Smartphone Sales Reach Tipping Point

Morning Business Memo…

We are in love with our mobile devices. A Facebook-sponsored study by IDC (International Data Corporation) says US smartphone owners are often continuously connected. IDC says worldwide shipments of smart connected devices grew 29.1 percent year over year in 2012, crossing 1 billion units shipped. "Smartphones, coupled with rich applications and mobile data services, allow us to connect with our family, friends and community from the moment we wake up until the end of our day," IDC researchers said in the report. About half the US population uses smartphones, and the total is expected to keep on growing. A survey of 7,000 people aged 18-44 says the top three smartphone applications were messaging, web browsing, and Facebook. Most of these users check their phones within 15 minutes of waking. IDC expects that tablet shipments will surpass desktop PCs in 2013 and portable PCs in 2014. In 2013, worldwide desktop PC shipments are expected to drop by 4.3 percent and portable PCs to maintain a flat growth of 0.9 percent.

The stock market opens for business this week at new highs. After flirting with a record closing the big stock S&P 500 index finally did it last week. Stocks had their best first quarter since 1998, and the averages rose 11 out 13 weeks. It will certainly take more positive news about the economy for the market to move higher in the second quarter.

The big economic news this week is about jobs, manufacturing and continued concerns over Cyprus and Europe's shaky finances. The Labor Department's report on March employment comes out on Friday. The consensus forecast is for about 200,000 new jobs with unemployment remaining at 7.7 percent. If today's ISM March manufacturing index is as strong as February's index was that would be good news indeed.

Reminder! The April 15 tax filing deadline is just two weeks away. A new survey finds more people are expecting larger tax refunds from the IRS than last year. Emma Johnson of RetailMeNot says there are several reasons why refunds are likely to rise. "The economy is better. Job growth is up and real estate prices are up. More home sales." Johnson says if you haven't done your taxes yet a software program can help. "Things like Turbo Tax, H&R Block online services they're very affordable they're very easy to use." Many taxpayers qualify for free prep software from the IRS

A federal judge is set to rule on whether Stockton, Calif., will become the most populous city in the nation to enter bankruptcy protection. The Chapter 9 bankruptcy case is being closely watched for the potential precedent-setting implications: whether federal bankruptcy law trumps the California law that says debts to the state pension fund must be honored. Stockton is seeking to default on $165 million it borrowed in 2007 to pay its CalPERS pension obligations. Those creditors argued in court last week that it's unfair for them to lose money while the retirement fund negotiated in flush times remains untouched. Pension obligations are Stockton's biggest debt. Legal observers say this first-ever bankruptcy case to challenge state pension law will likely be appealed.

Richard Davies, Business Correspondent ABC News Radio, Twitter: daviesabc

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