Showing posts with label World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World. Show all posts

With record highs in sight, stocks face roadblocks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If Wall Street needs to climb a wall of worry, it will have plenty of opportunity next week.

Major U.S. stock indexes will make another attempt at reaching all-time records, but the fitful pace that has dominated trading is likely to continue. Next Friday's unemployment report and the hefty spending cuts that look like they about to take effect will be at the forefront.

The importance of whether equities can reach and sustain those highs is more than Wall Street's usual fixation on numbers with psychological significance. Breaking through to uncharted territory is seen as a test of investors' faith in the rally.

"It's very significant," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

"The thinking is, there's just not enough there for an extended bull run," he said. "If we do break through (record highs), then maybe the charts and price action are telling us there's something better ahead."

Flare-ups in the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis and next Friday's report on the U.S. labor market could jostle the market, though U.S. job indicators have generally been trending in a positive direction.

Small- and mid-cap stocks hit lifetime highs in February. Now the Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> and the S&P 500 <.spx> are racing each other to the top. The Dow, made up of 30 stocks, is about 75 points - less than 1 percent - away from its record close of 14,164.53, which it hit on October 9, 2007. The broader S&P is still 3 percent away from its closing high of 1,565.15, also reached on October 9, 2007.

The advantage may be in the Dow's court. So far in 2013, it has gained 7.5 percent, beating the S&P 500 by about 1 percent.


The Dow's relative strength owes much to its unique make-up and calculation, as well as to investors' recent preference for buying value stocks likely to generate steady reliable gains, rather than growth stocks.

But the more defensive stance illustrates how stock buyers are getting concerned about this year's rally. While investors don't want to miss out on gains, they're picking up companies that are less likely to decline as much as high-flying names - if a market correction comes.

The Russell Value Index <.rav> is up 7.6 percent for the year so far, outpacing the Russell Growth Index's <.rag> 5.7 percent rise. Within the realm of the S&P 500, the consumer staples sector led the market in February, gaining 3.1 percent.

There is some concern that growth-oriented names are being eclipsed by defensive bets, said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati.

"This isn't a be-all and end-all sell signal by any means, but we would feel much more comfortable if some of the more aggressive areas, like technology and small caps, would start to gain some leadership here," Detrick said.

Signs that investors are becoming concerned about the rally's pace is evident in the options market, where the ratio of put activity to call activity has recently shifted in favor of puts, which represent expectations for a stock to fall.

"We are seeing some put hedging in the financials, building up for the past month," said Henry Schwartz, president of options analytics firm Trade Alert in New York.

The put-to-call ratio representing an aggregate of about 562 financial stocks is 1:1, when normally, calls should be outnumbering puts.

Investors have no shortage of reasons to crave the relative safety of blue chips and defensive stocks. Although markets have mostly looked past uncertainty over Washington's plans to cut the deficit, fiscal policy negotiations still pose a risk to equities.

The $85 billion in spending cuts set to begin on Friday is expected to slow economic growth this year if policymakers do not reach a new deal. Markets so far have held firm despite the wrangling in Washington, but tangible economic effects could pinch stock prices going forward.

The International Monetary Fund warned that full implementation of the cuts would probably take at least 0.5 percentage point off U.S. growth this year.


Investors will also take in a round of economic data at a time when concerns are percolating that the market is being pushed up less by fundamentals and more by loose monetary policy around the world.

The main economic event will be Friday's non-farm payrolls report for February. The U.S. economy is expected to have added 160,000 jobs last month, only a tad higher than in January, in a sign the labor market is healing at a slow pace. The U.S. unemployment rate is forecast to hold steady at 7.9 percent.

While lackluster data has been a catalyst in the past for stock market gains as investors bet it would ensure continued stimulus from the Federal Reserve, that sentiment may be wearing thin.

Markets stumbled last week following worries that the Fed might wind down its quantitative easing program sooner than expected.

"It shows the underpinning of the market is being driven at this point by monetary policy," Hellwig said.

With investors questioning what is behind the rally, it will make a run to record highs even more significant, Hellwig added.

"There's smart people that are in the bull camp and the bear camp and the muddle-through camp," Hellwig said. "The fact that you can statistically, using historical evidence, make a case for going higher, lower, or staying the same makes this number very important this time around."

(Wall St Week Ahead runs every Friday. Comments or questions on this column can be emailed to: leah.schnurr(at)

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Additional reporting by Doris Frankel in Chicago; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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Community college grads out-earn bachelor’s degree holders

Berevan Omer graduated on a Friday in February with an associate’s degree from Nashville State Community College and started work the following Monday as a computer-networking engineer at a local television station, making about $ 50,000 a year.

That’s 15% higher than the average starting salary for graduates — not only from community colleges, but for bachelor’s degree holders from four-year universities.

“I have a buddy who got a four-year bachelor’s degree in accounting who’s making $ 10 an hour,” Omer says. “I’m making two and a-half times more than he is.”

Omer, who is 24, is one of many newly minted graduates of community colleges defying history and stereotypes by proving that a bachelor’s degree is not, as widely believed, the only ticket to a middle-class income.

Nearly 30% of Americans with associate’s degrees now make more than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. In fact, other recent research in several states shows that, on average, community college graduates right out of school make more than graduates of four-year universities.

The average wage for graduates of community colleges in Tennessee, for instance, is $ 38,948 — more than $ 1,300 higher than the average salaries for graduates of the state’s four-year institutions.

In Virginia, recent graduates of occupational and technical degree programs at its community colleges make an average of $ 40,000. That’s almost $ 2,500 more than recent bachelor’s degree recipients.

“There is that perception that the bachelor’s degree is the default, and, quite frankly, before we started this work showing the value of a technical associate’s degree, I would have said that, too,” says Mark Schneider, vice president of the American Institutes for Research, which helped collect the earning numbers for some states.

And while by mid-career, many bachelor’s degree recipients have caught up in earnings to community college grads, “the other factor that has to be taken into account is that getting a four-year degree can be much more expensive than getting a two-year degree,” Schneider says.

A two-year community college degree, at present full rates, costs about $ 6,262, according to the College Board. A bachelor’s degree from a four-year, private residential university goes for $ 158,072.

The increase in wages for community college grads is being driven by a high demand for people with so-called “middle-skills” that often require no more than an associate’s degree, such as lab technicians, teachers in early childhood programs, computer engineers, draftsmen, radiation therapists, paralegals, and machinists.

With a two-year community college degree, air traffic controllers can make $ 113,547, radiation therapists $ 76,627, dental hygienists $ 70,408, nuclear medicine technologists $ 69,638, nuclear technicians $ 68,037, registered nurses $ 65,853, and fashion designers $ 63,170, reported in January.

“You come out with skills that people want immediately and not just theory,” Omer says.

The Georgetown center estimates that 29 million jobs paying middle class wages today require only an associate’s, and not a bachelor’s, degree.

“I would not suggest anyone look down their nose at the associate’s degree,” says Jeff Strohl, director of research at the Georgetown center.

“People see those programs as tracking into something that’s dead end,” Strohl says. “It’s very clear that that perception does not hold up.”

The bad news is that not enough associate’s degree holders are being produced.

Only 10% of American workers have the sub-baccalaureate degrees needed for middle-skills jobs, compared with 24% of Canadians and 19% of Japanese, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports.

Over the last 20 years, the number of graduates with associate’s degrees in the United States has increased by barely 3%. And while the Obama administration has pushed community colleges to increase their numbers, enrollment at these schools fell 3.1% this year, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports. Graduation rates also remain abysmally low.

Meanwhile, many people with bachelor’s degrees are working in fields other than the ones in which they majored, according to a new report by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

“We have a lot of bartenders and taxi drivers with bachelor’s degrees,” says Christopher Denhart, one of the report’s coauthors.

Still, the salary advantage for associate’s degree holders narrows over time, as bachelor’s degree recipients eventually catch up, says Schneider.

Although these figures vary widely by profession, associate’s degree recipients, on average, end up making about $ 500,000 more over their careers than people with only high school diplomas, but $ 500,000 less than people with bachelor’s degrees, the Georgetown center calculates.

As for Omer, he’s already working toward a bachelor’s degree.

“Down the road a little further, I may want to become a director or a manager,” he says. “A bachelor’s degree will get me to that point.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University. It’s one of a series of reports about workforce development and higher education.

View this article on CNNMoney

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Wall Street opens flat after two-day rally

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, was briefly hospitalized due to her bipolar disorder, the actress' spokeswoman said on Tuesday after video emerged of Fisher giving an unusual stage performance. The video came from a show Fisher gave aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean last week, according to celebrity website TMZ, which posted the clip. The clip shows Fisher, 56, singing "Skylark" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," at times appearing to struggle to remember the lyrics. ...
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Wall Street little changed ahead of Bernanke testimony

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street opened little changed as investors awaited a second round of testimony in Congress by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for clarity on the longevity of the Fed's economic stimulus program.

Calming some jitters over the euro zone, Italian debt prices and European stocks rose on Wednesday after Italy sold the maximum amount of bonds it planned to offer in a debt auction though borrowing costs soared.

Bernanke will make his second appearance before the Financial Services Committee at 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).

"The market got what it wanted yesterday from the Fed, so, as long as (Bernanke) doesn't say anything new, the market is likely to remain as status quo," said Joe Saluzzi, co- of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.

A day earlier, Bernanke strongly defended the Fed's monetary stimulus efforts before Congress, easing financial market worries over an early retreat from the Fed's bond buying program, which had been triggered by minutes of the Fed's January meeting released a week ago.

His remarks, along with data showing sales of new homes hit a 4 1/2-year high, helped U.S. stocks rebound Tuesday from their worst decline since November.

Despite the bounce, the S&P 500 was unable to move back above 1,500, a closely watched level that had been technical support until recently, but may now prove a resistance point.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> gained 1.76 points, or 0.01 percent, to 13,901.89. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> dropped 0.36 points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,496.58. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> gained 0.70 points, or 0.02 percent, to 3,130.34.

The benchmark S&P 500, up 6 percent for the year, was within reach of record highs a week ago, before the minutes from the Fed's January meeting were released. Since then, the index has shed 1 percent as the minutes raised questions about whether the Fed may slow or halt its economy-stimulating measures soon.

Economic data was in focus with homes data due out at 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).

Earlier, separate data showed non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, jumped 6.3 percent, the biggest gain since December 2011. The market's reaction was muted.

In earnings news, discount retailer Target Corp appeared poised for a solid showing in the first quarter and forecast a higher profit for the full year after a weak performance in the key holiday season. The stock was off 3.3 percent at $61.92 in early trading.

Dollar Tree Inc reported a higher quarterly profit as shoppers spent more and the chain controlled costs. The stock jumped 10 percent to $45.00.

Shares of Boyd Gaming jumped 3.8 percent to $6.75 after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a revised online gaming bill.

In Europe, shares rose, steadying after the previous session's sharp losses, though jitters over the euro zone kept a lid on gains.

Italy's 10-year debt costs rose more than half a percentage point at the first longer-term auction since an inconclusive parliamentary election, although they remained below the psychologically important level of 5 percent.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Wall Street opens higher after drop on Italian vote

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Saputo Announces the Closure of its Plant in Germany and Proposes the Closure of Its Facility in the United Kingdom

MONTREAL, QUEBEC–(Marketwire – Feb 25, 2013) – Saputo Inc. (SAP.TO) (“Saputo” or the “Company”) announces today the closure of its cheese manufacturing plant in Heiden (Germany) and, in conformity with the legislative requirements in the United Kingdom, enters into a 30-day consultation period for the proposed closure of its facility in Newcastle Emlyn, Wales (United Kingdom). The two plants were acquired in 2006 and 2007 respectively. The Germany plant specializes in Italian specialty cheeses for the retail market segment, whereas the United Kingdom facility mainly produces mozzarella for the food service market segment.

Since acquiring the businesses, Saputo has aimed to penetrate the European market and get a better understanding of its realities and dynamics. The past few years have been a learning and challenging experience. Today, the Saputo European business does not have sufficient critical mass to be profitable and the Company does not see short to mid-term opportunities to ensure such profitability. Saputo has therefore decided to close its Germany plant and proposes the closure of its United Kingdom facility, subject to the consultation period, to further concentrate efforts and resources in its current platforms and other markets.

In all, approximately 140 employees will be affected. Where redundancies are confirmed, impacted employees will be provided fair severance and assistance to find reemployment.

In the event the proposed closure in Newcastle Emlyn, Wales is confirmed, the cost associated with both plant closures is expected to be approximately CDN$ 15 million after taxes, which is comprised of a write down on fixed assets of approximately CDN$ 15 million and cash costs of approximately CDN$ 7 million being offset by tax recovery of the same amount from the loss on the investment. If both facilities close, a loss of approximately CDN$ 1.5 million in annual earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization related to the European business should be avoided.

About Saputo

Saputo produces, markets, and distributes a wide array of products of the utmost quality, including cheese, fluid milk, yogurt, dairy ingredients and snack-cakes. Saputo is the 12th largest dairy processor in the world, the largest in Canada, the third largest in Argentina and among the top three cheese producers in the United States. Our products are sold in more than 50 countries under well-known brand names such as Saputo, Alexis de Portneuf, Armstrong, Baxter, Dairyland, Danscorella, Dragone, DuVillage 1860, Friendship, Frigo Cheese Heads, Great Midwest, King”s Choice, Kingsey, La Paulina, Neilson, Nutrilait, Ricrem, Salemville, Stella, Treasure Cave, hop & go, Rondeau and Vachon. Saputo Inc. is a publicly traded company whose shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “SAP”.

Marketwire News Archive – Yahoo! Finance

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Wall Street edges up after Italy exit polls

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks opened slightly higher on Monday after initial polls showed pro-reform center-leftists could win the Italian general election, though caution remained as defensive sectors led gains on the S&P 500.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> rose 41.47 points or 0.3 percent, to 14,042.04, the S&P 500 <.spx> gained 6.81 points or 0.45 percent, to 1,522.41 and the Nasdaq Composite <.ixic> added 18.79 points or 0.59 percent, to 3,180.61.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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Investors face another Washington deadline

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investors face another Washington-imposed deadline on government spending cuts next week, but it's not generating the same level of fear as two months ago when the "fiscal cliff" loomed large.

Investors in sectors most likely to be affected by the cuts, like defense, seem untroubled that the budget talks could send stocks tumbling.

Talks on the U.S. budget crisis began again this week leading up to the March 1 deadline for the so-called sequestration when $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts are scheduled to take effect.

"It's at this point a political hot button in Washington but a very low level investor concern," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Oregon. The fight pits President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats against congressional Republicans.

Stocks rallied in early January after a compromise temporarily avoided the fiscal cliff, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index <.spx> has risen 6.3 percent since the start of the year.

But the benchmark index lost steam this week, posting its first week of losses since the start of the year. Minutes on Wednesday from the last Federal Reserve meeting, which suggested the central bank may slow or stop its stimulus policy sooner than expected, provided the catalyst.

National elections in Italy on Sunday and Monday could also add to investor concern. Most investors expect a government headed by Pier Luigi Bersani to win and continue with reforms to tackle Italy's debt problems. However, a resurgence by former leader Silvio Berlusconi has raised doubts.

"Europe has been in the last six months less of a topic for the stock market, but the problems haven't gone away. This may bring back investor attention to that," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.


The spending cuts, if they go ahead, could hit the defense industry particularly hard.

Yet in the options market, bulls were targeting gains in Lockheed Martin Corp , the Pentagon's biggest supplier.

Calls on the stock far outpaced puts, suggesting that many investors anticipate the stock to move higher. Overall options volume on the stock was 2.8 times the daily average with 17,000 calls and 3,360 puts traded, according to options analytics firm Trade Alert.

"The upside call buying in Lockheed solidifies the idea that option investors are not pricing in a lot of downside risk in most defense stocks from the likely impact of sequestration," said Jared Woodard, a founder of research and advisory firm in Forest, Virginia.

The stock ended up 0.6 percent at $88.12 on Friday.

If lawmakers fail to reach an agreement on reducing the U.S. budget deficit in the next few days, a sequester would include significant cuts in defense spending. Companies such as General Dynamics Corp and Smith & Wesson Holding Corp could be affected.

General Dynamics Corp shares rose 1.2 percent to $67.32 and Smith & Wesson added 4.6 percent to $9.18 on Friday.


The latest data on fourth-quarter U.S. gross domestic product is expected on Thursday, and some analysts predict an upward revision following trade data that showed America's deficit shrank in December to its narrowest in nearly three years.

U.S. GDP unexpectedly contracted in the fourth quarter, according to an earlier government estimate, but analysts said there was no reason for panic, given that consumer spending and business investment picked up.

Investors will be looking for any hints of changes in the Fed's policy of monetary easing when Fed Chairman Ben Bernake speaks before congressional committees on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Shares of Apple will be watched closely next week when the company's annual stockholders' meeting is held.

On Friday, a U.S. judge handed outspoken hedge fund manager David Einhorn a victory in his battle with the iPhone maker, blocking the company from moving forward with a shareholder vote on a controversial proposal to limit the company's ability to issue preferred stock.

(Additional reporting by Doris Frankel; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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The Fraser Institute: 42 Elementary Schools Across Alberta Score Improvement in Fraser Institute School Rankings

CALGARY, ALBERTA–(Marketwire – Feb 23, 2013) – Across Alberta, 42 elementary schools showed significant improvement in their academic performance over the past five years, according to the Fraser Institute”s annual school rankings.

Among these improving elementary schools are public, private, separate, francophone, and charter schools.

“This is why the Fraser Institute school report card is the go-to source for measuring academic improvement: it highlights school success stories from Grand Prairie in the west to Fort McMurray in the east and from La Crete in the north to Cardston in the south,” said Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute director of school performance studies.

“Our report shows that all schools are capable of improvement, regardless of the personal or family challenges their students might face. If educators want to help students learn and improve, they should be talking to these schools.”

The Report Card on Alberta”s Elementary Schools 2013 rates 659 public, private, separate, charter, and francophone elementary schools based on nine academic indicators using data from the annual Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) administered by Alberta Education.

“By pinpointing the subject areas in which individual schools are improving or declining and how their academic performance compares to that of other Alberta schools over the past five years, our report helps parents and educators prioritize learning challenges in their schools,” Cowley said.

The report card also includes important information about each school”s make-up, including parents” average income, the percentage of ESL students, and the percentage of special needs students.

The complete results for all 659 elementary schools will also be available at where visitors can compare individual schools with others based on their results over the last five years.

Of the 20 Alberta elementary schools showing the fastest academic improvement over the past five years, 13 are public schools where the parental income is below average. At seven of those schools, ESL students account for more than 40 per cent of school enrolment. The complete list follows.

“We all want the best possible education for our children. To achieve this, every Alberta school should make improvement Job 1,” Cowley said.

Top 20 Fastest-Improving Alberta Elementary Schools

  • Bannerman (Public), Edmonton

  • Pollard Meadows (Public), Edmonton

  • St. Augustine (Separate), Ponoka

  • Thickwood Heights (Public), Fort McMurray

  • Westglen (Public), Edmonton

  • Annie Foote (Public), Calgary

  • Langevin (Public), Calgary

  • Virginia Park (Public), Edmonton

  • Grandview Heights (Public), Edmonton

  • Two Hills Mennonite (Public), Edmonton

  • Erin Woods (Public), Calgary

  • High Prairie (Public), High Prairie

  • St. Clare (Separate), Calgary

  • St. Lucy (Separate), Edmonton

  • Derek Taylor (Public), Grande Prairie

  • Blueberry (Public), Stony Plain

  • McLeod (Public), Edmonton

  • Meyokumin (Public), Edmonton

  • Hill Crest (Public), La Crete

  • Millwoods Christian (Public), Edmonton

Follow the Fraser Institute on Twitter | Like us on Facebook

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of 86 think-tanks. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute”s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit

Marketwire News Archive – Yahoo! Finance

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Wall Street opens lower after jobless data

TORONTO, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Canada's Rebecca Marino, a rising star in women's tennis, stepped away from the sport in search of a normal life on Wednesday, weary of battling depression and cyber-bullies. Ranked number 38 in the world two years ago, the 22-year-old admitted she had long suffered from depression and was no longer willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reach the top. "After thinking long and hard, I do not have the passion or enjoyment to drive myself to the level I would like to be at in professional tennis," Marino explained in a conference call. ...
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Bruno Mars Reveals Worldwide Tour Dates; “The Moonshine Jungle World Tour” Kicks Off June 22nd in Washington, DC; European Leg Begins October 2nd in Belfast; Mars Scores 10th Consecutive Top 10 Single on the Billboard “Hot 100″; “When I Was Your Man” Joins “Locked Out Of Heaven” in the Top 10, Breaking Records in Billboard’s Chart History; Tickets for “The Moonshine Jungle World Tour” on Sale Beginning March 1st

NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwire – Feb 20, 2013) – Atlantic recording artist Bruno Mars has unveiled details of his hugely anticipated world tour. The North American leg of “The Moonshine Jungle World Tour” gets underway on June 22nd at Washington, DC’s Verizon Center and then continues through August. The European leg of the tour begins October 2nd in Belfast, Northern Ireland (see attached itinerary). A special promo video for “The Moonshine Jungle World Tour” is now viewable here: Special guests on select dates of the North American leg include Ellie Goulding and newly signed Elektra artist Fitz & The Tantrums. Tickets for select North American dates and all European dates and will go on-sale March 1st. For full details and ticket availability, please visit

The announce of “The Moonshine Jungle World Tour” comes just as “When I Was Your Man” — the latest single from Mars’ just-released sophomore album, “UNORTHODOX JUKEBOX” — has exploded into the top 10 on Billboard‘s “Hot 100″ where it joins the album’s blockbuster first single, “Locked Out Of Heaven,” which recently spent six consecutive weeks atop the “Hot 100″ chart. The immediate success of “When I Was Your Man” – which additionally earned honors as the week’s top “Streaming Gainer” and “Airplay Gainer” – marks the GRAMMY®-winner’s 10th consecutive single to hit the top 10, continuing his already-established status as the male artist with the longest streak of top 10 hits as a performer since his debut. Furthermore, the single’s chart ascension places Mars in the history books as the first male artist to simultaneously place two titles in the top 10 since his own “Grenade” and “Just The Way You Are” doubled up on the chart in December 2010/January 2011.

The official companion video for “When I Was Your Man” — directed by Mars and his frequent collaborator, Cameron Duddy (“Locked Out Of Heaven,” “The Lazy Song”) — is also looking like an instant smash. The clip, which premiered earlier this month, has already drawn close to 5 million individual views at Bruno’s official YouTube channel, located at “When I Was Your Man” first shot to the top 10 on the iTunes “Top Singles” chart within 48 hours of its official release last year.

Mars recently led a breathtaking performance on the 55th Annual Grammy Awards fronting an all-star tribute to Bob Marley alongside the likes of Sting and Rihanna, which marked the Grammy-winner’s third consecutive year to perform on the acclaimed show.

As its title suggests, “UNORTHODOX JUKEBOX” once again sees Mars melding a multitude of musical approaches to create his own distinctive sound. Executive produced by The Smeezingtons, the hit-making production team comprised of Mars, Philip Lawrence, and Ari Levine, the collection also features contributions from such top producers as Jeff Bhasker (fun., Kanye West, Jay-Z), Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Lil Wayne, Black Lips) and Diplo (M.I.A, Usher).

“UNORTHODOX JUKEBOX” made a stunning SoundScan/Billboard 200 debut upon its release last year, entering the chart at #2 with sales in excess of 192,000 – the singer/songwriter/producer/musician’s highest first week sales debut thus far. In addition, the album exploded to the top spot on the British album charts, making history as the United Kingdom’s fastest selling solo album of 2012. The phenomenal success of “UNORTHODOX JUKEBOX” follows the equivalent popularity of Mars’ now classic 2010 debut, “DOO-WOPS & HOOLIGANS,” which proved the U.K.’s third best-selling album of 2011 and also entered the charts at #1.

Bruno Mars is undoubtedly among contemporary pop’s most gifted and compelling artists. And with global sales currently certified at 40x-platinum and over 50 million singles sold worldwide, the 14-time Grammy Award nominee has fully proven himself as a true superstar.

Released in October 2010, “DOO-WOPS & HOOLIGANS” was greeted with both popular success and critical acclaim from all corners of the globe. ”The year’s finest pop debut,” raved Rolling Stone. ”Near-flawless…(the album) delivers pleasure without pretension.” Fueled by a remarkable string of hit singles, including the multi-platinum #1 smashes, “Just The Way You Are” and “Grenade,” the album instantly confirmed Mars as a major force in modern pop music.

Mars soon racked up a remarkable record of prestigious international awards and nominations, with victories including a “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance” Grammy Award (for “Just The Way You Are”), an American Music Award for “Pop or Rock Music/Favorite Male Artist,” a 2012 Brit Award (for “International Male Solo Artist”), two Teen Choice Awards, a 2012 People’s Choice Award (for “Favorite Male Artist”), a Soul Train Music Award, two MTV Europe Music Awards, two MTV Music Awards Japan, a BT Digital Music Award, an ECHO Award, and multiple 2011 Billboard Awards including “Top Male Hot 100 Artist of the Year.”

As if that weren’t enough, Mars received a truly stunning assortment of 2011 and 2012 honors from ASCAP, including the ASCAP Pop Award for “Song of the Year” (for “Just The Way You Are”). In 2011, he was named to the prestigious Time 100, confirming the superstar as one of the most influential people in the world.

For up-to-the-minute news and information, please visit:,,, and


*on sale March 1st
Date Market Venue Support Act
Saturday, June 22, 2013* Washington D.C. Verizon Center Fitz & the Tantrums
Monday, June 24, 2013* Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center Fitz & the Tantrums
Wednesday, June 26, 2013* Boston, MA TD Garden Fitz & the Tantrums
Thursday, June 27, 2013 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena Fitz & the Tantrums
Saturday, June 29, 2013* New York, NY Barclays Center Fitz & the Tantrums
Monday, July 01, 2013* Newark Prudential Center Ellie Goulding
Tuesday, July 02, 2013 Pittsburgh, PA Consol Energy Center Ellie Goulding
Wednesday, July 03, 2013* Toronto Molson Amphitheatre Ellie Goulding
Friday, July 05, 2013 Montreal Bell Centre Ellie Goulding
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 Columbus Value City Arena Ellie Goulding
Thursday, July 11, 2013 Detroit, MI The Palace of Auburn Hills Ellie Goulding
Saturday, July 13, 2013* Chicago, IL United Center Ellie Goulding
Sunday, July 14, 2013 Minneapolis, MN Xcel Energy Ellie Goulding
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Calgary, AB Scotiabank Saddledome Ellie Goulding
Thursday, July 18, 2013 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place Ellie Goulding
Saturday, July 20, 2013 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena Ellie Goulding
Sunday, July 21, 2013 Seattle, WA Key Arena Ellie Goulding
Monday, July 22, 2013 Portland, OR Rose Garden Arena Ellie Goulding
Wednesday, July 24, 2013* Sacramento, CA Sleep Train Arena Ellie Goulding
Thursday, July 25, 2013* San Jose, CA HP Pavilion Ellie Goulding
Saturday, July 27, 2013* Los Angeles, CA Staples Center Ellie Goulding
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 San Diego, CA Valley View Casino Center Ellie Goulding
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 Phoenix, AZ US Airways Center Ellie Goulding
Friday, August 02, 2013 Salt Lake City, UT Maverik Center Fitz & the Tantrums
Saturday, August 03, 2013 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Fitz & the Tantrums
Monday, August 05, 2013* Denver, CO Red Rocks Amphitheater Ellie Goulding
Thursday, August 08, 2013 St. Louis, MO Scottrade Center Ellie Goulding
Friday, August 09, 2013 Kansas City, MO Sprint Center Ellie Goulding
Saturday, August 10, 2013* Oklahoma City, OK Chesapeake Energy Arena Ellie Goulding
Monday, August 12, 2013 Dallas, TX American Airlines Center Ellie Goulding
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 Austin, TX Frank Erwin Center Ellie Goulding
Thursday, August 15, 2013 Houston, TX Toyota Center Ellie Goulding
Saturday, August 17, 2013 Nashville, TN Bridgestone Arena Fitz & the Tantrums
Sunday, August 18, 2013 Louisville, KY KFC Yum! Center Fitz & the Tantrums
Monday, August 19, 2013 Indianapolis, IN Bankers Life Fieldhouse Fitz & the Tantrums
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 Charlotte, NC Time Warner Cable Arena Fitz & the Tantrums
Thursday, August 22, 2013 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena Fitz & the Tantrums
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 Tampa, FL St. Pete Times Forum Fitz & the Tantrums
Friday, August 30, 2013 Miami, FL American Airlines Arena Fitz & the Tantrums
Sunday, September 1, 2013 San Juan, PR Coliseo de Puerto Rico TBA

Date City Country Venue
Wednesday, October 2, 2013* Belfast NI The Odyssey Arena
Thursday, October 3, 2013* Dublin EIRE The O2
Saturday, October 5, 2013* Manchester UK Manchester Arena
Sunday, October 6, 2013* Glasgow UK Hydro
Tuesday, October 8, 2013* London UK O2 Arena
Friday, October 11, 2013* Birmingham UK NIA Arena
Saturday, October 12, 2013* Sheffield UK Motorpoint Arena
Monday, October 14, 2013* Paris France Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy
Tuesday, October 15, 2013* Amsterdam Netherlands Ziggo Dome
Thursday, October 17, 2013* Antwerp Belgium Sportpaleis
Friday, October 18, 2013* Luxembourg Luxembourg Rockhal
Sunday, October 20, 2013* Mannheim Germany SAP Arena
Monday, October 21, 2013* Stuttgart Germany Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle
Wednesday, October 23, 2013* Zurich Switzerland Hallenstadion
Thursday, October 24, 2013* Vienna Austria Stadthalle
Saturday, October 26, 2013* Milan Italy Mediolanum Forum
Monday, October 28, 2013* Berlin Germany O2 World
Tuesday, October 29, 2013* Hamburg Germany O2 World
Thursday, October 31, 2013* Copenhagen Denmark Forum
Saturday, November 2, 2013* Oslo Norway Spektrum
Sunday, November 3, 2013* Stockholm Sweden Ericsson Globe
Wednesday, November 6, 2013* Prague Czech Republic O2 Arena
Thursday, November 7, 2013* Budapest Hungary Papp Laszlo Budapest Sport Arena
Saturday, November 9, 2013* Dusseldorf Germany ISS Dome
Tuesday, November 12, 2013* Munich Germany Olympiahalle
Wednesday, November 13, 2013* Marseilles France Le Dome
Friday, November 15, 2013* Madrid Spain Palacio Vistalegre

Marketwire News Archive – Yahoo! Finance

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Wall Street little changed after data, Fed minutes on tap

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks were little changed on Wednesday after housing and inflation data pointed to a continuation of modest economic improvement and ahead of the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's January meeting later in the session.

Groundbreaking to build new U.S. homes fell 8.5 percent in January but new permits for construction rose to a 4 1/2-year high while producer prices rose in January for the first time in four months.

The data should enable the Fed to maintain its easy monetary policy in its efforts to stimulate the economy.

Later in the session, investors will look to the minutes from the Fed's January meeting for any indication as to how long the current monetary policy will remain in effect.

"It's hard in any given data point to take a strong conclusion that we are moving dramatically forward, but over time, clearly things are getting better," said Robert Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management in Salem, Massachusetts.

Lutts described an economy that was addicted to stimulus.

"The bottom line is the economy is on heroin today and we will at one time move to a diluted form of heroin, but it's very important for people to remember we are still on an unbelievably aggressive, never-seen-before accommodative policy and this economy is going to improve."

The S&P 500 <.spx> is up more than 7 percent for the year, fueled by legislators' ability to sidestep an automatic implementation of spending cuts on tax hikes on January 1, better-than-expected corporate earnings and modestly improving economic data that has been tepid enough for the Fed to maintain its stimulus policy.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> dropped 5.99 points, or 0.04 percent, to 14,029.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> lost 2.60 points, or 0.17 percent, to 1,528.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> shed 3.12 points, or 0.10 percent, to 3,210.48.

U.S. oil and gas producer Devon Energy Corp reported a fourth-quarter loss as it wrote down the value of its assets by $896 million due to weak gas prices. Shares dipped 1.6 percent to $59.60.

OfficeMax Inc and Office Depot Inc shares were halted as the companies announced a merger agreement. An earlier online statement of the deal was pulled down as an agreement had not yet been struck.

Toll Brothers Inc lost 4 percent to $35.43 after the largest luxury homebuilder in the United States, reported first-quarter results well below analysts' estimates.

SodaStream dropped 3.2 percent to $50.79 after the seller of home carbonated drink maker machines posted fourth-quarter earnings and provided a 2013 outlook.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Tuesday morning, of the 391 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results, 70.1 percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, compared with a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters.

Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 5.6 percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings season.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)

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IntelliClear Announces the Addition of New Cutting Edge Mobile Research Capabilities

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO–(Marketwire – Feb 19, 2013) – IntelliClear today announced a new line of cutting-edge research capabilities directed to mobile devices powered by the Research Now Mobile™ platform. The mobile enhancements expand an already robust IntelliClear research portfolio, and add a customizable survey platform, native and web application capabilities, GPS targeting, image and audio capture, calendar triggers, and ethnographic profiling on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. These unique mobile resources, combined with the IntelliClear hallmarks of design and synthesis, will deliver unparalleled results for “in-the-moment” studies by accessing hard-to-reach segments on their mobile devices. 

“Experimentation with mobile-enabled research in 2011 and 2012 is clearly leading to a tipping point in 2013 where this is expected to move into the mainstream,” says Dr. Alex Kalamarides, IntelliClear’s Managing Director. IntelliClear CEO Eric Shuster adds: “The Research Now Mobile platform is the premier mobile research platform offering outstanding panel coverage among mobile professionals in multiple industries including IT and healthcare.”

The new mobile research capabilities are immediately available from IntelliClear and will be utilized across qualitative research studies such as forums, mystery shopper and ethnographic studies as well as quantitative surveys and behavioral data collection.

About IntelliClear (
IntelliClear is a market research and business consulting firm committed to the delivery of actionable market intelligence to the global IT community. IntelliClear’s mission is to bring clarity to IT market intelligence by delivering results-oriented research, responsive industry experience, and effective data synthesis — leading to confident go-to-market plans. IntelliClear leverages the experiences of seasoned IT and market research professionals, while utilizing its global network of industry consultants and research partners to execute projects across a broad spectrum of disciplines and geographies.

Marketwire News Archive – Yahoo! Finance

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Wall Street opens higher on M&A activity

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks opened slightly higher on Tuesday, putting the S&P 500 on track to extend its seven-week winning streak on increased mergers and acquisitions activity.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was up 2.69 points, or 0.02 percent, at 13,984.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was up 3.02 points, or 0.20 percent, at 1,522.81. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was up 5.50 points, or 0.17 percent, at 3,197.53.

(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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Ace Hardware Celebrates National Battery Day

OAK BROOK, IL–(Marketwire – Feb 18, 2013) – Ace Hardware, the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the industry, is celebrating National Battery Day on February 18th by offering helpful advice on the importance of proper battery use and a special promotion. From February 20th – 24th, 2013, Ace will offer customers $ 5 off their purchase of $ 25 or more of regular priced merchandise at participating stores with a coupon or online at when entering the coupon code BATTERY13 at checkout*.

“National Battery Day is a great time to remind homeowners how important it is to regularly check the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors,” said Lou Manfredini, Ace’s Home Expert. “As any good neighbor will tell you, be mindful of the batteries in your home because you never know when an emergency will strike.”

In addition to celebrating the invention that makes many modern conveniences possible, February 18th also marks a day to emphasize the significance batteries play in home safety. To help celebrate National Battery Day, Manfredini offers this neighborly advice to make sure homeowners stay powered up:

Shop Smart: When it comes to batteries, you get what you pay for. Less expensive options may seem like a bargain, but may not last as long and could end up costing you more for your portable power.

Replace Often: Cold weather brings with it increased risks of power outages, fires and potential carbon monoxide poisoning, so it’s important for homeowners to remember to test and change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as flashlights. You should maintain the batteries in these items according to the manufacturer’s instructions and type of battery used. In general, it’s a good idea to replace these batteries twice a year, and your programmable thermostat batteries should be replaced annually.

Dispose: Alkaline batteries, such as AA batteries, have changed in how they are made. They no longer need to be recycled and can be disposed of in your everyday garbage can. However, rechargeable batteries should be recycled. Many hardware stores offer this service for a nominal fee or at no charge.

For more helpful tips and advice, stop by your neighborhood Ace Hardware store and visit or to download the National Battery Day coupon. 

*In-Store Exclusions: Coupon valid 02/20/13-02/24/13 at participating Ace Hardware stores for one transaction only. Not valid on sale and clearance priced merchandise, rental, in-store services, Ace gift cards, city stickers, previously purchased merchandise, Benjamin Moore® Genex® paints, Weber® branded products, Stihl® power tools, power equipment or in conjunction with any other coupon. Can be combined with Rewards. Any purchase minimum is calculated after applying Reward redemption and before tax. Coupon may not be sold or transferred. Void if photocopied or duplicated. No cash value. Coupon cannot be replaced if merchandise is returned. Additional exclusions may apply. See store for details. Limit 1 coupon per customer.

*Online Exclusions: Offer valid from 02/20/13-02/24/13 on Offer applies to merchandise subtotal. Tax or shipping and handling charges will not be included in determining merchandise subtotal and are not discountable. Offer not available with any other offer or on previous purchases. Offer excludes sale and clearance items, Weber® branded products, power tools, power equipment, water heaters, grills, EdenPure Heaters and Ace gift cards.

About Ace Hardware
For more than 85 years, Ace Hardware has been known as the helpful hardware store in thousands of communities across America. Customers depend on Ace to help them take care of their homes quickly and easily so they can get on with their lives. In 2012, Ace ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Home Improvement Stores for the Sixth Consecutive Year,” according to J.D. Power and Associates. With over 4,600 hardware stores locally owned and operated across the globe, Ace is the largest hardware cooperative in the industry. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., Ace and its subsidiaries currently operate 14 distribution centers in the U.S and also have distribution capabilities in Shanghai, China; Panama City, Panama; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Its retailers’ stores are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and approximately 60 countries. For more information on Ace, visit

Marketwire News Archive – Yahoo! Finance

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Yen resumes fall after G20, earnings worries hit stocks

LONDON (Reuters) - The yen resumed falling on Monday after Japan signaled it would push ahead with expansionist monetary policies having escaped criticism from the world's 20 biggest economies at the weekend.

European shares and industrial metals dropped on lingering worries about the economic outlook, especially for the euro zone. The risk of an inconclusive outcome in Italian elections at the weekend also added to investor concerns.

However, activity was curtailed by the closure of markets in the United States for the Presidents' Day holiday.

The yen, which has dropped 20 percent against the dollar since mid-November, fell further after financial leaders from the G20 promised not to devalue their currencies to boost exports and avoided singling out Japan for any direct criticism.

"Future yen direction will continue to be driven by domestic monetary policy from the Bank of Japan and improving international investor confidence, which are both driving the yen weaker," said Lee Hardman, currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe seized the opportunity to keep pressure on the central bank to loosen policy, telling the Japanese parliament that buying foreign bonds could be among options the Bank of Japan could adopt.

The result was the dollar rising 0.5 percent to 93.98 yen, near a 33-month peak of 94.47 yen set a week ago. The euro rose 0.2 percent to 125.32 yen, roughly midway between Friday's two-week low of 122.90 and a 34-month high of 127.71 yen hit earlier this month.

Strategists said that while the yen was likely to stay weak, its decline could lose momentum as investors wait for more clarity on who will be taking the helm at the Bank of Japan when the current governor steps down on March 19.

"The big unknown is who will get appointed as the new BoJ governor, so it is difficult to put on massive positions beforehand," said Saeed Amen, currency strategist at Nomura.

Abe is poised to nominate the new governor in the coming days. Sources have told Reuters that former financial bureaucrat Toshiro Muto, considered likely to be less radical than other candidates, was leading the field.

Elsewhere in the currency market, sterling hit a seven-month low against the dollar, after a key policymaker made comments about the need for further weakness and recent poor data which has kept alive worries of another British recession.

Sterling fell 0.15 percent to $1.5492 having earlier touched $1.5438, its lowest since July 13.


A big week for data on the outlook for the world's economy weighed on other riskier asset markets following the recent dire fourth-quarter growth numbers for the euro zone and Japan, along with Friday's soft U.S. manufacturing figures.

In European markets, attention is focused on the euro area Purchasing Managers' Indexes for February and German sentiment indices due later in the week. These could affect hopes for a recovery this year.

Analysts expect Thursday's euro area flash PMI indices, which offer pointers to economic activity around six months out, to show growth stabilizing across the recession-hit region, leaving hopes for a recovery in the second half of 2013 intact.

Concerns over an inconclusive outcome in the Italian elections on Sunday and Monday have added to the weaker sentiment as a fragmented parliament could hamper a future government's efforts to reform the struggling economy.

The worries about the outlook for Italy were encouraging investors back into safe-haven German government bonds on Monday, with 10-year Bund yields easing 3.6 basis points to be around 1.63 percent.

"Political uncertainty will keep Bunds well bid this week," ING rate strategist Alessandro Giansanti said, adding that only better than expected economic data could create selling pressure on German debt in the near term.

Italian 10-year yields were 7 basis points higher on the day at 4.44 percent.


European equity markets were taking their lead from corporate earnings reports which have been reflecting the sluggish economic conditions across the region.

Danish brewer Carlsberg , which generates just over 60 percent of its sales in western Europe, became the latest to report a weaker-than-expected quarterly profit, sending its shares to their lowest level in almost a month.

The 6.8-percent drop for shares in the world's fourth biggest brewery helped send the FTSEurofirst 300 index <.fteu3> of top European shares down 0.3 percent at midday. Germany's DAX <.gdaxi>, France's CAC-40 <.fchi> and UK FTSE-100 <.ftse> ranged between 0.1 percent up and 0.3 percent lower.

Earlier, the effect of the G20 statement and the comments from Abe indicating a renewed drive to stimulate the Japanese economy lifted the Nikkei stock index <.n225> by 2.1 percent, near to its highest level since September 2008.

MSCI's world equity index <.miwd00000pus> was flat as markets extended a two-week period of consolidation that has followed the big run-up in January, when demand was buoyed by the efforts of central banks to stimulate the world economy.

Data from EPFR Global, a U.S.-based firm that tracks the flows and allocations of funds globally, shows investors pulled $3.62 billion from U.S. stock funds in the latest week, the most in 10 weeks after taking a neutral stance the prior week.

But demand for emerging market equities remained strong, with investors putting $1.81 billion in new cash into stock funds, the fund-tracking firm said.


In the commodity markets, traders played catch-up after a week-long holiday last week in China, the world's second biggest consumer of many raw materials, which had kept activity subdued, with worries about the economic outlook weighing on sentiment.

Copper, for which China is the world's largest consumer, dipped to a near three-week low of $8,127.50 a metric ton (1.1023 tons) on the London futures market. Benchmark tin and nickel also touched three-week lows.

Bargain hunters helped gold rise from a six-month low to be up 0.2 percent to $1,611.87 an ounce with jewelers in China returning to the physical market after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Crude oil markets were mostly steady after some weak U.S. industrial production data on Friday [ID:nL1N0BF44A] was seen dampening demand, while tensions in the Middle East lent some support.

"We continue to see a mixed picture out of the United States. Industry output was lower than expected but that shouldn't affect the general upward direction," Olivier Jakob, analyst at Geneva-based Petromatrix, said.

Brent crude was flat at $117.66 a barrel after posting its first weekly loss since the first half of January. U.S. crude slipped 19 cents to $95.67.U.S. crude.

(Additional reporting by Marius Zaharia and Ron Bousso. Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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Florida hit by "tsunami" of tax identity fraud

MIAMI (Reuters) - Bruce Parton was only a few weeks from retirement after 30 years as a mail carrier in sunny Florida.

He never lived to fulfill his retirement plan of moving back to a quiet life in the Catskill mountains of New York, not far from where he grew up on Long Island.

Instead, he was gunned down on his daily mail route in December 2010 by members of an identity theft ring who stole his master key as part of a scheme to claim fraudulent tax refunds.

Using stolen names and Social Security numbers, criminals are filing phony electronic tax forms to claim refunds, exploiting a slow-moving federal bureaucracy to collect the money before victims, or the Internal Revenue Service, discover the fraud.

Parton was a victim of what officials say has ballooned into a massive, and dangerous, illegal industry that could cost the nation $21 billion over the next five years, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

While that is a relatively small sum compared to the $1.1 trillion collected from individual tax payers in the last fiscal year, the crime has been growing by leaps and bounds in the last three years.

"We are on the top of a national trend that is causing a hemorrhage of tax dollars," said Wifredo Ferrer, United States Attorney for south Florida. "It's a tsunami of fraud."

While the IRS says it has detected cases in every state except North Dakota and West Virginia, the fraud's epicenter is Florida, and it is mostly concentrated in Miami and Tampa.

Miami has 46 times the per-capita rate of false tax refund claims than the rest of the country, and 70 times the national average in dollar terms, Ferrer told Reuters.

"For whatever reason, we always tend to lead the nation when it comes to fraud," he said, noting that his office has been battling massive Medicare fraud in recent years that has since spread to other parts of the country.

Florida's high proportion of older residents, who can be more vulnerable to fraud, may be one reason for the high levels of fraud in the state.

Nationwide, the number of cases of tax identity theft detected by authorities sky-rocketed to more than 1.2 million cases in 2012 from only 48,000 in 2008, according to the Treasury Department.

The real number of phony tax filings is likely much higher as the fraud is hard to track, according to a November General Accountability Office report.


The tax ID theft problem is particularly troubling as, unlike Medicare fraud, it is associated with violent crime and armed gangs.

Tampa police first detected it in 2010 when officers discovered wanted street criminals engaged in tax fraud. "They were holed up in hotels with laptops churning out tax claims," said congresswoman Kathy Castor, who represents the area and is pressing the IRS to get tougher on the fraud.

When agents raided a Howard Johnson in East Tampa in late 2010, they found suspects smoking marijuana and four laptop computers being used to file fraudulent tax returns on Turbo Tax, the tax preparation software, according to police records.

The suspects had lists of personal information containing more than 1,000 names and confidential personal information, multiple re-loadable debit cards, and records of numerous financial transactions. The investigation revealed that the suspects had been camped out in the hotel room for more than a week filing claims.

Tax identity fraudsters are apparently drawn by the ease of the crime, officials say.

"The scheme is very basic, it works virtually the same in almost every case," said Ferrer. "All they need is your name and the tax ID number."

Armed with that information a refund claim can be filed electronically, making up other details on the form, including addresses, employer data, income and deductions.

Criminals obtain the vital numbers using various tactics, often by bribing office workers with access to personnel files inside companies, as well as large public institutions such as hospitals and schools, according to prosecutors.

Last summer a hacker stole 3.8 million unencrypted tax records from the South Carolina Department of Revenue in what is believed to be the largest security breach of a U.S. tax agency. Authorities say they do not know the hacker's motive.

One North Miami man, Rodney Saint Fleur, was charged last year with using the LexisNexis research service account at the law firm where he worked to access names and Social Security numbers of 26,000 people as part of an identity theft scheme, according to court documents.

Victims in Florida have varied from hospital patients, to Holocaust survivors at an elderly Jewish community center, as well as active duty military serving overseas.

In December, a former U.S. Marine from North Miami was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for stealing the identities of more than 40 fellow Marines stationed at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan as part of a plot to claim $54,000 in fraudulent income-tax refunds.

In Parton's case the criminals were after his master key that gives postal workers access to mail drop-off boxes and apartment mailboxes. He was shot twice in the chest by a gunman as part of a plot to steal identities in people's mail for tax refund fraud.

The gunman, Pikerson Mentor, 31, was sentenced last month to life plus 42 years.

More than 600 people turned up for Parton's funeral, including postal workers and people who got to know him on his route. "He had been doing that mail route for 10 years and he always had a smile for everyone," said his daughter, Nina Parton.

The criminals stay under the radar using identities of the elderly or the very young, who are unlikely to be filing for earned income, as well as the deceased. They typically claim small refunds, around $3,000, but use multiple identities, with payments often made to pre-paid debit cards.


The IRS said last week it is intensifying a crackdown on identify theft, with 3,000 agents devoted to tackling the problem, double the number assigned in 2011.

The number of IRS criminal investigations into identity theft more than tripled in the year to September 2012, and it was on pace to double again this year, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller told reporters.

The tax collection agency prevented $20 billion in attempted tax refund fraud in fiscal year 2012, up from $14 billion a year earlier, he said.

"It's one of the biggest challenges that faces the IRS today," Miller said. "We're doing much better on all fronts but we have much more to do."

Despite the increase in investigations, the agency still had a backlog of 300,000 cases of people waiting for legitimate refunds after they were victims of fraud. It takes an average of six months to resolve a case, Miller said.

"The IRS have put a lot of resources on it, but they always seem to be behind the curve," said Keith Fogg, a tax professor at Villanova University School of Law.

Electronic filing, which now accounts for 80 percent of returns and was introduced to speed up delivery of refunds, has made the system more vulnerable to fraud.

The IRS is seeking to speed up the loading of data from W-2 payroll forms issued at the beginning of the tax season, a time lapse which gives fraudsters a window of opportunity to file using false data.

The IRS is also looking for ways to authenticate the identity of tax filers at the time of filing to pre-empt fraud, as well as working with the Social Security Administration to limit access to a registry of social security data of deceased tax payers, the so-called "Death Master File", a frequent target of fraud.

"We will not be prosecuting our way out of this. That's not going to be the answer. We're going to have to make it more and more difficult for criminals to profit from this behavior," said Miller. "If they're not successful they will move onto something else."

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Claudia Parsons)

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G20 defuses talk of "currency war", no accord on debt

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Group of 20 nations declared on Saturday there would be no 'currency war' and deferred plans to set new debt-cutting targets in an indication of concern about the fragile state of the world economy.

Japan's expansive policies, which have driven down the yen, escaped criticism in a statement thrashed out in Moscow by financial policymakers from the G20, which groups developed and emerging markets and accounts for 90 percent of the world economy.

After late night talks, finance ministers and central bankers agreed on wording closer than expected to a joint statement issued last Tuesday by the Group of Seven rich nations backing market-determined exchange rates.

A draft communique seen by delegates on Friday had steered clear of the G7's call for economic policy not to be targeted at exchange rates. But the final version included a G20 commitment to refrain from competitive devaluations and stated monetary policy would be directed at price stability and growth.

"The language has been strengthened since our discussions last night," Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters. "It's stronger than it was, but it was quite clear last night that everyone around the table wants to avoid any sort of currency disputes."

The communique did not single out Japan for aggressive monetary and fiscal policies that have seen the yen drop 20 percent, a trend that may now continue.

"The market will take the G20 statement as an approval for what it has been doing -- selling of the yen," said Neil Mellor, currency strategist at Bank of New York Mellon in London. "No censure of Japan means they will be off to the money printing presses."

The statement reflected a substantial, but not complete, endorsement of Tuesday's statement by the G7 nations - the United States, Japan, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy.

"We all agreed on the fact that we refuse to enter any currency war," French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told reporters.


The text also contained a commitment to credible medium-term fiscal strategy, but stopped short of setting specific goals.

A debt-cutting pact struck in Toronto in 2010 will expire this year if leaders fail to agree to extend it at a G20 summit of leaders in St Petersburg in September.

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said he expected concrete debt targets to be agreed at the September meeting.

"We have a common view on the need to have a credible medium-term plans for fiscal consolidation, which is also essential so we have foundation for sustainable growth," he told Reuters.

The United States says it is on track to meet its Toronto pledge but argues that the pace of future fiscal consolidation must not snuff out demand. Germany and others are pressing for another round of binding debt-cutting goals.

Backing in the communique for the use of domestic monetary policy to support economic recovery reflected the U.S. Federal Reserve's commitment to monetary stimulus through quantitative easing, or QE, to promote recovery and jobs.

QE entails large-scale bond buying -- $85 billion a month in the Fed's case -- that helps economic growth but creates money, much of which has leaked into emerging markets, threatening to destabilize them.

That was offset in the communique by a commitment to minimize "negative spillovers" of the resulting financial flows that emerging markets fear may pump up asset bubbles and ruin their export competitiveness.

"Major developed nations (should) pay attention to their monetary policy spillover," Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying in Moscow.

"Major developed countries' implementation of excessively relaxed currency policy has an influence on the world economy."

Russia, this year's chair of the G20, said the group had failed to reach agreement on medium-term budget deficit levels and also expressed concern about ultra-loose policies that it and other big emerging economies say could store up trouble for later.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said a rebalancing of global growth required more than an adjustment of exchange rates.

"Structural reforms in all countries, either with a positive or negative balance of payments, should play a bigger role," he said in an address to Saturday's talks.

The G20 put together a huge financial backstop to halt a market meltdown in 2009 but has failed to reach those heights since. At successive meetings, Germany has pressed the United States and others to do more to tackle their debts. Washington in turn has urged Berlin to do more to increase demand.

On currencies, the G20 text reiterated its commitment last November, "to move more rapidly toward mores market-determined exchange rate systems and exchange rate flexibility to reflect underlying fundamentals, and avoid persistent exchange rate misalignments".

It said disorderly exchange rate movements and excess volatility in financial flows could harm economic and financial stability.

(Additional reporting by Gernot Heller, Lesley Wroughton, Maya Dyakina, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Jan Strupczewski, Lidia Kelly, Katya Golubkova, Jason Bush, Anirban Nag and Michael Martina. Writing by Douglas Busvine. Editing by Timothy Heritage/Mike Peacock)

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Wall Street opens flat with data on tap

Finola Hughes has called the upcoming 50th anniversary of "General Hospital" a "really sweet" moment."I think the fact that we, at 'GH,' are doing so well right now, and to enter into our 50th anniversary on such a high, it feels really sweet," the actress, who plays Port Charles Police Chief Anna Devane, told Access Hollywood, when asked about the daytime drama's impending anniversary.
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Currents | Q&A: Male Model-Slash-Contractor Sandy Dias from ‘Built’

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