Archive for April, 2010

Are you starting to spend more or still cautious?

Consumers are returning to the economic driver’s seat.

The economy grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter, primarily because consumer spending increased at the strongest rate in three years, the Commerce Department reported today.

Consumers — representing 70 percent of our economy — are taking the baton from the manufacturing sector, which boosted the economy in the fourth quarter of last year. At that time, factories churned out goods for businesses that had let their stockpiles fall during the recession, Associated Press reports.

But, the restocking of inventories is nowhere near as sustainable for growth as consumer spending can be.

So, are you starting to open up your wallet? Planning on a major purchase?

Or, are you building up your savings and paying down debt, still worried about the high unemployment rate?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Last day for your credit and debt questions

Do you have a credit, debt or mortgage issue you need help with?

Please write your question below.

Starting Monday, experts at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta will begin answering questions that you’ve asked over the past few days.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Tax credits boost home buying, Legislature, Gulf spill, Hartsfield, Goldman, airline merger

Home buyers, hoping to cash in on federal tax credits expiring midnight Friday, are boosting the local housing market, AJC reporter David Markiewicz writes.

The temporary tax credit also has given sellers a brief period of negotiating leverage with buyers who’ve otherwise held the edge in the housing downturn, Markiewicz reports.

“We’re a seeing a flurry of activity to beat the deadline,” said Mike Wright, managing broker of Harry Norman Realtors Intown Atlanta.

Brokers said while they haven’t been overwhelmed by demand, the number of deals coming to the table this week is above normal.

First-time home buyers can qualify for a credit up to $8,000, while other buyers can get up to $6,500.

Also in the AJC:

In other news:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Tax credits boost home buying, Legislature, Gulf spill, Hartsfield, Goldman, airline merger »

Have a credit or debt question?

With the economy starting to turn around — although there’s a long way to go — how are your finances shaping up?

Do you have a credit, debt or mortgage issue you need help with?

Is foreclosure threatening your home?

Experts at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta are willing to help.

Please write your questions below. Starting Monday, some answers will be provided in this blog.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading Have a credit or debt question? »

Business finally gets transportation victory

Never give up.

For nine of the past 10 years, as president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Sam Williams failed when he and other business leaders pushed for a new source of transportation funds at the state Capitol.

Sam Williams

Sam Williams

Four years ago, Williams and about three-dozen CEOs stepped up their efforts, uniting with a number of like-minded groups. Congestion was robbing more and more time from metro Atlantans, and more companies were having second thoughts about moving here.

But it wasn’t until last week that Williams could enjoy a victory drink at Six Feet Under, the first time his efforts weren’t buried by the political process. This time, the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House and mayor of Atlanta were essentially pulling in the same direction. Breakthrough legislation passed.

“We’ve been hamstrung for at least two decades on transportation spending,” Williams said in an interview this week. “The business community is elated … this bill …

Continue reading Business finally gets transportation victory »

Power Breakfast: Criminal probe into metro bank failures, Atlanta layoffs, state budget deal, DeKalb school closures

The other shoe is dropping.

Federal authorities have opened criminal investigations into a number of bank failures in northern Georgia, U.S. attorney Sally Yates told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

“The northern district of Georgia has had more bank failures than any other district in the nation,” Yates said. “Not every one of these is attributable to criminal fraud, but some are.”

Yates declined to say which failed banks her office is probing or how many are under investigation. She also declined to say when charges would be brought.

“We’re trying to get to the bottom of these cases as quickly as possible,” she said.

Since 2008, 37 banks have failed in Georgia, more than in any other state, AJC reporters Bill Rankin and Paul Donsky write.

Most were small lenders in metro Atlanta or in the north Georgia mountains that ran into trouble when huge pools of real estate loans defaulted.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Criminal probe into metro bank failures, Atlanta layoffs, state budget deal, DeKalb school closures »

Is this road study for real: Georgia No. 1?

They can’t be driving on the same roads I am. Can they?

A new study says Georgia’s highways are the nation’s best, AJC reporter Bill Torpy writes.

Are they kidding?

“A lot of the answer is the age of the roads,” Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst at U.S. Public Interest Researh Group, which conducted the survey, told Torpy.

“Georgia’s road stock is relatively new.,” he said. “It takes a while to deteriorate. So Georgians are enjoying that ‘new-car smell’ with their roads.”

I have never experienced a “new-car smell” on our roads — not 20 years ago when I moved here, not now and not anytime in between. I’m dodging potholes all the time — even on the highways.

What do you make of this survey?

Also, you can alert Bill Torpy to the locations of the biggest potholes and most bone-jarring roads on your commute by e-mailing him: btorpy@ajc.com. He’s planning a follow-up story. Thanks.

For instant updates, follow me on …

Continue reading Is this road study for real: Georgia No. 1? »

Experts to answer your credit, debt questions

Planning a vacation this summer, but short on funds? How about a “staycation”?

The word “staycation” gained popularity about three years ago, as people stayed close to home in the face of the worsening economy. Last year, Miriam-Webster’s dictionary even included it in its official collegiate edition.

How are your finances shaping up for the summer?

Do you have a credit card or debt issue you need help with?

Is foreclosure threatening your home?

Experts at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta are willing to help.

Please write your questions below. Starting Monday, some answers will be provided in this blog.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading Experts to answer your credit, debt questions »

Power Breakfast: Metro home prices fall, pension reform, tarmac delay, UPS, Synovus, CCE, Goldman

Metro Atlanta home prices fell again in February, though only slightly, AJC reporter David Markiewicz writes. Meanwhile, prices nationwide posted their first year-over-year gain in three years, according to a widely watched index.

Experts believe while a residential housing recovery may be underway in metro Atlanta, it remains a work in progress, Markiewicz reports.

The Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index showed prices in metro Atlanta declined 0.9 percent in February, compared with the same month of 2009.

It marked the latest in a steady string of shrinking year-over-year declines, Markiewicz writes. In June 2009, prices were 14 percent lower than a year earlier. By August of last year, that number dropped to 11 percent, and to 2 percent in January.

On a month-to-month basis, metro area prices declined 1.3 percent in February from January, after falling 1.5  percent in January from last December.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Metro home prices fall, pension reform, tarmac delay, UPS, Synovus, CCE, Goldman »

Free legal advice: How to succeed in China

Google. Protectionism. Currency. Three words that conjure up serious concerns about doing business in China.

Bob Webb

Bob Webb

But two lawyers who’ve created a thriving practice there have some free legal advice for business execs on the fence about investing: Don’t make a short-sighted and costly mistake by over-reacting to the controversies of the day.

You can’t make a quick buck in China, they said. But money can be made with the right long-term strategy centered around having patience.

Enter Bob Webb, chairman and managing partner of Troutman Sanders, the only Atlanta-based law firm with operations in China. And enter Edward Epstein, who has spent 24 years in China and now heads Troutman’s operations there.

Epstein recently completed a U.S. speaking tour in six cities, including Atlanta, trying to counter misconceptions on this side of the Pacific. But before we get to his advice, a little background is in order.

Webb, who has run Troutman’s operations for the past 17 years, has …

Continue reading Free legal advice: How to succeed in China »