum engineering.

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Experts answer your credit questions

Starting today and running through the week, personal finance experts at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta will answer questions that readers have submitted.

Here is the first installment. Please come back tomorrow morning for more answers.

Q: I have $12,000 in credit card debt at 5.9%, but I also have $40,000 cash. Should I pay off my credit card debt or should I keep the debt and keep the cash? I heard Suze Orman say that she is recommending NOT to pay off credit card debt because companies are now lowering limits and/or shutting down accounts after they are paid off. Any thoughts?

A: Unless you have a plan to accelerate the payoff of that $12,000, I would use part of your savings to cancel it out. If you are only making minimum payments, it could take 10-15 years for you to pay that debt off. Discipline yourself to only spend on credit cards what you can afford to pay off in a 30 day period.

Q: I was divorced back in 2007 and had to pay my now ex-wife …

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Power Breakfast: Recovery, Gwinnett, Lenox, health care

It’s not only on Wall Street. More bullish sentiment among investors is affecting Asian stock markets as well.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Japanese shares rose for a ninth straight session Monday, marking their longest winning streak in more than 20 years. Meanwhile, Shanghai’s benchmark index reached its best closing in nearly 14 months.

In the U.S., the Dow has risen about 38 percent since its low point earlier this year.

What’s happening?

There’s a growing belief that the recovery is beginning and corporate profits are on the mend. When we look back at this summer, many economists now believe it will show that a “recovery” began. As defined by growth, they say the U.S. economy will be in positive territory starting in the third quarter.

But, this recovery will be a shallow one — at least at first. Unemployment is expected to rise into next year. Because of that, many will ask, “What recovery?”

In the AJC:

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Cash for clunkers: Will it drive you to buy?

The government just came out with the final details of the “cash for clunkers” program that was developed to stimulate weak auto sales and permanently retire gas guzzlers.

The $1 billion federal program gives buyers of new, fuel-efficient vehicles up to $4,500 in government rebates to turn in their older, less fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

Will this stimulate you to buy a new vehicle? Why or why not?

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Reminder: Answers to your credit questions start Monday

Thank you for your credit questions.

On Monday, personal finance experts from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta will begin answering the questions you submitted.

They will answer about three questions a day on this blog. The answers will run each morning for about a week.

Thanks again.

Continue reading Reminder: Answers to your credit questions start Monday »

Power Breakfast: Market momentum, water, Cobb teachers

Will the stock market’s momentum continue?

The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 9,000 Thursday for the first time since January.

Behind the enormous rise of more than 2,500 points in four months, topped by a 188-point gain Thursday, is a growing belief that profits at many companies are starting to bounce back, the New York Times writes.

The future? That depends on how the economy performs.

Some economists, the Times says, caution that any economic recovery could falter, resulting in a double-dip recession that would extinguish the recent market rally.

Others are bullish on the earnings’ prospects of many blue-chip companies, given all the cost-cutting and productivity gains that have transpired.

Of course, much of the cost-cutting has driven up unemployment — and those numbers will continue to rise. Metro Atlanta’s unemployment has skyrocketed to 10.7 percent.

With double-digit unemployment, many believe it will be a very long, rocky road before the Dow returns to …

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City and state unemployment hit double digits

Unemployment in both metro Atlanta and Georgia are now in double digits.

The jobless rate in metro Atlanta skryocketed to 10.7 percent in June, up from 9.5 percent in May, the state Labor Department said today.

AJC reporter Michael Kanell writes that Atlanta, which represents more than half the state’s workforce, has had a jobless rate about the same as the state’s in recent months. But in June, metro Atlanta’s rate climbed ahead of the state rate, which rose to 10.1 percent.

Metro Atlanta has now shed almost 200,000 jobs during the past year, according to the department. An estimated 285,158 people in metro Atlanta are officially unemployed, Kanell writes.

And the picture, according to the experts, is supposed to be get worse.

Continue reading City and state unemployment hit double digits »

NCR posts first earnings as Duluth company

Apparently, NCR couldn’t wait to leave Dayton.

Today, in its first earnings release since the company announced last month that it’s moving to the metro area, NCR listed its headquarters as Duluth.

Many in the Dayton area, already hard hit with job losses, were upset with the company’s move. It was founded there 125 years ago. They also were upset that Ohio offered about $31 million in incentives to keep the company there, which was less than a third of what Georgia offered to land it.

The company is moving its headquarters and 1,250 jobs to the metro area. It also plans to employ 870 people at a new plant in Columbus.

Today, it reported that second-quarter net income fell 48 percent to $23 million and revenue fell 16 percent to $1.12 billion, AJC reporter Joe Guy Collier writes.

NCR, once known as National Cash Register, makes ATMs, self-service kiosks and check-out terminals. It continues to suffer from a drop in business with retail customers, which have been hit hard by …

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