The Feds’ Tough Call: Taper or Full Speed Ahead?

Dec 18, 2013 8:15am

Morning Money Memo…

GTY ben bernanke jef 131218 16x9 608 The Feds Tough Call: Taper or Full Speed Ahead?

Pete Marovich/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve faces a tough call today over whether it should take its foot off the gas. In his final quarterly news conference as chairman, Ben Bernanke could announce a slowing of the Fed’s extraordinary bond-buying stimulus program. Some economists say that with fresh signs of stronger growth the time is ripe for the central bank to reduce, or taper, its $85 billion-a-month purchase of long term government bonds. But others say the Fed may decide to wait at least another month before acting.

This could be an act of desperation! Sears has been running an ad that suggests its stores are empty of shoppers, but full of good stuff consumers don’t know about. In this Sears commercial, two young women plan to go to a nearby movieplex but park outside the store instead because “there’s always parking at Sears.” Then to their amazement they find fashionable clothes to buy and skip the film they were planning to see.

Among the many changing trends in shopping is the soaring popularity of e-gifts. These are online versions of gift cards. Research from CEB Tower Group suggests e-gift sales will soar from $300 million last year to $3 billion now. Unlike gift cards, which some consumers see as impersonal, e-gifts can be delivered via text and e-mails with individual messages.

Bitcoin has taken a dive. The quoted price for the widely touted digital currency is down from a recent high of well over $1,000 to about $550 today. The decline comes after the Peoples Bank of China demanded an end to digital currency. China is Bitcoin’s biggest market. Authorities there are said to have blocked Bitcoin exchanges from accepting new payments of cash.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wants a ban on the use of personal credit history by employers looking to hire workers. She’s introduced legislation, saying the practice unfairly targets women, minorities, seniors, students and others with fewer resources to bounce back financially after a personal setback like an illness or divorce.

JPMorgan Chase has been sued by Mississippi’s attorney general. Jim Hood says the bank violated state consumer protection laws as it went after delinquent payments by credit card customers. The lawsuit is the latest legal headache for JP Morgan.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesnow

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