Computer Cookies Under Attack

Morning Money Memo…

You may have hundreds of cookies on your computer. These pieces of code are used by marketers and advertising agencies to track your online behavior. Now cookies are under attack. The Wall Street Journal reports that Google, Facebook and Microsoft are "developing systems that plug into and control this river of data," bypassing many software companies that put cookies on popular websites.

These internet giants plan to come up with their own ways of placing highly targeted advertising on consumers' computers and mobile devices. Cookies don't work very well on tablets and smartphones and fail to give marketers all of the information they are looking for. A statement from Microsoft on the AdAge website says, "We agree that going beyond the cookie is important. Our priority will be to find ways to do this that respect the interests of consumers." The balance of power in the highly lucrative online advertising industry may be shifting. But privacy advocates are raising objections to hyper-targeting, and may seek new federal regulations.

The housing recovery may have hit a speed bump. For the fourth month in a row the number of contracts signed to sell existing homes dropped, prompting a drop in share prices for major home building firms. The pending home sales index from the National Association of Realtors fell 5.6 percent in September, compared to August. The sales total is at its lowest level in nearly a year. Realtors blame the drop in consumer confidence for the sales slump. Higher mortgage rates and rising prices have also priced-out some likely home buyers. Housing has been one of the bright spots of the economic recovery.

Good news for motorists on gas prices. The U.S. Energy Department's latest weekly survey says average prices fell 7 cents a gallon. The average cost of regular is now $3.29 a gallon. Oil analysts expect prices to keep on falling. "We are looking at a rich supply of crude oil led by the U.S.," says Ben Brockwell of the Oil Price Information Service. "We've also go additional refining capacity coming on strength in Saudi Arabia and China so there's going to be in my opinion lots of products looking for markets."

Not much talk about tapering as policy makers meet today to discuss money policy and interest rates. With signs that economic growth may be weak for the fourth quarter, the Federal Reserve is unlikely to reduce the size of bond buying purchases. It's been keeping interest rates as low as possible. Despite concerns about the size of U.S. debt - the government is still able to borrow money on international markets at bargain rates - just 2.52 percent for 10 year Treasury note.

It was another record day for stocks but only just. The S&P 500 gained two points to close at a new high Monday, for the seventh time this month.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesnow

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