Business news

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."

Mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop carriers, known as MRAPs, were built to withstand bomb blasts. They can weigh nearly 20 tons, and many U.S. troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are alive today because of them. But many of the vehicles are now considered military surplus, so thanks to a congressionally mandated Pentagon program, they're finding their way to hundreds of police and sheriff's departments.

Arthur Andersen is back. Or at least the old accounting firm's name will be, for the first time since its association with accounting scandals at Enron more than a decade ago.

The firm was criminally convicted — a decision that was later overturned, although that came too late to save the company.

As of Monday, a company called WTAS is adopting the Andersen name and, in doing so, hopes clients will have forgotten the bad associations.

'That Was The End'

Detroit's historic bankruptcy case is entering the home stretch. The crucial, final trial phase begins Tuesday in a Detroit courtroom.

The trial will decide the fate of a plan to wipe out billions of dollars in debt and help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy as a new, revitalized city.

This trial is a big deal, but don't expect anything with lots of courtroom drama. For one thing, it's federal bankruptcy court — and there's no jury.

BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico disrupted business all along the coastline. Through the end of July, the oil giant paid more than $13 billion to compensate people, businesses and communities affected. The company is disputing some of those claims in court battles that could drag on for years.

For millions of Americans, August is a month for relaxing and basking in the summer sunlight.

Those are the people without children.

The households with students are likely to be scurrying around under the bright florescent lights of big-box stores, searching for back-to-school bargains on clothes, shoes, notebooks, backpacks, computers and dorm furniture.

And many shoppers are timing their purchases to take advantage of sales-tax holidays for school-related items, hoping to keep a bit more in their wallets.

Of all the U.S. currency in the world, nearly 80 percent is in $100 bills. That's about a trillion dollars.

Some people want to get rid of the bill altogether. Ken Rogoff, an economist at Harvard University, says the $100 bill helps criminals:

Inequality Is Falling On Planet Earth

Aug 12, 2014

Inequality is rising in the U.S. You know this. As the graph below shows, incomes since 1988 have been flat for poor and middle-class people, and rising for the upper-middle-class and, especially, for the wealthy.

A bunch of causes are commonly cited for rising inequality. One is globalization: Competition from foreign workers has kept a lid on wages for low-skilled workers, and added to gains for some at the top of the income ladder.

Lynn Eldredge has worked hard for the past three decades. But somehow, it's still not quite enough.

Eldredge started his working life in the Air Force, and eventually found a steady job in a factory in Kansas. But then, in 2000, he was laid off — and has had six different jobs since then.

Over the past several decades in the U.S., wages have stayed flat or even gone down, while the cost of living has gone up. Economists say that's because jobs went overseas, technology replaced human labor and labor unions have seen their influence decline.

The coal industry made its presence known in Pittsburgh this week for public hearings on President Obama's controversial plan to address climate change. A key element is rules the Environmental Protection Agency proposed in June. They would cut greenhouse gas emissions — chiefly carbon dioxide — from existing power plants. The national goal is 30 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.