Business » Consumer Report http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business The latest Business news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:32:26 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Walmart Sends Chills Through Money Transfer Business http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/walmart-sends-chills-through-money-transfer-business/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/walmart-sends-chills-through-money-transfer-business/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:12:17 +0000 Richard Davies http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119431  

AP walmart kab 140418 16x9 608 Walmart Sends Chills Through Money Transfer Business

     (Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu/AP Photo)

Morning Money Memo:

Big changes are coming to the money transfer business. Walmart’s announcement that it’s entering the market has left competitors shaking in their boots. The new service will be introduced next week, and Walmart says it will cut fees for customers by up to 50 percent compared with similar services.

Shares of MoneyGram fell nearly 18 percent after the announcement. Western Union shares are down more than 5 percent.

The new Walmart-2-Walmart service is the latest expansion of the retailer’s financial offerings for low-income customers. Those who use it will be able to transfer up to $900 to and from more than 4,000 stores.

The service will be done in partnership with Euronet Worldwide’s Ria Money Transfer. The program has two pricing tiers. Customers can transfer up to $50 for a $4.50 service fee and up to $900 for $9.50.

More doubts are being raised about the future of Barnes & Noble stores.

Company shares lost 12 percent Thursday after Leonard Riggio, Barnes & Noble’s chairman, disclosed that he had sold nearly a quarter of his stake, cutting his stake to 20 percent from 30 percent of the firm.

The stock market is closed for the Good Friday holiday. The broad-based S&P 500 rose for the fourth straight day after Wall Street had a case of investment jitters last week. The Nasdaq rose 9 points Thursday. Only the Dow Jones index lost value with a 16-point drop.

Michaels Stores says about 2.6 million cards used at its retail outlets might have been affected in a security breach but it has received “limited” reports of fraud.

America’s largest arts and crafts chain says that its subsidiary Aaron Brothers was also attacked. The company said that both stores were attacked by criminals using highly sophisticated malware that had not been encountered previously by the two security firms that were conducting the investigation.

The details come nearly three months after Michaels disclosed that it may have been a victim of a data breach.

It has been more than a week since the Heartbleed bug was revealed, but many popular websites still have not reached out to their users warning them that their passwords could be at risk to hackers. Heartbleed is a flaw in widely used security software.

“We will be dealing with the effects of this for a long time,” says Kevin Johnson CEO of Secure Ideas, an Internet security firm.

The flaw potentially allows hackers to steal consumers’ credit card information and other data from many websites. “There is the potential their information could be exposed and their passwords could be compromised,” Johnson says, urging consumers to change their passwords.

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

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Lowe’s Settles EPA Lead Paint Violations By Its Contractors http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/lowes-settles-epa-lead-paint-violations-by-its-contractors/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/lowes-settles-epa-lead-paint-violations-by-its-contractors/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 21:00:55 +0000 Matthew Larotonda http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119424 WASHINGTON — Home improvement giant Lowe’s Companies Inc. has agreed to pay $500,000 after federal investigators found its home renovation contractors in nine states had violated safety standards for lead paint. The retail chain was also unable to provide documentation proving some contractors employed by the company were certified to work with the toxic substance, the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department said today.

The investigation by the EPA  stemmed from tips and complaints from homeowners who had used Lowe’s renovation contractors. In reviews of company records the government found contractors had not used EPA-approved lead-test kits on projects, or lacked proper training to work with the hazardous element known to cause developmental problems in children and kidney and cardiovascular illness in adults.

The EPA also found contractors had failed to properly clean and contain work areas in three homes, although the agency emphasized they had not found any direct cases of bodily harm in the course of their investigation. The punishment sought against Lowe’s was more cautionary, they said. Officials also stated the violations were not company-wide, but isolated to certain brick-and-mortar stores discovered in their investigation.

“This is not to send an alarm signal that people who have had work repairs done should be alarmed about this,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert Dreher said in a conference call with reporters today.

EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles said it sent a clear message to companies to comply with the toxic materials standard.

“Lowe’s is taking responsibility for the actions of the firms it hires, and EPA expects other contractors to do the same,” she said.

The officials pointed homeowners to the EPA website for fact sheets on protective measures and red flags to watch out for when working with lead-based materials.

Lowe’s says they have always sought to comply with the EPA’s  Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule standards since they were enacted in 2008, and have “resolved all issues alleged by the EPA.”

“Lowe’s hires thousands of independent, third-party contractors and the EPA identified only a few who failed to meet certain record keeping or work practice requirements regarding lead-based paint,” a Lowe’s spokesperson told ABC News. “There have never been any reports of lead-based paint health issues associated with any projects completed by Lowe’s contractors.”

Lowes declined to provide an estimate on the total number of homes that may have had renovations performed by the violating contractors, or whether the company had sought disciplinary action against them.

The EPA discovered the infractions through review of Lowe’s stores in Alton, Ill.; Kent and Trotwood, Ohio; Bedford, N.H.; Southington, Conn.; South Burlington, Vt.; Rochester, N.Y.; Savannah and Lebanon, Tenn.; Boise, Idaho Falls and Nampa, Idaho; and Muldoon, Alaska.

Today’s settlement also mandates the home improvement chain create a new compliance and training program at its more than 1,700 stores in the US.

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Barbie Sales Slump, Soda Loses Fizz, Google Stumbles http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/barbie-sales-slump-soda-loses-fizz-google-stumbles/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/barbie-sales-slump-soda-loses-fizz-google-stumbles/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:59:26 +0000 Richard Davies http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119412  

GTY barbie kab 140417 16x9 608 Barbie Sales Slump, Soda Loses Fizz, Google Stumbles

                             (Photo Credit: Michael Stewart/Getty Images)

Morning Money Memo:

The corporate earnings season is still young, but the latest reports are already revealing some striking trends. Troubles in toyland are among them.

Mattel’s report reveals that weak Barbie sales are one reason for its unexpected first-quarter loss. Toymakers are facing problems globally, largely because of fierce competition from tablets and other electronic gadgets.

Mattel, the largest U.S. toymaker, says it lost $11.2 million in the first quarter of this year. Sales dropped 5 percent. Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels cars and Disney Princess dolls are among the best known of hundreds of Mattel toy brands.

Americans are drinking less soda, but PepsiCo Inc. reported a stronger-than-expected, first-quarter profit. The company slashed costs and sold more snacks, energy drinks and orange juice. Earnings rose more than 10 percent compared with the previous year.

Is Google starting to stumble? After years of roaring success with rapidly rising profits and sales, the Internet’s most influential company turned in a disappointing quarterly earnings report.

A downturn in online advertising prices put a dent in profits. Google also spent more money to hire employees and invest in a range of new product ideas.

Although it remains among the world’s most profitable companies, Google is struggling to adjust to a shift away from desktop and laptop computers to smartphones and tablets.

The upheaval is lowering Google’s ad rates because so far marketers haven’t been willing to pay as much to pitch consumers who are squinting at the smaller screens on mobile devices. Company revenues rose 19 percent from last year, but that was below analyst forecasts. Google’s share price fell 3 percent in after-hours trading.

Most big companies have announced better-than-expected earnings numbers. The Dow, Nasdaq and other stock averages had a third straight day of gains Wednesday after jitters and declines last week.

Here’s an eye-popping number: Yahoo’s recently fired chief operating officer, Henrique de Castro, left the Internet company with a severance package of $58 million despite lasting just 15 months on the job.

De Castro had been recruited from Google and was then let go after disappointing ad sales at Yahoo.

Many consumers may not know this, but the largest cost of owning a car is depreciation.

According to new research from the auto price valuation firm ALG, the process begins on day one. Consider a new car or SUV that sells for $30,000: “on average you lose almost $5,000 literally driving it off the dealer lot,” ALG President Larry Dominique says.

“Typically, after three years the vehicle is worth about half what it was when you first purchased the car.” Most motorists pay attention to gas and insurance costs but “the number one thing we see with cars over time is the depreciation whether you own that car three years, four years, seven years.”

A nearly new car loses value at a much faster rate than an older vehicle.

Smartphone theft is on the rise. A Consumer Reports survey finds that more than 3 million devices were stolen last year, nearly double what was stolen in 2012.

You should always use a screen lock and backup your data often, the magazine says. Another recommendation: Write down your phone’s unique identification number, a 15-digit number that can be used by law enforcement to track down the device. You can usually find the number on the box the phone came in or in the phone’s settings menu.

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

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‘Heartbleed’ Hackers Hit Two Websites http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/heartbleed-hackers-hit-two-websites/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/heartbleed-hackers-hit-two-websites/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:07:15 +0000 Richard Davies http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119404 Morning Money Memo…

Canadian taxpayers and British parents may be among the first victims of the Heartbleed bug. Canada’s tax agency says 900 social insurance numbers were stolen by hackers exploiting the bug. A popular British website for parents, Mumsnet, says cyber thieves may have obtained passwords and personal messages before its site was patched.

The Heartbleed bug was first revealed earlier this month, causing widespread concern about Internet security. Many sites using OpenSSL to digitally encrypt data as it passes between a user’s device and an online service could be vulnerable to Heartbleed.

Troubled Bitcoin exchange Mount Gox has apparently given up attempts to rebuild its business. The Tokyo-based virtual currency company asked a court to allow it to be liquidated, reports The Wall Street Journal. Mount Gox, once the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, collapsed in February.

Yahoo shares jumped nearly 9 percent after a better-than-expected quarterly report. There was only slight growth for Yahoo’s US Internet operations. Almost all the improvement came from  strong results in its ownership stake in China’s Alibaba, which reported a surge in sales and profits.

General Motors is pushing ahead with an aggressive legal strategy, trying to limit the damage of lawsuits over faulty ignition switches. The auto maker plans to ask a federal judge to shield it from legal claims on what happened before its 2009 bankruptcy. A GM motion filed for a federal court case in Corpus Christi, Texas, asks the judge to delay action until a federal bankruptcy court rules on a case involving defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths. A switch can unexpectedly slip out of the “run” position, shutting down the engine, knocking out power-assisted steering and power brakes, and disabling the air bags. Some 2.6 million cars were recalled because of the switch problem.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced the creation of a product integrity team to improve safety. She told a meeting of car dealers that technical problems would be addressed quickly. Barra also promised dealers that GM is moving ahead with replacements for faulty ignition switches. “Parts are arriving at dealers. Trained technicians are at work and we are in the process of repairing cars,” she said.

On the surface there wasn’t much to worry about from the March consumer prices report. The annual US inflation rate is well under 2 percent, which is even lower than the target set by The Federal Reserve. Clothing, autos and consumer electronics cost the same or slightly less than a year ago. But the price of many basics rose. “It can really hurt people the most in terms of those on a limited budget,” says economist Diane Swonk of Mesirow Financial.

Food and rental properties prices rose in much of the countre. But for the US economy the best thing is still modest inflation rather than deflation. “When you have falling prices everyone knows you hesitate. Think of when the housing market was going bust, no-one wanted to buy a depreciating asset,” says Swonk.

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

 

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No Time to Waste on Tax Returns http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/tick-tick-tick-on-tax-returns/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/tick-tick-tick-on-tax-returns/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:43:14 +0000 Richard Davies http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119383  

GTY tax returns jtm 140415 16x9 608 No Time to Waste on Tax Returns

                             (Photo Credit: PM Images/Getty Images)

Morning Money Memo:

The clock is ticking down on the deadline to file your 2013 tax returns. You must file something by midnight or face a penalty. April 15 is when the bill is due for any taxes owed. “The late payment penalties that accrue when your file late can be substantial.” Eric Smith of the IRS said. And the charge for filing late can be even worse. But you can easily get more time to fill in the forms. Using form 4868 “you can file the extension and give yourself piece of mind,” tax accountant Janice Hayman says. You get an additional six months to do the paper work. “It gives people the chance to do things properly,” she says.

Your chances of facing an audit are small unless you are a high income earner. The IRS audited less than 1 percent of income tax returns last year. The audit rate is 0.88 percent for incomes less than $200,000. But wealthy taxpayers are much more likely to face questions about their returns.  The audit rate last year was 11 percent for people earning $1 million and above, according to the IRS.

To ease the pain of filing, April 15 is freebie day at many retailers and fast-food restaurants. Some special offers come with gimmicks. At Boston Market, two chicken meals with two sides and cornbread come for $10.40 today. And you’ll be entered to win one of 1,040 free rib dinners. If you buy an adult entree at Chili’s, you’ll get a free appetizer or free kid’s meal today. Dunkin’ Donuts, Arby’s, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s also have tax-day freebies. At Office Depot, you can have 5 pounds of documents shredded for free between now and April 29.

After objections by some taxpayers, the Social Security Administration has decided to stop trying to collect on taxpayers’ debts that are more than 10 years old. Until now, the U.S. Treasury was seizing state and federal tax refunds that were due to be sent out to hundreds of thousands of people. The Washington Post said the cases involved children of those who owed money because of over-payments of Social Security benefits. Many of these debts were decades old. Some of the taxpayers who had their refunds seized said they’d never heard of money being owed to the government.

New U.S. Energy Department numbers show average U.S. gasoline prices rose 6 cents in the past week to $3.65 per gallon for regular. Industry analysts say refinery maintenance is to blame. Most have been switching over to less-polluting summer gas blends.

Google is heading for the skies. The world’s largest search firm says it’s buying Titan Aerospace, a New Mexico-based start-up that makes solar-powered drones. Google rival Facebook bought another drone start-up last month.

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

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E-Cigarette Crackdown Coming? http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/e-cigarette-crackdown-coming/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/e-cigarette-crackdown-coming/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:05:42 +0000 Richard Davies http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119365 GTY e cigarette jef 130923 16x9 608 E Cigarette Crackdown Coming?

                                        (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Morning Money Memo:

Pressure is growing for federal regulation of the booming e-cigarette industry. Supporters say e-cigs help people quit the habit, giving them the nicotine they crave without the unhealthy smoke of traditional cigarettes. But a new congressional report written largely by staffers for Democratic senators and House members says concerns about electronic cigarettes underscore the need for regulation. Industry critics say an array of flavors and marketing might appeal to young people. There are no age restrictions and no uniform warning labels. Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a nicotine solution and create vapor that’s inhaled. A 2009 law gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products. The agency first said it planned to assert authority over e-cigarettes in 2011 but has yet to do so.

Google wants retailers to know exactly what they’re getting when spending large amounts of money on Internet advertising. The online search and advertising leader is reportedly partnering with half a dozen retailers to match tracking cookies on users’ computers to in-store sales information. “The company’s new pilot program involves AdWords, its biggest advertising program, in which advertisers place links next to Internet-search results,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Google makes money when computer users click on an ad and visit the advertiser’s website. The new program might help brick-and-mortar retailers link the effectiveness of online advertising to sales in their stores.

Google will sell Google Glass eyewear for $1,500 for one day only. Then the offer will be withdrawn. Glass will go on sale Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. ET. It’ll be first come first serve, but Google hasn’t said how many they’ll make available.

The first-quarter corporate earnings season kicks into high gear this week with more than 50 large companies reporting results. The data could have a big impact on the volatile stock market. Last week was ugly for many investors. The high-technology dominated Nasdaq is down more than 8 percent from its early March high. Friday was only the second time this year the index has closed below the 4,000 mark. International stock markets fell today after two days of U.S. declines and forecasts of lower corporate profits.

Tensions over violence in Eastern Ukraine are a drag on global markets, especially European stocks. Wholesale oil prices rose to $104 for West Texas crude. Ukraine put its military on alert after pro-Russian gunmen seized control of government buildings in the east.

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

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5 Common Confidence Mistakes Women Make, and the Confidence Quiz http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/5-common-confidence-mistakes-women-make-and-the-confidence-quiz/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/5-common-confidence-mistakes-women-make-and-the-confidence-quiz/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:39:59 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119345

ABC News’ Claire Shipman reports:

We all know those familiar, frustrating feelings.  We’re afraid to speak up at a meeting because we aren’t sure what we have to say is perfect.  And then a few minutes later, a male colleague says exactly what we had in mind.

Perhaps we’ve contemplated taking a larger step – a run for local office or a change of career – but we opt for caution over risk.  For most women, such feelings are so commonplace we’ve discount them. But, in truth, they represent a profound confidence gap between men and women, especially in the workplace.

My co-author on “The Confidence Code,” Katty Kay, and I have come to believe that gap is in large measure why we have failed to reach the highest levels in the workplace.

HT alantic cover banner mar 140414 16x9 608 5 Common Confidence Mistakes Women Make, and the Confidence Quiz

The Atlantic

Think about the damaging consequences of these common habits.

Scroll down to take the Confidence Quiz and See 5 Common Confidence Mistakes Women Make

- Women won’t seek promotions unless they feel they have close to 100 percent of the qualifications, while men will go for it if they think they have 60 percent. Hewlett-Packard and others have done these studies, and quickly grasped what this meant in terms of women’s getting ahead.

- Numerous studies have been done in which men and women are given the same test, usually a math or science test, and are then asked how they believe they have performed. The women always predict they’ve performed much worse than they have. The men tend to think they’ve done better. Indeed, the scores are almost identical.  Imagine what that self-criticism does to women on a day-to-day basis.

- One Princeton research team decided to study just how much less women speak than men do, when they are in the minority.  In some cases, researchers found, up to 75 percent less.

That nugget really caught my attention. For years I’d had an inkling that I wasn’t talking as much as the men on political programs I was on. I was constantly aware of trying to stick to the question, and not take too much time. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, it was quite classic “good girl” behavior.

In writing “The Confidence Code,” I did a quick comparison of my appearances on “This Week.”  My self-editing got me 30 percent less talk time on average than the men. There’s nothing terrible about that, of course, but it was sobering to have a number put on my hesitation.

In the course of our research project, we dug into the origins of the confidence gap. Our book looks at genetic influences, brain architecture and function and the impact of society.  All play a role. But we also discovered that part of our confidence is volitional: it’s something we can control. We can increase our confidence level at any age.

For more information on genetic testing, visit here.

Five Common Confidence Mistakes Women Make:

  1. We think too much.  Women are much more likely than men to ruminate.  Excessive examination actually inhibits confidence because it can keep women from taking action. Consider this: You’re debating whether to recommend a course of action at work.  It’s a tough call, and you dig in to examining both sides in-depth.  But your examination takes so long, that you start to lose your ability to make a decision. Frozen, you decide not to weigh in at all.
  2. We believe failure is a failure.  Failing is actually cool now.  Fail fast is a hot tech buzz phrase. In today’s business climate, failing means you’ve been willing to try, to get in the game. And it means you’ve learned.
  3. We carry criticism around with us far too long. We have to learn to toughen our hides, as Hillary Clinton said last week.  Imagining that the rest of the world, or your boss, or whomever, is still focused on that thing involving you is not only a waste of time, but a confidence killer.
  4. We never leave our comfort zones. Confidence comes from risk-taking, but we are too determined to be perfect.
  5. We don’t speak up, and too often, we use upspeak.  It’s a habit we know you’ll recognize, raising the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence in a way that suggests a question rather than a declaration. Try these: “I think we should go with the on-line marketing strategy.” “I think we should go with the online marketing strategy?” One professor told us he thinks women use upspeak in an effort to seek approval.  Lose the questioning tone, and boost your confidence.

Click HERE to take the confidence quiz.

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Hoping to Speak to IRS Agent About Taxes? Be Prepared to Wait http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/hoping-to-speak-to-irs-agent-about-taxes-be-prepared-to-wait/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/hoping-to-speak-to-irs-agent-about-taxes-be-prepared-to-wait/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 21:40:45 +0000 David Kerley http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119332

The US government wants your tax dollars but if you call in with a question — ie., about how to fill out specific forms — good luck getting an answer.

Your wait time could be between 30 minutes and an hour. Talk about a taxing experience.

Related: Tax tips on dealing with the IRS.

At the start of this tax season, Commissioner John Koskinen, the head of the IRS, appeared on YouTube warning of  ”extensive” wait times.

“Given our very limited resources, our phone lines are going to be extremely busy this year,” Koskinen says in the video. “We are working to limit these waiting times as much as possible, and I apologize that we can’t do more in that regard this year.”

In an interview with ABC News, Koskinen said getting taxpayers to pay when they can’t get their filing questions answered was the agency’s “biggest concern.”

Read More: Skip the Stamps, File Electronically

Last year, 109 million people called the IRS. Forty percent of calls trying to reach an agent went unanswered by the IRS, according to a January report. Those who got through experienced an average wait time of 18 minutes.

Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, said she’d never seen service so bad.

“I’m outraged, you know. I feel that taxpayers have a right to quality service,” she said.

Koskinen said the IRS had reallocated funds to serve taxpayers better “but we have obligations we can’t avoid.”

He said the agency had cut 10,000 workers in the last four years because its budget had been cut by $1 billion. This tax season, he hopes only 30 percent of all calls are unanswered.

“I view it as intolerable,” Koskinen said. “Nobody cares more about it then the people that work for us.”

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Wall Street Chill http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/wall-street-chill/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/wall-street-chill/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 12:31:37 +0000 Richard Davies http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119316 Morning Money Memo:

Is it sentiment or fundamentals? That’s the question facing Wall Street after a sharp stock market sell-off. The Nasdaq index dropped 3.1 percent Thursday, its biggest decline in nearly two and a half years. Stock futures fell again this morning. Many of the stocks that had soared the most in the past year took the deepest dive Thursday. Biotech and Internet stocks were hard hit. Biotechnology has turned volatile in recent weeks as regulators scrutinize the cost of their drugs and investors worry their earnings won’t justify lofty stock prices. Investors are also worried that high-growth companies like Twitter and Facebook have become too expensive. The Nasdaq is down 7 percent from its recent high in early March. The S&P 500 lost 2.1 percent Thursday.

The first-quarter earnings season will kick into high gear next week. JP Morgan Chase, America’s largest bank, announced a 19 percent drop in earnings compared with a year ago. Its stock price fell 2 percent. A low bar has been set for most corporate reports. “Harsh winter weather seems to have delivered a setback.”  says Kate Warne, an investment strategist with Edward Jones. “Investors are looking for what companies say about the rebound they’ve seen more recently in their business as the weather’s gotten warmer.” Economic fundamentals may have improved with signs the jobs market and economy are strengthening.

The Heartbleed bug may be even more severe than first reported. Two major companies that make Internet hardware, Cisco and Juniper Networks, say several of their products have the flaw. “That means hackers might be able to capture usernames, passwords and other sensitive information as they move across corporate networks, home networks and the Internet,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Heartbleed is causing major security headaches for website firms. Consumers have been left wondering whether they should change their passwords to prevent theft of their email accounts, credit card numbers and other sensitive information.

Another retailer is in trouble. Coldwater Creek has filed for Chapter 11 after failing to find a potential buyer or a source of capital to help fund its turnaround efforts. The company said its declining financial liquidity, tough retail conditions and an inability to find other viable options drove it to file for bankruptcy protection. The company says that it expects to start sales to liquidate inventory in early May

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is warning Russia that it could face tougher economic sanctions because of its actions in Ukraine, but so far other economic powers are showing a reluctance to go as far as the United States. Lew delivered his warning to the Russian finance minister, telling him that the Obama administration was willing to impose “additional significant sanctions” if Russia escalates the Ukraine situation. A senior European Union official says it will consider broadening sanctions against Russia. The official says ministers meeting in Luxembourg Monday could order a new list of targets, which would require unanimous agreement among the 28 nations.

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

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Obamacare May Cut Auto Insurance Rates, Study Says http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/obamacare-may-cut-auto-insurance-rates-study-says/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2014/04/obamacare-may-cut-auto-insurance-rates-study-says/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:14:47 +0000 Richard Davies http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/?p=119290 Morning Money Memo…

Obamacare may lower the cost of car insurance. A new study from the respected RAND Corporation says the price of several different types of coverage, including business liability, workers’ compensation and auto insurance may be reduced.

That’s because those policies often pay for treating injured people who don’t have medical coverage.

The Affordable Care Act has increased the share of people covered by private health insurance and Medicaid. The changes “can generate potential cost changes as high as 5 percent or more in particular states and insurance lines,” says the RAND report.

As coverage grows, insurers won’t have to put as much money aside to pay for accidents involving uninsured accident victims.

Young, Male Drivers, Big Bills 

Pity 20-year-old, male drivers. They pay far more for car insurance than other motorists.

“Younger drivers are really paying much higher rates,” says senior analyst Laura Adams of insurancequotes.com. The website compared auto insurance prices.

“A 25-year-old single man is paying half as when he was 20. So that rate is dropping significantly,” says Adams.

The insurance industry says middle-age drivers have the lowest accident rates.

“A single, 50-year-old man is paying about 60 percent less than a single, 20-year-old man,” says Adams.

Single drivers pay more than married motorists.

Bank of America Settlement

Federal regulators say millions of credit card customers were misled by Bank of America. The bank is paying $772 million in fines and refunds to settle the claims brought by The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

People who purchased extra credit-card protection products were misled by the bank’s marketing, say regulators. They found that telemarketers made sales pitches for two credit-protection products that were misleading about their costs and benefits.

Bank of America neither admitted nor denied the allegations.

Pension Problems?

A new alarm is being sounded about the risk of failure for many public pension funds. The well-known hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, says public pensions are likely to achieve 4 percent returns on their financial assets, or worse.

“If Bridgewater is right, that means 85 percent of public pension funds will be going bankrupt in three decades, reports USA Today.

The hedge fund stress tested public pension plans and says they have only $3 trillion of investments to cover payouts of $10 trillion over future decades.

Greece Back in Bonds

The Greek government is back in the international bond market for the first time in four years, issuing a five-year bond. Greece has been locked out of the market by high borrowing costs since 2010, and has been dependent on international bailout funds for the past four years. Greek interest rates have been falling recently as its public finances improved following tough austerity measures.

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