Archive for July, 2012

Using credit cards might soon cost you

Besides the convenience, one of the great things about using a credit card to make a purchase has been that it doesn’t cost the consumer anything extra to use it.

Same as cash, in essence.

Now, it seems, that’s about to change.

Visa and MasterCard, which have prevented retailers from imposing surcharges on consumers who use their cards, may soon drop the ban in order to end ongoing litigation that the retailers brought against them and banks.

Merchants have to pay the card networks when customers use plastic, and they want to be able to offset those costs by charging consumers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, settlement talks have been going on and it’s expected that there could be an agreement before a trial that’s scheduled to start this fall. One part of a deal could be elimination of the surcharge ban.

Kroger, Payless, Safeway and several trade groups are among those who’ve brought the suits.

The attorneys involved aren’t talking.

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Gas prices up 8 cents in metro Atlanta

We hope you enjoyed the gas-price free fall while it lasted, because it’s done for the summer.

Pump prices jumped 8 cents on average in the last week in Georgia — the first increase since April when the weekly average was $3.92, according to AAA South.

The average price of regular unleaded gas in Georgia stands at $3.21; in Tennessee, $3.09 and in Florida, $3.26; the national average is $3.38 — 5 cents more than last week.

Unfortunately, expect prices to continue to rise, according to AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady.”It’s likely motorists have seen the last of the summer price reductions at the pump,”  she said.

AAA blamed the increase on two factors: European sanctions imposed on Iran starting July 1, and European leaders agreeing to a plan to save the euro and its ongoing debt crisis.

“While some local retailers have already started to post higher gas prices, drivers can still find relatively cheap gas by filling up in areas where there’s ample competition, paying with cash, …

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Stock market watches closely as companies report earnings

The whole world _ well, the investor world, at least _  is watching.

Earnings season, that is.

Today begins the short, scary and oh-so-telling stretch when companies report how they fared in the prior quarter. This time around we find out how things went down during Q2, and there are signs it won’t be pretty and it won’t be hopeful.

There’s lots of negativity in the air anyway, what with last week’s less-than-robust jobs report here in the U.S., not to mention the pall over Europe cast by the unsettled economies of Greece, Spain and the like.

Now, 42 companies have said that they will report lower profits than had been expected, a result of the global economic slowdown.

It remains to be seen what that sort of gloomy news will mean to the stock market. It’s possible it’s already been factored in to share prices by investors. If not, though, how can a further drop not be expected? Then again, if it has been, any bit of positive news in the coming weeks could spark optimism and …

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Children’s Healthcare CEO: ‘Our jobs are to get every penny we can out of the dollars that are available’

Obesity. Health care reform. Those weren’t the types of issues Donna Hyland, CEO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, thought she’d be dealing with when she became an accountant three decades ago. After several shorter stints at different companies, including Home Depot, Hyland landed at Scottish Rite Children’s Medical Center 25 years ago — and never left.

Donna Hyland

Donna Hyland

She rose through the ranks, helping to forge the 1998 merger of Scottish Rite with Egleston Children’s Health Care, which created one of the nation’s top pediatric hospitals. Later, the combined operation took on the added responsibility of operating Atlanta’s other pediatric hospital, Hughes Spalding.

Hyland, 52, talks about health care reform, the controversial anti-obesity campaign she launched, and what happened when she did not do her “due diligence” before accepting that first job at Scottish Rite.

Q: After graduating with an accounting degree, you ended up working at Home Depot early in your career, when …

Continue reading Children’s Healthcare CEO: ‘Our jobs are to get every penny we can out of the dollars that are available’ »

Best Buy trimming Geek Squad

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Best Buy’s Geek Squad is among the next to feel the brunt of a major restructuring as the electronics retailer tries to regain its footing to battle fierce competition from online retailers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that about 600 techies will be laid off in the retailer’s services division. In addition, 1,800 other store workers are expected to get pink slips in the weeks ahead, the Journal reported, citing someone familiar with the plans.

The Geek Squad layoffs represent 3 percent of the 20,000 workers in the services division, spokesman Matthew Furman told the Journal. The division helps customers with installation and staffers offer advice before and after purchases. Some observers say the squad is what differentiates Best Buy from its competitors.

The latest round of layoffs are in addition to the pink slips that went out earlier this year when Best Buy, which has 167,000 workers, launched plans to close 50 of its stores. The …

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U.S. added a weak 80,000 jobs in June

U.S. employers added 80,000 jobs in June, a third straight month of weak hiring that shows the economy is struggling three years after the recession ended, the Associated Press reports this morning.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent.

The economy has added just 75,000 jobs a month in the April-June quarter. That’s one-third of 226,000 a month created in the first quarter. Job creation is also trailing last year’s pace through the first six months of 2012.

A weaker job market has made consumers less confident. They have pulled back on spending, even though gas prices have plunged.

Dismal June job figures could also prompt the Federal Reserve to take further action to try to boost the economy. The Fed last month downgraded its economic outlook for 2012. It predicted growth of just 1.9 percent to 2.4 percent for the year and little change in the unemployment rate.

About one-third of the jobs gained in June were in temporary …

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Is Netflix on the rebound?

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Is Netflix becoming a hit once again?

If you ask Wall Street, the online movie subscription service appears to be on the verge of becoming another blockbuster (not that kind of a Blockbuster).

Netflix’ stock jumped 13 percent Thursday in the wake of a report by BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield that estimated the online service’s 24 million domestic subscribers probably watched an average of 40 hours of streaming video in June, or as Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings disclosed in a Facebook posting, more than 1 billion hours for the first time. That’s up from a monthly average of 28 hours of watching in December.

Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney also issued an upbeat report

The stock continued to plow ahead Friday, hitting $85.40 before falling back to around $83. Netflix’ stock closed Thursday up $9.68 to end the day at $81.72.

Netflix, which once dominated DVD movie subscriptions but has seen streaming video rivals take a chunk of its …

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How about these job perks? Free massages, bowling, snacks

Feeling a little tense sitting at your desk this morning? Why not go for a massage?

Forgot to get that shirt pressed? Just run it down to the cleaners.

Getting hungry? Then grab a gourmet snack or meal prepared by a chef.

Want to do a little bowling? Walk on over to the alley.

Yes, you can do all that _and  never leave the office _ if you work for some of the hot employers in Silicon Valley.

While most of the rest of America is doing more with less, as they like to say, putting in longer hours and raising the productivity bar, California corporations of the moment like Google, Zynga and Facebook are rolling out the perks for their well-paid, much-coveted workforces, USA Today reports.

Cynics might quibble, saying that offering such benefits only serves to keep employees in the building longer and always working. Still, who isn’t working longer these days? And most employers don’t provide in-house spas and the like.

“In this market, particularly in Silicon Valley,” employers …

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Highest-paying careers in the country

(Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

(Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

If you’re willing to put in long hours and years of prep work on the front end, a high-paying career awaits you, according to a report on CNBC.com.

The highest-paying jobs continue to be found in the medical and technology fields, but professionals in other areas also are pulling in big bucks.

CNBC.com pored over Bureau of Labor Statistics data to come up with the highest-paying jobs in the country today. Not all of them require the time and effort needed to become a physician – “ four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school and between three and eight years of an internship and residency, depending on their specialization or area of surgery.”

On the other hand, someone aspiring to be a sales manager won’t even need a bachelor’s degree. She or he, however, must be able to understand the marketplace, analyze sales statistics and monitor customer preferences.

Here are the top 15 highest paying positions:

No. 1: …

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Poll suggests Georgians less set on home ownership

Home ownership is less of a must for some Georgians  than it used to be, a new survey suggests.

More than 16 percent of the people who responded to the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates’ 2012 Mid-Year Consumer Poll said that owning a home is no longer a current goal for them, although it once was.

The reason: the economic downturn.

Breaking it down, 37.8 percent said their attitude has changed because they’re making less money; 47.8 percent attributed it to the need to pay down debt; and 47 percent blamed the national economy for their change of heart.

Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, cited another poll, Fannie Mae’s May 2012 National Housing Survey, in discussing the shift.

“Our May consumer data shows that Americans are taking a wait and see approach about buying or selling a home,” he said. “This is not surprising given their assessment that their income during the past 12 months and their personal financial expectations for the next 12 have …

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