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This weekend, Will Falls decided to skip the local mall near Raleigh, N.C., and shop online instead.

"No standing in line, no finding a parking spot," he says. "Just get comfortable and go at it."

Millions of Americans did the same — Falls helped contribute to an 8.5 percent increase in online shopping Monday compared with 2013, according to data from IBM.

That growth stands in contrast to an 11 percent drop in sales reported by the National Retail Federation at brick-and-mortar stores over the Black Friday weekend compared with a year ago.

For three years, Erin Maynard ran a store called The Geeky Cauldron out of her home in Phoenix. On the online artisan marketplace Etsy, she sold jewelry inspired by themes from popular books, films and TV shows: think vampires and wizards. For the most part, it made her decent income, but month-to-month sales were a roller coaster: Some months, sales topped $5,000, while other months they barely cracked $1,000.

The global economy rolls along more smoothly when it's not riding a unicycle. It needs additional wheels for momentum and stability.

That is, in effect, what Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is telling leaders of other advanced nations.

Jack Blankenship was pinned facedown in the dirt, his neck, shoulder and back throbbing with pain.

He was alone on an errand, in a dark tunnel a mile underground at the Aracoma Alma coal mine in Logan County, W.Va., when a 300-pound slab of rock peeled away from the roof and slammed him to the ground. As his legs grew numb, he managed to free an arm and reach his radio. For two hours, he pressed the panic button that was supposed to bring help quickly.

It's lunchtime in Douglas, Wyo., a town smack in the middle of the state's booming oil patch, and the line of cars at the McDonald's drive-through wraps around the building. A hiring poster hangs in the window, and the parking lot is full.

Troy Hilbish, a tool hand for the oil field servicing company Schlumberger, says while he didn't know oil prices have been falling, he does know what falling prices mean.

"If the oil prices go up, we drill more," Hilbish says. "If they go down, we don't drill as much."

Five steps to survive your adult child's return home

Nov 7, 2014

When you waved your grown-up kids off to college, cheered at their graduation, congratulated them on a first job or helped them move in with a partner, you didn't expect that one day you'd be following up those milestones with: "Welcome home!"

But one of the ironies of 21st century life is that just at the crossroads when emerging adults want to take a great leap forward toward independence, many are forced by circumstance to come back home. 

The New Perfect Storm

As times got tough in the recent recession, the less well-off of America's citizens became more generous when giving to charity. But at the same time, wealthy Americans cut the proportion of their incomes they donated, according to a new study that analyzed data from tax returns.

NPR's Pam Fessler reports for our Newscast unit:

If it weren't for American manufacturing, I wouldn't be here today.

Literally.

A century ago, my grandfather moved from Poland to Youngstown, Ohio, to work in a steel mill. At the time, Ohio factories were cranking out steel slabs, tires and cars — building a mountain of wealth that the next generation could climb. And the generation after that.

But what will happen in the 21st century? Is the path that led to higher ground blocked now?

The answer is complicated.

My homeowners insurance policy reads as though somebody took all of the bad things that can happen in the world and divided them into two buckets: stuff that is covered and stuff that is not covered.

I'm covered for damage from fire, lightning and malicious mischief. I'm covered if a volcano spews lava onto my house. It's right here under "Additional Coverages." Paragraph 10. "Volcanic Action."

But there's this other section, "Losses Not Insured," that tells you how insurance really works. For example, Paragraph 2, Subparagraph e:

The Federal Reserve is among the most powerful institutions in the nation and also among the more private. But new audio tapes secretly recorded by a former employee provide a rare look into meetings involving officials from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

In them, you hear officials considering how to oversee Goldman Sachs, and specifically, they discuss a financial transaction that one official describes as "legal but shady."

Why Jewelry Stores Hide The Price Tags

Sep 22, 2014

When Tara Silberberg was a little girl, she helped out at her parents' jewelry store and wrote the prices on the tiny price tags.

"I had such good handwriting, too," said Silberberg. "Just teeny tiny, minuscule little handwriting."

Not that customers would see it: The price tags were turned upside down or tucked away. Even now, when Silberberg runs the store, she still hides the prices.

Customers have to ask Silberberg what the price is, or guess it. It's like playing a jewelry store version of The Price Is Right.

Does news of Scotland's independence vote make your eyelids feel heavy?

Americans may feel a yawn coming on when told of a political squabble playing out in a distant land less populated than metro Atlanta.

But economists say this Thursday's vote is no snoozer. You may wake up to find its outcome has triggered another global financial upheaval.

To understand the risks to your economic health, let's first review a couple of basics:

With Debt Collection, Your Bank Account Could Be At Risk

Sep 16, 2014

Kari Fiotti moved back to Omaha, Neb., in 2009 after a decade living in Italy. She had divorced her husband and returned to the U.S. to start a new life.

Then, Fiotti, 44, took a pricey fall.

"When I came back, I fell and I broke my wrist without insurance," she says.

Her doctor, she says, rejected her offer to make partial payments. So, like millions of Americans, her debt — which had grown to $1,640 with interest and fees — was turned over to collectors.

Fiotti soon learned how hard they would try to collect her unpaid bills.

A special compensation fund for victims of GM's faulty ignition switch has issued its first report, and it makes clear that GM will pay claims for more than the 13 deaths the automaker says were linked to the defect.

GM established the voluntary compensation fund as part of its ongoing mea culpa for delaying an ignition switch recall for a decade.

The program is only for Cobalts, HHRs, Saturn Ions and a few other GM models, all no longer in production, and only for those killed or injured when their airbags did not deploy because the ignition switch had turned off.

In a dramatic showdown in 2008, the United States government threatened to sue the Internet giant Yahoo! $250,000 a day if it did not turn over a vast amount of user data.

That's according to the company's general counsel, who announced today that it had won a fight to release documents relating to a secret court decision, which sided with the government, finding the broad request constitutional.

The Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba is poised this week for what could be one of the biggest IPOs in Wall Street history. One reason Alibaba has been so dominant in China is its business-to-consumer platform, Taobao, a sort of Chinese eBay.

Last year, Taobao and Alibaba's brand-name retail site, Tmall, drove nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in transactions.

Along the way, Taobao has even transformed village economies.

Market Watch: September 2014, Financial News from Chornayk & Associates

Sep 10, 2014

  U.S. markets shoot higher

August was another very strong month for U.S. stock markets, even as the conflict in Ukraine worsened and signs of weaker global economic growth appeared. After a slow first week, gains were steady through month-end, with the S&P 500 Index closing out August up 4 percent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 3.6 percent, and the Nasdaq up 4.82 percent. The larger uptick for the Nasdaq suggests that investors were becoming more focused on gains than on market risks.

In the power business, it's all about managing the peaks.

During the hottest days of summer, electric utilities run at full capacity to keep giant cities comfortably cool. But most of the rest of the year, half that capacity goes unused — and that's highly inefficient.

The August jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a mixed one: It shows that hiring slowed in August, but the unemployment rate dipped a tenth of a percent.

Here are the two big numbers:

-- The economy added 142,000 jobs; way below the 200,000 level needed to continue pushing down the unemployment rate and way below that of the previous six months.

Pittsburgh International Airport employee Bob Mrvos jokes that you could golf in the terminals' corridors — they're that empty, especially compared with other airports he flies into in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago.

"You walk through those airports and you can barely get through the hallway there's so many people," Mrvos says. "And when you land in Pittsburgh, it's like the airport's closed."

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