Top Headlines September 2011

Overview: Debt Crisis in Europe

Overview: Debt Crisis in Europe

ECONOMY

  • Greek debt of €340 billion creates uncertainty for Germany
  • Germany's unemployment drops below 2008 levels
  • EESC President supports Eurobonds, further EU integration

Europe's sovereign debt crisis has been spreading throughout Euro zone nations, leading to the bailout of three countries.

Italy has become the latest casualty of the recent European downgrades outbreak, as leaders struggle to swiftly resolve the debt crisis. As Ireland, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, and Italy deal with their ratings cut, the future of the Euro seems more uncertain. The nations that have endured the most these past two years are those who have been downgraded and bailed out.

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Bank of America: Debit Cards The New Cash Cow

Bank of America: Debit Cards The New Cash Cow

BUSINESS

  • Customers to pay $5 a month in debit card fees, to be phased in from 2012
  • Regulation cuts debit-card fees cap from 44 cents to 24 cents per transaction
  • Banks stand to lose $6.5 billion per year due to new debit card cap

Bank of America intends to apply a fee of $5 a month to its debit cards, from early 2012, to offset costs incurred due to a new stipulation that limits bank charges on debit-card transaction. The bank expects the cap to shave $2 million off its annual revenue.

Banking competitors, such as Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase, intend to test, or are already testing, comparable fee plans. The number 22 bank in the US, Regional Financial, plans to apply a $4 monthly fee on some debit-card accounts from October 2011.

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Microsoft Signs Windows Phone Deal With Samsung

Microsoft Signs Windows Phone Deal With Samsung

BUSINESS

  • Microsoft’s seventh patent-licensing deal since June
  • Samsung deal to expand Microsoft’s smartphone campaign
  • Mango platform update expected before end 2011

Microsoft has secured a new patent agreement with Samsung in the latest of a series of deals to boost the presence of the Windows Phone 7 platform.

In recent months the Redmond, Washington-based software company has secured deals with seven smartphone manufacturing companies that use Google’s Android platform, pressuring them into signing patent-licensing deals through existing business agreements and threats of legal action.

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Boston Scientific: Court Refuses Johnson & Johnson Subsidiary’s Patent Appeal

Boston Scientific: Court Refuses Johnson & Johnson Subsidiary’s Patent Appeal

BUSINESS

  • US Court of Appeals concurs with Delaware infringement ruling
  • Boston Scientific paid out $9.25 million in Guidant lawsuit for over-billing
  • Lobbying costs for Boston Scientific stand at $810,000 to date in 2011

A federal appeals court ruled against Johnson & Johnsons’s Cordis unit’s appeal for a lower court ruling that had found Boston Scientific Corp did not infringe upon one of Cordis Corp’s patents. The original court hearing, in Delaware, ruled against Cordis’s claim that Boston Scientific had infringed a patent protecting an expandable metal stent granted in 1999. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, headquartered in Washington, concurred with the Delaware court ruling.

The ruling is good news for the medical leader who recently shelled out $9.25 million in a lawsuit that charged Boston Scientific’s Guidant LLC unit with over-billing private hospitals in the US for defibrillators and heart pacemakers.

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Ikea Set to Speed-Up Expansion In China

Ikea Set to Speed-Up Expansion In China

BUSINESS

  • Ikea has nine stores in China, will now open three stores per year
  • Higher expansion pace than last few years forecasted going forward
  • Ikea focused on sustainability, with solar panel installations in California stores

Leading global furniture retail Ikea Group is set to open more stores in China to capture growth in the world's second-largest economy, with the goal to off-set dependence on the declining European market. Currently, Ikea depends on Europe for 80% of its sales, but expansion into China would permit the furniture company to reduce dependence on Europe, and cut prices by 1.5% by end 2011.

Sales for Ikea in China alone are growing at a faster rate than the entire company, Ohlsson added. Ikea currently has nine stores in China, and over the next few years, will begin expansion by opening three stores per year. The Swedish furniture giant will also continue to hire staff, after adding 4,000 new employees in 2010 alone.

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Free Checking Accounts – Soon A Thing of the Past?

Free Checking Accounts – Soon A Thing of the Past?

FINANCE

  • Free checking accounts offered by US banks down 20% to 45%
  • Banks are under financial constraints and trying to compensate
  • Denver and Miami lead nation in overdraft fees

Will free checking accounts soon become obsolete? Amid panic of a renewed economic crisis, pressure on US banks has cut free checking accounts down to 45% from 65% last year, a recent study by Bankrate.com revealed.

This year, non-interest checking accounts cost customers nearly $4.40 per month on average, compared with around $2.50 last year.

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UK Voices Reservations About EU Commission Financial Tax

UK Voices Reservations About EU Commission Financial Tax

FINANCE

  • EU tax on financial transaction would raise $80 billion a year
  • 80% of revenue from financial tax would come from London
  • G20 heads propose 50% Greek debt write-down

The UK opposes a tax on financial transactions that the EU Commission hopes to levy on member countries of the EU to bring in close to $80 billion on an annual basis from 2014. The financial tax proposed involves a 0.1% charge on inter-institutional deals involving one or more EU-member players. A 0.1% rate of tax would apply to derivative contracts.

The UK’s sanction is necessary before the tax can be imposed throughout the EU. The UK is not blocking the financial tax in and of itself but wants it to be introduced across the board.

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Macy’s Holiday Hiring to Make a Merry Christmas for Jobseekers

Macy’s Holiday Hiring to Make a Merry Christmas for Jobseekers

ECONOMY

  • Macy’s to hire 78,000 seasonal staff, 4% more than 2010
  • Macy’s forecasts 4% to 4.5% sales increase in Q3 and Q4
  • Kohl’s and JC Penney holiday hiring on a par with 2010

Retailer Macy’s is to hire 78,000 holiday workers, 4% more than the 2010 holiday season, encouraged by rising sales figures. The company forecasts a year-on-year increase of between 4% and 4.5% in same-store sales for the last two fiscal quarters this year, partly boosted by sales around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Workers will be based at department stores Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s and also support the retailer’s online business at its warehouses and call centers. Though this staffing measure is primarily a seasonal measure, the company says certain positions may well lead on to permanent positions. Macy’s is a big employer, with 170,000 workers, mostly employed on a full-time basis.

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Real Estate Update: New Home Sales Hit 6-Month Low

Real Estate Update: New Home Sales Hit 6-Month Low

ECONOMY

  • New home sales fall 2.5% to annual rate of 295,000 units
  • Median price for new homes down 8% to $209,000
  • Midwest the only region reporting growth, sales up 8%

New home sales in the US fell to the lowest point in six months, hitting close to 2.5% for a yearly total of 295,000. The median new home price for August 2011 fell almost 8% from the same month last year, marking a drop unseen since July 2009.

After the most dramatic fall in prices in a two-year period, homebuyers are seeking the cheaper option of buying distressed homes or previously owned homes with lower prices due to foreclosures.

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Amazon’s New Kindle to Test iPad Supremacy

Amazon’s New Kindle to Test iPad Supremacy

BUSINESS

  • Amazon soon to unveil new iPad challenger
  • New Kindle will function as both e-reader and tablet PC
  • Device expected to retail for around $299, close to production cost

Amazon.com is preparing for the launch of the latest version of its Kindle, which experts predict may provide the biggest challenge yet to Apple’s iPad. The new Kindle is expected to be unveiled on September 28 at an Amazon press conference in New York. The e-book device will also function as a tablet PC, featuring a new interface and a high-definition LCD touch screen, GreenCrest Capital Management analyst Anupam Palit told Bloomberg.

Amazon’s links with various multimedia partners will enable the Seattle-based e-commerce giant to load up its Kindle with e-books, music and video content, which may give it the edge in the tablet market that the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Research In Motion failed to produce.

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