Archive for May, 2010

What’s the right stock strategy?

The stock market has been volatile lately, but nothing like today when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged almost 1,000 points before rebounding to lose nearly 350 points.

Investors are increasingly worried about Europe’s efforts to prop up Greece’s finances, and whether its debt problems will spread to other nations, such as Spain and Portugal.

Some investors also have growing concerns about the rising U.S. debt load.

What do you think the right strategy is, given the double whammy of volatility and uncertainty:

Stay the course? Why?

Ditch stocks now? Put money where?

Look for stock-buying opportunities? If so, where?

Continue reading What’s the right stock strategy? »

Final part: Experts answer your credit questions

Here is the last installment of answers to your credit and debt questions.

I’d like to thank the staff of  Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta for the time and effort they put in to answer them.

Q: My car is worth $6,000 and I owe $12,000.  My house is now worth half of what I paid. What do I do? I want to get rid of the car and try to stick it out in the house. I’m not sure if sticking it out in the house makes the most sense. Please advise.

A: Walking away from either loan can have disastrous consequences for not only your credit score, but also your checkbook. “Residual” balances on defaulted loans (the amount the lender writes off as a loss) are fully collectible and reported as income to the IRS. There is almost always a better solution. Please contact CCCS at 800-251-2227 for counseling, or another nonprofit through www.nfcc.org.

Q: I purchased a house last year. My mortgage has a 4.875% interest rate for a 15-year fixed rate loan. I am …

Continue reading Final part: Experts answer your credit questions »

Power Breakfast: Delta to hire more pilots, DeKalb schools, Lake Lanier, Gulf spill, Greece

Delta Air Lines plans to begin hiring about 240 pilots later this year, amid signs of an improving economy, AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi writes.

In a memo to pilots, Delta’s senior vice president Steve Dickson wrote that the company will begin hiring pilots after this summer.

Atlanta-based Delta decided not to furlough pilots  last year, although it cut flight schedules amid the economic downturn. Even so, with an improving economy in sight, Delta now plans to increase wide-body aircraft flights planned later this year, Yamanouchi reports.

The new hires also will help ramp up staffing in preparation for summer 2011, as well as offset forecast retirements.

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Delta to hire more pilots, DeKalb schools, Lake Lanier, Gulf spill, Greece »

Will BP face a consumer backlash?

Recently, Toyota had to deal with a major PR blemish.

But the Associated Press is reporting that there’s been no apparent sign of a consumer backlash against BP, which is responsible for the current Gulf oil disaster.

Some of those working behind BP station counters have been worrying about consumer reaction, but owners interviewed by the Associated Press across the country say it’s been business as usual since the April 20 explosion.

Do you think that reaction will stand? Or will consumers get more fed up with BP as the disaster continues to spread?

Will you be less likely to stop at a BP station? Or is price your main consideration, no matter the company?

How do you think BP can recover from this bad PR? Toyota has tried with lucrative financial incentives to get consumers into showrooms. Should BP use a similar idea — maybe reducing gas prices for a certain time? Would it work?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading Will BP face a consumer backlash? »

Part 3: Answers to your credit, debt questions

Here is Part 3 of the answers to your credit questions, provided by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

Please return Thursday for the next installment. Thanks.

Q: Auto and home insurance companies use an applicant’s credit score to determine the premium that will be charged for that particular applicant. If I have no outstanding loans (other than a home mortgage) and do not use credit cards, my credit score drops, even though I’m in good financial shape. Lower credit scores = higher premiums, meaning that I get punished for NOT being in debt! How can I live debt-free and still not get ripped-off by insurers?

A: The reality is that credit scores reward people who use credit. While a debt-free lifestyle is commendable, credit ratings depend on people to participate in the system to calculate a score. You can do this by putting a small purchase on a credit card each month and pay the full balance when you get the statement.

After your score increases, you …

Continue reading Part 3: Answers to your credit, debt questions »

Power Breakfast: More school layoffs ahead, airport parking, Georgia Aquarium, United-Continental, Gulf spill

Schools have not fared well in this tough economy.

Some metro Atlanta teachers have already heard the unsettling news that they’ve lost their jobs, writes AJC reporter Mary Lou Pickel. But many more are nervously awaiting the announcement of major layoffs in the next few weeks as districts cut back to cover budget shortfalls.

“The stress and the tension are palpable,” Connie Jackson, a middle school teacher in Cobb County and president elect of the county’s Association of Educators, told Pickel. “Teachers are walking on eggshells.”

About 1,500 metro Atlanta teachers are expected to get the bad news that their contracts have not been renewed.

Cobb plans to cut 579 teaching positions to cope with a $137 million deficit. The district plans to tell teachers by May 15 whether their teaching contracts will be renewed for fall.

Fulton expects to cut 200 to 250 teachers in the next week, Pickel reports. Clayton has told 312 teachers their contracts would not be …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: More school layoffs ahead, airport parking, Georgia Aquarium, United-Continental, Gulf spill »

Part 2: Experts answer your credit questions

Here is the second installment of answers to your credit and debt questions, provided by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

Please return Wednesday for the next part. Thanks.

Q: Can canceling a card lower your credit score?

A: When you cancel a credit card, you are lowering the total amount of credit you have available. If you are carrying a balance on your other cards, that will increase the ratio of your debt to your overall credit limit. If your debt-to-credit limit ratio goes over 50 percent because you closed a credit card account, creditors will view that as a negative event. To be safe, it is best to keep your debt-to-credit limit ratio no higher than 30 percent.

Q: When a debt goes to collection agency, can they increase the total? Can they attach additional fees to it?

A: Often when our clients are contacted by collection agencies, the amount sought is significantly higher than the original debt. This is partially how collection agencies make a …

Continue reading Part 2: Experts answer your credit questions »

Turner Broadcasting gets on a roll with NCAA, Conan O’Brien

It may not have been 10 days that shook the world. But it was certainly 10 days in April that had many scratching their heads and causing me to wonder if the audacious Ted Turner had secretly returned to the helm of Turner Broadcasting.

Phil Kent

Phil Kent

First, the Atlanta-based media company, which Ted founded 40 years ago, sweeps in and scoops up Conan O’Brien — stunning industry watchers who had expected rival Fox to land him.

Then, Turner Broadcasting announces it’s teaming up with CBS to televise the NCAA basketball tournament — a $10.8 billion, 14-year agreement that dwarfs any previous programming deal by the company.

What’s going on?

“It’s wonderful that it happened in a two-week period,” Phil Kent, chairman and CEO, said during an interview last week. But, he added, it was not planned that way.

The NCAA deal involved two sets of complex negotiations — one between CBS and Turner, and the other between both of them and the NCAA — that began about six months …

Continue reading Turner Broadcasting gets on a roll with NCAA, Conan O’Brien »

Power Breakfast: Delta challenged by United-Continental deal, DeKalb schools, Atlanta sewers, gas rate hike, Apple

A merger of United and Continental airlines, announced Monday, would pose a huge new strategic challenge for Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi writes.

Just two years ago, Delta vaulted to the top spot as the world’s largest carrier with an ambitious buyout of Northwest Airlines. It touted the new-found size and scope as a key advantage in competing for lucrative business travel accounts.

Now, if the United-Continental deal closes by the end of this year as planned, Delta would see its size advantage eclipsed and face a powerful rival with similar domestic scale and stronger operations in Asia and Latin America, Yamanouchi writes.

And the deal could spark even more consolidation among the top U.S. airlines with international operations, which will have shrunk from six to four if United and Continental close their deal.

Speculation already circulated Monday about whether the two “unmarried” carriers, American and US Airways, will be …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Delta challenged by United-Continental deal, DeKalb schools, Atlanta sewers, gas rate hike, Apple »

Answers to your credit and debt questions

Thank you for posing questions last week to experts at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

Here is the first installment of their answers. Please return Tuesday for another set of answers to your questions.

Q: We have never been late on our house payment. We see there may be a problem paying in the next few months. We notified the lender and they said before we could get any kind of help we have to be late on our payment 30 to 60 days. Makes no sense to me.

A: You are doing the right thing by taking action in advance of a problem. To qualify for the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), you do not need to be behind on your loan. To find out if you are eligible for HAMP, you can go to http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov. If you would like help sorting out your options, consider contacting a HUD-certified housing counseling agency. You can contact CCCS of Greater Atlanta at 1-800-251-2227, or go to the Web site of the National Foundation for …

Continue reading Answers to your credit and debt questions »