Archive for February, 2011

Consumer credit exec expands network of help

It’s rare when journalists get the chance to call on the same source of information over two decades.

Suzanne Boas

Suzanne Boas

But I’ve been lucky enough to be able to interview Suzanne Boas, on and off, during the 19 years she’s headed CredAbility, the new name for what was the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

I started talking with Boas during the fallout from the 1990-91 recession (it was nothing like this Great Recession), when I covered personal finance for the AJC. Unfortunately, our interviews will end in June, now that she’s announced her retirement.

Boas, 64, succeeded in turning the nonprofit agency into a critical option for consumers searching for help with their debt problems. She built it from a local organization of 35 employees to a national one of more than 550. Last year, it served about 633,000 consumers nationwide.

During her tenure as president, credit problems exploded beyond low-income and minority consumers to a much broader swath of the …

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Power Breakfast: Less money for Savannah port, Grady cuts, plant closure, Coke and NBA, Buffett

Georgia will get only a fraction of the federal money state leaders say they need to expand the Port of Savannah under President Barack Obama’s proposed budget, AJC reporters Bob Keefe and Dan Chapman write.

The president’s fiscal 2012 budget includes $600,000 in “pre-construction” money for deepening the harbor — considered by state leaders as Georgia’s biggest and most important economic development project, the reporters write.

State officials say they need $105 million in federal help this year to help with deepening the harbor so it can compete with other Atlantic ports when bigger ships begin passing through the Panama Canal in 2015, Keefe and Chapman report.

The total cost of deepening the harbor, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is expected to be about $551 million — a huge amount for the state to bear without more federal aid, the reporters write.

Gov. Nathan Deal said he was disappointed in the lack of more funding for the port, Keefe and …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Less money for Savannah port, Grady cuts, plant closure, Coke and NBA, Buffett »

Survey: Economy is picking up steam

A newly resilient economy is poised to expand this year at its fastest pace since 2003, thanks in part to brisk spending by consumers and businesses, the Wall Street Journal writes.

In a new Wall Street Journal survey (subscription required), many economists increased their growth forecasts because of recent reports suggesting a greater willingness to spend.

The 51 economists polled expect gross domestic product will be 3.5% higher in the fourth quarter of 2011 than a year earlier — up from the 3.3% increase they projected in last month’s survey, the WSJ reports. That would be the largest increase since 2003. They look for GDP to expand at a 3.6% annual rate in the current quarter, accelerating from the 3.2% rate recorded in the final months of 2010.

Economists expect the unemployment rate will end the year at 8.6%—below January’s 9%, but still high by historical standards, the WSJ writes.

Since late last summer, the economy appears to have strengthened …

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Power Breakfast: Profit sharing for Delta employees, HOPE cuts, Atlanta pensions, schools, Obama’s budget, flower deals

Delta Air Lines said will pay out $313 million in profit sharing to employees for the company’s 2010 financial performance, AJC writes Kelly Yamanouchi reports.

Delta reported a $593 million profit for 2010, and most employees will get payments of about 6.5 percent of their 2010 eligible earnings, Yamanouchi writes.

The payments will go to employees below the general manager, director and officer levels at Delta.

This is the first time Delta has paid out profit-sharing to employees since it made payments for its 2007 financial performance, though it has paid out other types of bonuses in the years since, Yamanouchi writes.

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Profit sharing for Delta employees, HOPE cuts, Atlanta pensions, schools, Obama’s budget, flower deals »

Report: Higher pay raises expected in 2011

U.S. workers may receive slightly better pay raises this year, a shift that could add momentum to the economic recovery, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

With corporate America sitting on large piles of cash, signs are mounting that some of the benefits will start trickling down to employees, the WSJ writes.

This could mean average wage gains of as much as 3 percent in 2011, compared with 1.7 percent in 2010, the WSJ reports.

“There are some green shoots in terms of wages,” Torsten Slok, senior economist at Deutsche Bank in New York, told the WSJ. “Companies are starting to respond in a more traditional way and reward their workers.”

Thus far in the recovery, companies have focused more on controlling costs than on sharing the fruits of rising profits and productivity with their staffs, the WSJ writes.

Now, though, the austerity appears to be easing. In a recent survey by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, chief financial officers forecast an average …

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Power Breakfast: Employers promote high-deductible health plans, Delta, housing, rising mortgage rates

As health care costs continue to rise, employers are offering financial incentives to encourage workers to embrace high-deductible insurance plans — a move companies hope will bring significant savings by lowering premiums, AJC writer Misty Williams reports.

At Atlanta Medical Center, 51 percent of workers are now in a high-deductible health savings plan, versus 15 percent in 2010, Williams writes.

The hospital was trying to transition its 1,100 employees who elect benefits into a high-deductible plan, so it boosted its contributions to employee health savings accounts by hundreds of extra dollars per account, Williams reports.

Instead of paying an insurance company for care they may or may not use, employees can sock away tax-free money in a health savings account to pay for future medical expenses, said Troy Bond, the hospital’s chief human resources officer.

While many consumers save money under the plans, however, meeting high deductibles — which often vary …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Employers promote high-deductible health plans, Delta, housing, rising mortgage rates »

Report: German firm close to buying New York Stock Exchange

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the New York Stock Exchange — the citadel of American capitalism for 219 years — was near an agreement to be acquired by Deutsche Börse AG in a deal that would create the world’s largest financial exchange.

If a deal is reached and regulators approve, the WSJ writes that the combined company would trade more stocks and futures than any rival in the world and more options than any U.S. exchange.

The takeover would culminate a decade of tie-ups by exchanges around the world eager to find new sources of growth and catch up with smaller rivals that have been quicker to embrace new kinds of trading, the WSJ writes.

For New York, the move is symbolic of the city’s fading dominance on the world stage as other countries are drawing investors directly to their markets, the WSJ writes.

The move also is a recognition that securities trading today goes on at all hours and in all time zones, making the actual bricks and mortar of Wall …

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Which iPhone side are you on — AT&T or Verizon?

Today’s the big day for iPhone enthusiasts — Verizon officially gets to take on AT&T.

What are you going to do?

Many have been upset with dropped calls by AT&T and have pledged to switch to Verizon. But AT&T has spent billions to improve its network recently.

Meanwhile, often forgotten in this battle are the advances made by Droid phones — sold by these two heavyweights and others.

Which side are you on? The Apple iPhone or Droid? Verizon or AT&T? Why?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Verizon vs. AT&T, HOPE scholarship cuts, diet soda risks, Equifax, Twitter, NYSE

AT&T’s iPhone monopoly ended this morning, as its top rival, Verizon Wireless, rolled out its version of the iPhone 4 to new customers, AJC reporter Margaret Newkirk writes.

Some observers predict carnage for Atlanta’s AT&T Mobility, as Verizon targets the most talked about problem for AT&T’s iPhone users — dropped calls, Newkirk reports.

A Deloitte survey in the fall found 50 percent of Apple’s AT&T users would switch if they could.

Others say not so fast. Verizon has yet to show it can deliver, given the uniquely high levels of demand iPhone customers bring to wireless networks, Atlanta telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan told Newkirk.

“They’ve  never had a single launch of an iPhone,” Kagan said.

That is until now.

Also in the AJC:

In …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Verizon vs. AT&T, HOPE scholarship cuts, diet soda risks, Equifax, Twitter, NYSE »

Report: Apple has new iPad version in works

Apple Inc. has started manufacturing a new version of its iPad tablet computer with a built-in camera and faster processor, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the WSJ writes that the new iPad will be thinner and lighter than the first model. It will have at least one camera on the front of the device for features like video-conferencing,  more memory and a more powerful graphics processor, the WSJ reports.

The new iPad will initially be available through Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc., but not Sprint Nextel Corp. or T-Mobile in the U.S., the WSJ says.

The iPad, which debuted last April, has opened a new market and is critical to Apple’s success, the WSJ writes. Since the iPad’s release, Apple has sold 14.8 million units of the device. In Apple’s December quarter, the tablet contributed $4.6 billion in sales, or 17% of the company’s overall revenue, the WSJ reports.

Piper Jaffray & Co. estimates Apple will sell 27 million iPads in …

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