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  • Top 400 U.S. households paid 18 percent average tax rate in 2010 Nov 22, 2014 5:01 AM
    The IRS data offer a glimpse into the finances of the wealthiest U.S. households, who now receive more than twice the share of national income than they did in 1995.These taxpayers had 1.31 percent of all adjusted gross income in the U.S. in 2010 and paid 2.01 percent of the income taxes, though they make up less than 0.001 percent of the population, according to the IRS.

  • Migrant wages just got a boost Nov 22, 2014 8:23 PM
    Dishwashers will become waiters, and day laborers will move to full-time work on farms, forcing employers to pay higher wages for new workers. A 1986 immigration law covering 2 million people pushed up pay by 15 percent in the first six years for those workers.

  • Jobless rates fall in two-thirds of U.S. states Nov 21, 2014 2:05 PM
    Steady economic growth has prompted more companies to add jobs, though the additional hiring hasn’t yet boosted wages. Nationwide, employers added 214,000 jobs in October, the ninth straight month of gains above 200,000.

  • Why students have no idea what college actually costs Nov 16, 2014 6:21 AM
    Figuring out how to pay for a college education has become an exercise in accounting. The College Scholarship Service Profile, a financial aid application that demands nothing short of a family’s financial history, was due in two days. It’s a far more detailed companion to the Federal Student Aid form, which he hadn’t started yet either. Adere, a T.C. Williams High School senior, had, however, just applied for a full-ride scholarship.

  • Students’ borrowing decreases, College Board says Nov 16, 2014 6:20 AM
    Students and parents borrowed $106 billion in 2013-2014 from the federal government and other sources, the report found. That was down nearly 8 percent from the previous year after accounting for inflation, and down 13 percent from a peak of $122.1 billion in 2010-2011.

  • Shoppers chase bargain prices even as economy improves Nov 16, 2014 6:20 AM
    WASHINGTON — The jobless rate is at a six-year low, gas prices have dipped below $3 a gallon, and consumers are more upbeat about the economy. These are the kind of economic conditions that should encourage consumers to loosen their purse strings this holiday season, and indeed, surveys show that shoppers plan to spend more this year on gifts and decor. But consumers are also stubbornly clinging to one recession-era shopping behavior that has retailers scrambling: discount prices. “The retail industry has created this monster that they wish they hadn’t,” said Jennifer Black, president of retail research firm Jennifer Black & Associates. Retailers say they are girding for a fierce competition over who can offer the best prices this holiday season, and many have already kicked off their deals. Wal-Mart lowered prices on 20,000 items Nov. 1 and expects the majority of those cuts to remain in place through the holiday season. Amazon.com, Staples and several other retailers have already made their Thanksgiving weekend deals available to shoppers. Hunting for rock-bottom prices has long been a Black Friday tradition, but experts say the emphasis on promotional pricing rose to new heights during the recession. Retailers aggressively slashed prices throughout the holiday season when they found merchandise wasn’t moving. That practice continued even after the holidays as the recession dragged on, and customers became trained to look for deep discounts such as “40 percent off your entire purchase.” Experts say the lingering promotion-mania may be related to one of the key weaknesses of this economic recovery: Wages have largely remained stagnant, meaning plenty of households likely aren’t feeling more flush than they were several years ago. Noneconomic factors, too, are fueling the promotion addiction. The Web has created unprecedented transparency around price, and smartphones have made it easier for shoppers to make sure they’re not missing out on a better deal. In a survey released by Deloitte in October, 68 percent of shoppers said they were likely or very likely to research a purchase online before ultimately making it at a store. Twenty-three percent of shoppers said they would use their phones to do in-store price comparisons. Retailers say they are struggling to cater to customers’ desire for deep discounts without destroying their already-thin profit margins. “It becomes a limbo contest: How low can you go? At some point you’ve got to fold the hand,” said Charlie O’Shea, a retail analyst at Moody’s Investor Service. Gap CEO Glenn Murphy told investors in August that there’s “a bit of a promotional merry-go-round in the marketplace,” an environment the company said was a key reason its merchandise margins slipped in the second quarter. While Gap’s Old Navy brand has been a relative bright spot for the company, its flagship Gap stores have been struggling to recover from several months of weak sales. Experts say retailers are gradually adjusting to this new normal. Williams-Sonoma, for example, told investors in August that in recent quarters it has reduced its spending on advertising to free up money for more discounts. Best Buy, meanwhile, says it has implemented new pricing and tracking capabilities that have enabled it to see which of its promotional offers are getting the most traction with customers. In this competitive climate, analysts note that there is an important distinction between planned and unplanned promotions. When retailers plan to offer a discount, they likely bake that into their original pricing. In other words, if they plan to offer a “40 percent off your purchase” deal for much of the holiday season, they’ll likely set the price of a sweater at $100 knowing they’d typically be selling for $60. The trouble comes when retailers are forced to unexpectedly offer a promotion because sales are slow, which can put a strain on their profit margins. As the recession gets further in the rearview mirror, Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, said his organization has noticed a new twist on deal-hunting. In some cases, shoppers are once again shelling out for pricier items, such as upscale denim or luxury handbags, suggesting that they have a comfortable shopping budget. But even as they do so, they’re still only opening their wallets when the items are priced promotionally. “No one wants to feel like a chump,” said Alison Paul, leader of Deloitte’s U.S. retail practice.

  • 4 benefits changes that may stem from overhaul tax Nov 16, 2014 6:16 AM
    Millions of employees are learning this month about changes in their employer-sponsored health coverage for 2015. Some of the adjustments are likely to stem from the looming tax, which will hit plans valued at more than $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for families. Nearly half of employers with 5,000 or more workers will trigger this tax in 2018, according to the benefits firm Towers Watson. They’ll find a bill that amounts to 40 percent of the total value of coverage that exceeds those thresholds.

  • Review: No cash, cards, just mobile pay for a week Nov 15, 2014 7:31 AM
    Apple Pay has gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks, but there are lots of other mobile-payment systems. Google Wallet uses a similar wireless technology called NFC, or near-field communication. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have apps that generate bar codes for their stores. A phone case called LoopPay mimics the signals produced by card swipes so you can pay with your phone just about anywhere credit cards are accepted — at least in theory.

  • What Japan’s stimulus jolt means for investors Nov 9, 2014 7:44 AM
    From hot to not and back again, Japanese stocks have been a confusing lot the last couple years. Japan’s stock market is flying after the Bank of Japan surprised the world last week by increasing its bond-buying stimulus program. The Nikkei 225 index jumped nearly 5 percent the day of the announcement, and it’s back in the black for the year. In the spring, it was down nearly 15 percent. That follows a stellar 2013, where the Nikkei soared nearly 60 percent.

  • Wages showing spark of hope came too late for Democrats Nov 9, 2014 7:35 AM
    Barack Obama’s 2008 promise to bring hope and change to an economy mired in crisis may be starting to materialize. It just came too late to save the president’s party from defeat. As voters cited the economy as their most pressing concern when they gave Republicans control of the Senate Tuesday, there are signs that incomes, one of the biggest sticking points, are beginning to perk up.

  • Shopping apps offer cash back at the grocery store Nov 9, 2014 7:31 AM
    Preparing for your Thanksgiving meal? Be aware that a new breed of shopping apps makes it easier to save money at the grocery store: Take a picture of the receipt and wait for the cash to roll in. SavingStar, Snap, Checkout 51, and others, let users earn money back if they buy certain products.

  • Stocks that could benefit from a GOP-led Congress Nov 9, 2014 7:31 AM
    Lower taxes for medical device makers. Lighter regulations for coal. If the new Republican-led Congress manages to push through these policy changes it could lift stocks in the health and energy industries, market strategists say. To be sure, President Obama still has two years left in the White House and can use his veto power to stop legislation.

  • Why many aren’t celebrating low unemployment Nov 8, 2014 1:42 PM
    Is there solid evidence that the economy is better? Definitely.Home values have recovered from their recession-induced lows, according to real estate groups. Government figures show that fewer and fewer workers are being laid-off. Consumers punched the accelerator on auto sales this year. And the stock market has kept up its stampede to record highs.

  • $50.4 million in suburbs’ money could be lost to scam Nov 8, 2014 7:35 AM
    About $50.4 milion in taxpayer money could be lost after suburban mayors and other local leaders learned this week that a potentially far-reaching scam hit an Oak Brook-based government investment firm. Some money invested by the village of Hanover Park, the Palatine Park District and the Des Plaines-based Northwest Municipal Conference is at risk.

  • Prices increase slightly on Illinois health plans Nov 7, 2014 6:41 PM
    Prices for the cheapest “bronze” plans will increase by an average of 11 percent. Bronze plans, which cover fewer medical expenses and are less expensive, were selected last year by 29 percent of Illinois shoppers. People can switch plans starting Nov. 15, and the second open enrollment season under President Barack Obama’s health care law runs through Feb. 15.

  • Judge approves bankruptcy exit plan for Detroit Nov 7, 2014 5:59 PM
    Politicians and civic leaders, including Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, hailed Friday’s milestone as a fresh start for the city and the beginning of what could be a bright new era. It was Snyder who agreed with state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr to take the city into Chapter 9.

  • Breathing cleaner air has cost as utility bills to surge in U.S. Nov 3, 2014 8:11 AM
    U.S. electricity markets face years of higher prices as clean-air regulations shut more coal-fired power plants than earlier forecast, cutting supply and forcing producers to rely more on natural gas. “We are really in for a wild ride for five to six years because of the amount of coal shutting down in such a short amount of time and the transformation toward more gas being used to generate electricity,” Philip Moeller, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, said in an Oct. 23 interview.

  • Time's up: 5 tips to tackle student loan debt Nov 3, 2014 8:13 AM
    Tackling a hefty new monthly expense can be daunting, particularly for recent grads who haven't found steady work. But grads have many options for making student loan payments more manageable, even putting them off, if they qualify. Here are five ways recent grads can manage their student loan debt.

  • Why gasoline is suddenly $3 a gallon, and could go lower Nov 3, 2014 8:14 AM
    Two years ago Leonardo Maugeri, a former strategist for the big Italian oil company ENI, predicted that crude oil prices were heading for a fall in two to three years. It wasn't an obvious forecast; the average price of OPEC crude oil that year set an record. Today, with oil prices hovering around $80 a barrel, Maugeri is feeling good about his prediction. He said in a separate email that prices could fall to $75 a barrel — or even lower if the markets go into a panic.

  • Online stores fight Amazon for piece of retail pie Nov 1, 2014 7:43 AM
    Amazon.com’s low prices and seemingly endless array of goods have made it the biggest online retailer in the U.S., commanding about 20 percent of all e-commerce. The company is projected to have over $89 billion in revenue this year. Its massive success has driven other sites to offer similar perks and deals to woo customers and hold on to their piece of the retail pie. Some retailers now even offer to match Amazon’s prices to try to win your business. That’s good news for shoppers. So if you’re searching for anything from beauty products to books, here’s a look at some Amazon-like deals to take advantage of.

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