Consumers Demanding Convenience of Online Bill Payments

The main criteria for choosing a bank used to be its proximity to home. Now customers are looking carefully at the quality of a bank's online bill-paying service before they choose.“Paying bills online is in the mainstream, and for the first time online banking and bill pay has moved into the top three factors considered by consumers when choosing a bank," said Matt Lewis, executive vice president and general manager of CheckFree's Electronic Commerce Division.

Retail Sales Dip in October, But Less Than Expected

If it weren't for fewer car purchases and high gas prices, retail sales for October would have been strong, a new government report shows.Analysts had predicted retail sales would fall 0.7 percent last month, but sales actually fell only 0.1 percent from the month before, Reuters reported. Car sales fell sharply by 3.6 percent in October, so if those figures were excluded, retail sales would have risen 0.9 percent.

Consumer Confidence Seems to Recover

A recently released poll shows that consumer confidence took a rebound in November according to the Associated Press. The RBC CASH Index showed an upward trend starting in September at 61.5 to October at 66.8 to November’s poll numbers at 81, almost a 20-point increase in two months. The RBS CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index started at 100 in January 2002 according to a prepared statement. The monthly results are obtained in phone interviews with 1,000 individuals located across the United States.

October Manufacturing Report Still Positive Overall

An October manufacturing report shows that while manufacturing activity is expanding, it declined from September’s 59.4 percent to 59.1 in October. The Associated Press reports that manufacturing felt the increasing strain of rising energy and raw materials prices. The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) ranks activity with values above 50 indicating expansion and those below 50 showing shrinking activity.

As Expected, Fed Raises Rate One Quarter Point

The Federal Reserve’s interest-rate setting Federal Open Market Committee raised the federal funds rate one quarter point to 4 percent Tuesday, the twelfth consecutive increase since June 2004. In a statement announcing the increase, the Fed cited “robust underlying growth in productivity” and “economic activity that will likely be augmented by planned rebuilding in the hurricane affected areas,” as motivators for the change, the Associated Press reports.

Record High Oil Profits Spur Talk of Windfall Tax

Talk of a windfall tax on oil companies is surfacing as the companies are reporting their latest quarterly revenue. The concern is that while American consumers are facing much higher energy costs, especially for heating oil and natural gas, the oil companies are reporting record-high profits. “Some might call it a novel approach for me, but I cannot sit back in good conscience while those in our society struggling to heat their homes are being left in the cold by oil companies,” Sen.

Americans' Spending, Income Up in September

Consumer spending increased somewhat in September, but income grew by the largest amount in 10 months, a federal report says.The U.S. Department of Commerce said income rose 1.7 percent, due in part to post-hurricane insurance payouts, which increased at a $120 billion annual rate, Reuters reported. Consumer spending increased 0.5 percent in September, but when the figures were adjusted for inflation, the increase turned into a 0.4 percent drop because soaring fuel prices eroded the gains. Consumer spending amounts to about two-thirds of all economic activity.

Reverse Mortgages in the Wake of Hurricane Disaster

Marketwatch reports that mortgage servicers are continuing to pay borrowers on their reverse mortgages but how long will they be able to say that in the face of the destruction in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita? While these servicers pay out mortgage payments, they are holding their breath to see how the insurance coverage paid by borrowers respond to the disaster.The operative question is if the value of the reverse mortgage is based on the home that might have been destroyed in the storms or resulting destruction.

It Pays to Take Another Look at Ocean Freight Charges

Retailers and importers importing goods via ocean freight may have a sum of $50,000,000 in erroneous freight rate charges waiting to be claimed according to Ocean Freight Refunds. Ocean Freight Refunds closely examines ocean freight charges for importers to determine if any errors have been made.

Small Businesses and Commuters Drive Downtown

Two recent studies reveal important trends about the growth of the downtown areas of American cities. According to a new study by the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses are the drivers of inner city economies and job growth. At the same time, the first-ever estimates from the U.S.

September Payrolls Higher Than Predicted

Hurricane Katrina drove thousands of people from their jobs, and economists say the jobs picture will worsen before it improves.In September, 35,000 nonfarm jobs were lost, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, but economists had estimated 150,000 lost jobs in the wake of the Aug. 29 Gulf Coast disaster.

August Factory Orders Higher

New orders for manufactured goods rose 2.5 percent in August offsetting a 2.5 percent decrease in July. These numbers may show that the economy is robust even with higher energy prices according to Reuters. Two hurricanes’ worth of damage to the Gulf Coast had not occurred when these numbers were compiled.
Education & Careers

Katrina Exodus Proves Just How Mobile Americans Are

America is a mobile society. A fact demonstrated by the 1.3 million households from the Gulf Coast communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that USA Today reports have dispersed to every state in the nation.

Consumer Confidence Sinks to Lowest Level in Two Years in September

In the largest decline since 1990, U.S. consumer confidence in September sank almost 19 points to its lowest level in nearly two years.

Cost of Hurricane Rita Lower Than Expected but Still in Top Ten

Insurers including Allstate Corp. and St. Paul Travelers Cos. estimate insured storm damage from Hurricane Rita may reach $6 billion, reports, less than a third of analysts’ early predictions. Paul Supple of State Farm Insurance said that estimates were lower because Rita’s path took it to the east of the densely populated areas of Galveston and Houston.Robert Hartwig, chief economist with the Insurance Information Institute estimates the cost may be less, $4.5 billion.

World Bank IMF Meeting to Focus on Trade, Debt Relief, Equal Access

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will hold their annual plenary sessions in Washington DC on September 24 and 25th.

Regulatory Relief Sought For Small Businesses

A report by the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy reveals that the full annual cost of Federal regulations on businesses is $1.1 trillion or 11 percent of additional income. The report, The Impact of Regulatory Cost on Small Firms, finds that the total Federal regulatory cost per employee in firms with 500 or more employees is $5,282 per employee while in firms with less than 20 employees, the cost escalates to $7,647 or 45 percent over larger firms with 500+ employees.

Fed Bumps Up Interest Rate, More Increases Likely

The Federal Reserve raised its short-term interest rate target to 3.75 percent Tuesday, but for the first time in more than two years the vote was not unanimous.Advertisement

U.S. Trade Deficit Decreases in July

The Commerce Department reported last week that the nation’s trade deficit narrowed in July as a record amount of U.S. goods and services were sold overseas. The trade deficit, expected to increase by about 3 percent, instead shrank by 2.6 percent to $57.9 billion. Economists had noted slight hints indicating this turn-around.

SBA, Labor Dept. Expect Flood of Applications

Experts expect the number of new applications for unemployment benefits and federal disaster loans to increase dramatically in coming days and weeks. The jobless rate in the states ravaged by Hurricane Katrina are expected to spike to 25 percent or higher the Associated Press reports.


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