Morning Business Memo….
America’s biggest bank is making it easier for its customers to fight back against abuses by payday lenders. In statement JPMorgan Chase says the change will start in May. The bank will limit the fees customers are charged when they overdraw their accounts to make payments to payday lenders. It will also “enhance communication and require additional training” for employees to make it easier for customers to stop payments. Payday loans are advances against direct deposit paychecks. Chase Bank will make it easier for customers to close accounts even when there are pending charges. Payday loans are very controversial, as they usually come with very high interest rates and fees, and target low-income earners who are strapped for cash.
A new report says some big banks still offer payday loans, despite growing criticism of their high cost. The Center for Responsible Lending says short-term interest rates of up to 300 percent are charged, and these loans drive many borrowers deeper into debt. The report looks at loans offered by Wells Fargo, US Bancorp and several other banks. A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo says the bank is “very upfront and transparent with customers that this is an expensive form of credit and is not intended to solve long-term financial needs.”
A new survey highlights another gap between many employers and lower paid workers. As they struggle to get ahead, many employees who earn less than $35,000 a year are not taking advantage of job training or educational programs that could help them make the leap to a better-paying job. A survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that many workers are skeptical about whether training programs are worth the trouble. While 83 percent of employers said job training is extremely or very important for upward mobility, only half of low-wage workers agreed.
The European Central Bank has issued a blunt ultimatum to Cyprus and its crippled banks. An international agreement $7.5 billion in bailout money must be in place by Monday, and if that doesn’t happen emergency funding will be cut off . For now the ECB is keeping the Cypriot banks alive by allowing them to draw on emergency support from the local central bank. Cyprus’ president is meeting with party leaders to secure their support for revised plan that international creditors have demanded in exchange for a larger rescue package that would prevent the country’s bankruptcy. With the economy potentially days away from ruin, banks have stayed shut to prevent a run where panicked depositors could demand their cash. The first rescue plan, which included a tax on bank deposits, was rejected by the Cypriot Parliament.
Standing by the stimulus. Stocks rose after The Federal Reserve issued comments on the economy and money policy. The central bank’s policy of very low interest rates will stay in place. The Fed raised some eyebrows when it issued a very cautious report on economic growth, despite signs of real improvement for housing and the jobs market. Stocks rose after the Fed statement. The Dow gained 56 points Wednesday. Asian stocks rose overnight and U.S. futures are up slightly this morning.
Another milestone for streaming video. YouTube, the video sharing site owned by Google, says it has passed one billion regular users. Announcing the milestone on its blog, the global site says the growth in smartphones has boosted the numbers of people visiting its site.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesabc