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  • Can the calm last in the municipal bond market? Mar 9, 2014 5:00 AM
    Municipal bonds are getting another chance. Money is flowing once again into muni-bond mutual funds, a turnaround from last year’s exodus. So far, investors have been rewarded for renewing their interest, but managers caution that several challenges remain.

     
  • Russia warns heavier sanctions could backfire Mar 8, 2014 9:36 PM
    On Capitol Hill, both chambers of Congress looked to advance legislation imposing hard-hitting sanctions on Russia.President Obama hailed U.S. cooperation with the European Union, which on Thursday suspended talks with Putin’s government on a wide-ranging economic agreement and on granting Russian citizens visa-free travel within the 28-nation bloc. But Europe’s presidents and prime ministers remain divided on taking more drastic steps such as freezing assets and issuing travel bans on Russian officials.

     
  • Austin tech firm had 20 employees on missing plane Mar 8, 2014 9:11 PM
    An Austin, Texas, technology company says 20 of its employees were aboard the Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing over the South China Sea.

     
  • Credit industry headed for cards with chips Mar 7, 2014 4:31 PM
    Visa and MasterCard are forming a group that’s intended to help the retail and banking industries come together on more-secure credit card payments.

     
  • U.S. companies spend heavily on big mergers in 2014 Mar 6, 2014 7:22 AM
    So far, 2014 is looking like the year of the big deal. Flush with cash and high stock prices, companies are buying up the competition at levels not seen since the dotcom bubble. And with Washington providing more clarity on government spending plans, CEOs are more confident their expansion hopes will pan out — especially if the economy keeps growing.

     
  • U.S. consumer spending up 0.4 percent in January Mar 3, 2014 7:58 AM
    Americans boosted spending in January despite the harsh winter weather but activity was much weaker in December than initially reported. The Commerce Department says that spending rose 0.4 percent in January following a tiny 0.1 percent gain in December which had initially been reported as a stronger 0.4 percent increase.

     
  • Obama to push minimum wage this week Mar 1, 2014 8:33 PM
    Officials note that California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have raised the minimum wage since early 2013, when Obama first called on Congress to increase it. Obama recently used his executive power to enact a $10.10 minimum wage for the few hundred thousand people who work on federal contracts. Gap Inc., the clothing chain, recently announced plans to raise voluntarily the minimum hourly wage for its U.S. employees to $10 next year, a move Obama applauded.

     
  • Highlights from Warren Buffett’s annual letter Mar 1, 2014 11:32 PM
    Buffett had plenty of good news to discuss Saturday as he recounted the performance of his Omaha, Neb., based company with humor and wit. He also dispensed some investing advice.Here’s some of what Buffett had to say.

     
  • U.S. calls on Russia to withdraw forces from Ukraine Mar 1, 2014 10:02 PM
    President Barack Obama on Saturday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate the tense atmosphere in Ukraine by pulling his forces back to bases in the country's Crimean region and to refrain from interfering elsewhere in the former Soviet satellite. Obama personally delivered the message to Putin during a 90-minute telephone conversation, the White House said late Saturday.

     
  • Berkshire Hathaway profit up 10 percent Mar 1, 2014 1:48 PM
    Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns roughly 80 subsidiaries, including railroad, clothing, furniture and jewelry firms. Its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company’s net income. The company also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co., IBM and Wells Fargo & Co., and last year bought NV Energy and a major stake in H.J. Heinz.

     
  • Citigroup lowers 2013 profit on Mexico fraud Feb 28, 2014 7:17 PM
    Citigroup reduced its 2013 earnings by $235 million on Friday, saying it was a victim of fraud committed by a Mexican oil services company to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in short-term loans.

     
  • Elk Grove CEO charged with defrauding investors of $9 million Feb 28, 2014 5:42 PM
    Gregory Webb, CEO of InfrAegis Inc., which has offices in Elk Grove Village, has been charged with defrauding investors of about $9 million. Webb, of Dallas, formerly lived in Arlington Heights.

     
  • Burger chain owner aims for sizzle with Maxim buy Feb 28, 2014 7:18 PM
    Seeking some sizzle, the owner of the Steak ‘n Shake burger chain is buying men’s magazine Maxim. Alpha Media Group Inc. put Maxim up for sale a year ago. The publication has struggled, with ad dollars dropping 28 percent last year to $80.7 million, bucking a 1 percent gain for consumer magazines overall, said the Association of Magazine Media. Terms of the deal with Biglari Holdings Inc. were not released. The San Antonio-based company, headed by CEO Sardar Biglari, says Maxim will continue under its current management team and stay based in New York.

     
  • US bank earnings rise 17 pct as loan losses fall Feb 26, 2014 11:39 AM
    U.S. banks’ earnings rose 17 percent in the October-December quarter from a year earlier, as losses on loans fell to a seven-year low and banks set aside less to cover losses as well as legal costs. The data provides fresh evidence of the banking industry’s sustained recovery more than five years after the financial crisis struck. Still, the government says banks continue to have difficulty increasing revenues, and are relying on setting aside less for loan losses to boost earnings. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported Wednesday that the banking industry earned $40.3 billion in the final quarter of 2013, up from $34.4 billion in the same period in 2012. For all of 2013, bank earnings increased 9.6 percent to what the agency calls a record annual level of $154.7 billion. It exceeded the previous record earnings of $145.2 billion in 2006. The number of banks on the FDIC’s “problem” list fell to 467 in the final quarter of 2013 from 515 in the third quarter. Banks’ losses on loans dropped 36.7 percent to $11.7 billion, the lowest level for a fourth quarter since 2006, the FDIC said. The largest decline came in home mortgages, which posted a 57.7 percent drop in losses. FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said the latest results showed “a continuation of the recovery in the banking industry.” At the same time, he said, the industry still faces challenges including only modest growth in lending, narrow profit margins and a decline in mortgage refinancing business as long-term interest rates have risen. Banks with assets exceeding $10 billion drove the bulk of the earnings growth in the October-December period. While they make up just 1.5 percent of U.S. banks, they accounted for about 82 percent of industry earnings. Those banks include Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. Most of them have recovered with help from federal bailout money during the financial crisis and record-low borrowing rates. Last year, the number of bank failures slowed to 24, still more than normal. In a strong economy, an average of four or five banks close annually. But failures were down sharply from 51 in 2012, 92 in 2011 and 157 in 2010 — the most in one year since the height of the savings and loan crisis in 1992. In the fourth quarter, the decline in bank failures allowed the deposit insurance fund to continue to strengthen. The fund, which turned from deficit to positive in the second quarter of 2011, had a $47.2 billion balance as of Dec. 31, according to the FDIC. That compares with $40.7 billion at the end of September. The FDIC, created during the Great Depression to ensure bank deposits, monitors and examines the financial condition of U.S. banks. The agency guarantees bank deposits up to $250,000 per account. Apart from its deposit insurance fund, the FDIC also has tens of billions of dollars in reserves.

     
  • Online retailers let you try before you buy Feb 23, 2014 6:37 AM
    The fitting room is coming home. Online retailers that sell jeans, eyeglasses and shoes are shipping their products to customers for free to try on at home before buying them. It’s a way for newer online brands to hook potential customers. A credit card is needed, but nothing is charged unless the items aren’t returned on time. The limit for how long you can keep items is usually about a week. Shipping is free both ways and there’s no obligation to buy anything.

     
  • Choppy market hasn’t halted flows into stock funds Feb 23, 2014 6:07 AM
    Hearts raced faster as stock markets around the world stumbled in January, but that didn’t stop investors from plugging more money into mutual funds. For a seventh straight month, investors put more cash into mutual funds than they withdrew.

     
  • BC-US--Detroit Bankruptcy-5 Effects,368A look at the effects of Detroit's bankruptcy plan Feb 22, 2014 1:01 AM
    The plan calls for the city to spend $1.5 billion over 10 years to remove blighted properties, upgrade public-safety equipment and technology and make other improvements. When the city filed for bankruptcy in July, it reported having 78,000 abandoned and blighted residential buildings — roughly 20 percent of the housing stock.

     
  • Tax break helps New York lure ‘The Tonight Show’ Feb 22, 2014 4:21 PM
    New York’s mayor believes the show’s relocation was a triumph with wide-ranging benefits.“Bringing ‘The Tonight Show’ back to our city means we’re bringing more than a hundred jobs to hard-working New Yorkers, and giving travelers another great reason to visit,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

     
  • Governors: Buzz about legalized pot just smoke Feb 22, 2014 4:14 PM
    “When governors have asked me, and several have, I say that we don’t have the facts. We don’t know what the unintended consequences are going to be,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says. “I urge caution.” The Democrat continued: “I say, if it was me, I’d wait a couple of years.”

     
  • Detroit files plan to fix debt Feb 21, 2014 4:20 PM
    Police and fire retirees will receive at least 90 percent of their pension after elimination of cost of living allowances. General city retirees would likely receive at least 70 percent. Other creditors: Most of the rest, such as bond insurers, will receive about 20 percent of their claims.

     
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