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Across the country, state budgets are back in the black after years of belt-tightening and spending cuts. From California to Florida, in nearly every state, the economic recovery has produced a surge in tax revenue.

For governors and state legislators, that's produced a new question: how to spend the money.

The past three years have not been easy ones for elected officials. Nearly every state requires them to produce a balanced budget. And with declining revenue from sales, property and income taxes, that has meant big spending cuts.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, a Starbucks coffee shop looks as it would in the United States. It has the same jazzy music; the same items on the menu.

There is one thing that is different, though: the prices.

"Everyone told me it's expensive, but when you see it yourself it's shocking," says one customer, Thierry, who is from Geneva and is in town for a wedding.

Like almost everything in the Texas, the construction industry in the Lone Star State is big. One in every 13 workers here is employed in the state's $54 billion-per-year construction industry.

Homebuilding and commercial construction may be an economic driver for the state, but it's also an industry riddled with hazards. Years of illegal immigration have pushed wages down, and accidents and wage fraud are common. Of the nearly 1 million workers laboring in construction here, approximately half are undocumented.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could soon issue a final ruling that aims to force oil companies to replace E10, gasoline mixed with 10 percent ethanol, with E15.

This move could come just as widespread support for ethanol, which is made from corn, appears to be eroding.

Mike Mitchell was once a true believer in ethanol as a homegrown solution to foreign oil imports. He owns gas stations, and he went further than most, installing expensive blender pumps that let customers choose E15, E20 and all the way up to E85.

For most Americans, the math for a comfortable retirement may never add up.

Illustrations produced by an Indian ad agency showing scantily clad cartoon women bound, gagged and stuffed into the hatch of a Ford Figo have led both the car company and the ad agency's parent to issue apologies.

The images, according to FirstPost.Business, were "scam ads — ads that are created not to sell products and services, but to win awards at awards shows such as the Abby or at Cannes."

A vote in Cyprus on whether to approve a controversial bailout plan has been postponed after the prospect of the deal caused bank customers to rush to withdraw their savings and drew the ire of overseas depositors.

As NPR's Krishnadev Calamur wrote in a post over the weekend: "The money [is] needed because Cyprus' banks lost 4.5 billion euros on their Greek bond holdings, which were written down last year after Greece's second bailout."

The Barron's magazine top financial advisor rankings are out again for this year, and we are proud to be in the national top 1,000, as well as having moved up to number 18 in the Ohio list.  We want to thank our clients for keeping us in this elite group.   

In the world of fast fashion, two U.S.-based companies loom large: Forever 21 and American Apparel. Both are based in Los Angeles, but the two could not be more different.

American Apparel proudly boasts that the clothes it sells are "made in the USA." In contrast, Forever 21 subcontracts with factories all over the world.

Dov Charney, American Apparel's Canadian-American founder and CEO, has a reputation. "I knew from a very early age — in elementary school — that I was going to rub some people the wrong way," he says.

Retail sales rose an estimated 1.1 percent in February from January and were up 4.6 percent from February 2012, the Census Bureau says.

Kathy Bostjancic director of macroeconomic analysis at the The Conference Board research group, says in an analysis sent to reporters that the report's a sign that "consumer spending remains relatively robust." And since consumers buy about 70 percent of all goods and services, their willingness to spend is a key economic driver.

There were 236,000 jobs added to payrolls in February — many more than expected — and the jobless rate unexpectedly dropped by two-tenths of a point, to 7.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

If A Driverless Car Crashes, Who's Liable?

Mar 8, 2013

Some number of years from now, the technology may exist for cars to drive themselves. This could save thousands of lives a year (90 percent of fatal car accidents involve human error).

But getting the technology right won't be enough. Governments and courts will have to figure out lots of new legal and regulatory issues. One key question: If a driverless car crashes, who's liable?

What it means to own something in the digital age is being re-negotiated.

Few of us own the music we listen to or the movies we watch in exactly the same way we did a decade ago. And today if you buy a smartphone from a cellphone company, what you can legally do with it — how and where you can use it — may be proscribed even if that phone is fully bought and paid for.

I keep a lot of music on my phone. I have the Stones, Janis Joplin and OK Go.

At the end of last year we were all talking about the "fiscal cliff." At the beginning of this year, the American Taxpayer Relief Act was passed and signed by the president, bringing about a lot of changes. 

Tax day is looming and taxpayers are scrambling to gather receipts, W-2 forms and other documents. For many, gone are the days of paper ledger books and calculators, now that there's software to figure out how much they owe.

Florida Atlantic University says it's standing by its deal to sell naming rights to its new football stadium to a controversial private prison company. The Boca Raton-based GEO Group faces allegations of abuse and neglect at some of its facilities, and there's a growing call on campus for the school to sever its ties.

Last year, J.C. Penney saw what every big retailer had been seeing for years: the threat of Amazon and other new competitors rising to destroy their business.

So J.C. Penney brought in a bold new CEO. Ron Johnson had already created Apple Store, a chain of physical stores where people flocked to shop. Before that, he had revamped Target.

And Johnson had a plan for J.C. Penney: Tell customers they don't have to spend time anymore clipping coupons or waiting for sales to happen. Instead, the store would offer fair prices on its merchandise every day.

Consider the following entirely fictitious but totally plausible scenario:

"Electricity is the most likely out of all of the alternative fuels ... to be the next fuel for the consumer."

That's what Jonathan Strickland of the website HowStuffWorks tells NPR's Jacki Lyden.

But electric vehicles are not without their controversies or challenges. One of the biggest questions is how a transition from gasoline to electric fuel can actually take place.

The Buckeye Tool Expo in Dalton, Ohio, is held in a massive hall filled with bearded men in black hats and women in white bonnets. A few horses and buggies are tied up outside.

The Amish have chosen to forgo many of the delights of the modern world, but they still need to drill, sand and cut wood. This trade expo shows off all the loopholes that let the Amish get their hands on power tools.

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