<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - Business News - [PHI Feature]Business]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/businessen-usSun, 09 Dec 2018 13:59:30 -0500Sun, 09 Dec 2018 13:59:30 -0500NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[GM Fights to Retain Key Tax Credit Amid Plant Closing Plans]]>Sun, 09 Dec 2018 09:28:13 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/121249362-General-Motors-Plant-Oshawa-Canada.jpg

General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit for electric vehicles as the nation's largest automaker tries to deal with the political fallout triggered by its plans to shutter several U.S. factories and shed thousands of workers.

Preserving the $7,500 tax incentive for buyers is crucial for GM as the company pivots from internal combustion engines in favor of building cars powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. Yet the layoffs and plant closings could imperil GM's push to keep the incentive. It helps make plug-ins such as the $36,000 Chevy Bolt more affordable at a time when competition from other electric vehicle makers is heating up.

GM faces opposition from President Donald Trump and other Republicans who consider the credit a waste of taxpayer money and want it eliminated. Trump, who has pledged a manufacturing rebirth in the Midwest, reacted angrily to GM's "transformation " announcement late last month, declaring that his administration was "looking at cutting all GM subsidies, including for electric cars."

The company already is on the verge of being phased out of the tax credit program unless Congress changes a law that caps the break at 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer. Without the incentive, GM may be forced to cut the price of its electric cars to keep prospective customers from taking their business elsewhere, according to automotive industry experts.

As evidence of the credit's importance to GM's future, the automaker has expanded its lobbying footprint in Washington and even joined forces with two rivals, Tesla and Nissan, to call for 200,000-vehicle limit to be scrapped.

Standing in the way of that goal is Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Barrasso introduced legislation in October to abolish the tax credit, a move he said would save about $20 billion over the next 10 years. He has argued the market for electric vehicles is already established and "no longer needs the crutch of government assistance."

"The idea of the subsidies had to do with trying to make sure that electric vehicles would be a viable technology," Barrasso said. "Well, that's clearly there."

The tax credit came up briefly during a private meeting on Wednesday between Ohio's senators, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown, and GM chief executive Mary Barra, according to a congressional aide familiar with the conversation. As part of the restructuring, GM said it will stop making the Chevy Cruze at its Lordstown, Ohio, plant by March and is considering closing the plant for good.

Portman told Barra that it's difficult to help with priorities such as the electric vehicle credit when GM is moving production out of Ohio, according to the aide, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

One of the lobbyists working to salvage the credit for GM is Kent Hance, a former chancellor of Texas Tech University who is well connected in GOP circles, according to his online profile . Hance lists his role as a fundraiser for the campaigns of outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and others. He has known Rick Perry, the energy secretary and former Texas governor, for nearly 30 years.

GM in early August named a former Trump White House official, Everett Eissenstat, its senior vice president for global public policy, a post that oversees the company's lobbying operations. Eissenstat, however, is not registered as a lobbyist, according to disclosure records filed with Congress. Before coming to GM, he was Trump's deputy assistant for international economic affairs.

Under federal law, the $7,500 credit for buyers begins to phase out after a manufacturer has sold 200,000 qualifying electric vehicles. GM has estimated it will hit that threshold by the end of December, just as the Bolt will be facing new and potentially stiff competition.

Sam Abuelsamid, a senior analyst at Navigant Research, said Hyundai and Kia each will be selling compact SUVs in the U.S. beginning early next year that can travel 240 miles on a single battery charge, about the same as the Bolt. Ford will be launching a number of new plug-in hybrid models in 2019, including the Lincoln Aviator, Explorer and Escape.

"With the intensifying market shift away from cars to utility vehicles all of these are expected to be more popular than the Bolt," Abuelsamid said. To remain competitive against the new entries, "GM will likely have to cut the (retail price) of the Bolt as well as any additional EVs they launch next year by the corresponding reduction in the tax credits," he said.

Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, said the credit is "hugely important" to electric vehicle manufacturers. Lowering the up-front cost of the vehicle typically plays a significant role in sales, he said, citing surveys that show more consumers would buy electric vehicles if the cars were affordably priced.

GM joined forces with Tesla and Nissan as well as several consumer and environmental groups to broaden its lobbying push even further. The EV Drive Coalition, which was launched in November, urged lawmakers in an open letter last week to put a provision in the must-pass government spending bill that does away with the 200,000-car limit.

"Eliminating the per-rmanufacturer cap will level the playing field for all EV manufacturers and spur innovation among domestic manufacturers, ensuring America's leadership in the hyper-competitive, global auto market," the coalition said.

Jeannine Ginivan, a GM spokeswoman, said the tax credit should be modified but declined to say whether the automaker backs a specific piece of legislation that would remove the cap.

"We believe an important part of reaching a zero emissions future and establishing the U.S. as the leader in electrification is to continue to provide a federal tax credit to help make electric vehicles more affordable for all customers," Ginivan said in an email.

In addition to GM's in-house lobbyists, four lobbyists from Hance Scarborough, the Austin, Texas-based firm that Hance founded in 1994, are working on GM's behalf, including Hance, according to disclosure records.

GM also contracted with two other lobbying firms earlier this year to focus on electric and automated vehicle issues: the Polaris-Hutton Group and the DS2 Group. A fourth firm, the S-3 Group, was hired by GM in 2014 and earlier this year added the tax credit to its portfolio of lobbying issues.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[China Summons US Envoy to Protest Detention of Huawei Exec]]>Sun, 09 Dec 2018 13:22:17 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/175*120/AP_18340404171040.jpg

China summoned the U.S. ambassador to Beijing on Sunday to protest the detention of an executive of Chinese electronics giant Huawei in Canada at Washington's behest and demanded Washington cancel an order for her arrest.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng "lodged solemn representations and strong protests" with Ambassador Terry Branstad against the detention of Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. Meng, who is reportedly suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran, was detained on Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver, Canada.

The Xinhua report quoted Le as calling Meng's detention "extremely egregious" and demanded the U.S. vacate an order for her arrest. It quoted Le as calling for the U.S. to "immediately correct its wrong actions" and said it would take further steps based on Washington's response.

The move followed the summoning of Canadian Ambassador John McCallum on Saturday over Meng's detention and a similar protest warning of "grave consequences" if she is not released.

The Canadian province of British Columbia said in a statement Sunday it cancelled a trade mission to China because of Meng's detention. The announcement came amid fears China could detail Canadians in retaliation.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns over its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.

Meng's arrest has threatened to increase U.S.-China trade tensions and shook stock markets globally last week. But U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," downplayed the impact of the arrest on trade talks between the two countries aimed at defusing the tensions.

"It's my view that it shouldn't really have much of an impact," he said.

Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said that Chinese pressure on Canada's government won't work.

"Perhaps because the Chinese state controls its judicial system, Beijing sometimes has difficulty understanding or believing that courts can be independent in a rule-of-law country. There's no point in pressuring the Canadian government. Judges will decide," Paris tweeted in response to the comments from Beijing.

A Canadian prosecutor urged a Vancouver court to deny bail to Meng, whose case is shaking up U.S.-China relations and spooking global financial markets.

Meng, also the daughter of Huawei's founder, was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport on the same day that President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed over dinner to a 90-day cease-fire in a trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce.

The U.S. alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also says that Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran.

The surprise arrest raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world's two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.

Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing Friday that a warrant had been issued for Meng's arrest in New York on Aug. 22. He said Meng, arrested en route to Mexico from Hong Kong, was aware of the investigation and had been avoiding the United States for months, even though her teenage son goes to school in Boston.

Gibb-Carsley alleged that Huawei had done business in Iran through a Hong Kong company called Skycom. Meng, he said, had misled U.S. banks into thinking that Huawei and Skycom were separate when, in fact, "Skycom was Huawei." Meng has contended that Huawei sold Skycom in 2009.

In urging the court to reject Meng's bail request, Gibb-Carsley said the Huawei executive had vast resources and a strong incentive to bolt: She's facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years.

The hearing will resume Monday.

Huawei, in a brief statement emailed to The Associated Press, said that "we have every confidence that the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach the right conclusion."

Canadian officials have declined to comment on Chinese threats of retaliation over the case, instead emphasizing the independence of Canada's judiciary along with the importance of Ottawa's relationship with Beijing.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said Canada "has assured China that due process is absolutely being followed in Canada, that consular access for China to Ms. Meng will absolutely be provided."

"We are a rule-of-law country and we will be following our laws as we have thus far in this matter and as we will continue to do," Freeland said Friday.

While protesting what it calls Canada's violation of Meng's human rights, China's ruling Communist Party stands accused of mass incarcerations of its Muslim minority without due process, locking up those exercising their right to free speech and refusing to allow foreign citizens to leave the country in order to bring pressure on their relatives accused of financial crimes. The party also takes the lead in prosecutions of those accused of corruption or other crimes in a highly opaque process, without supervision from the court system or independent bodies.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dow Drops More Than 500 Points to Cap Wild Week on Wall St.]]>Fri, 07 Dec 2018 18:00:19 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Dow-Drops.jpg

Stocks dropped sharply on Friday, concluding what has been a wild week for Wall Street. A weaker-than-expected jobs report and China-U.S. trade tensions sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average lower by 558.72 points to 24,388.95 and erased its gains for the year.

At one point, the Dow was up more than 8 percent for 2018.

The S&P 500 pulled back 2.3 percent to 2,633.08 and also turned negative for the year. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.05 percent to close at 6,969.25. Shares of large-cap tech companies led the way lower. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet all traded lower. Apple’s stock also fell 3.6 percent — erasing its gains for the year — after Morgan Stanley cut its price target on the tech giant’s shares, citing weakening iPhone sales.

For the week, the major indexes all dropped more than 4 percent. Thursday’s session included a violent drop of nearly 800 points, followed by a strong rebound from those levels. This week was also the worst for the indexes since March.

Indexes fell to their lows of the day after the Wall Street Journal reported federal prosecutors are expected to bring charges against Chinese hackers allegedly trying to break into technology service providers in the U.S., another negative headline amid tense trade talks between the two countries.

The U.S. economy added 155,000 jobs last month. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a gain of 198,000 jobs. Wage growth also missed estimates. But investors were torn about the data as it could signal fewer rate hikes from the Federal Reserve down the road.

“The report was solid, not great, but it is still enough to keep the pace on track,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. She added, however, that volatility will persist as “investors are not sure about how much growth is slowing and are worried about U.S-China trade relations.”

Investors worried about the U.S. and China striking a permanent deal on trade after news of the Huawei CFO’s arrest broke. News of the arrest initially sent stocks down sharply on Thursday, but equities managed to recover most of their losses. This also came after President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed last weekend on a cease-fire to the ongoing U.S.-China trade conflict, which sent stocks sharply higher on Monday.

“You’ve gone from a period of zero sensitivity to headlines to a period of hypersensitivity,” said James Athey, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “We’re now in a world where no one knows which way is up and which way is down.”

Trade-related stocks like Deere and Boeing fell 4.6 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively. Caterpillar also dropped 3.75 percent.

Investors also grappled with fears of an economic slowdown this week. The yield on the 3-year Treasury note yield broke above its 5-year counterpart earlier in the week, a phenomenon referred to as an inversion. Historically, when short-term yields move above longer-term rates, it signals a recession could arrive in the near future. However, the more closely watched spread between 2-year and 10-year yields has yet to invert.

Bank shares fell broadly on Friday. The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) dropped 1.4 percent. Shares of J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup all fell at least 1.8 percent.

“Unfortunately, we still have to work through this volatility,” said Tom Essaye, founder of The Sevens Report. “Between now and the end of the year, there are two big hurdles: First, the Fed needs to do a dovish rate hike. The market can’t survive a hawkish surprise. Also, we need some semblance of calm on the global trade front.”

CNBC’s Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:
Trump is reportedly ‘glued’ to the stock market’s fluctuations and worried he’s causing them
Stocks are getting slammed — three experts weigh in on the selling
Apple could plunge 13 percent more before hitting a floor, says technical analyst

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<![CDATA[Marlboro Maker Places $2.4B Bet on Marijuana]]>Fri, 07 Dec 2018 13:47:09 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Marlboror_GettyImages-102300115.jpg

One of the world's biggest tobacco companies is diving into the cannabis market with a $2.4 billion buy-in.

Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. is taking a 45 percent stake in Cronos Group, the Canadian medical and recreational marijuana provider said Friday.

Altria will pay another $1.4 billion for warrants that if exercised, would give the Altria a 55 percent ownership stake in the Toronto company.

That would mean Altria's investment would be in the same league as the $4 billion spent earlier this year by Constellation Brands to acquire shares of Canopy Growth Corp., another Canadian pot producer.

The August investment by Constellation, which makes Corona and other beverages, was the largest to date by a major U.S. corporation in the cannabis market.

Whatever hesitation larger corporations in the U.S. had about entering the cannabis market appears to be fading if there is a financial justification.

Altria's huge investment lit up shares of cannabis companies that have begun to set up shop in Canada, where recreational use was legalized this year.

Shares of Cronos Group Inc. jumped 31 percent and neared an all-time high at the opening bell Friday.

Rapid growth in the cannabis market is expected to continue as legalization expands in the U.S. and social norms change. On Tuesday, ultra-conservative Utah became the latest state to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes.

Consumers are expected to spend $57 billion per year worldwide on legal cannabis by 2027, according to Arcview Market Research, a cannabis-focused investment firm. In North America, that spending is expected to grow from $9.2 billion in 2017 to $47.3 billion in 2027.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Customers Get 1st Taste of Limited-Edition Wawa Coffee Beer]]>Fri, 07 Dec 2018 07:06:45 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Wawa+Coffee+Beer.jpg

Love beer, coffee and Wawa? Then Christmas is coming early for you. Wawa and 2SP Brewing Company, a brewery based in Aston, Pennsylvania, have released their limited-edition Winter Reserve Coffee Stout.

The oatmeal stout beer is steeped with Wawa’s new limited edition Winter Blend coffee and features flavors of sweet clove, dark chocolate and graham crackers.

A Firkin Tapping event on Thursday at the Wawa on 721 Naamans Creek Rd. in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania drew a line around the store. The location is the only Wawa in Pennsylvania to sell beer.

During the event, the first 50 cases of the beer were available for purchase on a first come, first serve basis and customers got a complimentary beer tasting.

If you missed the event, 1,000 cases of the beer will officially be available for purchase during the week of Dec. 10 through Origlio beverage at neighborhood bars, bottle shops and distributors in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania.

“At Wawa, supporting our local neighbors is at the heart of everything we do, which makes our special partnership with 2SP so crucial at our Chadds Ford store, our only Pennsylvania store to sell beer,” Mike Sherlock, Chief Product Marketing Officer for Wawa, Inc., wrote in a news release.

“We are both happy to call Delaware County our hometown and we’re excited to team up to create a Winter Reserve Coffee Stout using our new limited-edition Wawa Reserve Winter Blend allowing us to add even more value to our customer experience just in time for the holidays.”

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[US Hiring Slowed to 155K Jobs, Jobless Rate Stayed 3.7%]]>Fri, 07 Dec 2018 11:07:16 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/jobsreportnovGettyImages-154411189.jpg

U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in November, a slowdown from recent months but enough to suggest that the economy is expanding at a solid pace despite sharp gyrations in the stock market.

Still, economists had forecast 195,000 jobs for the month.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate remained 3.7%, nearly a five-decade low, for the third straight month. Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago, matching the previous month's figure, which was the best since 2009.

The economy is expanding at a healthy pace, but rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China, ongoing interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve and weakening global growth have roiled financial markets. Analysts expect growth to slow but remain solid in 2019 as the impact of last year's tax cuts fade.

The jobs figure was less than many economists forecast, but few saw the report as a sign of a broader slowdown.

"The economy continues to churn out new jobs and reflects the strong underlying business conditions that point to steady, albeit slower job growth and economic activity in 2019," said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at consulting firm RSM. "This report strongly implies that a recession is not looming just over the horizon."

The report is unlikely to dissuade the Federal Reserve from raising short-term interest rates at its meeting later this month, as expected, Brusuelas said. But it suggests the Fed may not hike rates next year as rapidly as many investors have feared.

Stock prices rose in the immediate aftermath of the report but fell in late morning trading. The Dow Jones dropped 225 points or 0.9 percent.

The ongoing job gains are pushing down unemployment rates to historically low levels for a variety of groups. The unemployment rate for men aged 20 and above fell last month to 3.3%, the lowest in 18 years. And the rate for Americans with just high school diplomas dropped to 3.5%, the lowest since December 2000. The African-American jobless rate declined to 5.9%, matching May's figure as the lowest on record.

November's job gains are down from October's robust 237,000, which was revised lower from last month's estimate. Hiring has averaged 195,000 a month for the past six months, modestly below an average of 212,000 in the previous six.

Hiring in November was led by health care firms, which added 40,100 jobs, and professional services such as accounting and engineering, which gained 32,000. Manufacturing companies hired 27,000 new workers, the most in seven months and a sign that trade tensions have yet to weaken factory hiring. 

Construction firms cut back, however, adding just 5,000 jobs, the fewest in five months. Hiring also slowed in restaurants, bars and hotels.

Most recent data have pointed to solid economic growth. Americans increased their spending in October by the most in seven months, and their incomes grew by the most in nine months, according to a government report last week. Consumer confidence remains near 18-year highs, surveys show. And both manufacturing and services companies expanded at a healthy pace in November, according to a pair of business surveys.

The housing market, though, has stumbled this year as the Fed's rate hikes have contributed to sharply higher mortgage rates. Sales of existing homes have fallen 5.4% from a year earlier, the biggest annual decline in more than four years.

Investors, however, are mostly focused on where the economy is headed. They are worried that the U.S.-China trade war could still intensify, despite an agreement over the weekend between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping that included postponing a planned U.S. tariff hike for 90 days. Higher tariffs would compound the risks for a global economy that is already grappling with dismal growth figures from Europe and Japan.

The interest rate paid by longer-term bonds has also fallen sharply in the past month, panicking investors, while short-term rates have declined by much less. That typically signals a weaker economy ahead.

And the Federal Reserve has raised short-term interest rates three times this year and is likely to do so a fourth time later this month, thereby raising borrowing costs for consumers and businesses. The Fed has signaled that it could increase rates again next year.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Why Huawei Arrest Deepens Conflict Between US and China]]>Fri, 07 Dec 2018 00:40:59 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/175*120/AP_18340404171040.jpg

The dramatic arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive has driven home why it will be so hard for the Trump administration to resolve its deepening conflict with China.

In the short run, the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer heightened skepticism about the trade truce that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On Thursday, U.S. stock markets tumbled on fears that the 90-day cease-fire won't last, before regaining most of their losses by the close of trading.

The Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, faces extradition to the United States, and a bail hearing was set for Friday.

But the case of an executive for a Chinese company that's been a subject of U.S. national security concerns carries echoes well beyond tariffs or market access. Washington and Beijing are locked in a clash over which of the world's two largest economies will command economic and political dominance for decades to come.

"It's a much broader issue than just a trade dispute," said Amanda DeBusk, chair of the international trade practice at Dechert LLP. "It pulls in: Who is going to be the world leader essentially."

Meng was detained by Canadian authorities in Vancouver as she was changing flights Saturday — the same day that Trump and Xi met at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina and produced a cease-fire in their trade war. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, reported that she is suspected of trying to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The British bank HSBC is cooperating with U.S. authorities in its investigation, people familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Huawei, the world's biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies, has long been seen as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services, whose cyber-spies are widely acknowledged as highly skilled. A U.S. National Security Agency cybersecurity adviser, Rob Joyce, last month accused Beijing of violating a 2015 agreement with the U.S. to halt electronic theft of intellectual property.

Other nations are increasingly being forced to choose between Chinese and U.S. suppliers for next-generation "5G" wireless technology. Washington has been pushing other countries not to buy the equipment from Huawei, arguing that the company may be working stealthily for Beijing's spymasters.

Beijing protested Meng's arrest but signaled that it doesn't want to disrupt progress toward settling its trade dispute with the Trump administration. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said China is confident it can reach a deal during the 90 days that Trump agreed to suspend a scheduled increase in U.S. import taxes on $200 billion worth of Chinese products.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told NPR that he knew of the pending arrest in advance. He noted that there has been much concern about the suspicion that Chinese firms like Huawei use stolen U.S. intellectual property.

In the view of the United States and many outside analysts, China has embarked on an aggressive drive to overtake America's dominance in technology and global economic leadership. According to analysts, China has deployed predatory tactics, from forcing American and other foreign companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market to engaging in cyber-theft.

Washington also regards Beijing's ambitious long-term development plan, "Made in China 2025," as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidizing Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors.

In addition to Trump's tariffs, the administration is tightening regulations on high-tech exports to China. It's also making it harder for Chinese firms to invest in U.S. companies or to buy American technology in such cutting-edge areas as robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Earlier this year, the United States nearly drove Huawei's biggest Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., out of business for selling equipment to North Korea and Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. But Trump issued a reprieve, possibly in part because U.S. tech companies are major suppliers of the Chinese giant and would also have been scorched. ZTE got off with paying a $1 billion fine, changing its board and management and agreeing to let American regulators monitor its operations.

The U.S. and Chinese tech industries depend on each other so much for components that "it is very hard to decouple the two without punishing U.S. companies, without shooting ourselves in the foot," said Adam Segal, cyberspace analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Dean Garfield, president of the U.S. Information Technology Industry Council trade group, said innovation by U.S. companies often depends utterly on product development and testing by Chinese partners, not to mention component suppliers.

British Telecom said this week that it would stop using Huawei equipment in its 5G network, the BBC reported, and U.S. lawmakers have lobbied Canada's prime minister to freeze out the Chinese supplier. New Zealand and Australia already have. Other, less wealthy nations are concerned less about spying and more about low prices, which play to Huawei's advantage.

Both Huawei and ZTE have not only been barred from use by U.S. government agencies and contractors; they have also been mostly locked out of the American market. A 2012 report by the House Intelligence Committee report urged U.S. businesses to avoid their products and called for blocking all mergers or acquisitions involving them.

And nearly a year ago, AT&T pulled out of a deal to sell Huawei smartphones.

"There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party — and Huawei, which China's government and military tout as a 'national champion' is no exception," Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote in October to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They urged him to keep Huawei off Canada's next-generation network.

Priscilla Moriuchi, a former East Asia specialist at National Security Agency now with the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said both ZTE and Huawei are wedded to China's military and political leadership.

"The threat from these companies lies in their access to critical internet backbone infrastructure," she said.

"No matter what happens in the short term, (the arrest of Huawei's CFO) is a symptom of a long-term technology clash," said Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "We're not going to deal that away in 90 days."

Scissors said he doubts that China will change its tech policies. Beijing must develop innovative technologies to keep its economy growing as its labor force ages and it confronts a huge stockpile of debt. Yet its political and economic system — which promotes inefficient state-owned companies at the expense of nimbler private ones — discourages innovation.

"I don't see a way out of this," Scissors said.

Likewise, Rod Hunter, an international economic official in President George W. Bush's White House and a partner at law firm Baker McKenzie, said, "I'm skeptical that the Chinese are going to want to say 'uncle.'" U.S. and Chinese officials are "trying to tackle a problem that is going to take years, maybe a decade, to resolve."

AP staff writers Rob Gillies and Joe McDonald contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bloomberg Would Try to Sell His Business If He Was President]]>Thu, 06 Dec 2018 09:05:11 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/bloomberg8.jpg

Mike Bloomberg said Tuesday in a Radio Iowa interview that he will probably try to sell Bloomberg LP if becomes president in 2020. 

"I think at my age, if selling it is possible, I would do that," Bloomberg said. "At some point, you're going to die anyway, so you want to do it before then." 

Bloomberg said he would have to start the process of either selling or putting the business into a blind trust if he ran because any process would take a long time. But he won't sell the business unless he actually becomes president, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

Finding a buyer may not be easy. 

Bloomberg takes in about $10 billion in annual revenue, according to a source familiar with the matter. The company would probably fetch more than $40 billion in a sale, according to two investment bankers familiar with the company's finances. 

A spokesperson for Bloomberg LP declined to comment. 

There aren't many companies large enough to absorb Bloomberg that make sense as buyers. The most likely option for a sale, said the bankers, is a consortium leveraged buyout deal. Private-equity firm Blackstone acquired a majority stake in Thomson Reuters's financial information business, which competes with Bloomberg, in a deal that valued the unit at $20 billion earlier this year. 

Still, club private-equity deals aren't nearly as common as they were a decade ago. Many of those transactions led to huge losses after the financial crisis. A leveraged buyout of Bloomberg would likely be the largest in history, topping the $32 billion acquisition of TXU led by KKR & Co. and TPG in 2007. 

Google and Amazon both have the balance sheets to acquire Bloomberg. But Google's primary revenue stream and area of expertise is advertising sales related to its search business. That's not Bloomberg's business at all, which derives its revenue from selling pricey subscriptions (about $22,000 a year) for its financial news and information service. 

Amazon has aggressively moved into may different business verticals, including media, retail and health care, to gain an ever-growing customer base. But Bloomberg's clientele are largely professional and relatively small in number, compared to the millions of consumers Amazon covets, so that may not be a clean fit either. 

Financial institutions, such as JP Morgan or ICE, could see value in Bloomberg, but the likely conflicts that would occur if a transaction took place would erode the company's value.  

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 

Photo Credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP
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<![CDATA[Stocks Claw Back From an Early Plunge on Fed Report]]>Thu, 06 Dec 2018 17:02:01 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/1078111578-Wall-Street-Falling.jpg

U.S. stocks clawed most of their way back from a deep slide Thursday that at one point had wiped out the market's gains for the year.

An early plunge briefly knocked more than 700 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average as the arrest of a senior Chinese technology executive threatened to cause another flare-up in tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The sell-off eased by late afternoon, however, after The Wall Street Journal reported that said the Federal Reserve is considering breaking with its current approach of steady interest rate hikes, favoring a wait-and-see approach. That was relief to investors worried that the Fed might raise interest rates too fast, which could choke off economic growth.

"The Fed is trying to, in essence, come out and make it clear they are not on a rigid schedule of rate hikes next year," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.

The S&P 500 index fell 4.11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,695.95. The benchmark index had been down as much as 2.9 percent.

The Dow dropped 79.40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 24,947.67. The average briefly slumped as much as 784 points.

The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite reversed an early loss to finish with a gain, adding 29.83 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,188.26.

The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gave up 3.34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,477.41.

Traders continued to shovel money into bonds, a signal that they see weakness in the economy ahead. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.89 percent from 2.92 percent on Tuesday, a large move.

U.S. stock and bond trading were closed Wednesday because of a national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush.

Losses in banks and energy and industrial stocks outweighed gains in internet and real estate companies.

Citigroup fell 3.5 percent to $60.06. Halliburton slid 4.7 percent to $29.79. Discovery climbed 4.7 percent to $26.99.

Last week, stocks jumped after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated the central bank might consider a pause in rate hikes next year while it gauges the impact of its credit tightening program.

The Fed has raised rates three times this year and is expected to boost rates for a fourth time at its Dec. 18-19 meeting of policymakers. That steady pace of rate hikes has begun to worry some investors amid growing signs that some sectors of the economy are hurting, including U.S. home sales. At the same time, there has been growing evidence that the global economic growth is slowing.

"The market seems right now to be focused on increased risks for a 2020 recession," said Patrick Schaffer, Global Investment Specialist, J.P. Morgan Private Bank. "It's a very hard market to buy when you see really strong signals that we are indeed late (in the economic) cycle."

Thursday's initial wave of selling in the market came about as traders reacted to the news that Canadian authorities arrested the chief financial officer of China's Huawei Technologies on Wednesday for possible extradition to the U.S. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, said Meng is suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran.

Meng is a prominent member of Chinese society as deputy chairman of the board and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei. China has demanded Meng's immediate release.

The arrest came less than a week after President Donald Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Argentina.

Markets rallied on Monday on news that Trump and Xi agreed to a temporary, 90-day stand-down in their trade dispute. That optimism quickly faded as skepticism grew that Beijing will yield to U.S. demands anytime soon, leading to a steep sell-off in global markets on Tuesday.

On Thursday, China's government said it would promptly carry out the tariff cease-fire with Washington. It also expressed confidence that the two nations can reach a trade agreement. The remarks suggest Beijing wants to avoid disruptions from Meng's arrest.

Even so, investors remained skeptical.

"Trade tensions aren't going away," Schaffer said. "Contradictory statements from the administration have given some people a little bit of pause with respect to the optimism that people felt following the Argentina G-20 conference."

The renewed jitters over the implications that Meng's arrest could have on U.S.-China trade negotiations weighed on overseas markets.

Major indexes overseas also fell sharply. The DAX in Germany dropped 3.5 percent, while France's CAC 40 lost 3.3 percent. The FTSE 100 in Britain declined 3.1 percent, its biggest drop since the country held a vote to leave the European Union in June 2016.

The news also resulted in another down day for markets in Asia.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index tumbled 2.5 percent and Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 1.9 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent, while South Korea's Kospi sank 1.6 percent. Shares also fell in Taiwan and all other regional markets.

Oil prices fell sharply as traders appeared to doubt that an expected production cut by OPEC will be enough to boost the price of crude.

OPEC countries gathered in Vienna Thursday to find a way to support the falling price of oil. Analysts predicted the cartel and some key allies, like Russia, would agree to cut production by at least 1 million barrels per day. OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia indicated it was in favor of such a cut.

The expectation did not keep the price of oil from falling, however, as investors focused on the potential economic disruption from any escalation in the U.S.-China trade dispute.

Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 2.6 percent to settle at $51.49 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid 2.4 percent to close at $60.06 per barrel.

The dollar weakened to 112.65 yen from 113.19 yen late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.1373 from $1.1342.

Gold gained 0.1 percent to $1,243.60 an ounce. Silver fell 0.5 percent to $14.51 an ounce. Copper dropped 1.1 percent to $2.74 a pound.

In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline lost 0.8 percent to $1.43 a gallon. Heating oil gave up 1.6 percent to $1.86 a gallon. Natural gas slid 3.2 percent to $4.33 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sea Reefs and Sunsets: Living Coral Is Color of the Year]]>Wed, 05 Dec 2018 18:38:27 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18338794698980.jpg

It's the color of underwater reefs hanging on for dear life. The sky at dusk. Some of the latest iPhones and the latest looks on the runways of Marc Jacobs and other top fashion designers. Living Coral has been chosen by the Pantone Color Institute as its 2019 color of the year.

Can a color be convivial? Laurie Pressman, the company's vice president, considers this saturated orange base with a golden undertone not only warm and welcoming but versatile and life-affirming. It energizes with a softer edge than, say, its pastel and neon color cousins.

"With everything that's going on today, we're looking for those humanizing qualities because we're seeing online life dehumanizing a lot of things," Pressman told The Associated Press ahead of Wednesday's annual color unveiling. "We're looking toward those colors that bring nourishment and the comfort and familiarity that make us feel good. It's not too heavy. We want to play. We want to be uplifted."

But do we want to run toward this color of grandmothers? Pressman also sees a retro vibe to Living Coral, in the same way a softer version of the 2018 pick, Ultra Violet, is the shade of some gray heads when hair toners bring on a turn to purple.

"It's the emotional nourishment. It's a big hug," she said of Living Coral.

How important color analysis is when weighed against, well, the rest of the world is in the eye of the beholder. Pantone is a for-profit enterprise that forecasts color trends, analyzes the psychology of color and advises companies on color for product packaging and brand identity. Its wares come with price tags, but nearly 20 years of choosing colors of the year has been a useful marketing strategy and free, free, free.

Living Coral is ascending, Pressman said, at a time when bleaching due to climate change continues to rob actual coral reefs of their rainbows. It's a color that seems to work for everybody, across the gender spectrum in apparel and across segments, from art and housewares to home interiors and industrial design.

The color also points to a long and often painful slog over the last decade or so through financial market scares and political crises to environmental chaos and the rise of social media, where saturated color presides, Pressman said.

"We're seeing so much more saturated color," she said. "That's the influence of social media because people want things to stand out. This is definitely a color you see on social media."

Living Coral is vivifying, but it's "not so overpowering and in your face," she said. "It's bright enough, and engaging."

Officially, Living Coral is Pantone 16-1546. Ever wonder what those Pantone numbers are all about? Well, they're broken into three pairs and refer to a color's level of lightness, hue and "chroma," on various scales. What, you ask, is chroma? It's a description that combines hue and saturation. A set of letters after the numbers indicate the material or substance upon which the color was printed or otherwise placed, such as dyed cotton or paper.

Coming up with such color standards is one of those other things Pantone does when it's not announcing colors of the year.

Before Ultra Violet was chosen for 2018, there was Greenery the year before. In 2016, Pantone picked a duo for the first time: Serenity (a baby blue) and Rose Quartz (a light pink).

The selection process spans the year. Pantone's experts travel the world in search of color influences that gained momentum, from the entertainment industry and traveling art collections to fashion and beauty trends, travel destinations and specialty shows for design and decor.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Pantone Color Institute via AP]]>
<![CDATA[The 10 Best Places to Work in 2019, According to Glassdoor]]>Thu, 06 Dec 2018 06:08:26 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/in-n-out-workers.jpg

Now is a great time for workers looking for a job. According to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American economy added 250,000 jobs in October, and unemployment remained at just 3.7 percent, the lowest since 1969.

This tight labor market means that companies must compete to attract and retain talent. Each year, job search and salary comparison site Glassdoor determines the companies that are the Best Places to Work. Glassdoor analyzed company reviews across eight variables: overall company rating, career opportunities, compensation and benefits, culture and values, senior management, work-life balance, likelihood of respondents to recommend the organization to a friend and six month business outlook.

Employers with at least 1,000 employees and at least 75 ratings across the eight attributes are considered for the list.

"In today’s tight labor market, job seekers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding where to work and they want to know the inner workings of a company before accepting a new job," Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor chief economist, said in a statement.

Last year, social media behemoth Facebook topped the list as the the number one best place to work. This year, the company fell to No. 7, reflecting Facebook’s undeniably difficult year, as well as increased competition among rival employers.

Here are the 10 best places to work, according to Glassdoor:

10. Southwest Airlines
Industry: Transportation
Mission: “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit.”
Glassdoor rating: 4.4

9. lululemon
Industry: Apparel
Mission: "Founded in Vancouver, Canada in 1998, lululemon athletica is a technical athletic apparel company for yoga, running, training and most other sweaty pursuits.”
Glassdoor rating: 4.4

8. Google
Industry: Internet services
Mission: "Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful."
Glassdoor rating: 4.4

7. Facebook
Industry: Social media
Mission: "Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world and to share and express what matters to them."
Glassdoor rating: 4.5

6. LinkedIn
Industry: Social media
Mission: "The mission of LinkedIn is simple: connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful."
Glassdoor rating: 4.5

5. Boston Consulting Group
Industry: Management consulting
Mission: "Our mission is clear. We go deep to unlock insight and have the courage to act. We bring the right people together to challenge established thinking and drive transformation. We work with our clients to build the capabilities that enable organizations to achieve sustainable advantage. We are shaping the future. Together."
Glassdoor rating: 4.5

4. Procore Technologies
Industry: Software
Mission: "Procore connects people, applications and devices through a unified platform to help construction professionals manage risk and build quality projects — safely, on time and within budget."
Glassdoor rating: 4.5

3. In-N-Out Burger
Industry: Food service
Mission: "Since 1948, we have maintained a simple philosophy — serve only the highest quality product, prepare it in a clean and sparkling environment and serve it in a warm and friendly manner."
Glassdoor rating: 4.5

2. Zoom Video Communications
Industry: Communications
Mission: "Founded in 2011, Zoom’s mission is to develop a people-centric cloud service that transforms the real-time collaboration experience and improves the quality and effectiveness of communications forever."
Glassdoor rating: 4.5

1. Bain & Company
Industry: Management consulting
Mission: "At Bain, we are guided by our mission to have a transformative impact on our clients and abide by our True North values — our unwavering commitment to always do the right thing by our clients, our people and our communities. We help our clients create such high levels of value that together we set new standards of excellence in our respective industries."
Glassdoor rating: 4.6

Management consulting firm Bain & Company topped the Glassdoor’s list as the best place to work in 2019.

Bain employees tell Glassdoor that the company does a good job of investing in their workers and making them feel supported. “Bain fosters a really supportive and fun work environment. At a local level, my colleagues are at once my mentors, confidantes and closest friends,” says an associate consultant from Los Angeles.

"Working for Bain & Company is an experience that I would not trade for the world. Bain offers outstanding compensation for all its employees," writes an office services specialist from Atalanta.

Chamberlain says this commitment to investing in workers is a key part of making a company a great place to work.

"For employers, we know that a satisfied and engaged workforce helps drive financial performance," he says. "Glassdoor Best Places to Work winners are strategically investing in company culture, career growth opportunities and more, which also serves as a major recruiting advantage."

This article first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:
*You’re more likely to lose your job by 2026 if you’re working in one of these 10 disappearing occupations
*No matter how bad things get at Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg will be chairman for as long as he wants
*At 100 years old, the world’s oldest billionaire still goes to the office every day

Photo Credit: Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images (File)
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<![CDATA[Documents Show Facebook Used User Data as Competitive Weapon]]>Wed, 05 Dec 2018 18:18:42 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_Facebookemails_18339571866017.jpg

Internal Facebook documents released by a U.K. parliamentary committee offer the clearest evidence yet that the social network has used its enormous trove of user data as a competitive weapon, often in ways designed to keep its users in the dark.

Parliament's media committee accused Facebook on Wednesday of cutting special deals with some app developers to give them more access to data, while icing out others that it viewed as potential rivals.

In other documents, company executives discussed how they were keeping the company's collection and exploitation of user data from its users. That included quietly collecting the call records and text messages of users of phones that run on Google's Android operating system without asking their permission.

The U.K. committee released more than 200 pages of documents on the tech giant's internal discussions about the value of users' personal information. While they mostly cover the period between 2012 and 2015 —the first three years after Facebook went public — they offer a rare glimpse into the company's inner workings and the extent to which it used people's data to make money while publicly vowing to protect their privacy.

The company's critics said the new revelations reinforced their concerns over what users actually know about how Facebook treats their data.

"These kinds of schemes are exactly why companies must be required to disclose exactly how they are collecting and sharing our data, with stiff penalties for companies that lie about it," Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said in a statement.

Facebook called the documents misleading and said the information they contain is "only part of the story."

"Like any business, we had many internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform," the company said in a statement. "But the facts are clear: We've never sold people's data."

In a Facebook post , company CEO Mark Zuckerberg sought to put the documents in context. "Of course, we don't let everyone develop on our platform," he wrote. "We blocked a lot of sketchy apps. We also didn't allow developers to use our platform to replicate our functionality or grow their services virally in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook."

The U.K. committee seized the documents from app developer Six4Three, maker of a now-defunct bikini-picture search app. Six4Three acquired the files as part of a U.S. lawsuit that accuses Facebook of deceptive, anti-competitive business practices. The documents remain under court seal in the U.S.

In a summary of key issues pertaining to the documents, the committee said Facebook "whitelisted," or made exceptions for companies such as Airbnb and Netflix, that gave them continued access to users' "friends" even after the tech giant announced changes in 2015 to end the practice.

"Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data," the committee said in a statement. "It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not."

The documents "raise important questions about how Facebook treats users' data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market," said committee chair Damian Collins. "We don't feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents."

The cache includes emails from Zuckerberg and other key members of his staff. The emails show Zuckerberg and other executives scheming to leverage user data to favor companies not considered to be threats and to identify potential acquisitions.

Collins said the emails raise important issues, particularly around the use of the data of Facebook users. "The idea of linking access to friends' data to the financial value of the developers' relationship with Facebook is a recurring feature of the documents," Collins said.

The committee's summary said Facebook collected data about the mobile apps its users favored to help it decide which companies to acquire. It also said Facebook knew that an update to its Android mobile app phone system — which allowed the Facebook app to hoover up user call logs and text messages — would be controversial.

"To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features of the upgrade of their app," the summary said.

In a post Wednesday, Facebook continued to stand by its stance that the feature was "is opt in for users and we ask for people's permission before enabling."

The Android data collection practice was unearthed in April as the Cambridge Analytica scandal roiled Facebook. The data mining firm, employed by the 2016 Trump campaign, exploited lax Facebook data-sharing policies to obtain data on millions of users without their consent.

Facebook executives clearly understand the material is valuable. An unsigned memo setting policy for a system upgrade known as "Platform 3.0" laid out a case for shutting out any app developer who could be construed as a competitor.

"There are a small number of developers whom no amount of sharing to FB or monetary value can justify giving them access to Platform," the memo said. "These developers do not want to participate in the ecosystem we have created, but rather build their own ecosystem at the expense of our users, other developers and, of course, us. That is something that we will not allow."

The documents also suggest Facebook would jealously safeguard its interests. In a January 2013 email exchange, Zuckerberg signed off on cutting access to Twitter's Vine video-producing app, which had allowed users to find their friends on Vine by pulling in data from Facebook.

"Unless anyone raises objections," Facebook Vice President Justin Osofsky wrote, the company would cut Vine's access to users' friend networks. "We're prepared reactive PR."

"Yup, go for it," Zuckerberg replied.

The documents also suggest robust internal discussions about linking data to revenue.

"There's a big question on where we get the revenue from," Zuckerberg said in one email. "Do we make it easy for (developers) to use our payments/ad network but not require them? Do we require them? Do we just charge a (revenue) share directly and let (developers) who use them get a credit against what they owe us? It's not at all clear to me here that we have a model that will actually make us the revenue we want at scale."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP (File)]]>
<![CDATA[White House Intensifies Confusion and Fear on US-China Deal]]>Wed, 05 Dec 2018 14:32:02 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/chinaAP_18339133306639.jpg

The Trump administration raised doubts Tuesday about the substance of a U.S.-China trade cease-fire, contributing to a broad stock market plunge and intensifying fears of a global economic slowdown. 

Investors had initially welcomed the truce that the administration said was reached over the weekend in Buenos Aires between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jingping — and sent stocks up Monday. But on Tuesday, after a series of confusing and conflicting words from Trump and some senior officials, stocks tumbled, with the Dow Jones shedding about 800 points, or 3.1%.

White House aides have struggled to explain the details of what the two countries actually agreed on. And China has not confirmed that it made most of the concessions that the Trump administration has claimed.

"The sense is that there's less and less agreement between the two sides about what actually took place," said Willie Delwiche, an investment strategist at Baird. "There was a rally in the expectation that something had happened. The problem is that something turned out to be nothing."

Other concerns contributed to the stock sell-off, including falling long-term bond yields. Those lower rates suggested that investors expect the U.S. economy to slow, along with global growth, and possibly fall into recession in the coming year or two.

John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, also unnerved investors by telling reporters Tuesday that he supports further Fed rate hikes. His remarks renewed fears that the Fed may miscalculate and raise rates so high or so fast as to depress growth.

The disarray surrounding the China deal coincides with a global economy that faces other challenges: Britain is struggling to negotiate its exit from the European Union. Italy's government is seeking to spend and borrow more, which could elevate interest rates and stifle growth.

And in the United States, home sales have fallen sharply in the past year as mortgage rates have jumped.

Trump and White House aides have promoted the apparent U.S.-China agreement in Buenos Aires as an historic breakthrough that would ease trade tensions and potentially reduce tariffs. They announced that China had agreed to buy many more American products and to negotiate over the administration's assertions that Beijing steals American technology. But by Tuesday morning, Trump was renewing his tariff threats in a series of tweets.

"President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will," Trump tweeted. "But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so."

Trump added that a 90-day timetable for negotiators to reach a deeper agreement had begun and that his aides would see "whether or not a REAL deal with China is actually possible."

The president's words had the effect of making the weekend agreement, already a vague and uncertain one, seem even less likely to produce a long-lasting trade accord.

"We expect the relationship between the world's two largest economies to remain contentious," Moody's Investors Service said in a report. "Narrow agreements and modest concessions in their ongoing trade dispute will not bridge the wide gulf in their respective economic, political and strategic interests."

Among the conflicting assertions that White House officials made was over whether China had actually agreed to drop its 40% tariffs on U.S. autos.

In addition, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday on the Fox Business Network that China agreed to buy $1.2 trillion of U.S. products. But Mnuchin added, "if that's real" — thereby raising some doubt — it would close the U.S. trade deficit with China, and "we have to have a negotiated agreement and have this on paper."

Many economists have expressed skepticism that very much could be achieved to bridge the vast disagreements between the two countries in just 90 days.

"The actual amount of concrete progress made at this meeting appears to have been quite limited," Alec Phillips and other economists at Goldman Sachs wrote in a research note.

During the talks in Buenos Aires, Trump agreed to delay a scheduled escalation in U.S. tariffs on many Chinese goods, from 10% to 25%, that had been set to take effect Jan. 1. Instead, the two sides are to negotiate over U.S. complaints about China's trade practices, notably that it has used predatory tactics to try to achieve supremacy in technology. These practices, according to the administration and outside analysts, include stealing intellectual property and forcing companies to turn over technology to gain access to China's market.

In return for the postponement in the higher U.S. tariffs, the White House said China had agreed to step up its purchases of U.S. farm, energy and industrial goods. Most economists noted that the two countries remain far apart on the sharpest areas of disagreement, which include Beijing's subsidies for strategic Chinese industries, in addition to forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft.

Kudlow acknowledged those challenges in remarks Tuesday morning.

"China's discussed these things with the U.S. many times down through the years and the results have not been very good," he said. "So this time around as I said, I'm hopeful, we're covering more ground than ever... So we'll see."

Complicating the challenge, Trump's complaints strike at the heart of the Communist Party's state-led economic model and its plans to elevate China to political and cultural leadership by creating global champions in robotics and other fields.

"It's impossible for China to cancel its industry policies or major industry and technology development plans," said economist Cui Fan of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

Trump had tweeted Sunday that China agreed to "reduce and remove" its 40% tariff on cars imported from the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that there was a "specific agreement" on the auto tariffs.

Yet Kudlow said later that there was no "specific agreement" regarding auto trade, though he added, "We expect those tariffs to go to zero."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Vincent Yu/AP]]>
KENNETH HILARIO]]><![CDATA[Seasonal Bar 'Tinsel' Promises Pop-up Christmas Cheer]]>Tue, 04 Dec 2018 15:27:38 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/DSC05279.JPG

Tinsel, the Christmas pop-up bar opened last year by Craft Concepts Group, is back... and better than ever.

Craft Concepts Group, parent company of popular bars Bru Craft & Wurst and U-Bahn, will open Tinsel at 116 S. 12th St. in the Midtown Village neighborhood of Philadelphia on Thursday, Dec. 6.

The pop-up bar, when it opened last year, took over the space left vacated by Simpson's Jewelry, next to Craft Concept bar Finn McCool's. It served Christmas cocktails, holiday specialty drafts and ales at its full-service bar.

Tinsel this year will be bigger, better and very different from last year's, since it's been months in the making. Craft Concepts Group in 2017 had less time to prepare; Simpson's Jewelry moved out of the space less than a week before Tinsel's debut. This year's iteration, occupying 1,300 square feet in space, has three rooms decorated with Christmas lights and decorations, plus a Santa throne, Christmas chandeliers, and an expanded 33-foot bar.

To read more about Tinsel's opening, click here.

Stay up to date on the latest business news with the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Photo Credit: Kory Aversa]]>
<![CDATA[Popular Q&A Site Says Hackers Stole Info on 100M Users ]]>Tue, 04 Dec 2018 11:06:58 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AdobeStock_101979815.jpg

Quora, the popular question-and-answer website, said Monday evening that hackers broke into one of its systems and compromised information from approximately 100 million users.

CEO Adam D'Angelo said in a blog post the company discovered last week that a malicious third party had gained unauthorized access to one of its systems.

Account information, including names, email addresses and encrypted passwords, may have been illegally accessed, according to the post. User-imported data from other social networks could also have been taken.

But the majority of the content the hackers accessed was already public on the site — such as questions, answers, and comments, D'Angelo wrote.

"We're in the process of notifying users whose data has been compromised," he said.

Quora is investigating the issue and said it has "notified law enforcement officials."

Massive data breaches have become a common occurrence as hackers exploit vulnerabilities in the information technology systems used by businesses.

Last week, Marriott International said hackers had copied data from the reservation database for its Starwood Hotels brand, with unauthorized access dating back to 2014.

Earlier in the year, social networking giant Facebook disclosed a security breach where 29 million users had their personal information exposed.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: SkyLine, File
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<![CDATA[Stock Market Plunges on Doubts Over Trump's Trade Deal]]>Tue, 04 Dec 2018 16:45:09 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Dow-plunges-800.jpg

Stocks fell sharply on Tuesday in the biggest decline since the October rout as investors worried about a bond-market phenomenon signaling a possible economic slowdown. Lingering worries around U.S.-China trade also added to jitters down Wall Street, CNBC reports.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 791 points, or 3.06 percent, posting its worst day since Oct. 10. At its low of the day, the Dow had fallen more than 800 points. Boeing and Caterpillar, two major exporters that would have much to lose if trade tensions don't ease, weighed the most on the Dow.

The S&P 500 declined 3.2 percent to close below its 200-day moving average as the financials sector lagged. Utilities was the only positive sector in the S&P 500, rising 0.16 percent. The Nasdaq Composite also dropped 3.8 percent to close back in correction territory. Trading volume in U.S. stocks was also higher than usual on Wall Street, while bond prices soared sharply, sending yields lower, as traders shoved money into lower-risk investments.

Despite the Trump administration's celebrating earlier the 90-day truce it reached in its trade war with China as a significant breakthrough, a hazy timetable and scant details have caused widespread skepticism that Beijing will yield to U.S. demands anytime soon. 

"This is just an enormous, enormous event," Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, said Monday of the cease-fire that Trump and President Xi Jingping reached over the weekend on the sidelines of an international economic summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. "This one covers so much ground in some detail, we've never seen this before."

However, many economists raised doubts that very much could be achieved within three months.

"The actual amount of concrete progress made at this meeting appears to have been quite limited," Alec Phillips and other economists at Goldman Sachs wrote in a research note.

Trump on Tuesday renewed his threats to impose tariffs on Chinese goods if a broader trade deal isn't reached over the next three months.

"President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will," Trump tweeted. "But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so."

During the talks in Buenos Aires, Trump agreed to delay a scheduled escalation in U.S. tariffs on many Chinese goods, from 10% to 25%, that had been set to take effect Jan. 1. Instead, the two sides are to negotiate over U.S. complaints about China's trade practices, notably that it has used predatory tactics to try to achieve supremacy in technology. These practices, according to the administration and outside analysts, include stealing intellectual property and forcing companies to turn over technology to gain access to China's market.

In return for the postponement in the higher U.S. tariffs, China agreed to step up its purchases of U.S. farm, energy and industrial goods, the White House said.

Most economists noted that the two countries remain far apart on the biggest areas of disagreement, which include Beijing's subsidies for strategic Chinese industries, in addition to forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft.

"Ninety days is very little time to fix these perennial issues," said Bill Adams, senior economist at PNC.

Kudlow acknowledged those challenges in remarks Tuesday morning.

"China's discussed these things with the U.S. many times down through the years and the results have not been very good," he said. "So this time around as I said, I'm hopeful, we're covering more ground than ever... So we'll see."

Complicating the challenge, Trump's complaints strike at the heart of the Communist Party's state-led economic model and its plans to elevate China to political and cultural leadership by creating global champions in robotics and other fields.

"It's impossible for China to cancel its industry policies or major industry and technology development plans," said economist Cui Fan of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

At the same time, analysts said they were relieved that the Trump-Xi meeting at least pressed the "pause" button on tariff hikes. Besides escalating existing tariffs, Trump had threatened to impose import taxes on the remaining $267 billion of U.S. goods from China. This would have raised prices in the United States on many consumer items, including smartphones, clothes and toys.

Fears of a hotter trade war had sent financial markets tumbling in October and November. They jumped Monday in response to Saturday's truce, before plunging Tuesday afternoon.

Megan Greene, chief economist at Manulife, said the market's recent decline had likely contributed to Trump's willingness to reach a truce.

"We are no longer in the same buoyant economic or markets environment that we enjoyed earlier this year when threats of tariffs against China were first made," she said.

In the meantime, the outlines of the agreement remain hazy and in some cases confusing. Trump tweeted late Sunday that China had agreed to "reduce and remove" its 40% tariff on cars imported from the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that there was a "specific agreement" on the auto tariffs.

Yet Kudlow said later that there was no "specific agreement" regarding auto trade, though he added, "We expect those tariffs to go to zero."

Shares of U.S. and overseas auto companies rose on the announcement, though it's unclear how much companies like GM or Ford will actually benefit. Nearly all the cars they sell in China are made there.

Details regarding China's pledge to buy more American products — one that it has made before — remain scant. Mnuchin said Monday morning on CNBC that China had offered to buy up to $1.2 trillion of additional U.S. goods, even while the "details of that still need to be negotiated."

But Kudlow said the ultimate amount will depend on market prices and the health of China's economy.

"I would think of that as a broad goal," he said.

State-run Chinese media has described the agreement very differently from how the Trump administration has. It has made no mention of any changes to its auto tariffs. And it has said nothing about a 90-day deadline for the talks.

Greene said this might simply reflect China's communications strategy. Or it might illustrate China's weak commitment to the deal.

China agreed to eliminate the retaliatory tariffs it had placed on U.S. soybeans, according to the White House, which also said Beijing had agreed to buy an unspecified but "very substantial" amount of agricultural and other products. That left some U.S. farmers cautiously hopeful Monday.

"This is the first positive news we've seen after months of downturned prices and halted shipments," said John Heisdorffer, a farmer in Keota, Iowa, who is president of the American Soybean Association. "If this suspension of tariff increases leads to a longer-term agreement, it will be extremely positive for the soy industry."

Kevin Scott, who farms near Valley Springs, South Dakota, and serves on the American Soybean Association, said the news provides hope for farmers who are storing their crops while awaiting better prices. But he cautioned that "it's going to take a little more to move more beans."

Some retailers were also encouraged by the agreement, according to the National Retail Federation. At the same time, the federation noted that the truce prolongs the uncertainty around trading with China.

Jonathan Gold, an executive at the federation, said most retailers had already ordered goods for the first three months of the year, so the 90-day delay in the tariff hikes won't affect them. Many companies have already switched their purchases from China to another country to avoid the potential 25% tariff.

"The question is, what happens at the end of 90 days?" Gold asked.

AP News Writer Joe McDonald contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[New 'Netflix' Model of Car Ownership: Driving Without Debt]]>Mon, 03 Dec 2018 13:46:59 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/157683694-New-Cars-Dealership.jpg

After Tiffany Ford McLemore's car was destroyed in an accident, the single mother of four needed a new one. Quickly.

Yet she didn't want to take out another auto loan and so she researched her options. That's when she stumbled on flexdrive, which calls itself Netflix for cars, and is one of several new companies offering vehicles through a subscription.

"I love the flexibility," Ford McLemore said. She now drives her children to sports and band practice in a 2018 Volkswagen Jetta.

Automakers, dealers and start-ups now offer car subscriptions as an alternative to the traditional financing model, which increasingly involves going into significant debt. The services typically charge a flat monthly fee that bundles together all the disparate expenses of car ownership, including insurance and maintenance.

"There's a reason consumers are gravitating toward these services — what's out there right now isn't very good," said Gary Hallgren, president of Arity, a technology start-up founded by Allstate.

The average monthly car loan payment is $533 for new cars and $397 for used vehicles, according to Edmunds, which provides information on the auto industry. The typical person takes nearly six years to pay off their car loan — and nearly a third of them trade in their vehicle before they've paid it off and pick up another loan.

"This is for people who want to have a car in the driveway all the time, but don't want a long-term car loan," said Jose Puente, founder and CEO of flexdrive.

Financial experts and consumer advocates caution that you'll want to pull out your calculator before you abandon car ownership, which they say remains a better deal in most cases.

"This isn't a magic formula that suddenly makes car ownership cheap," said Jack Gillis, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. "It may make it easier and simpler, but you're paying a premium for that ease."

Flexdrive, based in Atlanta, has more than 9,000 users, and between 600 and 800 new subscribers sign up each month, Puente said. Its vehicles are now available in 17 U.S. cities and the company plans to be national by next year.

The company allows you to order a car on its app within minutes without any contract or credit check. You will need a clean driving record (parking tickets are OK), three years' experience on the road and a credit or debit card in your name.

You pick up the vehicle at a nearby dealership that flexdrive partners with. Going on vacation? You can return your car and pause your payments until you return.

The average monthly flexdrive subscription is around $800, but you can have a Toyota Yaris for around $400, or a Porsche Cayenne for more than $1,500. In most cases, you have to pay a refundable deposit on the car.

That monthly fee includes a warranty, standard roadside assistance, maintenance and insurance. "Everything is included," Puente said. If you get into an accident that's deemed your fault, however, you will typically have a $1,000 deductible. Drivers are responsible for gas.

Subscribers receive an alert when their vehicle is due for maintenance. They can stop by a nearby service shop that partners with flexdrive and the company covers the tab as part of their subscription. Members are also given the option to simply trade in their car for another one at a dealership.

Flexdrive doesn't purchase the cars, but rather partners with dealerships and pays them for use of the vehicles each month.

People are overwhelmed by modern life and its seemingly infinite choices, said Philip Reed, an automotive writer at personal finance website NerdWallet. "If someone says, 'Here's your car. It's $350, and that pays for everything,' it's appealing," he said.

Fair, another car subscription service headquartered in Santa Monica, California, has some 20,000 subscribers and adds another 500 each week, according to the company.

"We want to eradicate auto debt," said Edward Brojerdi, chief consumer officer at Fair. "We don't think you should take out a loan for a depreciating asset."

After you scan your driver's license on the Fair app, an algorithm factors in your credit, income and other variables to generate a list of vehicles available to you.

Once you select a car, Fair purchases it on your behalf, and you either pick it up at a nearby dealership or have it delivered to you. When a car is returned, the company gives dealerships the option to buy the car back or Fair brings the vehicle to an auction. (All of the cars in the system are under 6 years old.)

The average Fair subscriber pays around $350 a month. A Hyundai Accent GS is just $150 a month, and the priciest option is a McLaren 650S at $4,095 a month.

That fee covers a limited warranty, routine maintenance and roadside assistance. Users will have to pick up insurance elsewhere, or opt-in to Fair's insurance — if they qualify, it's $115 a month on average.

Fair also charges a "start payment" which is typically around three times your monthly payment. People can return a car anytime, with five days notice.

Shannon Franklin, a real estate developer in Nashville, Tennessee, began her subscription through Fair about a month ago. "You can download an app, fill out a few things and, ta-da, you have a car," Franklin said. She likes the fact that she's not stuck with one vehicle. "If I didn't like the car, I didn't have to keep it for three years," she said.

Canvas, a car subscription service owned by Ford, has rates starting at $379 a month. Borrow offers electric cars via subscription with monthly rates as low as $399 month.

In addition to the car subscription start-ups, BMW, Porsche, Volvo and Mercedes all offer the option now, too.

Care by Volvo, for example, provides users with a car for around $650 a month, including insurance, maintenance and delivery.

The manufacturer's typical subscriber is around a decade younger than its usual buyer, said Peter Wexler, director of mobility solutions at Volvo.

"The millennial generation grew up in a world of subscriptions, and they don't feel it's odd at all to consume an automobile in the same fashion," he said.

Is a subscription right for you?
If convenience is a priority to you, a car subscription may make sense, said Gillis, at the Consumer Federation of America.

Carefully compare the different costs of buying, leasing and subscribing to a car, said Reed, the automotive writer at NerdWallet. "People think of their car expenses as their car payment, but that's a really dangerous way of looking at things," he said.

Nerdwallet has a total monthly car costs calculator that factors in gas, maintenance, insurance and registration costs, too.

A subscription can be a great option for those who only need a car for a limited period of time, said Arun Kumar, a director in the automotive practice at AlixPartners, a global consulting firm.

That's because subscribers can often get around the sizable down payments required to lease a car. The average lease down payment in 2018 is $2,642, according to Edmunds. The typical monthly payment for a 36-month lease is around $450.

And of course, some people buy their car in full.

Scour the terms and conditions of the car subscription service you're considering, as they vary widely.

For example, Borrow's monthly fee doesn't include insurance. Others require a time commitment; some of the cars are pre-owned, others new.

Don't forget to factor in your own habits.

Anything is better than rolling the balance of an unpaid loan into a new loan for another car, Reed said. In those cases, you can wind up owing more for the car than it's worth.

"So if you felt you might be tempted to make bad car financing decisions, a subscription service would protect you from that," he said.

In the long run, Reed said, owning a car will often be the most affordable option.

Once you've emerged from your debt, you could have years without a car payment. The average age of vehicles on the road has consistently been around 12 years.

You can also pass a used car onto your children or sell it one day. The average amount a person gets when they trade in their vehicle is $4,679, according to Edmunds.

Reed pointed to his own car: a 1997 alpine white BMW. His monthly car expense? $75, for insurance.

"It's luminous and beautiful," he said.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[US-China Trade Truce Sends US Stocks Solidly Higher]]>Mon, 03 Dec 2018 21:59:15 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/1067868158-Trump-Xi-Trade.jpg

A welcome truce in the escalating U.S.-China trade dispute put investors in a buying mood Monday, sending U.S. stocks solidly higher and extending the market's gains from last week.

The broad rally, which lost some of its early morning momentum, followed gains in overseas markets as investors welcomed news of the temporary, 90-day stand-down, which was agreed to over dinner between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit over the weekend.

The long-running dispute between the world's two largest economies has rattled investors for months, stoking traders' fears that it could begin dragging down corporate profits and weighing on global economic growth.

"We're going to have to see what happens over these 90 days," said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments. "In the meantime, you're not getting an increase in the tariffs, so that's an interim positive."

The encouraging development on trade helped extend a swift turnaround for the market, which notched its biggest weekly gain in nearly seven years last week after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated the central bank might consider a pause in rate hikes next year while it gauges the impact of its credit tightening program.

Technology stocks, automakers, retailers and industrial companies accounted for much of the market's gains Monday, offsetting losses in household goods makers. Energy stocks also climbed as U.S. crude oil prices rose sharply.

U.S. traders observed a moment of silence before markets opened Monday in honor of former President George H.W. Bush, who died Friday at 94. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq said they will close trading Wednesday in observance of a national day of mourning for Bush. The federal government will also be closed.

The S&P 500 index climbed 30.20 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,790.37. The benchmark index vaulted 4.9 percent last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 287.97 points, or 1.1 percent, to 25,826.43. The average was up as much as 441 points earlier.

The Nasdaq composite rose 110.98 points, or 1.5 percent, to 7,441.51. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 15.69 points, or 1 percent, to 1,548.96.

Markets in Europe also finished higher. Germany's DAX gained 1.8 percent, while France's CAC 40 rose 1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 added 1.2 percent.

After a steep decline in October, U.S. stocks steadied in early November. But the selling picked up again as investors abandoned high-flying technology stocks amid concerns over the U.S.-China trade tussle and slowing global economic growth and bailed on energy stocks as the price of oil plummeted.

Presidents Trump and Xi of China met at the G-20 summit over the weekend and agreed to a cease-fire, lasting for at least 90 days, to allow time to smooth out a dispute over Chinese technology policies that the U.S. and other trading partners consider predatory.

Trump agreed to hold off on plans to raise tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, which were supposed to kick in on Jan. 1. In return, Xi agreed to buy a "very substantial amount" of agricultural, energy and industrial products from the U.S. to reduce its large trade deficit with China, the White House said.

The U.S. had announced tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports this year, with the tax rate on many products set to rise Jan. 1, while China put new taxes on $110 billion in U.S. goods.

While the truce has the potential to steady markets through the end of the year, the countries still need to hammer out a lasting trade deal.

"Three months is not a very long time to achieve this so there are naturally plenty of sceptics out there but this is a rare piece of good news in a conflict that has yet to produce any," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

The trade truce was one of several factors that helped push oil prices higher Monday. Crude prices also jumped on news that Qatar will withdraw from OPEC in January. The move, which marks the first time a Mideast nation has exited the cartel since its founding in 1960, came ahead of an OPEC meeting on Thursday.

In addition, the government of the Canadian province of Alberta announced a large cut in oil production Monday.

"We expect OPEC to follow suit and agree to a production cut in Vienna this coming Thursday," analysts with Goldman Sachs wrote in a published note Monday.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained 4 percent to settle at $52.95 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 3.8 percent to close at $61.69 per barrel in London.

Oil prices had been falling in recent weeks as supplies built up, partly because the U.S. agreed to hold off on sanctions for countries that import oil from Iran. Traders have also been worried that a slowdown in global economic growth will reduce demand for fuels.

Monday's pickup in oil prices gave energy stocks a boost. Devon Energy climbed 6.4 percent to $28.77.

Gains in technology companies helped drive the market higher. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices jumped 11.3 percent to $23.71.

Auto manufacturers also rose after Trump said on Twitter late Sunday that Beijing agreed to cut import duties on U.S. autos. There was no Chinese confirmation of the move, which would have little impact on trade because most American vehicles sold in China are made there.

Ford Motor rose 2 percent to $9.60, while General Motors added 1.3 percent to $38.45. Tesla gained 2.3 percent to $358.49.

A couple of corporate deals also helped move the market Monday.

Tribune Media jumped 11.7 percent to $44.98 after the TV station owner agreed to be acquired by Nexstar Media Group, four months after a bid from Sinclair Broadcast Group collapsed. Nextar shares added 6.9 percent to $88.32.

GlaxoSmithKline PLC slumped 7.8 percent to $38.61 after the drugmaker agreed to acquire Tesaro, which makes the ovarian cancer treatment Zejula. Shares in Tesaro soared 58.5 percent to $73.50.

Meanwhile, Wynn Resorts gained 9.5 percent to $119.79 after the gambling revenue in Macau rose last month at a higher rate than analysts expected.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.97 percent from 3.01 percent late Friday.

The dollar rose to 113.69 yen from 113.63 yen late Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1342 from $1.1309.

Gold gained 1.1 percent to $1,239.60 an ounce. Silver jumped 2 percent to $14.50 an ounce. Copper added 0.8 percent to $2.81 a pound.

Wholesale gasoline gained 2.1 percent to $1.43 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 3.2 percent to $1.89 a gallon. Natural gas lost 5.9 percent to $4.34 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Major indexes in Asia finished higher. Hong Kong's Hang Seng surged 2.6 percent, while Japan's Nikkei 225 index climbed 1 percent. The Kospi in South Korea jumped 1.7 percent. The S&P ASX/200 in Australia added 1.8 percent. Shares rallied in Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Li Xueren/Xinhua via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US-China Trade Truce Seen Boosting US Stock Market]]>Sun, 02 Dec 2018 22:05:54 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/stocksAP_18334782176641.jpg

The truce in the trade dispute between the U.S. and China should boost rattled financial markets, at least likely through year's end, experts say. But the stock market's wild gyrations of recent months likely will persist as the two countries strain to reach a permanent accord.

"The all-clear sign hasn't flashed yet but it's certainly positive news," says Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E-Trade.

The U.S. was set to raise tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods Jan. 1. President Donald Trump agreed Saturday in a meeting with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit to hold off for 90 days while the two sides try to settle their differences.

That looming deadline, as well as Trump's threat to impose tariffs on an additional $267 billion of goods from China, possibly including iPhones and laptops, had contributed to sharp declines in stocks since early October.

The agreement buys time for the two countries to work out their differences in a fight over China's aggressive drive to supplant U.S. technological dominance.

In the short term, at least, strong market gains could be in the offing.

"I think the market will probably respond quite favorably," Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist for CFRA, said in reference to the temporary trade accord. "I do think that a Santa Claus rally is in the making."

After a steep decline in October, stocks steadied in early November, but the selling picked up again as investors abandoned high-flying technology stocks amid concerns over the U.S.-China trade tussle and slowing global economic growth. They also bailed on energy stocks as the price of oil plummeted.

The market also feared the Federal Reserve's policy of gradual interest rates hikes could end the longest bull market in history by slowing economic growth and depressing company profits. But last week Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated the central bank might consider a pause in rate hikes next year to gauge the impact of its credit tightening.

Stocks soared, with the S&P 500 rising nearly 5 percent for the week. The closely watched index is now up 3.2 for the year and, with the U.S.-China tentative agreement now in hand, some analysts expect it could post a gain for the year in the mid-single digits.

The euphoria could stretch into early next year. But if the 90-day deadline nears without a formal trade pact, Trump could tweet his displeasure at the Chinese and issue threats, creating more market choppiness, analysts say.

"You're going to see a ton of volatility," suggested Nate Thooft, a senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management. "There's definitely no shortage of uncertainty."

Volatility has been a hallmark of the market recently. According to S&P Dow Jones Indices, the S&P 500 closed with a gain or loss of 1 percent or more on 18 of 44 trading days in October and November. There were eight such days in all of 2017.

Beyond the trade and tariff issues, there are still nagging concerns that higher interest rates could crimp economic growth in the U.S. and globally. Potential hot spots and instability abroad that can fuel higher commodity prices and spark inflation also aren't going away.

That means even with the encouraging results of the Group of 20 summit, "There will still be a cloud hanging over the market," E-Trade's Loewengart said.

Still, Stovall believes a formal trade agreement with China could help stave off a recession or bear market next year because uncertainly around growth in corporate profits would be lessened.

In the meantime, analysts say stocks that were especially hard-hit during the recent months of market turmoil are positioned for a nice rebound in the post-summit rally.

The Chinese agreed over the weekend to buy a "very substantial amount" of agricultural, energy, industrial and other products from the U.S. to trim America's widening trade deficit with China, so some companies in those sectors could benefit.

Stocks of tech giants like Facebook and Apple, which took a severe beating, as well as banks and electronic semi-conductors also look to be in for a turnaround.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP]]>
<![CDATA[US, China Reach 90-Day Ceasefire on Tariffs in Trade Dispute]]>Sun, 02 Dec 2018 06:44:28 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/uschinaAP_18335755103751.jpg

The United States and China reached a 90-day ceasefire in a trade dispute that has rattled financial markets and threatened world economic growth. The breakthrough came after a dinner meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Trump agreed to hold off on plans to raise tariffs Jan. 1 on $200 billion in Chinese goods. The Chinese agreed to buy a "not yet agreed upon, but very substantial amount of agricultural, energy, industrial" and other products from the United States to reduce America's huge trade deficit with China, the White House said.

The truce, reached after a dinner of more than two hours Saturday, buys time for the two countries to work out their differences in a dispute over Beijing's aggressive drive to supplant U.S. technological dominance.

"It's an incredible deal," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. "What I'll be doing is holding back on tariffs. China will be opening up, China will be getting rid of tariffs. China will be buying massive amounts of products from us."

In a long-sought concession to the U.S., China agreed to label fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opioid responsible for tens of thousands of American drug deaths annually, as a controlled substance. And Beijing agreed to reconsider a takeover by U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm that it had previously blocked.

The White House announcement framed a victory for Trump and his unflinching negotiating tactics, securing a commitment from China to engage in talks on key U.S. economic priorities, with little obvious concession by the U.S. Notably, however, the White House appears to be reversing course on its previous threats to tie trade discussions to security concerns, like China's attempted territorial expansion in the South China Sea.

"It's great the two sides took advantage of this opportunity to call a truce," said Andy Rothman, investment strategist at Matthews Asia. "The two sides appear to have had a major change of heart to move away from confrontation toward engagement. This changes the tone and direction of the bilateral conversation."

The Trump-Xi meeting was the marquee event of Trump's whirlwind two-day trip to Argentina for the G-20 summit after the president canceled a sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin over mounting tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Trump also canceled a Saturday news conference, citing respect for the Bush family following the death of former President George H.W. Bush.

Trump said Bush's death put a "damper" on what he described as a "very important meeting" with Xi.

The United States and China are locked in a dispute over their trade imbalance and Beijing's tech policies. Washington accuses China of deploying predatory tactics in its tech drive, including stealing trade secrets and forcing American firms to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

Trump has imposed import taxes on $250 billion in Chinese products — 25 percent on $50 billion worth and 10 percent on the other $200 billion. Trump had planned to raise the tariffs on the $200 billion to 25 percent if he couldn't get a deal with Xi.

China has already slapped tariffs on $110 billion in U.S. goods.

Under the agreement reached in Buenos Aires, the two countries have 90 days to resolve their differences over Beijing's tech policies. If they can't, the higher U.S. tariffs will go into effect on the $200 billion in Chinese imports.

U.S. officials insist that the American economy is more resilient to the tumult than China's, but they remain anxious of the economic effects of a prolonged showdown — as Trump has made economic growth the benchmark by which he wants his administration judged.

A full-blown resolution was not expected to be reached in Buenos Aires; the issues that divide them are just too difficult.

Growing concerns that the trade war will increasingly hurt corporate earnings and the U.S. economy are a key reason why U.S. stock prices have been sinking this fall.

Joining other forecasters, economists at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development last week downgraded their outlook for global economic growth next year to 3.5 percent from a previous 3.7 percent. In doing so, they cited the trade conflict as well as political uncertainty.

The U.S. and China also made progress on the regulation of fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. U.S. officials for years have been pressing the Chinese government to take a tougher stance against fentanyl, and most U.S. supply of the drug is manufactured in China.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says China's decision to label the drug as a controlled substance means that "people selling Fentanyl to the United States will be subject to China's maximum penalty under the law."

The White House also said that China's government is "open to approving" the purchase of Dutch semiconductor manufacturer NXP by American chipmaker Qualcomm.

China nixed the proposed takeover earlier this year, citing antitrust concerns, after U.S. and European regulators approved the deal.

China's decision earlier this year came amid a period of heightening tensions between the U.S. and China over trade and intellectual property issues.

Qualcomm announced it was dropping plans to proceed with the deal after it failed to receive Chinese government approval. It is unclear whether the transaction could be revived even with China's acquiescence.

In other developments, Trump announced aboard Air Force One on his return to Washington from Buenos Aires that his next meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un would likely happen in January or February. He said there were three sites under consideration, but he declined to name them.

Trump also said he would shortly be providing formal notice to Congress that he will terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, giving lawmakers six months to approve the replacement he signed Friday. He said lawmakers can choose between the replacement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or nothing.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Wawa Combines Beer and Coffee in New Seasonal Drink]]>Fri, 30 Nov 2018 12:24:45 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Wawa+Coffee+Stout+Beer.jpg

Love beer, coffee and Wawa? Then Christmas is coming early for you. Wawa and 2SP Brewing Company, a brewery based in Aston, Pennsylvania, announced the release of their limited edition Winter Reserve Coffee Stout.

The oatmeal stout beer is steeped with Wawa’s new limited edition Winter Blend coffee and features flavors of sweet clove, dark chocolate and graham crackers.

So where can you get it? A Firkin Tapping event will take place on Dec. 6 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Wawa on 721 Naamans Creek Rd. in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The location is the only Wawa in Pennsylvania to sell beer.

During the event, the first 50 cases of the beer will be available for purchase on a first come, first serve basis. It will be limited to two four packs per person. The event will also feature complimentary beer tastings.

If you miss the event, 1,000 cases of the beer will officially be available for purchase during the week of Dec. 10 through Origlio beverage at neighborhood bars, bottle shops and distributors in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania.

“At Wawa, supporting our local neighbors is at the heart of everything we do, which makes our special partnership with 2SP so crucial at our Chadds Ford store, our only Pennsylvania store to sell beer,” Mike Sherlock, Chief Product Marketing Officer for Wawa, Inc., wrote in a press release.

“We are both happy to call Delaware County our hometown and we’re excited to team up to create a Winter Reserve Coffee Stout using our new limited-edition Wawa Reserve Winter Blend allowing us to add even more value to our customer experience just in time for the holidays.”

Photo Credit: Wawa ]]>
<![CDATA[Payless Pranks Influencers, Selling Shoes at Designer Prices]]>Fri, 30 Nov 2018 09:06:48 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-664935474.jpg

Payless taught fashion influencers a lesson about shoes by opening a fake store that sold Main Street kicks at Madison Avenue prices.

Payless ShoeSource held a fake launch party in Santa Monica, California, for the bogus label "Palessi" and invited fashionistas to sample the seemingly expensive merchandise. The VIP shoppers paid as much as $645 for shoes that sell from $19.99 to $39.99 at Payless.

Payless posted a video of what happened on Facebook, with some unwitting influencers commenting on the "high-quality material" of the "elegant, sophisticated" bargain shoes.

The store rang up $3,000 before Payless came clean with the reveal. One shopper exclaimed, "Shut up! Are you serious?"

The pranked shoppers got their money back and were allowed to keep the shoes.

“The campaign ... aims to remind consumers we are still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion,” Payless Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Couch told Adweek.

Doug Cameron, DCX Growth Accelerator’s chief creative officer, added that Payless "wanted to push the social experiment genre to new extremes" and "challenge today’s image-conscious fashion influencer culture.”

The shoppers' reactions will be featured in a series of commercials.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Marriott: Data Breach Exposed Info of 500M Starwood Guests]]>Fri, 30 Nov 2018 12:21:03 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/marriottGettyImages-615023562.jpg

A security breach inside Marriott's worldwide hotel empire has compromised the information of as many as 500 million guests, exposing in some cases credit card numbers, passport numbers and birthdates, the company said Friday.

Alarming security analysts, Marriott said that unauthorized access to data at former Starwood hotels and that company's reservation system has been taking place since 2014.

It may be among the largest data breaches on record. Last year's alarming Equifax hack affected more than 145 million people.

The affected hotel brands operated by Starwood before it was acquired by Marriott in 2016, include W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton, Westin, Element, Aloft, The Luxury Collection, Le Méridien and Four Points. Starwood branded timeshare properties are also included.

None of the Marriott-branded chains are threatened.

The company said credit card numbers and expiration dates of some guests may have been taken. For as many as two-thirds of those affected, data exposed could include mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date and communication preferences. For some guests, the information was limited to name and sometimes other data such as mailing address, email address or other information.

"We fell short of what our guests deserve and what we expect of ourselves," CEO Arne Sorenson said in a prepared statement. "We are doing everything we can to support our guests, and using lessons learned to be better moving forward."

Email notifications for those who may have been affected begin rolling out Friday.

Marriott said an internal security tool signaled a potential breach on Sept. 8. The company learned during an investigation that its Starwood guest reservation database had "unauthorized" access since 2014. It also discovered that an unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information, and took steps towards removing it. On Nov. 19., Marriott was able to decrypt the information and determined that the exposed contents were from the Starwood guest reservation database, which had guest information related to reservations at Starwood properties on or before Sept. 10.

While the breach affected "approximately 500 million guests" who made a reservation at a Starwood hotel, some of those records could belong to people who had multiple stays. Marriott spokesman Jeff Flaherty said Friday morning the company has not finished identifying duplicate information in the database.

Marriott has set up a website and call center (USA: 877-273-9481) for anyone who thinks that they are at risk and to answer questions about the breach. The company is also offering affected guests with one year of free WebWatcher, a digital security service.

While the first impulse for those potentially affected by the breach could be to check credit cards, security experts say other information in the database could be more damaging.

"The names, addresses, passport numbers and other sensitive personal information that was exposed is of greater concern than the payment info, which was encrypted," said analyst Ted Rossman of CreditCards.com. "People should be concerned that criminals could use this info to open fraudulent accounts in their names."

The former Starwood brands now under Marriott also include Tribute Portfolio and Design Hotels. In all, the company manages more than 6,700 properties across the globe.

When the two companies announced their merger in November 2015, Marriott had 54 million members of its loyalty program and Starwood had 21 million. Many people were members in both programs.

Marriott has had a rocky process of merging its computer system with Starwood computers. Members of both loyalty programs have complained about missing points, glitches with stays crediting to their accounts and problems with free nights earned from credit cards not appearing.

Sorenson said that Marriott is still trying to phase out Starwood systems.

Marriott, based in Bethesda, Maryland, said in a regulatory filing that it's premature to estimate what financial impact the data breach will have on the company. It noted that it does have cyber insurance, and is working with its insurance carriers to assess coverage.

The Starwood breach stands out among even the largest security hacks on record. Hilton had two separate data breaches that exposed more than 350,000 credit card numbers. One breach began in November 2014 and another in April 2015. Yahoo had a data breaches in 2013 and 2014 that impacted about 3 billion of its accounts. Target also had an incident in 2013 that affected more than 41 million customer payment card accounts and exposed contact information for more than 60 million customers. Last year, Equifax disclosed a data breach that affected more than 145 million people.

The reaction to the breach was swift Friday.

The New York Attorney General opened an investigation. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, co-founder of the Senate cybersecurity caucus and the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said that the U.S. needs laws that will limit the data companies can collect on its customers.

"It is past time we enact data security laws that ensure companies account for security costs rather than making their consumers shoulder the burden and harms resulting from these lapses," Warner said in a prepared statement.

Shares of Marriott tumbled 5 percent at the opening bell.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: George Rose/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Search of Deutsche Bank Offices Continues in German Probe]]>Fri, 30 Nov 2018 06:08:45 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/deutschebankGettyImages-1066345638.jpg

German authorities are continuing to search offices of Deutsche Bank as part of an investigation into suspicion that some employees helped set up offshore companies that were used to launder hundreds of millions of euros.

The Frankfurt prosecutors' office told the dpa news agency Friday that additional materials were being secured in the second day of the raids.

On Thursday, about 170 police officers, prosecutors and others searched through the bank's headquarters in Frankfurt and buildings in nearby areas, seizing electronic and paper records.

Prosecutors say information from analysis of documents leaked from tax havens in recent years, including the 2016 "Panama Papers," prompted their investigation.

Two employees, aged 50 and 46, are currently under investigation for allegedly failing to report suspicious transactions but prosecutors say the investigation could broaden.

In a statement issued Thursday, Deutsche Bank confirmed the search and said "the investigation has to do with the Panama Papers case."

"More details will be communicated as soon as these become known. We are cooperating fully with the authorities," the bank said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DJ Khaled, Mayweather Settle Over Digital Coin Promotions]]>Thu, 29 Nov 2018 21:53:37 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/200*120/FloydMayweatherDJKhaledSEC.jpg

Federal regulators said Thursday that boxing legend Floyd Mayweather and music producer DJ Khaled are paying a total $750,000 to settle charges they failed to disclose payments they received for promoting investments in digital-currency securities.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said the cases are its first involving charges for violating rules on touting investments in so-called initial coin offerings, or ICOs. An ICO allows a startup to use the technology behind bitcoin, known as blockchain, to fund projects.

The SEC said Mayweather failed to disclose promotional payments from three issuers of ICOs, including $100,000 from Centra Tech Inc. Khaled allegedly didn't disclose a $50,000 payment from Centra, which he touted on his social media accounts as a "game changer."

Mayweather and Khaled neither admitted nor denied the allegations in agreeing to the settlements.

Mayweather's promotions were said to include a message to his Twitter followers alerting them that Centra's ICO "starts in a few hours. Get yours before they sell out, I got mine." The boxer has almost 8 million followers on Twitter.

"You can call me Floyd Crypto Mayweather from now on," he said in another tweet, according to the SEC. The regulators allege that Mayweather neglected to disclose that he was paid $200,000 to promote the other two ICOs, in addition to Centra's.

With no disclosure of the payments, "Mayweather and Khaled's ICO promotions may have appeared to be unbiased, rather than paid endorsements," Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC's enforcement division, said in a statement.

Under the settlements, Mayweather agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty, give up another $300,000 and pay $14,775 in interest. Khaled is paying a $100,000 penalty, giving up $50,000 and paying $2,725 in interest.

They also agreed not to promote any securities, digital or otherwise, for three years in Mayweather's case and two years for Khaled.

Mayweather and Khaled were among a number of celebrities paid by ICOs to endorse them. ICOs have soared in popularity in recent years, raising billions for startups. With an ICO, a startup will issue currency, sometimes called a token, which can be used to buy services from the company. For example, a startup offering online storage could issue tokens that can be used to buy storage.

The SEC urges investors to be skeptical of investment advice on social media platforms and to not make decisions based on celebrity endorsements.

How the tokens are marketed is a central question for the SEC. When a company's marketing implies that the tokens can appreciate in value, that can raise a red flag.

Kelly Swanson, a publicist for Mayweather, said he likely wouldn't comment on the settlement. Representatives for Khaled didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Starbucks to Start Blocking Porn on Store Wi-Fi in 2019]]>Thu, 29 Nov 2018 13:17:13 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/803242116-Starbucks-Coffee.jpg

Pornography will be blocked on Starbucks Wi-Fi starting next year, the company told NBC News Thursday.

Internet safety advocacy group Enough is Enough has been running a porn-free campaign aimed at the coffee chain for years, and recently got more than 26,000 signatures on a petition.

Viewing "egregious content" over Starbucks Wi-Fi has always violated company policy, a Starbucks representative said, adding that the company has "identified a solution to prevent this content from being viewed within our stores."

Starbucks has not released details on how it plans to do so.

Photo Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Mental Health Clinic Opens Inside a Walmart in Texas]]>Thu, 29 Nov 2018 14:58:35 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/walmart30.jpg

You can go to Walmart to buy toothpaste and shampoo, order glasses or fulfill a drug prescription. Now, some customers can also get therapy, Today.com reported.

A new outpatient mental health clinic has opened inside a Walmart store in Carrollton, Texas, north of Dallas. People can walk in, call or make an appointment online to see a licensed mental health professional about problems such as anxiety, depression, grief, relationship troubles or the stresses of everyday living. 

Beacon Health Options, a Boston-based behavioral health services company, is leasing space in the store and runs the clinic. It’s the first such practice Beacon has opened in a retail setting, the company announced in a news release this week, noting the location was chosen for its convenience. More than 10 million Texans live in an area considered to have a shortage of mental health care professionals, the company added.

Executives said the goal is to offer mental health services to people in rural communities who might otherwise not get care.

Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Patagonia Gives $10M Tax Windfall to Environmental Groups]]>Thu, 29 Nov 2018 02:36:57 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/patagoniaAP_18332774888130.jpg

Patagonia, the outdoor gear company, is passing along the $10 million it saved from tax cuts to non-profit environmental groups.

Corporations received a windfall from the GOP's sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code last year, which slashed corporate rates from 35 percent, to 21 percent.

The California company said Wednesday that the donation is in addition to 1 percent of sales it gives to environmental groups every year. The donation is being made on the heels of the recent National Climate Assessment, which Patagonia cited in its announcement.

"Our government continues to ignore the seriousness and causes of the climate crisis. It is pure evil," said Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia's founder. "We need to double down on renewable energy solutions. We need an agriculture system that supports small family farms and ranches, not one that rewards chemical companies intent on destroying our planet and poisoning our food. And we need to protect our public lands and waters because they are all we have left."

The report warned that natural disasters are worsening in the U.S. because of global warming. It said violent weather and floods have led to costs of nearly $400 billion since 2015 and the potential for annual losses hundreds of billions of dollars.

Though economists agree with the general financial conclusions related to climate change, President Donald Trump has rejected the report's assessment regarding the potential economic impact.

Patagonia, based in Ventura, California, has joined a flurry of lawsuits challenging Trump's decision to chop up two large national monuments in Utah. It also endorsed Democratic Sens.-elect Jon Tester of Montana and Jacky Rosen of Nevada, both who won against GOP incumbents. The company described them as champions of public lands and the outdoor industry.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Police Raid Deutsche Bank Offices in Money Laundering Case]]>Thu, 29 Nov 2018 15:41:00 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/deutscheAP_18333399026497.jpg

German authorities raided Deutsche Bank's headquarters Thursday amid suspicions that its employees helped clients set up offshore companies that were used to launder hundreds of millions of euros.

About 170 police officers, investigators and prosecutors swooped in on the bank's offices in Frankfurt and premises in nearby Eschborn and Gross-Umstadt at 10 a.m. (0900 GMT), seizing electronic and paper records.

The investigation emerged from an analysis of documents leaked from tax havens in recent years, including the 2016 "Panama Papers," said Frankfurt prosecutors' spokeswoman Nadja Niesen.

It is focused on two Deutsche Bank employees, aged 50 and 46, and possibly other still unidentified suspects, she said. At least one site raided was a suspect's home.

Analysis of the Panama Papers and other documents "gave rise to suspicion that Deutsche Bank was helping clients set up so-called offshore companies in tax havens and the proceeds of crimes were transferred there from Deutsche Bank accounts" without the bank reporting it, Niesen said.

In 2016 alone, more than 900 customers are alleged to have transferred some 311 million euros ($351 million) to one such company set up in the British Virgin Islands, she said.

The suspects, both German citizens, are accused of failing to report the suspicious transactions even though there was "sufficient evidence" to have been aware of it.

Deutsche Bank confirmed the search and said "the investigation has to do with the Panama Papers case."

"More details will be communicated as soon as these become known. We are cooperating fully with the authorities," the bank said.

Money laundering has become a growing problem in Europe, where a series of scandals has exposed lax regulation.

And it's not the first time Deutsche Bank has run into trouble over the flow of dirty money.

It was fined more than $600 million by U.S. and U.K. authorities in January 2017 for allowing customers to transfer $10 billion out of Russia in what regulators said was "highly suggestive of financial crime."

The Panama Papers are a trove of documents from a law firm that handled shell companies for thousands of rich and powerful clients around the world. While owning a shell company is not illegal, it is used to hide the beneficial owner of a company or transfer, making it important for the handling and laundering of dirty money.

Several other institutions besides Deutsche Bank have been fined by authorities in the U.S. and Europe for not properly checking up on the beneficial owners of shell companies that send money through their accounts.

Analysts say that because these transactions can be lucrative and punishments are lax, banks have few incentives to do more than the minimum required by law to check on the identity of a bank.

"Even in the most egregious cases, banks are often only required to pay a monetary penalty for engaging in criminal activity, which is merely the cost of doing business," said Jimmy Gurule, a former undersecretary for enforcement for the U.S. Treasury Department.

"The failure to hold banks accountable for money laundering encourages such criminal activity, including laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in Panama and other money laundering havens," said Gurule, now a professor at Notre Dame Law School.

Most recently, Denmark's biggest bank, Danske Bank, admitted that some 200 billion euros ($235 billion) in suspicious money had flown through its Estonian branch from 2007 to 2015. Whistleblower and former employee Howard Wilkinson has indicated that Danske Bank's management was aware of what was going on at the branch, which was among the bank's most profitable units. He has also alleged that family members of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia's spy agency were using the bank for money laundering. The bank's CEO has since stepped down over the scandal.

Another Baltic state, Latvia, has also emerged as a major hub of money laundering, with a 2014 leak showing that tens of billions of dollars were funneled from Russia in 2010-14. Some of the money reportedly went through Deutsche Bank and ended up in major capitals like London, according to The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

There was no indication that Thursday's raid was linked to that scandal, though Deutsche Bank says that it has since stopped providing dollar transactions in some countries, including Latvia.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Michael Probst/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Developer Says Neighborhood Issues Thwarted His Restaurant Plans]]>Wed, 28 Nov 2018 22:27:16 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/4PRestaurantWontOpenFURLONGPKG_1972967.JPG

A local developer says recent issues in Milford, Delaware, thwarted his plans to open a new restaurant. People in the area say he's unfairly trash talking their community however. ]]>
<![CDATA[Saudi Arabia, US Move Toward $15B THAAD Missile Deal]]>Wed, 28 Nov 2018 17:15:04 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/THAAD.jpg

Saudi Arabia has signed a letter of offer and acceptance with the United States for Lockheed Martin’s THAAD missile system, a significant step forward in the $15 billion deal, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to CNBC.

Saudi officials, alongside their U.S. counterparts, signed the crucial government-to-government agreement earlier this week, paving the way for the massive sale of 44 THAAD launchers, missiles and related equipment.

Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, THAAD, or terminal high altitude area defense, is regarded as America’s crown jewel in missile defense systems.

The Saudi Embassy did not respond immediately to CNBC’s request for comment.

The development comes as Saudi Arabia is under fire over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as its role in the war in Yemen. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has cited the importance of defense deals in defending his decision to stick with the kingdom in the aftermath of the slaying. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied knowledge of the attack, although the CIA reportedly concluded that he ordered Khashoggi’s death.

Saudi Arabia and the U.S. entered formal discussions for THAAD in December 2016.

“After completing required congressional notifications in 2017, followed by many months of negotiation, signing letters of offer and acceptance marks a step toward protecting the United States and its regional partners from Iranian-origin missiles,” said the State Department spokesperson, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“The sale of the THAAD missile defense system benefits U.S. national security by supporting the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of the growing ballistic missile threat from the Iranian regime and Iran-backed extremist groups,” the spokesperson added.

Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, echoed those notions.

“It’s a big step forward to strengthening missile defense capabilities in the Gulf, in a couple of ways,” he said. “Besides probably being the largest missile defense sale to date, it also represents an important political commitment by both the U.S. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to counter Iranian ballistic missiles by every means possible.”

Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich monarchy is one of America’s most crucial strategic partners and a significant patron of U.S. defense companies. The Saudis are the top buyers of U.S.-made arms, a title that has safeguarded the kingdom from retaliatory sanctions over the killing of Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.

In an extraordinary statement last week, Trump affirmed that the U.S. would continue to stand with Saudi Arabia, linking the countries’ relationship to his “America first” platform. Trump has also commented on the potential impact to defense suppliers if the U.S. were to sanction the Saudis over the Khashoggi killing.

“I tell you what I don’t want to do,” Trump said to CBS’ “60 Minutes” last month, when he was asked about possibly blocking arms sales to Riyadh. “Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these [companies]. I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that. There are other ways of punishing, to use a word that’s a pretty harsh word, but it’s true.”

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade’s Public Affairs NCOIC]]>
<![CDATA[CVS $69 Billion Merger With Aetna Officially Closes]]>Wed, 28 Nov 2018 12:37:59 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/CVS_and_Aetna_Close_Merger.jpg

It's been a year in the making, but CVS Health finally closed Wednesday on its acquisition of Aetna, creating a new health-care powerhouse. 

The merger combines CVS' pharmacies with Aetna's insurance business, blurring traditionally distinct lines in hopes of lowering costs. CVS also has one of largest pharmacy benefits managers through CVS Caremark and a major Medicare Part D plan sponsor through its SilverScript unit. 

The final deal valued Aetna at $212 per share, CVS said in a press release, or about $70 billion, up from the previously agreed upon $207 per share, or roughly $69 billion. 

The two companies announced the deal in December 2017 and received preliminary approval from the Department of Justice in October. CVS needed final approval from state insurance regulators where Aetna sells its coverage. A handful of states opposed the combination, saying it would reduce competition and could leave consumers worse off. 

In the end, CVS was able to persuade the state regulators to sign off on the acquisition. To win approval from California, CVS agreed to a number of conditions, including not raising premiums as a result of acquisition costs and keeping premium increases to a minimum. This came after Aetna said it would sell its Medicare Part D drug plan business to WellCare Health Plans for an undisclosed amount in order ease concerns about the overlap between the CVS and Aetna Medicare Part D plans. 

On its third-quarter earnings call Nov. 6, CVS said it expects to save more than $750 million within two years of the deal closing. CVS CEO Larry Merlo has promised the combined company will create a new data-driven health-care model that's more personal, convenient and tailored to individual patients than ever before. 

Early next year, CVS plans to start testing stores with added health services. These new locations will likely focus on managing common chronic conditions, adding more primary health services at CVS' MinuteClinics, guiding discharged hospital patients through their at-home plans and managing complex conditions, Merlo told analysts.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 


<![CDATA['Fearless Girl' Leaves Wall Street, Is Heading to NYSE]]>Wed, 28 Nov 2018 11:02:04 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/fearless-plaque-1200x627.jpg

The "Fearless Girl" is on the move.

The statue that inspired millions with her message of female empowerment has been plucked from her spot opposite Wall Street's "Charging Bull" and will be reinstalled in front of the New York Stock Exchange by the end of the year, officials said Wednesday.

The Boston-based financial services firm State Street Global Advisors said the sculpture of a defiant-looking young girl was moved Tuesday night. No date for her reinstallation at the stock exchange was given.

A plaque with two footsteps marks the girl's former spot on a traffic island near the tip of Manhattan. "Fearless Girl is on the move to The New York Stock Exchange," the plaque reads. "Until she's there, stand for her."

The hands-on-hips bronze statue was intended as a temporary display when State Street installed it in March 2017 to encourage corporations to put more women on their boards. City officials extended her stay after she became a favorite with tourists, who lined up for selfies with the 4-foot (130-centimeter) bronze celebrity.

One person who was not a fan of the statue was Arturo Di Modica, the artist who created "Charging Bull" and installed it in lower Manhattan in 1989 without permission. Di Modica complained that his 11-foot-tall bull was meant to embody "strength, power and love," but having "Fearless Girl" face off against his work had turned the bull's message into something negative.

"The girl is right in front doing this, 'Now I'm here, what are you going to do?'" Di Modica said last year.

City officials, meanwhile, announced in April 2018 they would move both statues about three blocks away to the stock exchange because the crowds of pedestrians clustered around the statues presented a traffic hazard.

A spokeswoman for Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said details on when the 11-foot-tall (3-meter-tall) bull would be moved and where exactly it would be placed were not available.

An attorney for Di Modica did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the bull's potential relocation.

"Fearless Girl" sculptor Kristen Visbal did not immediately return a call seeking comment on her statue's move.

Photo Credit: State Street Global Advisors]]>
<![CDATA[Ikea Downsizing in City Centers as It Adapts to Consumers]]>Wed, 28 Nov 2018 08:17:35 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18331536270127-Poland-Ikea-Transformation.jpg

An airport worker drops by Warsaw's newest Ikea store during her lunch break to finish up plans for a home refurbishment. Around her, people drift in and out of the shop, placing small houseware items in big yellow bags as cafe tables fill up with people just stopping in for lunch.

The store is not one of Ikea's out-of-the-way, maze-like warehouses that require a car to visit, but a shop like any other in a city center shopping mall. The Swedish retailing giant plans to open 30 such smaller stores in major cities around the world as part of a broader transformation to adapt to changing consumer habits. Compared with just a decade ago, shoppers are more likely to be living in urban areas and not have a car, and often want a nearby location to look at goods like furniture in person before ordering things online.

"I like the idea because you can come any time," said 29-year-old Angelika Singh, the airport worker, as she finalized an order for a new kitchen. "Mostly when you go to Ikea you need to have a whole day free, or at least half a day free, because it's far."

Warsaw's store is located on two floors covering nearly 5,000 square meters (54,000 square feet), about one-fourth of a traditional big-box store. Similar stores have also opened in major cities like London and Madrid and more are expected, with one due next year in Paris, among other locations.

Shoppers can buy cushions, curtains and other home items. They can design the layout of bedrooms and kitchens at computer stations. But those hoping to buy a bookcase or bed will not find them stocked in a large warehouse, though they can order them at kiosks and have them delivered to their homes.

As such, it offers a very different shopping experience from the usual visit to one of the large warehouse stores.

"Ikea's been doing pretty much the same for 70 years. It's been a cash-and-carry company, and it still is for the majority of its sales," said Andreas Flygare, the project manager for the Warsaw store. Now, he explained, the company must adapt to a consumer environment that has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.

"You have companies like Amazon and Uber that are raising the bar for what is expected. Because if you can have same-day delivery, or an Uber is two minutes away, it influences other companies, like Ikea," he said in a recent interview in the store's cafe. "It can be a quite tough environment. Everything is changing so fast."

While Ikea is still profitable, its earnings have recently been growing more slowly than expected.

Thomas Slide, senior retail analyst at the market research firm Mintel, described it as a rational response to a "global trend towards urban living and a rebirth of the cities."

"While Ikea used to be able to build its big blue warehouses on the edge of towns and cities and expect shoppers to come to them, now it has recognized it needs to be more flexible in its approach and take the Ikea experience to them, through digital channels and smaller stores closer to where people live and work," Slide said.

Ikea isn't the first to embrace such an approach. In the U.S., retailer Target has rolled out smaller stores to broaden its reach. French hardware store Leroy Merlin has done the same, as have Kingfisher-owned DIY store B&Q and sofa retailer DFS in Britain.

"While Ikea may not be on the cutting edge of this trend, it's an important strategy to prepare the business for the future," Slide said. "The challenge will be adding extra services through additional channels while also maintaining profitability."

Chen Yu Ting, a 25-year-old from Taiwan who studies medicine in Warsaw, said it used to take him 40 minutes by bus to visit one of the large Ikea stores outside the city. But he is a short walk to the new store, and after an initial trip to buy pillows and bed sheets he now returns often for lunch, which is priced right for his budget.

"It's more convenient, and now I just come here to eat," he said.

His only complaint? The store doesn't stock frozen meatballs.

Jan M. Olsen contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Alik Keplicz/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Netflix Pushes Into Kids Content With Deal to Animate Roald Dahl Books]]>Tue, 27 Nov 2018 14:02:50 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/roald-dahl.jpg

Netflix is pushing further into kids content with a new deal to animate popular Roald Dahl books, the company announced Tuesday. 

Netflix said it plans to roll out "animated event series and specials" based on books like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "The BFG," "Matilda" and "The Twits." The company will focus primarily on TV series, but has the option to make feature-length movies. 

"Immersing ourselves in the extraordinary worlds of Roald Dahl stories has been an honor and a massive amount of fun," Netflix's Vice President of Kids and Family Content Melissa Cobb said in a blog post. "We have great creative ambition to reimagine the journeys of so many treasured Dahl characters in fresh, contemporary ways with the highest quality animation and production values." 

Netflix touts its award-winning original programming like "Stranger Things" and "Black Mirror" as competition in streaming heats up. Hulu, Amazon and Apple are all upping content spends in an effort to claim some of Netflix's market share. Disney's kid-friendly streaming service, Disney+, is set to launch at the end of 2019. 

The full list of Dahl titles under the Netflix agreement also includes "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator," "George's Marvellous Medicine," "Boy – Tales of Childhood," "Going Solo," "The Enormous Crocodile," "The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me," "Henry Sugar," "Billy and the Minpins," "The Magic Finger," "Esio Trot," "Dirty Beasts" and "Rhyme Stew." 

Production on the first of the animated series will begin in 2019, Netflix said.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Court Rules Against Proposed Pipeline Project in Pa.]]>Tue, 27 Nov 2018 12:39:18 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/pipelinenationalfuelgas.jpg

An appeals court in upstate New York has ruled in favor of landowners who are fighting against a gas company's plans to build a pipeline from Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario.

WIVB-TV in Buffalo reports the court ruled corporations can use eminent domain to gain access to private property only if the project is legal, which it says the planned project by National Fuel Gas is not.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation previously ruled that the pipeline by National Fuel does not meet water quality standards.

The suburban Buffalo-based company has issued a statement saying it remains committed to the project and is considering an appeal.

Lia Oprea, one of four landowners opposed to the project, says they are thrilled.

National Fuel has until Dec. 9 to file its appeal.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How to Make the Most of Giving Tuesday]]>Tue, 27 Nov 2018 11:04:26 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/209*120/generic+money+twenty+dollars.jpg

Doing good is its own reward. Reaping the tax benefits is a nice perk. 

Charitable donations generally kick into high gear on "Giving Tuesday," a single day specifically focused on charity in the shopping-heavy week after Thanksgiving. 

#GivingTuesday raised $300 million last year, according to GivingTuesday.org – although it remains to be seen whether this year will surpass that, in light of changes to the federal tax code under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed last December. 

The new tax laws, among other things, eliminate or sharply reduce the benefits of charitable giving for many would-be donors. 

Even though the deduction for donations is unchanged, you still need to itemize to claim it, and that's a much higher bar with the nearly doubled standard deduction. 

Under the new law, an individual will need total itemized deductions to exceed $12,000, the new standard deduction for individual taxpayers, up from $6,350. Married couples would need deductions exceeding $24,000, up from $12,700. 

As a result, fewer people will itemize this year, which means many won't reap the tax benefits of their charitable contributions. That could put a damper on some people's charitable inclinations this holiday season. 

"There are certain people who don't always care about the tax benefit; they're going to give anyway," said Bryan Havighurst, head of the wealth planning team at Fifth Third Private Bank. But there are also those that "will give more if there's a tax benefit," he added. 

Still, even with the new tax legislation, 2018 has the potential to exceed last year's record levels of giving, according to Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable. 

"The charitable deduction was one of the few deductions that was not capped or eliminated like many other deductions," she said. "It's a relative bright spot for tax planning." 

In fact, 49 percent of U.S. donors plan to donate more money to charity in 2018 than they did in 2017 and only 10 percent said they plan to give less this year, according to a separate report by online fundraising software company Classy, which polled 1,000 adults in November. 

Of course, you don't have to reap the benefits to give back but if you do want to maximize the impact of your charitable contributions while complying with the new tax laws, the National Association of Enrolled Agents offers a few tax tips to help: 

Bundle your donations. One way to surpass the new, higher standard deduction is to save money over time and donate every two or three years instead of every year. 

For example, instead of giving $5,000 to charity annually, accelerate the gift by giving $10,000 every two years. This way, you may get your itemized deductions over the limit one year and take the standard deduction the next. 

One way to accomplish this is with a donor-advised fund, which lets you make a charitable contribution and receive an immediate tax break for the full donation, and then recommend grants from the fund to your favorite charities over time. 

Make a qualified charitable distribution from an IRA in lieu of taking a required minimum distribution. Retirees age 70½ or older might also consider transferring money from their IRA to a qualifying charity. 

Such qualified charitable distributions can be a tax-efficient way of meeting your required minimum distribution — and you don't need to itemize your deductions to benefit. 

Using a qualified charitable distribution lets you reduce your taxable income by the amount donated, up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income, according to the National Association of Enrolled Agents. 

Donate appreciated stock instead of cash. Another wise tax move would be to avoid the capital gains tax on investments by donating stocks or other appreciated assets, such as artwork and antiques, which have grown in value. 

High-income earners in particular could consider a noncash donation specifically because of the tax advantages. Although after the market run-up earlier this year, even those who have small holdings could benefit by donating appreciated investments before the end of the year, Laughton said. 

Cover the basics. Finally, check out the IRS guidelines before giving and make sure the organizations to which you donate are tax-exempt. The organization you're giving to should be able to provide information and documentation to confirm it's a registered 501(c)(3) or use the tax-exempt organization search tool available on the IRS website. 

And don't forget to save any receipts for tax-filing time. 

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<![CDATA[$7.9B in Cyber Monday Sales Set Record, Adobe Analytics Says]]>Tue, 27 Nov 2018 10:06:38 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/871493720-Cyber-Monday.jpg

Cyber Monday sales this year surged to new highs, with a record $7.9 billion spent online that day, an increase of 19.3 percent from a year ago, according to data from Adobe Analytics.

Though foot traffic at some malls and stores was down over the holiday weekend, more and more shoppers have been turning to the internet to hunt for deals, and overall holiday sales are still expected to be up in 2018. Consumer confidence remains high, while unemployment is low in the U.S., giving many people the ability to spend more this year than last.

Spending on smartphones, meanwhile, continues to climb at a rapid clip, as companies like Macy's and Target have poured money into improving their mobile apps. And as bricks-and-mortar retail traffic continues to fall, some retailers are now trying to find ways to use their apps to lure shoppers back to stores. Walmart, as one example, has added store maps to its app ahead of the holidays, letting customers pinpoint exactly where an item is and plot out their trips before they arrive.

Transactions on mobile devices were up 55.6 percent Cyber Monday compared with last year to reach $2.2 billion in sales, said Adobe, which tracks sales data from 80 of the top 100 internet retailers in the U.S. like Amazon and Walmart. More than half of shoppers' visits to retailers' websites Cyber Monday came from smartphones, with people making greater use of shipping options like buy online pick up in store. So-called click-and-collect orders were up 65 percent this Cyber Monday compared with a year ago, Adobe said.

Amazon, which is expected to capture nearly half of the U.S. e-commerce market by year's end, said it had a "record-breaking" holiday weekend for sales. It said Cyber Monday marked the biggest shopping day in its history, though it didn't provide specific sales numbers beyond that. The company said shoppers bought more than 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items from Amazon Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Kohl's, which has partnered with Amazon to accept Amazon returns in some of its stores, said last week it had a record day for sales online Thanksgiving Day. The retailer kicked off some deals online ahead of the weekend, and it wasn't the only one to do this, either. Many companies were seen pushing promotions earlier this year, turning Black Friday as a single day into more of a weeks-long shopping extravaganza.

"With holiday offerings and promotions starting just after Halloween, Black Friday didn't have the same sense of urgency as in the past," Telsey Advisory Group analyst Dana Telsey said.

Kohl's didn't immediately return calls seeking comment on how the rest of its holiday shopping weekend shaped up.

Now, with a little more than a month to go before the end of 2018, retailers will try to keep the momentum going, both online and in stores. Though many companies are expecting strong fourth quarters, there's some concern the sales growth won't be sustainable into 2019, especially if the U.S. economy's strength start to fade or consumers lose confidence.

"The key takeaway is that shoppers and stores alike will have a happy holiday this year — assuming retailers can maintain their margin discipline," Craig Johnson, head of consulting group Customer Growth Partners, said. "Looking forward, the key issue is whether this pace can be sustained into the New Year and beyond."

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<![CDATA[Disney, Fox Sued in LA By Malaysian Resort Company Over Proposed Theme Park]]>Tue, 27 Nov 2018 05:20:58 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/disneyland-lagenerics-hnavarro-072718.jpg

The Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox were sued Monday in Los Angeles for more than $1 billion by a Malaysian casino company which alleges the studios backed out of an agreement to sponsor a "Fox World" theme park outside Kuala Lumpur.

Lawyers for Genting Malaysia Berhad allege in the lawsuit, filed in federal court, that Fox, with Disney, breached a 2013 contract to license intellectual property, including "Ice Age" and "Planet of the Apes," for the first-ever Fox-branded park.

Representatives of Disney and Fox could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the 29-page complaint, Disney wants to end the contract because going into business with a gambling company does not correspond to its "family-friendly" image.

"The plan was for Fox World to be the new centerpiece of Resorts World Genting, GENM's integrated resort complex in Genting Highlands, an idyllic mountain retreat 6,000 feet above sea level and an hour's drive outside of Kuala Lumpur that already attracts over 23 million visitors a year," according to the lawsuit.

Genting runs the only legal land-based casino in Malaysia, along with hotels, venues, shopping malls and scores of restaurants, bars and clubs. The company claims Fox issued a default notice with the hope of terminating the contract, in a manner "entirely consistent with Disney wanting to kill the deal."

According to the suit, which alleges that Genting had already made a $750 million-plus investment in the park, the studios are liable "for what will exceed a billion dollars in damages attributable to the bad-faith behavior of both Fox and Disney."

Photo Credit: Heather Navarro]]>
<![CDATA[Angry Over Cutbacks, Trump Threatens to End Subsidies to GM]]>Tue, 27 Nov 2018 18:26:46 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GMAP_18330654522712.jpg

President Donald Trump tested the limits of his presidential authority and political muscle as he threatened Tuesday to cut off all federal subsidies to General Motors because of its planned massive cutbacks in the U.S.

Trump unloaded on Twitter a day after GM announced it would shutter five plants and slash 14,000 jobs in North America. Many of the job cuts would affect the Midwest, the politically crucial region where the president promised a manufacturing rebirth. It was the latest example of the president's willingness to attempt to meddle in the affairs of private companies and to threaten the use of government power to try to force their business decisions.

"Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland" while sparing plants in Mexico & China, Trump tweeted, adding: "The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!"

Trump's tweets followed a short time after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the White House's reaction to the automaker's announcement was "a tremendous amount of disappointment, maybe even spilling over into anger." Kudlow, who met with Barra on Monday, said Trump felt betrayed by GM.

"Look, we made this deal, we've worked with you along the way, we've done other things with mileage standards, for example, and other related regulations," Kudlow said, referencing the recently negotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. "We've done this to help you and I think his disappointment is, it seems like that they kind of turned his back on him."

The White House rebuke appears to fly in the face of long-held Republican opposition to picking winners and losers in the marketplace. A day earlier, Trump issued a vague threat to GM warning it to preserve a key plant in the presidential bellwether state of Ohio, where the company has marked its Lordstown plant for closure.

"That's Ohio, and you better get back in there soon," he said.

It's not clear precisely what action against GM might be taken, or when, and there are questions about whether the president has the authority to act without congressional approval.

Buyers of electric vehicles made by GM and other automakers get federal tax credits of up to $7,500, helping to reduce the price as an incentive to get more of the zero-emissions vehicles on the road. But GM is on the cusp of reaching its subsidy limit.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she did not have any additional information on the president's threat.

Trump has long promised to return manufacturing jobs to the United States and particularly the Midwest. At a rally near GM's Lordstown plant last summer, Trump told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are "all coming back."

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, GM tried to appease the Trump administration while at the same time justifying the decisions it announced Monday. "We appreciate the actions this administration has taken on behalf of industry to improve the overall competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing," the statement said.

Many of the workers who will lose jobs if the plants close could transfer to another GM factory where production is being increased, spokesman Patrick Morrissey said. For instance, GM plans to add hundreds of workers at its pickup truck assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, Morrissey said. Workers also will be added at an SUV factory in Arlington, Texas.

But those expansions aren't enough to accommodate all of the roughly 3,300 U.S. factory workers who could lose their jobs.

GM said it has invested more than $22 billion in U.S. operations since 2009, when it exited bankruptcy protection.

Trump has made direct negotiation with business leaders a centerpiece of his administration, including talks with defense contractor CEOs on bringing down prices on new systems, including the upcoming replacement to the aircraft that serves as Air Force One. He has never been shy about voicing his frustration with their decisions.

But Trump's deal-making image is far from flawless. Three weeks after his election, Trump traveled to Indianapolis to announce a tax-incentive agreement partially reversing the closure of a Carrier factory, which was set to close, cutting about 1,400 production jobs.

Trump frequently criticized the closure plans during the 2016 campaign, and promised to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Under that deal, Carrier pledged to keep nearly 1,100 jobs in Indianapolis, including some 800 furnace production jobs it planned to cut with outsourcing. But about 550 jobs were still eliminated at the plant.

GM's attempt to close the factories still has to be negotiated with the United Auto Workers union, which has promised to fight them legally and in collective bargaining.

The factory announcements likely represented GM's opening bid in contract talks with the union that start next year, said Kristen Dziczek, vice president of labor and industry with the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The factories slated for closure could get new products in exchange for items the company wants from the union, she said.

Keeping open a plant slated for closure is not without precedent for GM. In 2009, for instance, GM announced that it intended to close a huge assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan, north of Detroit. But it later negotiated concessions from the union and reopened the plant to build the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact car. The factory is still in operation and now builds the Sonic and the Bolt electric car.

The reductions could amount to as much as 8 percent of GM's global workforce of 180,000 employees.

The restructuring reflects changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from cars toward SUVs and trucks. In October, almost 65 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were trucks or SUVs. That figure was about 50 percent cars just five years ago.

Jerry Dias, president of the Canadian trade union UNIFOR, said Tuesday that GM's CEO had insulted the president of the United States and prime minister of Canada.

"If you are going to have a company that's going to show us their middle finger then I think our government should show them our middle finger as well," Dias said. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[US Could Slap 10% Tariffs on iPhones Imported From China]]>Mon, 26 Nov 2018 17:24:47 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/trumpGettyImages-871934808.jpg

President Donald Trump suggested he could place a 10% tariff on iPhones and laptops imported from China, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Monday. He also said it's "highly unlikely" that he would delay an increase in tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on Jan. 1, just four days before a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Maybe. Maybe. Depends on what the rate is," the president said to The Wall Street Journal about the possible iPhone and laptop tariffs. "I mean, I can make it 10 percent, and people could stand that very easily."

Apple stock was down nearly 2 percent in after-hours trading.

Trump said he expects he will increase tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent. He will also add $267 billion worth of tariffs onto goods that are not already subjected to existing tariffs if the two countries don't make a deal.

Apple's products are currently exempt from the tariffs. It previously announced that the tariffs would affect the Apple Watch, AirPods and other products, but were spared when the tariffs were announced. Although iPhones are assembled in China, several parts come from the U.S. 

Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

Read the full report in The Wall Street Journal.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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Photo Credit: Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Supreme Court Justices Skeptical of Apple in App Store Case]]>Mon, 26 Nov 2018 13:42:42 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/app-store.jpg

The Supreme Court seemed ready Monday to allow a lawsuit to go forward that claims Apple has unfairly monopolized the market for the sale of iPhone apps.

The court heard arguments in Apple's effort to shut down an antitrust lawsuit. Chief Justice John Roberts was alone among the nine justices who seemed prepared to agree with Apple.

The suit by iPhone users could force Apple to cut the 30 percent commission it charges software developers whose apps are sold exclusively through Apple's App Store. A judge could triple the compensation to consumers under antitrust law if Apple ultimately loses the suit.

But the issue before the high court at this early stage of the suit is whether the case can proceed at all. Justice Stephen Breyer, who used to teach antitrust law at Harvard Law School, said the consumers' case seemed straightforward and in line with a century of antitrust law.

Apple argues it's merely a pipeline between app developers and consumers.

The developers set the prices and agree to pay Apple a 30 percent commission on whatever they sell, the lawyer representing Apple said in the courtroom. If anyone should be able to sue the Cupertino, California-based company, it's a developer, Daniel Wall said. "There have been plenty of disputes, not one has gone to litigation," he said.

But Justice Elena Kagan said it appears that consumers have a direct relationship with Apple. "I pick up my iPhone, go to the Apple App Store, pay Apple directly with credit card information I supplied to Apple," Kagan said.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said if consumers are paying more than they should, then perhaps they should be able to sue. The relevant federal antitrust law says "any person injured" can sue, Kavanaugh said.

His comments could put him on the side of justices who would allow the suit to proceed. In other cases, the court has ruled there must be a direct relationship between the seller and a party complaining about unfair, anti-competitive pricing.

Consumers can choose from among more than 2 million apps, compared with the 500 apps that were available when Apple created the App Store in 2008. "The phrase 'there's an app for that' is now part of the popular lexicon," Roberts noted in a 2014 decision limiting warrantless searches of cellphones by police. Apple has trademarked the phrase.

But the company says the popularity of software for iPhones and its App Store shouldn't obscure that consumers buys apps from developers, not Apple. Developers set the prices, though Apple requires prices to end in .99, Wall said. The Trump administration is backing Apple at the high court.

Representing consumers, lawyer David Frederick said the monopoly Apple has over iPhone apps is unique in the digital age. "Apple can't point to another e-commerce distributor that does what it does," Frederick said. Even Apple allows third parties to sell computer software directly to purchasers of its laptop and desktop computers, he said.

A trial court initially dismissed the suit. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived it.

A victory for Apple could severely restrict consumers' ability to sue over antitrust violations even though Congress envisioned such suits "would form a central component of enforcement of the antitrust laws," warned 18 scholars of antitrust law in a Supreme Court filing.

A decision in Apple Inc. v Pepper, 17-204, is expected by late spring.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Packages Fly Inside Amazon Facility on Cyber Monday]]>Mon, 26 Nov 2018 10:47:18 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Amazon+Fufillment+Center+Mercer+County.jpg

The Amazon fulfillment center in Mercer County, New Jersey, is expected to ship out about 1 million orders on Cyber Monday alone. Amazon has made it a priority to get packages to consumers on time and intact.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[GM to Lay Off Up to 14K Workers, Close as Many as 5 Plants]]>Mon, 26 Nov 2018 19:48:46 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/121249362-General-Motors-Plant-Oshawa-Canada.jpg

General Motors will cut up to 14,000 workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it abandons many of its car models and restructures to focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles, the automaker announced Monday.

The reductions could amount to as much as 8 percent of GM's global workforce of 180,000 employees. NBC News reported the company's  moves will cost an estimated 14,700 jobs.

The restructuring reflects changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from cars toward SUVs and trucks. In October, almost 65 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were trucks or SUVs. That figure was about 50 percent cars just five years ago.

GM is shedding cars largely because it doesn't make money on them, Citi analyst Itay Michaeli wrote in a note to investors.

"We estimate sedans operate at a significant loss, hence the need for classic restructuring," he wrote.

Hours after the announcement, President Donald Trump said his administration and lawmakers were exerting "a lot of pressure" on GM. He said he told the company that the U.S. has done a lot for GM and that if its cars aren't selling, the company needs to produce ones that will.

Trump, who has made bringing back auto jobs a big part of his appeal to Ohio and other Great Lakes states that are crucial to his re-election, also said he was being tough on General Motors CEO Mary Barra.

At a rally near GM's Lordstown, Ohio, plant last summer, Trump told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are "all coming back."

The layoffs come amid the backdrop of a trade war between the U.S., China and Europe that likely will lead to higher prices for imported vehicles and those exported from the U.S. Barra said the company faces challenges from tariffs but she did not directly link the layoffs to them.

The planned reduction includes about 8,000 white-collar employees, or 15 percent of GM's North American white-collar workforce. Some will take buyouts while others will be laid off.

At the factories, around 3,300 blue-collar workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and another 2,600 in Canada, but some U.S. workers could transfer to truck or SUV factories that are increasing production. The cuts mark GM's first major downsizing since shedding thousands of jobs in the Great Recession.

The company also said it will stop operating two additional factories outside North America by the end of next year, in addition to a previously announced plant closure in Gunsan, South Korea.

General Motors Co.'s pre-emptive strike to get leaner before the next downturn likely will be followed by Ford Motor Co., which has said it is restructuring and will lay off an unspecified number of white-collar workers. Toyota Motor Corp. also has discussed cutting costs, even though it's building a new assembly plant in Alabama.

GM isn't the first to abandon much of the car market. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles got out of small and midsize cars two years ago, while Ford announced plans to shed all cars but the Mustang sports car in the U.S. in the coming years.

Barra told reporters that GM doesn't foresee an economic downturn and is making the cuts "to get in front of it while the company is strong and while the economy is strong."

Factories that could be closed include assembly plants in Detroit and Oshawa, Ontario, and Lordstown, Ohio, as well as transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.

The announcement worried GM workers who could lose their jobs.

"I don't know how I'm going to feed my family," Matt Smith, a worker at the Ontario factory, said Monday outside the plant's south gate, where workers blocked trucks from entering or leaving. "It's hard. It's horrible." Smith's wife also works at the plant. The couple has an 11-month-old at home.

Workers at the Ontario plant walked off the job Monday but were expected to return Tuesday.

After the morning announcement, Barra was to head for Washington to speak with White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow in what was described as a previously scheduled meeting, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly.

Most of the factories to be affected by GM's restructuring build cars that will not be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. Their futures will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

The Detroit-based union has already condemned GM's actions and threatened to fight them "through every legal, contractual and collective bargaining avenue open to our membership."

Bobbi Marsh, who has worked assembling the Chevrolet Cruze compact car at the Ohio plant since 2008, said she can't understand why the factory might close given the strong economy.

"I can't believe our president would allow this to happen," she said Monday.

She now faces an uncertain future, not knowing whether the plant will close for good or if there's a chance it could find another use.

"Everything is up in the air," she said. "I don't want to give up hope for this facility and these people. I spend more time around them than my own family. It would be like breaking up a family."

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said the move will be disastrous for the region around Youngstown, Ohio, east of Cleveland, where GM is one of the area's few remaining industrial anchors.

"GM received record tax breaks as a result of the GOP's tax bill last year, and has eliminated jobs instead of using that tax windfall to invest in American workers," he said in a statement.

Many of those who will lose jobs are now working on conventional cars with internal combustion engines. Barra said the industry is changing rapidly and moving toward electric propulsion, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing, and GM must adjust.

She said GM is still hiring people with expertise in software and electric and autonomous vehicles.

GM will stop producing cars and transmissions at the plants through 2019. In all, six car models were scrapped, leaving the company with nine remaining car models.

The automaker said it was ending Chevrolet Volt production because the vehicle was meant to be a bridge to fully electric cars when it was introduced about a decade ago. The Volt has a small battery that can take it about 50 miles, then it switches to a small gasoline engine.

Since it was introduced, battery technology has improved dramatically. Now the full-electric Chevrolet Bolt can go up to 238 miles on a single charge.

GM builds full-size Chevrolet and GMC pickups in Mexico, and it recently announced that a new Chevrolet Blazer SUV will be built there. Also, GM imports the Buick Envision midsize SUV from China. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[How to Keep Your Packages Safe During the Holidays]]>Mon, 26 Nov 2018 06:56:04 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Online+Shopping+Generic+Shopping.jpg

Shopping online is just part of the holiday shopping season these days. Experts say more packages will be delivered this holiday season than ever before. Security experts have simple ways you can protect yourself and your packages.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Black Friday Pulled in Record $6.22B in Online Sales]]>Sun, 25 Nov 2018 11:55:22 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-453488584+%281%29.jpg

More shoppers turned to the internet for deals to kick off the holiday shopping season, new data showed Saturday, buying everything from apparel to flat-screen TVs and spending record amounts in the process.

Black Friday pulled in $6.22 billion in online sales, up 23.6 percent from a year ago and setting a new high, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions for 80 of the top 100 internet retailers in the U.S. like Walmart and Amazon. Those figures arrived as many retailers have pushed big digital deals, days in advance of the holiday weekend.

The Friday after Thanksgiving this year was also the first day in history to see more than $2 billion in sales stemming from smartphones, said Adobe. The group found 33.5 percent of e-commerce sales Friday came from mobile devices, compared with 29.1 percent in 2017.

"Retailers have done their part to build better mobile experiences for consumers and turning nearly 10 percent more smartphone visitors into buyers this Black Friday versus last," said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights.

Buy online pick up in stores continues to be a popular option for shoppers this holiday season, with "click-and-collect" orders up 73 percent from Thursday to Friday, Adobe said. TargetKohl's and Walmart are just a few companies that have been touting that option this year, hoping that when customers arrive to pick up their items, they'll buy more.

Meanwhile, shoppers were seen buying more big-ticket items like appliances, furniture and bulkier electronics from their phones Black Friday, with average order values up 8.5 percent year over year to reach $146, based on Adobe's data.

Earlier in the week, sales online Thanksgiving Day totaled $3.7 billion, up 28 percent from a year ago, making it the fastest-growing day for e-commerce sales in history. Thursday also saw $1 billion in sales from smartphones, with shoppers spending 8 percent more online Thursday compared with a year ago.

For the first time, according to Adobe, online prices Thanksgiving Day "were as low as on Black Friday" — potentially stealing some of Black Friday's traditional throngs of shoppers at malls and other stores. There were reports that traffic at many shopping malls Friday was lighter than in past years. Instead, more consumers turned to their phones or desktop computers to grab bargains.

Kohl's said it has a record day for online sales this Thursday, with Cyber Monday still to come. Adobe is expecting Cyber Monday sales online to set a new record of $7.8 billion, up nearly 18 percent from last year.

As of 10 a.m. ET Saturday, Small Business Saturday was on track to reach a new record of $3 billion in online sales, based on Adobe's data. Already, $400 million had been spent online by Saturday morning, up a little more than 24 percent from a year ago.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Small Business Saturday Across the Country]]>Sat, 24 Nov 2018 19:21:34 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/shopsmallGettyImages-880277640.jpg

When consumers shop small this Saturday, it’s a big deal for locally-owned businesses that thrive from the support on this day and, really, year-round.

American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 in the aftermath of the Great Recession, and thousands of businesses across America participate in the annual event.

Brian Beevers is the owner of Simply Local San Diego. His store is one of many small shops taking part in Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24 – the Saturday after Black Friday that urges consumers to spend their money shopping for holiday gifts at local, independently-owned shops rather than big box retailers.

"Shopping local has a ripple effect across everything," he told NBC 7. "First off, you’re supporting a local artist that spends a lot of hours and time on each product. Not only do you have a product that’s built with so much more love than a manufactured item, you have a product that’s supporting a family, directly. You have a product that is only locally-found; you have a product that is actually creating shops like this that support many artists."

In San Diego, California, North Park Main Street Association spokesperson Angela Landsberg said the point of shopping small is quite simple: “Shopping local keeps your money local.”

And, she said, the benefits are far-reaching.

“North Park businesses employ local and it’s better for the environment to shop local. There are so many reasons why shopping local is where it’s at,” she added.

Stores in Lincoln Square, a community in Chicago, are pulling out all the stops this holiday season to get shoppers off the couch and into retailers by creating immersive, exhilarating experiences, complete with Christmas carolers, bands, and a tree lighting ceremony.

Scott Friedland, the owner of Timeless Toys Chicago, says he expects sales to quadruple sales over a normal Saturday because of the event, and says that “Small Business Saturday” has helped grow his business.

“We’re here to find what the best toy is for the child you’re shopping for, and not just what the most popular toy is,” he said.

In the age of Amazon and Cyber Monday deals, Arla Rosmarin from Milford, Connecticut prefers to do her holiday shopping the old fashion way.

 "You can see everything and you can touch it actually and feel if the fabric is soft and they have unique things," she added.

In Coral Gables, Florida, Jeffrey Wolfe of Wolfe's Wine Shop said, "When you buy a bottle of wine from me I get to keep socks on my kids...I get to give them guitar lessons...it's keeping money in the community, but also supporting my family." 

Merrimack Valley, a bi-state region in New Hampshire and Massachusetts is counting on its community to help them bounce back after a series of gas explosions in September.

NECN spoke to the president of Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, Joe Bevilacqua, a few months ago about how the gas explosions have impacted the local economy.

"You literally have shut down the economies of three communities," Bevilacqua said. "The employees are losing paychecks. Taxes aren't being paid, mostly because people aren't working. Purchases of goods and services aren't being made so you're losing sales tax as a form of revenue."

“This is all about community, and being able to go and support people we love and know,” said Kristi Soto, a shopper in Dallas, Texas.

A new economic study commissioned by American Express says that 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the local community.

Since Small Business Saturday started, U.S. customers have reported spending an estimated total of $85 billion at independent retailers and restaurants.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lord & Taylor Prepares to Say Goodbye to Fifth Avenue Store]]>Sat, 24 Nov 2018 13:41:20 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18325803798372+%281%29.jpg

For generations, the lavish, theatrical holiday displays in the windows of the Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue helped define Christmas in New York.

This Christmas season, the most notable decorations at the Manhattan store are signs saying "everything must go."

Lord & Taylor plans to close its longtime Fifth Avenue flagship in January after one last blowout sale.

Next year, the 11-story, Italian Renaissance-style building will be taken over by WeWork, the workspace leasing company.

Shoppers snapping up the store's final bargains said they were saddened by its demise, especially the end of the holiday window displays Lord & Taylor helped pioneer.

WeWork and several investors aim to close the $850 million deal to buy the Fifth Avenue building by the end of January.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File]]>
<![CDATA[Small Business Saturday by the Numbers: 67M Expected to Shop]]>Sat, 24 Nov 2018 11:47:04 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18163602849844+%281%29.jpg

Almost before the leftover turkey is put away into Tupperware, the holiday shopping season is fully underway.

But now, popular shopping day Black Friday has to share the spotlight with its relatively new sidekick: Small Business Saturday. This year, the shopping day, when consumers are urged to shop at independently owned stores to support those business owners, falls on Nov. 24.

Here's a look at Small Business Saturday day by the numbers.

67 million expected to shop
In the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, 164 million people are planning to shop, according to an estimate from the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association, and Prosper Insights & Analytics, a consumer data company, released Nov. 16.

Of those, 41 percent — 67 million — are planning to shop on Small Business Saturday, according report, which is based on a survey of 7,516 consumers conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 7.

Of that 67 million, 78 percent report they "will do so specifically to support small businesses."

By comparison, 34 million people plan to shop on Thanksgiving, 116 million plan to shop on Black Friday, 32 million are expected to shop on Sunday and 75 million are expected to shop online on Cyber Monday.

$85 billion spent at small businesses in 8 days
Small Business Saturday was launched in 2010 by American Express in the wake of the 2008 recession. In 2011, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution to support Small Business Saturday, according to the American Express.

In the eight annual Small Business Saturdays since the marketing campaign launched, customers have reported spending $85 billion at independent shops and restaurants, according to the American Express website

30.2 million small businesses in the United States
"Small businesses are generally independently owned and can exist in a variety of forms including, but not limited to, corner stores, online boutiques, among many others. They can give a neighborhood strength and create vibrant, diverse communities," the American Express Shop Small website says.

There are 30.2 million small businesses in the United States, according to the U.S. government Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy report published in August 2018. (The federal government's U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy generally defines a small business as having fewer than 500 employees. The report uses the most recent governmental data available, collected in 2015 and released in 2016-2017.)

Of those 30.2 million small businesses, 80 percent — 24.3 million — were solo entrepreneurs (no employees). That's a number on the rise; in 1997, there were 15.4 small businesses with no employees, the SBA's Office of Advocacy says.

Still, Main Street businesses are a significant factor in the nation's job market. Small businesses employ 47.5 percent of private sector employees (59 million out of 124 million), according to the SBA office of Advocacy.

— Emma Newburger contributed to this report.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Thinx CEO: This is the 'secret sauce' to running a successful e-commerce business in an Amazon world

How an ex-lawyer built Halo Top into an ice cream sensation with $347 million in sales

This 26-year-old quit her job to do what she loved—now her work has been featured in Vogue

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Annie Rice, File]]>
<![CDATA[Why Online Shoppers May See More Sales Tax This Season]]>Wed, 28 Nov 2018 11:02:49 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-880487300+%281%29.jpg

Shoppers heading online to purchase holiday gifts will find they're being charged sales tax at some websites where they weren't before. The reason: the Supreme Court.

A June ruling gave states the go-ahead to require more companies to collect sales tax on online purchases. Now, more than two dozen have moved to take advantage of the ruling, many ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.

"Will your shopping bill look any different? ... The answer right now is it depends," said Jason Brewer, a spokesman for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents more than 70 major retailers.

Whether shoppers get charged sales tax on their online purchases comes down to where they live and where they're shopping.

Before the Supreme Court's recent decision, the rule was that businesses selling online had to collect sales tax only in states where they had stores, warehouses or another physical presence. That meant that major retailers such as Apple, Best Buy, Macy's and Target, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, were generally collecting sales tax from online customers. But that wasn't the case for businesses with a big online presence but few physical locations.

Now, states can force out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax if they're doing a fair amount of business in the state. That means retailers such as Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg can be required to collect tax in more states. Those companies were involved in the case before the Supreme Court, but a wide range of businesses from jewelry website Blue Nile to clothing and outdoor company L.L. Bean and electronics retailer B&H Photo-Video are also affected.

Before the Supreme Court's decision, Overstock was collecting sales tax in eight states. Now, it's collecting sales tax nationwide. Jonathan Johnson, a member of Overstock's board of directors, said a small number of customers reached out to ask about the change when it happened but the company now hasn't had a question about it in months. Wayfair, for its part, was collecting sales tax in 25 states before the decision. Now it's collecting sales tax in 36 of the 45 states with a sales tax.

Where online shoppers live also can affect whether they're being charged sales tax.

States had a strong interest in taking advantage of the Supreme Court's decision by passing laws or publishing regulations prior to this holiday shopping season if at all possible, said Richard Cram of the Multistate Tax Commission, which works with states on tax issues. Those that did have generally been following the lead of South Dakota, which brought the issue to the Supreme Court. South Dakota requires sellers who don't have a physical presence in the state to collect sales tax on online purchases if they do more than $100,000 in business in South Dakota or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents.

A host of states — Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin — began enforcing their own requirements starting Oct. 1. And about another half a dozen states will start in the next two months.

But a number of big states, including California, Texas, New York and Florida, do not yet have similar collection requirements in place. As a result, consumers shopping online from those states and others that have yet to act may not be charged sales tax on some websites for a little longer. Online shoppers in those states — particularly those making expensive holiday purchases like televisions, computers and luxury goods — may be motivated to try to purchase from a website that isn't charging them sales tax. While that may look like a sweet tax savings, shoppers are generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves, but few do.

Still, it's getting harder to find sellers that aren't collecting sales tax online, said lawyer Eric Citron, who was involved in the Supreme Court case. And Citron said it will become even harder in 2019, with more states putting in place expanded sales tax collection requirements. States also have websites such as eBay, Etsy and Amazon in their sights.

Amazon collects sales tax when customers purchase goods it sells, but third-party retailers selling products on Amazon make their own sales tax collection decisions. Sellers on eBay and Etsy also make their own decisions. Now states are working to require those large marketplaces to collect taxes on behalf of sellers using their platform.

"States tend to use the powers that the Supreme Court gives them, especially when it comes to collecting taxes," Citron said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[What the Federal Report Says on Climate Change and Economy ]]>Sat, 24 Nov 2018 08:58:47 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/212*120/WildfireCaliforniaEconomy.jpg

The United States is already feeling the heat from climate change — and the damage could cost hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century if more preventive measures aren't taken now, a new federal report has found.

Climate change has worldwide implications as well, which also means more trouble for the United States, NBC News reported. And it warns of a "cascading effect" that will alter lives and economies across the country, causing fuel shortages and increased power outages.

"The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains," it says. "With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states."

"Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security," the report says.

Photo Credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Adults Want Cozy, Kids Want Gross: 4 Holiday Trends to Watch]]>Fri, 23 Nov 2018 14:44:10 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18324010143919+%281%29.jpg

Cozy sweaters and soft pajamas are in for adults. Kids, meanwhile, are asking for board games featuring fake poop and pimples.

Those are just some of the trends expected this holiday season, when shoppers are projected to spend as much as $720 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Here's what to expect:

Blame it on holiday stress: Target, Kohl's and other retailers are pushing "cozy" goods. That means pajamas for the family, weighted blankets, fuzzy mules and everything Sherpa — from socks to sweatshirts.

"This holiday season we will see this trend in all of its furriness," says Maria Rugolo, an apparel industry analyst for NPD Group, in a company blog .

Kohl's is making it easy to choose soft and snuggly fashions by prominently displaying the looks near store entrances and in nearly a dozen gifting areas. Greg Revelle, Kohl's chief marketing officer, told reporters last month that "cozy knits" was one of the most searched for terms on its website last year.

"Gross definitely sells in the toy business," says Jim Silver, the editor in chief of toy review site TTPM.com.

In one game, called Don't Step In It, players are blindfolded and have to avoid stepping in soft, clay-like "poop." A unicorn version of the game features poop in bright colors. Both have been on Amazon's list of bestselling toys.

Another popular game is Pimple Pete, says Silver. Players pull, wiggle or twist out squishy "zits" from a plastic face. Losers get squirted with water.

It's not all gross. The LOL Surprise brand is a hot seller again so far this year, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks online spending. With LOL Surprise, kids peel each layer of a shrink-wrapped plastic ball to reveal dolls, stickers or other trinkets.

Old-guard retailers are adding some new features to their shopping apps and websites.

Using Target's app, shoppers can scan its physical toy catalog so they can find more details about the items and add them to their shopping cart.

The Kohl's app offers the option to scan and store Kohl's cash and redeem the store's rewards points and gift cards in a digital wallet for easy access to checkout. Shoppers can also use the app to take photos of products and then find similar items at Kohl's.

Walmart has been revamping its website over the past year to allow shoppers to easily discover more items. The discounter recently introduced WalmartToyLab.com, a new digital playground where shoppers can play with 20 top toys on their computer or tablet. They can also share their favorites on a digital wish list. At the store, Walmart's app now helps shoppers find the exact location of a particular item.

The Macy's app comes with an augmented reality feature that lets customers virtually design and experience the interior of a room. The app also lets shoppers scan items and pay with a pre-registered credit card. They then walk to a checkout counter so that a worker can verify their purchase.

Amazon and eBay are taking a page from traditional retailers and printing their own toy catalogs.

Amazon is shipping its toy book to shoppers' mailboxes while eBay placed a shortened six-page version inside People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" issue. Amazon's will also be available at its physical bookstores, and eBay handed out a longer version at a New York pop-up shop.

One thing missing from Amazon's toy book: prices. The online retailer tells readers to pick up a phone, open the Amazon app and take a snap of the toy to see how much it costs.

Both companies are trying to make a play for former shoppers of Toys R Us, which sent holiday toy catalogs each year before shutting down this summer.

"Kids love them," says Silver, noting how they like to circle what they want. "It's a different experience than sitting at the computer."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File]]>
<![CDATA[GM Under Investigation for Faulty Brake Vacuum Pumps]]>Fri, 23 Nov 2018 14:03:13 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18327524333392+%281%29.jpg

The U.S. government is investigating more than 100 complaints of poor brake performance on 2.7 million General Motors big pickups and SUVs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a brake vacuum pump can deteriorate, causing increased braking effort and longer stopping distances.

The agency has 111 consumer complaints including nine crashes and two injuries.

The investigation covers 2014 through 2016 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Also involved are Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade SUVs.

The agency will determine how often the problem happens and whether a recall is necessary.

GM is monitoring complaints and warranty claims about the brakes and is working with NHTSA to evaluate them, spokesman Tom Wilkinson said Friday.

Any owner who has a problem with brake performance should have them examined by a GM dealer or independent repair shop, Wilkinson said.

They should keep receipts because they could be reimbursed for repairs if there is a recall, he added.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Thanksgiving Deals Could Be Stealing Black Friday's Thunder]]>Fri, 23 Nov 2018 16:44:35 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/target20.jpg

Shoppers pulled out their phones and shopped on Thanksgiving Day to spend more than they ever have before on Turkey Day, potentially stealing some of Black Friday's thunder.

Sales online Thanksgiving Day totaled $3.7 billion, up 28 percent from a year ago, Adobe Analytics said in a report. That makes Thursday the fastest-growing day for e-commerce sales in history, added the firm, which tracks transactions from 80 of the top 100 internet retailers. Thursday was also the first day in 2018 to see $1 billion in sales from smartphones, according to Adobe, with shoppers spending 8 percent more online on Thursday compared with a year ago.

In addition to spending a record amount online, shoppers were also seen lining up in throngs around the country outside of stores Thursday evening. That was despite record-cold temperatures chilling much of the Northeast.

With many doors opening earlier and retailers like Target, Macy's and Walmart dolling out doorbusters unique to Thursday, it "appear[s] to have enticed consumers to spend a little earlier," said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights.

J.C. Penney opened its doors at 2 p.m. ET Thursday, while Best BuyKohl's, Macy's and Target opened at 5 p.m., and Walmart's deals started at 6 p.m., though shoppers could stroll through Walmart stores and receive free cookies and coffee even earlier.

More than 200 people, including many families, were lined up outside of a Target store Thursday evening in Minnetonka, Minnesota, before its doors opened. Items like the Nintendo Switch, L.O.L. Surprise!, $10 giant plush teddy bears and Apple watches were hot sellers. The company also said in a blog post that many shoppers this year took advantage of special deals for credit-card holders that went live Wednesday on Target.com, pulling spending even earlier.

Walmart chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies said "traffic was steady" all Thursday night in stores across the country. The company launched its online deals Wednesday evening at 10 p.m., two hours earlier than in 2017. Bratspies said "millions" of people were shopping on Walmart.com, though there were also reports of the website experiencing delays. It was working again by Friday morning.

Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette chimed in by saying traffic was strong Thursday.

Shoppers "showed up early online. And when we opened at 5 [p.m.], they were there," he told CNBC from inside Macy's flagship Herald Square location Friday morning. "People responded very well last night."

With so many deals taking place earlier in the week, Black Friday could be losing some of its luster.

"Here at the mall, it has been remarkably slow to be honest," Kerri Sapp, senior manager of Deloitte, told CNBC Friday morning. Sapp was inside Lenox Square in Atlanta. She said shoppers were starting to file in "as they woke up," but there were no long lines, like many at big-box stores on Thanksgiving night. The longest line in the mall Black Friday morning was at a Starbucks coffee shop, she said.

Early winners on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday appear to be Walmart, Old Navy and Bath and Body Works, KeyBanc analyst Ed Yruma said. Traffic at Target, Urban Outfitters and Gap stores matched expectations, he said, while Nordstrom and Victoria's Secret shops seemed more empty than anticipated.

"Traffic has seemed busier than normal, but I would say ... the Black Friday push isn't as strong as it used to be," Yruma told CNBC. He was visiting Tysons Corner Center in Virginia Friday morning.

Fifty-seven percent of shoppers are planning to buy online this holiday season, compared with 36 percent in stores, Deloitte found in its annual holiday survey that polled 4,036 consumers in September. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they planned to start shopping for the holidays before Thanksgiving and planned to spend 28 percent more, or $370, than people who procrastinate.

The National Retail Federation is predicting holiday sales gains will be better than a five-year average of 3.9 percent. It expects a bump ranging from 4.3 percent to 4.8 percent.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Wifi Doctor]]>Fri, 23 Nov 2018 07:15:23 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_100000002543652.JPG

NBC10 meets with an internet expert who diagnoses home network speeds. When it comes to wifi and worries, Ken Sedberry, senior tech operations manager at Comcast is every homeowner's best friend. He's so good at his job, they call him "The Wifi Doctor" and like any good doctor, he has a treatment plan.]]>
<![CDATA[Stores Host Black Friday Events to Court Online Shoppers]]>Thu, 22 Nov 2018 22:30:24 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18324010275953+%281%29.jpg

With Black Friday sales beginning on Thanksgiving for many retailers, Walmart and Target are getting the ball rolling with a variety of new events that experts say are intended to draw online shoppers and seize upon the first holiday season without a beloved children's toy haven.

Walmart recently announced its first-ever “Light Up Black Friday” parties in stores at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Walmart also added 30 percent more toys to its brick-and-mortar locations.

The retail giant is hoping to make holiday shopping as convenient as possible for this generation of customers, writing in a press release that with its early sales, festive events and color-coded store maps, "it’s never been easier for customers to shop – and save – at Walmart on Black Friday.”

And Target vowed to organize in-store experiences around the newly added quarter-million square feet of space dedicated to toys across more than 500 stores, according to CNBC. The retailer also promised to host 25,000 hours of in-store events later in the year, with many events allowing children to play with new toys.

Target's executive vice president said that for customers with a top priority of "finding the perfect toy to wrap up and give their little loved ones this holiday, ... We want them to know that Target is here to help."

Both retailers are even deploying staff members throughout the stores to help shoppers beat long lines and check out the customers with mobile devices.

With the increased number of in-store holiday events, some experts say Walmart and Target are trying to combat the growing influence Amazon and other online retailers have over consumers. And playing an important role in their competition with online retailers is their new focus on toy sales during the first holiday season after the closure of Toys “R” Us.

Sridhar Balasubramanian, a professor of marketing and Roy and Alice H. Richards Bicentennial Distinguished Scholar at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said the extensive marketing campaigns are in response to how much Black Friday shopping has changed due to the growing popularity of online retailers.

Crowds have traditionally flocked to stores on Black Friday, waiting in line for hours to get access to long-awaited holiday deals, Balasubramanian said. But Amazon, "the 800 lb. gorilla of the online market," Balasubramanian added, has made those deals available all the time.

“With online [shopping], you lose the sense of shopping at a particular time and at a particular place,” Balasubramanian said. “That convenience is something that traditional retailers have really struggled to recreate.”

In Deloitte’s “2018 Retail Holiday Survey,” 66 percent of customers said they would go shopping online versus 56 percent who said they’d shop in-store. Respondents ranked convenience, free-shipping and time saving as the top three reasons to shop online.

Katrijn Gielens, an associate professor of marketing and Sarah Graham Kenan Scholar at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said online shopping has made it increasingly difficult to attract customers into stores. For example, it is easier to avoid the impulse buying of additional items while shopping online.

Gielens added that stores have had to turn to strategies like in-store events to court customers, and targeting toys allow the whole family to get involved in the shopping process.

“Once they’re inside the store you can tempt them with other things and that is the ultimate goal to a certain extent,” Gielens said. “If there’s one type of consumer that is easily tempted, it’s probably children. Ultimately, the parents will pay for it, but it’s also hard to say no to children.”

Balasubramanian said that because children have a different perspective of shopping than adults do and that the in-store experience is more meaningful to young children than online shopping is.

“With children, it is often a ritual to go to the store with their parents and have all the excitement around them — to touch, feel, experience the toys — and then to get something right then and there,” Balasubramanian said. “That makes it fun for the family.”

Balasubramanian said that Walmart and Target’s event-heavy, child-friendly marketing strategies also seem to be an “experiment” to see if they can capture Toys “R” Us’ former customers year-round and increase their presence in the toy market.

“I would certainly expect that some of the traffic from Toys 'R' Us is going to go definitely toward Walmart and Target,” Balasubramanian said. “But it’s not clear to me that given how shopping habits have been shifting that Walmart and Target are necessarily going to capture all of the Toys 'R' Us’ traditional customers.”

Balasubramanian noted that Toys “R” Us went out of business because its toy-only model could not compete with Amazon and other online retailers, who took over “a big chunk of that toy market.” Balasubramanian said, however, that because Walmart and Target’s offerings cover a wide range of categories, their current business “will remain robust” even if they can’t increase their toy sales.

Although Gielens thinks the events could bolster the number of in-store visits on Black Friday, she said “the jury is still out” on whether the strategy would be useful in the long-run. She warned that retailers should not market the events and toys to the point that consumers are distracted from looking through the rest of the store.

Gielens also noted that because these events promote products at lower prices, the stores’ profits might be affected. Gielens acknowledged that the retailers are being forced to take the risk to beat their competitors, but she advised that the companies should organize the events in such a way that they don’t lose money.

“Ultimately, what are [the stores] all trying to achieve: that they don’t lose market share and that they don’t lose their consumer to their competitors,” Gielens said. “But it can accommodate huge costs in that it’s simply not profitable.”

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File]]>
<![CDATA[Nissan board Fires Chairman Following Arrest]]>Thu, 22 Nov 2018 07:44:08 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/nissanAP_18323330074079.jpg

Nissan Motor Co. fired Carlos Ghosn as chairman Thursday, curtailing the powerful executive's nearly two-decade-long reign at the Japanese automaker after his arrest for alleged financial improprieties.

In an hours-long meeting, the company's board of directors voted unanimously to dismiss Ghosn as chairman and as a representative director, Nissan said in a statement. It said its own internal investigation, prompted by a whistleblower, found serious misconduct including under-reporting of his income and misuse of company assets.

It was a stunning downfall for one of the biggest figures in the auto industry, a man who helped drive turnarounds at both France's Renault SA and at Nissan and then managed an alliance between them that sold 10.6 million cars last year, besting its rivals.

Nissan said in a statement filed to the Tokyo Stock Exchange that its investigation uncovered misuse of company investment funds and expense money for personal gain.

This week, Renault voted to keep Ghosn as its chief executive but appointed Thierry Bollore, its chief operating officer, as its interim chief.

Another Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, was arrested in Japan on suspicion of collaborating in the wrongdoing and also will be dismissed as a representative director, Nissan said. Their replacements will be decided later, it said.

Ghosn, 64, is suspected of under-reporting $44.6 million in income from 2011 to 2015, according to Tokyo prosecutors.

Nissan's board consists of nine members, including Ghosn and Greg Kelly. The seven other board members voted at the meeting, including two members from Nissan and two from Renault.

Ghosn and Kelly will remain on Nissan's board for now as that decision will be up to shareholders. No date has been set yet for a shareholders meeting.

Ghosn is also chairman at Mitsubishi Motors Corp., a smaller Japanese automaker that's partnering with the Renault-Nissan alliance and plans to hold a board meeting next week.

Ghosn has been held since his arrest Monday at a Tokyo detention center, under the same Spartan conditions as other detainees, Tokyo deputy prosecutor Shin Kukimoto told reporters Thursday. He gave few details about the case.

Under Japanese law, suspects can be held for 20 days per possible charge without an official indictment. Additional charges can be tagged on, resulting in longer detentions. Neither has been charged so far.

The maximum penalty upon conviction for violating finance and exchange laws is 10 years in prison, a 10 million yen ($89,000) fine, or both.

A French citizen born in Brazil, Ghosn became something of a corporate superstar in Japan as he led Nissan's revival from near bankruptcy after Renault sent him to help in 1999.

Ghosn served as Nissan's chief executive from 2001 until last year. He became chief executive of Renault in 2005, leading the two automakers simultaneously. In 2016, he also became chairman of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. after Nissan took it into the alliance.

Kelly, 62, joined Nissan, maker of the Leaf electric car and Infiniti luxury models, in the U.S. in 1988. He became a board member in 2012. His background is in human resources and alliance management.

Analysts say the future of Nissan's alliance with Renault may be at stake, though Nissan's statement Thursday said the company's leadership was determined to minimize the impact from Ghosn's case on the partnership. Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan, and Nissan owns 15 percent of Renault.

"The longstanding alliance partnership with Renault remains unchanged," the Nissan statement in English said, stressing the alliance rather than the misdeeds.

The economy ministers of Japan and France met in Paris on Thursday to discuss the issue and released a statement saying both sides are committed to supporting the alliance.

Nissan said its board will study setting up a third-party committee to beef up governance in management and compensation at Nissan.

CEO Hiroto Saikawa, in a lengthy news conference on Monday, said too much power had been concentrated in Ghosn, with too little credit given to the many others working for the company's success.

Janet Lewis, managing director and head of industrial research, Asia, at Macquarie Capital Securities in Tokyo, said in an interview that an adjustment was needed to give Nissan more say in the alliance with Renault.

The partnership remains crucial for both companies, she said, since apart from financial ties the companies share technology and parts.

The automakers need to be more like roommates than a married couple, "So they have to find a way to share their house and share all of their expertise because it's very necessary in terms of new automotive technology, new platform development," Lewis said.

"They need to figure out how they can continue this and still live happily together in the same house."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[The Best Day to Score Great Deals May Not Be Black Friday]]>Wed, 21 Nov 2018 23:55:52 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/shopAP_18316639030858.jpg

Black Friday is the most famous shopping day of the year, with millions of bargain-hungry shoppers flocking to stores to cash in on dramatic sales. And Black Friday 2018 will likely be bigger than ever, reports finder.com, which predicts that Americans will drop $90.14 billion.

But that's not actually when the very best deals can be found. In fact, "technically, as a single day, Thanksgiving is better than Black Friday," says Lindsay Sakraida, the director of content marketing for Dealnews, a comparison shopping website. And Cyber Monday is a strong contender, too.

That doesn't mean you should forget Black Friday altogether. As she told CNBC Make It in 2017, "Black Friday is still very strong, but a lot of the big deals are going to go live on Thanksgiving Day." The holiday is, "unfortunately, the better of the two days."

Sure enough, Dealnews recently reported that "even though we posted the most deals on Black Friday itself in 2017, both Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday featured more Editors' Choice deals."

More and more stores are even rolling out sales before Thanksgiving in an effort to get ahead of competitors, says Sakraida, who recommends checking for sales as early as the Monday before Thanksgiving.

The smartest time to shop also depends on what you're looking for.

In 2018, "Black Friday will likely be the best day to get deals on kitchen goods, clothes, tools, beauty products, toys, laptops and appliances," Dealnews reports. "But if you're looking for most types of electronics, Thanksgiving tends to have better deals. We're predicting Turkey Day will have the best deals on smartphones, speakers, tablets headphones and video games in 2018.

"And if you want to buy a television or book your next vacation? Cyber Monday is probably the best time to shop."

If you really want to maximize savings, you should continuously check for sales starting this week, as "the best sales could pop up at any time," the sites notes.

Whether you're shopping on the week of Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you'll want to have a plan in place to avoid overspending.

Start by determining exactly how much you can afford to part with. Once you have a budget in mind, do your research, says Sakraida: "Definitely do historical price research to get a quick assessment of whether or not the prices you're seeing are actually good."

She recommends using camelcamelcamel, a free Amazon price tracker, or doing a Google search to get an idea of how different stores price various items.

While you're at it, check out similar items or versions of whatever it is you're looking for, she says: "If you're dead set on one specific model, you may be blind to the other discounts that exist on very similar alternatives. Keeping an open mind and being a little bit flexible with what you end up buying, within reason, is definitely a good tactic."

Finally, avoid impulse purchases. One of the biggest mistakes consumers make over Black Friday weekend, says Sakraida, "is buying things that they weren't planning on buying beforehand and that don't fit a specific need."

If you discover a discount on something that you were planning on buying, great, but resist the temptation to buy things just because they're on sale.

"The reason Black Friday exists is to bring you in with the really cheap, rock-bottom prices in the hopes that you do jump on those filler deals while you're there," says Sakraida. "Being really aware of that and trying to avoid that temptation is important."

Photo Credit: AP, File
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<![CDATA[Gap Looking to Close Hundreds of Stores 'Quickly']]>Wed, 21 Nov 2018 16:15:58 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/gapGettyImages-962474656.jpg

Gap Inc. is considering shutting hundreds of its namesake stores at shopping malls as sales at the Gap brand continue to slide.

The retailer said Tuesday evening that it still has 775 Gap-branded stores globally, in addition to those under the Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta banners. Gap Inc. has more than 3,000 stores around the world. The namesake brand, however, has been the weakest unit of the company of late. In the fiscal third quarter, sales at Gap stores open for at least 12 months fell 7 percent, while those at Old Navy and Banana Republic were positive.

"There are hundreds of other stores that likely don't fit our vision for the future of Gap brand specialty store, whether in terms of profitability, customer experience, traffic trends," CEO Art Peck said Tuesday evening during a call with analysts. "The range from the very best to the very worst stores is extremely broad."

Peck said that should the company "address" the bottom half of its fleet of Gap stores, it could contribute more than $100 million to earnings. He added the company is looking to make decisions about shutting stores "with urgency," including looking at closing some of Gap's "amazing flagships."

"There likely will be a cash cost to exit many of these stores, which we will attempt to minimize," Peck told analysts. "But I plan to exit those that do not fit the future vision quickly. I'm going to move thoughtfully but aggressively."

Gap shares were recently up about 4.6 percent midday Wednesday. The stock has fallen more than 24 percent already this year.

Some analysts are hopeful that Peck and his team are taking the right steps to get the Gap brand back on its feet, enough to not drag the parent company's other labels down with it.

"We view management's comment on addressing the bottom half of the Gap's specialty store base as encouraging if executed right," Cowen and Co. analyst Oliver Chen said in a research note. "We view that improving profitability of the Gap brand is crucial to making GPS' performance consistent and healthy."

To be sure, this will also leave mall owners with more empty storefronts to fill, while they're already dealing with closures from Sears, Bon-Ton, Claire's, The Children's Place and others. Many landlords are, in turn, starting to consider new uses like gyms, apartment complexes and coworking units to move in.

Gap hasn't named the specific locations it will close but said it will give more details when the company provides its forecast for the next fiscal year.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com More from CNBC:

Want the best Black Friday deals? Head to a department store

Read this before you buy a 4K TV on Black Friday

Apple's stock rout starts and ends with the iPhone

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<![CDATA[Building $8M Soundstage for Touring Bands, Shows in Delaware]]>Wed, 21 Nov 2018 14:09:19 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/pinebox+-+soundstage.jpg

An $8 million soundstage will provide a home for touring bands, film crews and theater productions in Delaware.

The News Journal reports Wilmington officials on Friday announced plans for the Pine Box, a 25,000-square-foot soundstage that will be 95 feet tall and built on 10 acres of land.

The soundstage on the 7th Street Peninsula will be available to rent to build sets, practice performances and test out sound and lighting. Video and lighting studios and office space will also be available.

The owner of building company Light Action Productions, Scott Humphrey, compared the planned space to Rock Lititz in Pennsylvania, and said he hopes Wilmington's proximity to Philadelphia and Washington will attract a high-profile clientele.

Humphrey hopes to break ground next month and open the stage late next year.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Office of Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Exposed Customer Names, Emails in 'Technical Error']]>Wed, 21 Nov 2018 10:23:54 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/bezosAP_18275537899991.jpg

Amazon exposed some customers' names and emails due to a "technical error," according to emails the company sent to affected customers. Several people shared screenshots of the emails online Wednesday morning. BetaNews first reported the incident.

In a statement, Amazon said, "We have fixed the issue and informed customers who may have been impacted."

Despite the exposure, Amazon told the affected customers they did not need to change their passwords. But even with just their names and emails exposed, people could attempt to reset their accounts or target their emails for phishing attacks.

Amazon did not answer questions about how many customers were affected by the error nor about how long information was exposed. Amazon's website and systems were not breached, an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC. The company did not say where the customer information was visible.

In a customer forum, people who received the cryptic message from Amazon were surprised that the company did not recommend they reset their passwords and that the link to Amazon's website in the email signature did not contain a secure link, which would contain "https" rather than "http."

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Cliff Owen/AP, File
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<![CDATA[Investors Seek Stability as Stocks Fall]]>Wed, 21 Nov 2018 04:30:22 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/stocksAP_18324793926954.jpg

Goodbye iPhones and Facebook feed. Hello power plants and bleach.

Since stocks began tumbling two months ago, investors haven't abandoned the market. At least, not all of it. In recent weeks, as they've pulled money out of funds that invest in go-go technology companies, they've also been buying utilities, companies that make everyday necessities for consumers and other stocks that tend to have smaller swings in price than the rest of the market.

It's part of a big shift in investor behavior as fears about rising interest rates, a global trade war and slowing economic growth around the world have roiled markets. The S&P 500 plunged as much as 2.2 percent Tuesday, with technology stocks again suffering particularly sharp losses, and the index has lost nearly 10 percent since setting its record on Sept. 20.

Technology stocks' fall marks a big turnaround from earlier this year, and from much of the bull market that began nearly a decade ago. After leading the market higher on the backs of their strong profit growth, Facebook and other big-name tech companies have recently stumbled on concerns that increased government regulation will dent their profits, on top of all the other concerns dragging on the rest of the market.

Apple has slumped particularly hard on fears that its newest crop of iPhones isn't as popular as expected after phone-part suppliers gave discouraging forecasts. Apple has plunged 19.6 percent since the S&P 500 set its record two months ago, nearly double the loss of the index. Amazon, the third-most valuable U.S. company after Apple and Microsoft, has fallen 23.1 percent over the same time, during which it gave a forecast for revenue growth this holiday season that fell short of Wall Street's high expectations.

After their years of eye-popping returns, those stocks had become some of the most popular to own among hedge funds, mutual funds and other investors. But just as they bought the stocks together on the way up, investors are now heading for the exits en masse as well.

"There's no doubt that tech companies are widely owned, people have made a lot of money on them and we're finally seeing for the first time where the rotation is having some legs," said Nate Thooft, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management. "They're selling the winners and redeploying the money somewhere else."

For now, at least, that somewhere else has been areas of the stock market seen as holding steadier during economic downturns. Last week, for example, investors plowed $1.47 billion into exchange-traded funds that focus on utility stocks. The thinking is that utilities' customers will continue to turn on their lights and buy power regardless of how many tariffs get placed on Chinese goods.

Utility stocks have not only held up better than the rest of the market in recent weeks, they've been among the few areas to thrive. Shares of Duke Energy, Xcel Energy and American Electric Power have all climbed more than 9 percent since the S&P 500 began its downturn after Sept. 20.

Besides utilities, investors have also been putting money into real-estate stocks and companies that make everyday items for consumers, such as Church & Dwight. The maker of Arm & Hammer baking soda and Oxiclean stain fighters has climbed 8 percent over the last two months. Clorox, which last month reported stronger profit than analysts expected, is up 5.6 percent.

All these companies are common fodder for "low-volatility" ETFs that have surged in popularity in recent weeks as investors seek out stocks that have historically had smaller price swings than the rest of the market. Last week, $1.3 billion went into "low-volatility" ETFs.

At the same time, nearly $500 million left technology stock ETFs. It's a huge about-face in interest. As recently as two months ago, these ETFs had attracted $8 billion in net investment for 2018. But subsequent waves of selling mean they're now down to $525.9 million in net investment for the year, according to Jefferies.

"These things had outperformed the S&P by a mile over the last three years," said Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide Investment Management. But that's changed now. "On good days they're not the leaders, and on bad days they're the laggards."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Dow Drops 600 Points, Erases 2018 Gains as Target Drags Down]]>Tue, 20 Nov 2018 15:42:56 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-883240668.jpg

The major U.S. stock indexes fell sharply on Tuesday and turned negative for the year as a decline in Target shares pressured retailers, while the most popular tech shares dropped again.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 606 points and the S&P 500 plunged 2 percent. The Nasdaq Composite also dropped more than 2 percent. The Dow and S&P 500 were up 1.2 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, for 2018 entering Tuesday. The Nasdaq was up nearly 2 percent for the year.

Stocks hit their lows of the day after Doubleline Capital founder Jeffrey Gundlach said stocks are still too expensive, adding there has not been a "panic low" yet.

Target fell 10.5 percent after reporting weaker-than-expected earnings for the previous quarter. The company also posted lighter-than-forecast same-store sales, which is a key metric for retailers. 

The decline sent the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) down 3.3 percent. Kohl's, L Brands and Macy's — which are also in the XRT — fell 8.8 percent, 17.1 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively. Retail's steep decline comes ahead of the holiday shopping season, a critical period of the year for these companies.

Stocks fell sharply last month amid heightened concerns about rising interest rates, slowing economic growth and global trade tensions. The S&P 500 fell 6.9 percent in October while the Dow lost 5.1 percent of its value. At current levels, the Dow is less than half a percent the closing low during the October sell-off and 1.7 percent from its intraday low hit during the market turmoil last month. 

Tuesday's decline came a day after members of the popular "FAANG" trade —Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet — all closed in a bear market, down more than 20 percent from their 52-week highs. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropped 1.7 percent and 3 percent, respectively, on Monday while the Dow fell 1.6 percent.

Apple has been leading the charge lower for FAANG stocks as investors worry sales for the company's flagship product, the iPhone, will slow down. Most recently, Goldman Sachs slashed its price target on Apple on Tuesday, noting that "in addition to weakness in demand for Apple's products in China ... it also looks like the balance of price and features in the iPhone XR may not have been well-received."

Meanwhile, Facebook is down sharply amid backlash for how the company has dealt its handling of the platform's use by foreign entities to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election. 

"Short term, unexpected weakness in the tech sector could have a significant impact on the global economy, adding to what already looks like a soggier macro environment," said Dario Perkins, managing director of global macro at TS Lombard, in a note. "Additional retrenchment in the FAANGs could also undermine the broader US stock market." 

FAANG stocks were down again on Tuesday. Facebook was down about half a percent while Amazon and Netflix fell at least 1 percent. Apple shares dropped 5.2 percent. 

The major indexes were also under pressure as steep losses in crude pushed down the energy sector. West Texas Intermediate futures plunged nearly 7 percent to $53.21 per barrel on Tuesday amid worries about rising supply across the globe. Crude's plunge sent the S&P 500 energy sector down 3.5 percent, by far the worst-performer in the index.

"A lot of people are getting blown up there," said Larry Benedict, CEO and founder of The Opportunistic Trader. "A lot of people were in this long oil, short natural gas trade that had been working for some time. Now, I think we're seeing some liquidation."

Boeing shares fell 1.5 percent Tuesday after the company canceled a conference call with airlines to discuss the systems on the 737 MAX model. Last month, a 737 MAX crashed and killed all 189 people on board.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Darkening Clouds Start to Overhang Global Economic Expansion]]>Tue, 20 Nov 2018 14:18:14 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/economyAP_18324592841196.jpg

After galloping along for the past two years, the global economy is showing signs of weakening, with the United States, China and Europe all facing the rising threat of a slowdown.

Few economists foresee an outright global recession within the next year. But the synchronized growth that powered most major economies since 2017 appears to be fading. The risks have been magnified by the trade war raging between the United States and China, the strife dividing Britain over an exit from the European Union and the Federal Reserve's continuing interest rate hikes.

It's all been enough to contribute to a broad retreat in global stock markets. Counting Tuesday's deep losses, U.S. stock indexes, once up around 10 percent for the year, have surrendered all their 2018 gains.

The Fed is expected next month to raise its key short-term rate for the fourth time this year. The central bank's rate hikes help control inflation. But they also make loans costlier for consumers and businesses. And for countries that borrowed in U.S. dollars, the Fed's hikes make debts harder to bear. Argentina, for one, has slid into recession as its cost of repaying its debt has surged.

"We can't continue to grow this fast for much longer without risking inflation," Adrian Cooper, chief executive of Oxford Economics, said of the still-solid U.S. economy. "That's ultimately what the Fed is trying to achieve with its steady movement in interest rates. The skill is to do so in ways that don't create a big downturn."

The concerns have grown enough that Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, on Tuesday dismissed the worries roiling the markets.

"Recession is so far in the distance I can't see it," Kudlow told a group of reporters outside the White House. "Keep the faith. It's a very strong economy."

The collective growth of the world's major economies in the past two years was broadly welcomed after a feeble recovery from the 2008 financial crises. Yet few economists saw accelerated growth as sustainable — or even desirable — over several years.

The concern is that a prolonged global expansion could ignite inflation or speculative investing that would inevitably send vulnerable economies into a downturn. Compounding the challenge, the world's economies are linked more than ever through trade, finance and investment — to the point that a rupture in one major nation tends to spread across the globe.

Oxford Economics predicts that the growth of the global economy, as measured by its gross domestic product, will slip from 3.1 percent this year to 2.8 in 2019. Such a slowdown is enough to crimp corporate profits and business investment, Cooper said. Still, most American and European workers probably wouldn't feel the pain, he said, in part because of a resilient job market and lower oil prices.

"2019 is still going to look pretty good — your job is going to be safe, and your wages are going to rise," Cooper predicted while adding that he thinks the slowdown will worsen in 2020.

In the meantime, though, stock markets have endured waves of jittery selling as investors have tried to factor in a slowdown that could depress the growth of company profits.

"Financial markets have become a little more volatile and anxious of late, worried about slowing global growth, trade tensions, Brexit woes and concerns that the U.S. may not be able to sustain its current cyclical sweet spot," said Josh Feinman, chief economist at Deutsche Asset Management.

Over the next two years, most forecasts suggest that U.S. growth, after cresting above 3 percent this year — its best performance since 2005 — will weaken. Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged in a speech last week that the strong worldwide growth of 2017 is in retreat.

"You see signs of a gradual slowdown," Powell said.

Goldman Sachs foresees annual U.S. growth slowing to 1.75 percent by the end of 2019. The predicted weakening stems, in part, from the front-loaded stimulus of the tax cuts Trump pushed through Congress. The boost from the tax overhaul is expected to wane by 2020.

One continuing threat for the U.S. economy is Trump's trade war with China. The president has imposed a 10 percent tax on $200 billion of Chinese goods — a tariff that's set to escalate to 25 percent in 2019. He's also threatened to add tariffs on $250 billion more in Chinese goods.

A prolonged trade crisis would depress the global exchange of goods and, therefore, economic growth. Trump is set to meet with President Xi Jinping at a Group of 20 international meeting in Argentina next week. But prospects for a breakthrough seem to have dimmed.

"Both countries appear to be far apart on the trade dispute and unwilling to back down at this point," said Scott Anderson, chief economist at the Bank of the West.

Similarly, political ruptures threaten to slow the pace of Europe's five-year expansion. Britain is struggling to finalize its exit from the European Union, and uncertainty surrounding Prime Minister Theresa May's government has roiled markets.

In Italy, tensions have flared over a government that wants to increase its borrowing in defiance of rules about deficits among the 19 countries that share the euro currency. Mounting debt could cause Italian interest rates to reach levels that would stifle growth and strain the eurozone.

Yet the biggest risk of all might be China, the world's second-largest economy after the United States and the leading engine of global growth for several decades. Its economy was already cooling before Trump raised tariffs in hopes of shrinking the U.S. trade gap with Beijing and protecting U.S. technology.

Among companies and economists, the question isn't whether Chinese growth will slow further; it's how much. In September, year-over-year economic growth reached a post-global crisis low of 6.5 percent. This followed a regulatory clamp-down on bank lending to curb surging debt. Forecasters expect the decline to deepen at least through mid-2019.

The ruling Communist Party wants slower, more self-sustaining growth driven more by consumer spending and less by trade and investment. But the slump has been sharper than expected. In response, Beijing has cut taxes, eased lending controls and pumped money into building projects.

October auto sales fell 13 percent from a year ago, putting vehicle sales in China — the industry's No. 1 market — on track to shrink this year for the first time in three decades. Housing sales and bank lending have dropped, and spending on factories and other manufacturing assets has decelerated.

"Further action" is needed to "put a floor beneath economic growth," Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a report.

Finding that floor could prove problematic if the trade war with the Trump administration diminishes the exports that propelled China's economy to manufacturing dominance. Analysts at UBS put the likelihood as high as 20 percent that China could suffer a much sharper slowdown because of the escalating tensions with the United States.

"In this environment, contagion in global markets could not be avoided," UBS analysts wrote.

AP writers Martin Crutsinger and Darlene Superville also contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Stephen B. Morton/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Former Toys R Us Workers to Get $20M in Hardship Fund]]>Tue, 20 Nov 2018 12:07:15 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/990529200-Toys-R-Us-Closures.jpg

Two private equity owners of the iconic Toys R Us toy chain will be handing over a $20 million hardship fund to the thousands of former workers left jobless and without severance after the chain liquidated in June.

The move by KKR and Bain Capital announced Tuesday is aimed at helping the 30,000 workers affected by the store closures and comes following efforts by worker-backed groups. The fund wasn't legally required and the groups call the move "unprecedented" to help families caught in the crossfires of a slew of retail store closures and bankruptcies in a fast-changing retail industry.

Workers are pushing to get an additional $55 million they believe they're owed and are looking to other firms that had a stake in Toys R Us and that they believed played a role in the chain's demise.

"This is an amazing first step, but the goal is to keep the pressure on," said Ann Marie Reinhart, 59, of Durham, North Carolina, who worked at Toys R Us for 29 years, most recently as a store supervisor. She said she hasn't been able to find work that pays health insurance since she was laid off early this past summer.

While the iconic toy retailer was liquidating its hundreds of stores in June, workers were informed they would not get severance. They began protesting outside the New York offices of the retailer's former owners KKR, Bain and Vornado Realty Trust, firms that loaded the company with debt, helping push it into bankruptcy in the fall of 2017.

Then, they showed up at more than a dozen pension meetings around the country over the last few months, exerting pressure on them to push the equity owners they invest in to do right by workers and act more responsibly.

Since late summer, Toys R Us workers have been pressuring pension funds to in turn push a group of hedge firms that owned the retailer's secured debt in a bid to get the remaining money they say is owed to them. These so-called secured creditors, including Solus Alternative Asset Management and Angelo Gordon, were the ones that ultimately pushed for the liquidation as they looked to get returns for their investors.

The groups that organized the Toys R Us workers — Organization United for Respect, along with Private Equity Stakeholder Project and the Center for Popular Democracy — say that the hardship fund is being structured to allow the other firms to contribute, paving the way for Solus, Vornado and others to contribute.

The fund is administered by independent third party administrators, Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, experts in designing and administering unique compensation programs such as the 9/11 fund and the BP oil spill fund. They'll serve as independent administrators of the fund, responsible for the independent management and distribution of all proceeds.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Bids for Disney's Regional Sports Networks: Sources]]>Tue, 20 Nov 2018 14:27:21 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/jeff-bezos-amazon-GettyImages-450831302.jpg

Bidding has begun for the 22 regional sports TV networks Disney acquired from 21st Century Fox.

Amazon is bidding for all of the networks, including the YES Network, sources familiar said. Blackstone, a unknown sovereign wealth fund, along with the Yankees, are also bidding for the New York network.

In addition to Amazon, Apollo Global Management, KKR & Co, The Blackstone Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tegna also made first round bids for the full slate of networks, the sources said.

Fox itself did not submit a bid in the first round for the networks although there's potential that it will join in the second round, the sources told CNBC. Earlier this year, Fox sold some television and movie assets to Disney, which owns the sports channel ESPN. The Justice Department forced Disney to sell the Fox regional sports networks to get that deal done.

Fox acquired its 80 percent interest in the YES Network in separate transactions in 2012 and 2014. YES is home to the New York Yankees and also carries Brooklyn Nets games.

The second round of bids is expected before year-end and due diligence on the bids begins next week. CNBC was unable to learn the amounts of the bids.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Dow Erases 2018 Gains as It Drops Over 450 Points]]>Tue, 20 Nov 2018 13:20:20 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/1069756570-Dow-Jones-NYSE.jpg

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 fell sharply on Tuesday and turned negative for the year as a decline in Target shares pressured retailers.

The 30-Stock Dow fell 450 points after dropping nearly 400 points in the previous session. Earlier in the day, the Dow was down nearly 600 points. The S&P 500 dropped 1.3 percent, but also traded well off its session lows. The Dow and S&P 500 were up 1.2 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, for 2018 entering Tuesday.

Target fell 10.4 percent after reporting weaker-than-expected earnings for the previous quarter. The company also posted lighter-than-forecast same-store sales, which is a key metric for retailers.

The decline sent the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) down 2.2 percent. Kohl's, L Brands and Macy's — which are also in the XRT — fell 8.7 percent, 12.1 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.

"This looks like lingering worries about what triggered the October decline. That's worries about an economic slowdown," said Craig Callahan, president at Icon Funds. "I think these people are wrong, but they're in control at this time."

Tuesday's decline came a day after members of the popular "FAANG" trade —Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet — all closed in a bear market, down more than 20 percent from their 52-week highs. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropped 1.7 percent and 3 percent, respectively, on Monday while the Dow fell 1.6 percent.

Apple has been leading the charge lower for FAANG stocks as investors worry sales for the company's flagship product, the iPhone, will slow down. Most recently, Goldman Sachs slashed its price target on Apple on Tuesday, noting that "in addition to weakness in demand for Apple's products in China ... it also looks like the balance of price and features in the iPhone XR may not have been well-received."

Meanwhile, Facebook is down sharply amid backlash for how the company has dealt its handling of the platform's use by foreign entities to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election.

"Short term, unexpected weakness in the tech sector could have a significant impact on the global economy, adding to what already looks like a soggier macro environment," said Dario Perkins, managing director of global macro at TS Lombard, in a note. "Additional retrenchment in the FAANGs could also undermine the broader US stock market."

FAANG stocks were down sharply again earlier on Tuesday, but regained most of their losses in late-morning trading. Amazon, Alphabet and Netflix were higher as of 11:40 a.m. ET, while Apple remained down 3 percent. Facebook shares outperformed, rising 0.9 percent.

Boeing shares fell 1 percent Tuesday after the company canceled a conference call with airlines to discuss the systems on the 737 MAX model. Last month, a 737 MAX crashed and killed all 189 people on board.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Struggling Retailers Have No Room for Error Over Holidays]]>Mon, 19 Nov 2018 17:52:18 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/shopGettyImages-78600124.jpg

Despite all the changes in retail, one thing remains constant: the holidays are the most crucial season of year.

Many retailers can ring up a third or more of their sales during the holiday quarter. The extra shoppers flooding through the doors give retailers like Walmart, Amazon and Target a chance to test new technologies and tout new experiences — and hopefully win a customer's loyalty into the new year. But for those that have been struggling, the pressure is on to earn enough cash to support the business so it can make investments to reinvent their brands and even stave off a bankruptcy filing or simply stay alive.

Neiman Marcus
With roughly $5 billion in debt and continued losses, the high-end retailer has a lot to prove this holiday season. Like all department stores, it needs shoppers to buy in its stores, rather than from brands directly. It also needs to manage its discounts and keep its shoppers happy with timely online deliveries. Neiman Marcus has been working with investment bank Lazard to manage its debt load, much of which stems from its sale to private equity firms Ares Management and CPP Investment Board in 2013. Credit ratings agency Moody's recently downgraded Neiman Marcus' debt, saying it could announce a distressed exchange or debt restructuring in the next six months "to proactively address its capital structure." A move to shift its crown jewel business, leading online luxury fashion retailer Mytheresa, away from the grasp of its bondholders has irked some.

Looking to revive its business, the retailer has overhauled its executive suite over the past year, bringing in new CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck. It's also had some reason to be optimistic, it grew its sales last quarter 2.3 percent, helped in part by a stronger economy and high consumer confidence.

With significant debt payments coming due in two years, and the U.S. economy potentially nearing its peak, it has a limited window to continue to right its ship.

"If they don't have positive comparable sales or good margins, that's a risky sign given leverage still so high," said Perry Mandarino, senior managing director, restructuring head and co-head of investment banking with B. Riley FBR.

J.C. Penney
The holiday season will be the first for new CEO Jill Soltau, who is tasked with turning around a ship that her predecessors could not.

Shares of J.C. Penney are hovering over just a dollar, as the retailer has lost track of its core customer, struggled to find the right inventory and left investors uncertain it has reason to exist. It's also dealt with a string of high profile executive departures, including former CEO Marvin Ellison, who left for Lowe's, and CFO Jeffrey Davis.

Soltau has said her objective is to put J.C. Penney back on a path to profitable growth. That means, this holiday season, it can't discount its way to sales growth, it also needs to make some money. That challenge may be heightened as it faces liquidation sales from Sears, one of its competitors in appliances.

J.C. Penney this past quarter lost 52 cents a share. Its shares are down 62 percent since January. It has $4.2 billion in debt as of Aug. 4, 2018, according to Factset.

Analysts have begun to question how it will manage its debt load in the face of its sales and earnings decline. Senior Vice President Trent Kruse recently acknowledged the company's leverage "is a little ahead" of the company, but said its debt does not come due for another five years, giving it time to address those concerns.

Kruse also said the company will continue to think about options and opportunities with respect to its real estate and its debt.

Sears filed for bankruptcy in October, and it's fighting hard to not to slip into liquidation.

Its chairman, Eddie Lampert, has been working on a plan to buy the the company out of bankruptcy, a move that would save both the company and the jobs of some of its roughly 90,000 employees. But Lampert faces a steep task. Some the company's creditors are already urging it to liquidate, wary of Sears' value, particularly in the hands of Lampert.

As Lampert dukes it out with the creditors in court, the battle will also take place in Sears stores. The retailer has already said it is shuttering roughly 180 stores, the remaining will need to generate sufficient cash through sales to help the retailer stay alive.

"We need to show material progress over the next few months to establish to our senior lenders that a reorganization of the company is realistic and to avoid a shutdown and liquidation," Lampert recently told employees shortly after Sears filed for bankruptcy.

Last year, similarly challenged retailer Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy shortly before the holidays. It announced plans to liquidate in March.

Hudson's Bay Company
Hudson's Bay Company, the owner of Saks and Lord & Taylor, has gone through a number of changes since its last holiday season. It hired former CVS Health executive, Helena Foulkes, as its CEO, sold its flash sale website Gilt.com and roughly half of its stake in its European operations.

As Hudson's Bay focuses more on its U.S. core business, it needs to show Saks and Lord & Taylor are strong enough to keep the company afloat.

Saks appears to be in a stronger position. Its sales this past quarter grew 6.7 percent over the same quarter a year prior.

"Saks is well positioned as a high-end luxury fashion authority, but there is much room for improving the retail fundamentals," wrote analysts at Scotiabank recently.

At the division that houses Lord & Taylor, Home Outfitters and its namesake store, sales dropped 3.8 percent during the latest quarter.

This holiday season will be the last one in which shoppers can visit the holiday windows at the Lord & Taylor store on New York's Fifth Avenue. The store is one of a number that will close as Lord & Taylor looks to slim its footprint, hoping to redefine its place in retail. The department store has been struggling to find its place as it sits in the awkward spot of being neither the high- nor low-end.

Shares of the Canadian company are down 34 percent since January.

Barnes & Noble
One of Amazon's first targets has not yet figured a way to get out of its fire.

Barnes & Noble now has a market capitalization of just $505 million, a size that founder and executive chairman Leonard Riggio has said is "problematic" and would make the company better suited to be private.

But with with annual sales having dropped every year since 2012, according to Factset, the company has a lot to prove to both potential buyers and financiers.

Last holiday season, the bookseller's sales tumbled more than 6 percent, with e-commerce sales also in the red. After the dismal results, the company slashed its staff.

The bookstore's plan this year rests in part on its campaign "Nobody Knows Books Like We Do." In the campaign, Barnes & Noble is highlighting its more than 20,000 current employees, along with their knowledge of books, as reasons why its stores are unique.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Retailers Look to Fill Void Left by Toys R Us This Holiday Season]]>Tue, 20 Nov 2018 06:17:08 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Toys+and+Games+Sign.jpg

Retail stores are preparing to deal with increased demand of toys in the wake of a holiday shopping season without Toys R Us. They're stocking up, expanding aisle space and offering online toy catalogs to ensure the highest customers satisfaction.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[David's Bridal Files for Bankruptcy, But Orders Are Safe]]>Mon, 19 Nov 2018 11:27:46 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/1061880512-David%27s-Bridal-NYC.jpg

David's Bridal is filing for bankruptcy protection but there is no danger for customers who have ordered dresses because operations continuing as normal while the wedding and prom retailer restructures.

The bankruptcy filing, the private company said Monday, will wipe out more than $400 million in long-term debt.

It has commitments for $60 million in new debtor-in-possession financing and expects to exit Chapter 11 in early January.

The 300-plus stores run by the Conshokocken, Pennsylvania, company will continue to operate and online sales will continue unimpeded.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Thanksgiving Is Costing Less This Year]]>Mon, 19 Nov 2018 07:47:37 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_100000002486164.JPG

Another thing to be thankful for, the cost of Thanksgiving dinner is the lowest it has been in nearly a decade. Experts say the average cost to feed 10 people this year for Thanksgiving is $48.90. Experts suggest stocking up on turkey since prices are cheaper than ever. ]]>
<![CDATA[Advice for Toy Shopping This Holiday Season]]>Mon, 19 Nov 2018 07:48:24 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Busy+Bee+Toys+Holiday+Toys.jpg

The holiday hunt begins to buy the best toys for your children. The trend this year is hands-on toys and toys that use technology. Busy Bee Toys, with locations in Chestnut Hill and Doylestown, says it has all of the gadgets that you would need, and has the staff that is well trained in helping you this holiday season.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Nissan Chairman to Be Dismissed After Reported Arrest]]>Mon, 19 Nov 2018 07:05:20 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/nissanAP_18323330074079.jpg

Nissan Motor Co.'s high-flying chairman Carlos Ghosn is to be dismissed after the company said an internal investigation found he under-reported his income by millions of dollars and engaged in other "significant misconduct."

The Japanese broadcaster NHK said Ghosn was arrested Monday after he voluntarily submitted to questioning by Tokyo prosecutors. The prosecutors' office did not confirm that.

The Yokohama-based company, one of the world's largest automakers, said the violations were discovered during an investigation over several months that was instigated by a whistleblower. Ghosn, 64, also allegedly engaged in personal use of company assets, it said.

Nissan said it was providing information to the prosecutors and cooperating with their investigation. The allegations also concern a Nissan representative director, Greg Kelly, it said.

Together, the two under-reported their income by a combined 5 billion yen ($44 million) from 2011-2015, Japan's Kyodo News service reported.

Nissan's CEO Hiroto Saikawa planned to propose to its board that Ghosn and Kelly both be removed from their posts, the company said in a statement.

"Nissan deeply apologizes for causing great concern to our shareholders and stakeholders. We will continue our work to identify our governance and compliance issues, and to take appropriate measures," it said.

The Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi group is among the biggest auto alliances in the world, selling about 10 million vehicles a year. Before joining Renault, Ghosn worked for Michelin North America.

Shares in Renault SA of France plunged 14 percent early Monday. The news of Ghosn's troubles broke after Japanese markets had closed for the day.

The allegations are a serious blow at a time when Nissan and Mitsubishi Motor Co. are still overcoming scandals over their quality testing reporting.

Ghosn is credited with helping engineer a remarkable turnaround at Nissan over the past two decades, resuscitating the Japanese automaker from near bankruptcy after he was sent in by Renault.

Initially Ghosn, his nickname was "Le Cost Cutter," inspired fears of social and economic upheaval amid plant closings, mass layoffs and the potential damage his reforms might inflict on Nissan's ties with its suppliers. However, his triumph in turning the company around made him something of a national hero.

At one point years ago, his name popped up on lists of people Japanese voters wanted to become prime minister even though his nationality made him ineligible.

Ghosn served as Nissan's chief executive from 2001 until April 2017, becoming chief executive of Renault in 2005, leading the two major automakers simultaneously. In 2016, Ghosn became Mitsubishi Motors' chairman.

For the past two decades, he has maintained an unusually high profile in a nation where foreign chief executives of major Japanese companies are still relatively rare.

Ghosn has appeared on magazine covers dressed in kimono, vowing to renew the Nissan brand. He was widely praised in Japanese industry circles for delivering sorely needed cost cuts and introducing greater efficiency at a time when Nissan needed a fresh start.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Turbulent Stock Market Spooks Some Older Workers, Retirees]]>Mon, 19 Nov 2018 02:39:14 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/economyAP_18319606296501.jpg

The recent turbulence in the U.S. stock markets is spooking some older workers and retirees, a group that was hit particularly hard during the most recent financial crisis.

There's no indication, though, that the recent volatility has brought about large-scale overhauls in retirement planning.

"There's a lot of fear that if you have another event like 2008 and you retire the year before or the year after, you're screwed. I'm not taking that risk," says Mark Patterson, a recently retired patent attorney from Nashville, Tennessee. "There's a huge fear of folks my age that they're going to run out of money and they're going to need to rely on the government for help."

By the time the market bottomed out during the financial crisis in 2009, an estimated $2.7 trillion had been wiped out of Americans' retirement accounts, according to the Urban Institute. Older Americans, in particular, have had a tough time recovering their losses. The Pew Research Center estimates the net worth of the median Baby Boomer household in 2016 was still nearly 18 percent shy of where it sat in 2007.

In the two years since Donald Trump's election, 62 percent of Americans — and 76 percent of those 65 and over — don't believe their financial situation has improved despite the run-up in the stock markets, according to a recent Bankrate survey. Nearly 1 in 5 respondents said their finances have actually gotten worse.

Paul Kelash, vice president of consumer insights at Allianz Life Insurance Co., says the market fluctuations throughout 2018 look less like the prelude to a retirement savings crisis and more like a return to normalcy after a remarkably steady market run.

As such, he hasn't seen much evidence of Americans drastically altering their retirement plans. "We get the feeling that folks are getting more comfortable with volatility," he says.

Patterson, the recently retired patent attorney, gradually began stepping away from his law practice in 2016 — a decision he says was motivated in part by the stress of his job, his relatively stable finances and a "re-evaluation of priorities" after losing his wife of 35 years in 2013.

Now, 68, Patterson says he still has some "discretionary spending" money invested in stocks and riskier assets. But he says he was reluctant to put too much money into a stock market that soared throughout 2017, a decision he says was driven in part by memories of the 2008 financial crisis.

"I can retire in 2018 and not be sweating bullets because I put together a budget and I protected it," Patterson says. "The thing that the crash in 2008 taught me is that, even though my portfolio was well set up, that was a black swan type of event. Even if you had a balanced portfolio, everything went down."

Indeed, memories of the recession continue to take a financial and psychological toll on many of those who were affected.

"There is no evidence that retirement wealth has improved in the last few years," says Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist, professor and director of the Retirement Equity Lab at The New School. For workers 50 to 65, there are indications wealth has actually fallen, she said.

Ghilarducci notes that workers and their employers stopped or cut back on 401(k) and retirement account contributions immediately after the financial crisis. Many also opted to "deleverage" and pay down debt as the recovery got underway, she says, which tied up money that otherwise would have been saved or invested.

"They had other things to do with their money, even if they didn't lose their job," she says. "Saving is sort of a luxury good. It's what you can do when you can pay for everything else."

And with a limited number of working years ahead of them — and, in some cases, their peak earning years largely behind them — many older Americans haven't managed to replenish their depleted retirement and savings accounts.

Mark Hamrick, the Washington bureau chief and senior economic analyst at Bankrate, notes that the Federal Reserve's ongoing efforts to boost interest rates benefit savers with money in the bank but also make it more difficult for those with debt to pay back what they owe. The "rising economic tide" has been a boon for many, he says, "but it doesn't lift all boats."

He believes there's a tendency to "overgeneralize" Americans' retirement situations and their day-to-day reactions to the economy.

"There can be a little bit of a disconnect between the improvement in the economic data and the actual experience of many Americans," he says.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon's Would-Be NY Neighbors: Cynicism, Some Hope for Jobs]]>Sat, 17 Nov 2018 12:53:23 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/long+island+city+generic+3+LIC+generic.png

Shawn Smith has heard the promises before. When new hotels sprang up near the public housing complex in Queens where he's lived for 17 years, residents were told they would bring jobs and economic opportunity.

He hasn't seen any of it. So he's cynical about the announcement this week that Amazon will build a headquarters for 25,000 workers on the Long Island City waterfront, a half mile from his home. Elected officials gleefully promised that Amazon's presence will buoy all of western Queens. Smith is not so sure.

"The hotels here, they're not hiring nobody. They're bringing their own kind," said Smith, who commutes to a construction job in New Jersey. "That's how I feel about Amazon."

His wasn't the only skeptical voice among the roughly 6,400 residents of the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing complex in the U.S.

Residents, most of whom are black or Hispanic, expressed hope that there might be something for them in Amazon's hiring bonanza to offset the pressures of neighborhood gentrification. But they are taking the promised opportunity with a grain of salt.

"Let's see if they hire from around here," said Fontaine White, 54, who has lived in Queensbridge for eight years. "I think it's a good idea, provided you remember we live here, too. If you put Amazon in Long Island City, we're part of Long Island City."

City and state officials promised at least $2.8 billion in tax credits and grants to lure Amazon to Queens, where it would occupy a new campus built around a formerly industrial boat basin.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, have heralded the deal as good for everyone.

De Blasio, who won office on promises to address the widening gap between rich and poor in the city, said Amazon has pledged to give money for job training programs for public housing residents, provide space for a new school and pay into a city fund that will be used for projects that benefit the community.

"When you add that kind of number (of jobs) into our economy, you're opening a lot of opportunity for everyday people," de Blasio said Friday during his weekly appearance on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio. He said Amazon's presence would lead to "a lot of jobs for young people coming out of our public schools, coming out of public housing, coming out of city universities. And that's crucial to addressing inequality."

The big government incentives for Amazon have sharply split the Democrats who dominate state politics.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a statement in support of the deal. The state's junior Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, tweeted that "one of the wealthiest companies in history should not be receiving financial assistance from the taxpayers while too many New York families struggle to make ends meet."

The city councilman and state senator representing Long Island City are exploring ways to try to block the subsidies. About 100 people attended a protest of the deal this week.

New Yorkers who ride the subway through Queens have wondered how the neighborhood will handle additional commuters. The station closest to where Amazon would be located already has an average daily ridership of 23,672, making it among the system's busiest.

Queensbridge Houses has also factored heavily in the public discussion.

For decades, the 26-building housing project in the shadow of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge was known for being a rough place. It factored big in Hip Hop history, producing talents including Marley Marl, Roxanne Shante, Nas, and Havoc of the rap duo Mobb Deep.

Crime has abated substantially in recent years. Queensbridge was celebrated for going nearly two years without a shooting before the streak ended in 2017. But like most New York City housing projects, residents complain of poor conditions, unreliable heat and hot water, and rats and roaches.

The same week officials celebrated their willingness to let Amazon avoid billions of dollars in taxes, a federal judge rejected a consent decree that would have had the city pay $1 billion over four years and an additional $200 million annually for the following six years to fix deplorable conditions in public housing, saying it didn't go far enough.

There are "a lot of issues with housing not fixing things, not doing things," said Lisa Cruz, 40, an office manager who has lived in Queensbridge for 12 years. "It's really bad."

The area around Queensbridge has already been changing fast. Luxury condominiums have sprouted. JetBlue's corporate headquarters is a modest walk away. An artisanal brewery moved in. Hotels, once rare in outer boroughs, have sprouted, taking advantage of safe streets and quick access to Manhattan. A big waterfront park was spruced up.

"The neighborhood is a lot cleaner than it was. There's been a lot more changes. A lot more police officers around," said Cruz, a mother of four.

But prices have gone up in local grocery stores and increased congestion has made parking difficult.

"It's unfortunate that it has to take for new hotels to come in, and new buildings and new storage units for fancy-schmancy stuff," Cruz said. "The park has changed so much. That's something we enjoy, but how many years did it take for them to fix Queensbridge Park for us in the community to enjoy it?"

Ashley Nieves, who has lived her entire 21 years in Queensbridge, was concerned that Amazon's arrival would make the neighborhood more expensive, but was hopeful it would lead to job opportunities.

That would be a trade-off she was willing to live with.

"If you hire more people, especially people who live in the projects," the mother of two said, "it's kind of like opening doors to live better."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: News 4 NY]]>
<![CDATA[Lockheed Martin Starts Production of Supersonic Plane]]>Fri, 16 Nov 2018 16:07:26 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/2lockplane.jpg

Lockheed Martin's experimental supersonic plane has officially entered production, the defense giant announced Friday.

Earlier this year, NASA awarded Lockheed a contract worth nearly $250 million to develop an aircraft capable of reaching supersonic speed without creating the deafening sonic boom that comes with breaking the sound barrier.

Lockheed answered with its X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft, which is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet and reach speeds of about 940 miles per hour. The new aircraft is expected to create a noise level akin to the sound of a car door closing.

Current regulations ban commercial supersonic aircraft from operating over land. New companies like Boom Supersonic are trying to make use of the technology for transoceanic routes, with backing from investors like Richard Branson and Japan Airlines.

But Lockheed Martin and NASA want to advance the technology through noise reduction to overturn regulations. The new experimental plane is designed to return supersonic passenger air travel to routes over land. The last such flight was by the Concorde in October 2003.

"The start of manufacturing on the project marks a great leap forward for the X-59 and the future of quiet supersonic commercial travel," said Peter Iosifidis, Low Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.

"The long, slender design of the aircraft is the key to achieving a low sonic boom. As we enter into the manufacturing phase, the aircraft structure begins to take shape, bringing us one step closer to enabling supersonic travel for passengers around the world," he added.

The X-59 will conduct its first flight in 2021. It will be used to collect community response data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom generated by the aircraft, helping NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning supersonic travel over land.

Read more:Lawmakers pave the way for the return of supersonic flight

This new contract is a separate venture from Lockheed Martin's work with Aerion Corp. to develop a supersonic business jet, the AS2, which has its first flight planned for 2023.

Lockheed Martin is also in the process of developing the SR-72, a hypersonic unmanned plane dubbed the "son of the Blackbird." And when it comes to developing a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft, the Pentagon's top weapons supplier is playing in its home court.

In 1976, the Air Force flew Lockheed Martin's SR-71 Blackbird from New York to London in less than two hours — at speeds exceeding Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.

The SR-72 is envisioned to operate at speeds up to Mach 6. And while the hypersonic SR-72 isn't expected to be operational until 2030, the company sees developing a platform of that magnitude as a game changer.

"This could forever change our ability to deter and respond to conflict, allowing warfighters to quickly address threats before an adversary may have time to react," Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson said of the hypersonic plane in March.

Hewson also said the development of the aircraft, which is estimated to cost $1 billion, will change the "definition of air power by giving the U.S. significant tactical and strategic advantages."

This story first appeared on CNBC.com More from CNBC:

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Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin
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<![CDATA[How to Buy a Full Face of Makeup for Less Than $20 at Target]]>Fri, 16 Nov 2018 15:33:21 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/target+makeup+main.jpg

Shopping for makeup is no easy feat. It takes time and effort to find the right colors, best tools and long-lasting products — especially while sticking to a budget!

With my new mission of trying to spend $20 or less on everything from from beauty to home decor, I attempted to put together a full face of makeup on this extremely tight budget

In the second episode of "Change for a $20," I visited a local Target store in New York City with big goals: to find a foundation, concealer, eyebrow pencil, blush and mascara in that price range.

Aiming for five items was ambitious, but I quickly realized that it was also very doable. With lines like e.l.f. and Wet n Wild, I found affordable options fairly easily.

When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, here's a little secret: Try to use products in more ways than one.

Another tip? Use your eyebrow pencil as eyeliner.

For example, use concealer as eye primer before you swipe on that eye shadow.

Another tip? Use your eyebrow pencil as eyeliner.

And to truly make the most of my $20 budget, I scoured the shelves for a peach blush that I knew would also work well as a shadow color. At the end of the day, powder is powder!

I got really lucky, too ... it turned out to be a clearance item!

With these tiny tricks, I was able to find a look I was happy with and have money to spare! (Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to buy a lip color. Instead, I settled for my own lip balm.) 

I ended up spending $18.63 on the full look but left with an experience that was truly priceless!

New episodes of "Change for a $20" are released every other Friday at 12 p.m. Eastern time on TODAY's YouTube channel. For more like this, be sure to subscribe here.

Photo Credit: TODAY
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<![CDATA[Here Are Your New Income Tax Brackets for 2019]]>Fri, 16 Nov 2018 15:36:42 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/irs-building1.jpg

Prepare your calculators. The Internal Revenue Service has updated its tax brackets for 2019. 

This year marks the first under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, an overhaul of the tax code that resulted in lower individual income tax rates, a doubled standard deduction and the elimination of personal exemptions. 

For the new year, the IRS has bumped up the individual income tax brackets, adjusting them for inflation. 

See below for your new bracket: 

The standard deduction has also increased for 2019, rising to $12,200 for single filers (up from $12,000 in 2018). Married joint filers will be eligible for a $24,400 standard deduction, an increase from $24,000 in 2018. 

Meanwhile, heads of household — that is, filers who are single parents — are getting a $350 boost to their standard deduction. It will be $18,350 in 2019. 

Personal exemptions, which were eliminated from 2018 through 2025 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, will remain at zero. 

Retirement contributions
If you're putting money away in a retirement plan, you can save a little bit more in 2019. 

The IRS boosted the employee contribution limit for 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans to $19,000, reflecting an increase from $18,500. Savers age 50 and older can put away an additional $6,000. 

If you have an IRA, you can put away $6,000 in annual contributions in 2019. That's up from $5,500. Catch-up contributions for savers age 50 and older remain at $1,000. 

Insurance penalties
Filers should take note that in 2019, the IRS will do away with the individual mandate — the fine that people pay for failing to maintain qualifying health insurance coverage. 

On a per-person basis, this penalty added up to $695 per adult and $347 per child under age 18. 

Be aware that if you went without coverage in 2018, you'll likely be subject to the fine when you file your taxes in April 2019. 

There are a series of information forms you'll need to complete your 2018 return and report your coverage status to the IRS: They are Form 1095-A (for coverage purchased in the marketplace), Form 1095-B (sent from insurers to covered individuals) and Form 1095-C (for health insurance offered at work). 

Taxes and estates 
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also nearly doubled the amount that decedents could bequeath in death — or gift over their lifetime — and shield from federal estate and gift taxes, which kick in at 40 percent. 

Before the tax overhaul, this so-called gift and estate tax exemption was $5.49 million per person. 

For 2019, the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption will be $11.4 million per individual, up from $11.18 million in 2018. 

Finally, the annual gift exclusion — the amount that you can give to any other individual without having it count against your lifetime exemption — will remain at $15,000 per recipient for 2019.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Beloved Toy Store FAO Schwarz Makes Its Comeback in NYC]]>Fri, 16 Nov 2018 19:24:52 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/fao+schwarz+main.png

Parents and children were lined up around the block in melting snow to be the first to play and shop in the newly reopened FAO Schwarz Friday. 

Three years after it closed its beloved toy store on Fifth Avenue, FAO Schwarz opened its door again in Rockefeller Center, about 10 blocks from its former home near Central Park. 

In a line that wrapped all the way around the block, eager shoppers waited for almost an hour for the high-end store to officially open with the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Christine Allen, visiting from Massachusetts, was up the front with her children, aged 5 and 7. “What’s more exciting to a kid than this?,” Allen said. “We thought better get here early since it’s sure to be packed, and it looks like we were right.”

Once the doors officially opened at 10:30 a.m. customers were ushered in by employees clad in bright soldier costumes, and were given the first looks into new toy sections of the store like the “adoption agency,” race car creation station, DIY Spa, and magician magic booth.

For more than 150 years, FAO Schwarz was known in New York City for its classy and sometimes extravagantly expensive toys. The fantasyland store it opened on Fifth Avenue in 1986 was a tourist attraction, replete with its own theme song, doormen who looked like palace guards and a musical clock tower. Financial problems at the parent company and rising rents closed that store in 2015, but FAO is now pulling back from the worst financial precipice since it was founded in 1862. 

In recent weeks at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, workers drilled, hammered and sawed 24 hours a day to get the new store ready. Employees filled shelves with hundreds of plush animals that have long defined the brand — bears, bunnies, elephants, chicks and more. The big entrance clock tower has returned. And on the second level of the 20,000-square-foot space is a giant piano keyboard mat like the one on which Tom Hanks danced to "Heart and Soul" in the 1988 film "Big." 

The 20-foot-long instrument with 60 keys is reflected on the ceiling for people in the plaza below to see. Replicas for sale cost $128. 

There is also a toy grocery store where children can shop among artificial produce, complete with small carts, a checkout counter and kitchen supplies. For $75, another interactive station allows kids to adopt baby dolls, while a "nurse" gives lessons on how to care for them. Live magic shows will be staged nearby, next to a spot for assembling custom remote-control cars. A 27-foot-tall rocket ship teems with stuffed bear astronauts. 

"We are about experiences. That's what's different from other toy stores," said David Niggli, FAO's chief merchandising officer. 

In a global marketing push, pop-up FAO shops are also opening for the holidays in England, Spain and Australia. A March rollout is planned for a permanent store at a mall in Beijing in addition to smaller retail locations in airports and elsewhere across the U.S. and Canada. 

FAO Schwarz has gone through multiple corporate takeovers in recent years as retailers struggled to adapt to online sales. It was purchased in 2002 by Right Start Inc., which filed for bankruptcy twice. Toys "R'' Us was the next owner. It sold the FAO name to the California-based ThreeSixty Brands in 2016 before recently declaring bankruptcy itself. 

FAO was founded in 1862 by German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz, specializing in high-end toys, some imported from Europe. By the 20th century, in stores across the country, fancy items included a $1,500 jeweled Etch-A-Sketch and a Barbie-themed, hot pink foosball table for $25,000. 

There are a few extravagant items to be had in the new store but plenty of modestly priced items, too. 

"We have beautiful artisan pieces here, like rocking horses, but we also have items that are $10," Niggli said. "There's always going to be some of those over-the-top items. I think that's part of what you come to FAO to see. It's part of the magic." 

The most luxurious item on sale could be a child-size, drivable Mercedes Benz encrusted with 44,000 Swarovski crystals. Base price: $25,000. 

"That's the core of FAO. It's the classics plus the 'Oh, wow' things you've never seen before,"Niggli said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: FAO Schwarz]]>
<![CDATA[Jell-O Introduces Its First Edible Slime]]>Fri, 16 Nov 2018 09:13:32 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/jelloslime.jpg

Kids will soon be able to eat AND play with their food.

Jell-O Play on Thursday introduced edible slime. The squishy and stretchy toy is a social media phenomenon, which spawned online recipes for edible versions.

Jell-O Play's slime comes in strawberry-flavored Unicorn and lime-flavored Monster varieties. All customers have to do is add water and each canister makes two batches of slime. The company says it easily washes away with soap and warm water.

Jell-O says it launched Jell-O Play in the summer "to inspire families to engage in free play and fun."

Edible slime will be available in select retailers in December or can be preordered online.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: JELL-O
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<![CDATA[Disneyland Hotel Sued Over Alleged Exposure to Bed Bugs]]>Fri, 16 Nov 2018 04:58:28 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Lawsuit_Over_Bedbugs_at_Disneyland_Hotel.jpg

A woman who stayed at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim alleges she was "butchered" by bedbugs and suffered emotional damage as a result, according to a lawsuit obtained Thursday.

Ivy Eldridge, a visitor to the hotel for two nights in April, contends she was bitten throughout her body, endured severe pain and sustained physical, emotional and financial injuries, according to the complaint filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

A Disneyland representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"She was absolutely butchered," said Brian Virag, the Inland Empire woman's attorney.

The suit names the Disneyland Hotel, Walt Disney Co. and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and seeks unspecified monetary and punitive damages for alleged physical and mental suffering.

"People put trust in the Disney name and pay top dollar to stay at the Disneyland Hotel," said Virag, who specializes in bedbug litigation. "In this case, Ms. Eldridge's trust was betrayed."

The attorney said Eldridge was bitten on the face, ears, neck, arms and back.

"Bed bugs don't discriminate," Virag said. "They are found in hotels throughout the country and worldwide. Bed bug infestation in hotels have reached an epidemic proportion and is perhaps the most serious issue facing the hotel industry, because of the harm it can do to a hotel's reputation and brand."

Virag is also suing the Embassy Suites Palm Desert on behalf of Victoria's Secret model Sabrina Jales St. Pierre, who contends she was bitten by bedbugs at the hotel and was out of work for two months as a result.

<![CDATA[David’s Bridal to File for Bankruptcy]]>Thu, 15 Nov 2018 23:28:37 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/davidsbridalGettyImages-536072283.jpg

Wedding dress retailer David’s Bridal said on Thursday it will file for bankruptcy in the “near future,” as it grapples with a heavy debt load amid changing consumer tastes in the wedding industry.

The bankruptcy is part of a deal the retailer has reached with its lenders that will reduce its debt by more than $400 million.

David’s Bridal said in a statement the company will continue to operate throughout bankruptcy. Customers can continue to shop in its more than 300 stores, and its orders and appointments will not be impacted..

“David’s Bridal will continue to lead our category with an unbeatable selection of beautiful, high-quality wedding and special occasion dresses in a wide range of styles, colors, sizes, and prices,” CEO Scott Key said.

“For 60 years David’s has delivered for our customers on time, and the agreement announced today allows us to maintain that tradition for many years to come.”

David’s Bridal’s term loan lenders have offered $40 million to help support the retailer’s operations throughout its bankruptcy.

The bridal store was acquired by private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in 2012 for roughly $1.05 billion.

The imminent bankruptcy comes roughly a year after bridal store Alfred Angelo liquidated its business, another victim of the changing times.

Millennials now marry later on. When they do, they often opt for non-traditional garments. Newer online retailers like Reformation now offer brides more relaxed alternatives to the traditional gowns worn in years past.

David’s Bridal made its own online push, buying digital gift company Blueprint Registry this past summer. It can be hard though, for traditional retailers hamstrung by debt to build up the infrastructure necessary to support an expansive e-commerce business.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:


Photo Credit: Moment Editorial/Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[NBC Owned Stations Win Emmy for StormRanger Radar Truck]]>Thu, 15 Nov 2018 19:00:02 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/scott-meadows-stormranger.jpg

NBC’s Owned Television Stations division has won an Emmy for its mobile radar truck StormRanger, which the NBC and Telemundo owned station group developed to detect weather quicker and forecast with more accuracy than existing radars.

StormRanger's first truck was deployed in 2016 and there are now six vehicles tracking weather primarily in the NBC and Telemundo stations' markets of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, the Bay Area and Los Angeles. The vehicles travel to nearby markets as well during severe weather events.

NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations said in a Thursday release the division received a 2018 Technology and Engineering Emmy Award for the new technology, which was developed over two years and improves local weather forecasting and reporting. Fixed with a Doppler radar, the vehicle can move right to a storm, scanning the system at a closer range and with more detail than a radar mounted high above the ground.

"We're able to take the radar to the storm instead of waiting for the storm to come to the radar," said Nate Johnson, director of weather operations for NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.

Johnson added that this results in more up-to-date and higher resolution pictures for weather forecasting. StormRanger scans the weather every 15 to 20 seconds, Johnson said. That's compared to other radars that may scan the area every 90 seconds or, sometimes, every five minutes. This allows people in the storm's path to have more time to protect themselves, Johnson said.

StormRanger's high-resolution radar can better forecast snowfall measurements by detecting where in the atmosphere rain turns into snow. This can mean the difference between predicting an area will receive a few inches or more than a foot of snow.

The radar can also help people better understand when a tornado forms and what damage it causes by detecting debris in the air and types of precipitation. And it even detects small particles in the air during fire season, allowing fire departments and governments to better alert the public of a fire threat.

Johnson said StormRanger's ability to aid in the reporting of wildfires has been a "tremendous asset." The radar can detect where the fire's smoke is going and what the wind is doing inside the plume, helping meteorologists see if a fire whirl could form.

StormRanger helped meteorologists in Texas forecast storm cell movements several minutes before another existing radar. In Boston, the radar allowed NBC10 to report a detailed view of a winter storm’s morning icing for the rush-hour weather forecast. And meteorologists in Los Angeles used StormRanger to track the smoke plumes of a wildfire. 

Johnson said NBC will continue to perfect StormRanger's technology and "explore new ways to use it to help keep our viewers and users a step ahead of the weather."

NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations President Valari Staab said in a release that StormRanger's "exceptional technology" came into play "as more severe weather events and fires affect the communities we serve." She added that StormRanger is "vital to helping communities stay safe when severe weather threatens.”    

NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations includes 40 NBC and Telemundo stations in 28 markets in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It will receive its award at the 70th Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards on April 7, 2019, in Las Vegas.

Teams from Accelerated Media Technologies and Enterprise Electronics Corporation also collaborated with NBC and Telemundo stations to design and build the trucks.

Photo Credit: Scott Meadows]]>
<![CDATA[A Look at 11 of the Highest-Paying Amazon Jobs]]>Wed, 14 Nov 2018 19:04:26 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/amazGettyImages-1061810324.jpg

After much anticipation and speculation, Amazon has announced that Arlington, Virginia, and the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York, are the official locations of the company's next headquarters.

These new offices will provide more 25,000 job opportunities in each location. Right now, employees living in the Arlington, Virginia, area and the New York City area earn average annual salaries of $60,890 and $63,029, respectively, according to Glassdoor estimates.

But those who secure a job at the e-commerce giant have the potential to earn far more. Glassdoor took a look at some of the company's highest-paying positions. Here are 11 jobs at Amazon that offer salaries of $150,000 or more:


Senior Manager, Product Management

Average base salary per year: $151,550

Job description: According to Glassdoor, product management leaders at Amazon "will be responsible for building the tools and systems to provide the best and most compelling selection to [the company's] global customers."

Click here to view job listings

Senior Software Engineer

Average base salary per year: $152,400

Job description: According to Glassdoor, senior software engineers at Amazon "will leverage a breadth of technologies including object oriented design and coding, databases, mobile devices, tablets, Kindle, streaming video technologies and Amazon Web Services."

Click here to view job listings

Senior Solutions Architect

Average base salary per year: $153,500

Job description: According to Glassdoor, senior solutions architects at Amazon "will provide exceptional technical design and thought leadership while working with a world class sales and business development team."

Click here to view job listings

Corporate Counsel

Average base salary per year: $153,900

Job description: According to Glassdoor, corporate counsel at Amazon "will partner with the legal team and their business operations clients to achieve operational excellence, ensure compliance with state and federal regulators, consider legal issues of first impression and move strategic deals through to completion."

Click here to view job listings


Principal Technical Program Manager

Average base salary per year: $154,343

Job description: According to Glassdoor, principal technical program managers at Amazon "will define features and processes, drive projects end-to-end, collaborate with technical teams to implement solutions, and deeply analyze the results."

Click here to view job listings

Principal Product Manager

Average base salary per year: $154,841

Job description: According to Glassdoor, principal product managers at Amazon provide "coordination across internal teams and stakeholders to prioritize roadmap features, and spearhead the definition of new capabilities through expertly crafted business requirement documents."

Click here to view job listings

Senior Manager, Software Development

Average base salary per year: $159,788

Job description: According to Glassdoor, software development managers at Amazon will "be accountable for building product, engineering and data science teams that deliver results."

Click here to view job listings

Principal Software Engineer

Average base salary per year: $160,000

Job description: According to Glassdoor, principal software engineers at Amazon "will learn a lot about designing and developing massively distributed systems, big data systems, web services and cutting edge web technologies while pushing the boundaries of scale and performance."

Click here to view job listings


Senior Engineer Manager

Average base salary per year: $160,000

Job description: According to Glassdoor, senior engineer managers at Amazon should be experienced professionals who have "a proven track record of architecting and building software using cloud technologies."

Click here to view job listings

Principle Software Development Engineer

Average base salary per year: $160,000

Job description: According to Glassdoor, principle software development engineers at Amazon will "lead system design, drive a high technical standard on their respective teams, mentor junior staff, and craft/ship great code."

Click here to view job listings

Senior Software Development Manager

Average base salary per year: $160,000

Job description: According to Glassdoor, senior software development managers at Amazon need to be "a technical leader with track record of building and growing engineering and data science teams."

Click here to view job listings

This story first appeared on CNBC.com More from CNBC:

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KENNETH HILARIO]]><![CDATA[American Airlines Is Canceling Philly to Mexico Route]]>Wed, 14 Nov 2018 16:29:45 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/planeAP_18191742222444.jpg

American Airlines, the dominant airline at the Philadelphia International Airport, will cancel flights between Philadelphia and Mexico City next year due to underperformance — a decision that comes only months after service began.

Texas-based American Airlines in July this year started new daily service between PHL and Mexico City's Benito Juárez International Airport, or MEX, with tickets available for purchase as early as March.

Those flights will be no more. The carrier "made the difficult, but necessary" decision to remove PHL-MEX flights from its schedule, effective Jan. 9, 2019, airline officials announced Wednesday.

"While we anticipated high load factors and connections to Europe through PHL, the route has not met expectations," officials said.

To read more about American Airlines' services and destination changes, click here.

Stay up to date on the latest business news with the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[8th Grader Uses Little Bags to Make Big Impact]]>Wed, 14 Nov 2018 14:47:54 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Anna+Welsh+Little+Bags+Big+Impact.jpg

Anna Welsh, an 8th grader from Lower Merion, is making a big difference with her company, Little Bags, Big Impact. She makes handbags that are environmentally friendly and donates some proceeds.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Harrah's Casino Planning $56M Renovation in Atlantic City]]>Wed, 14 Nov 2018 14:03:27 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ACAP_18212847143110.jpg

Harrah's casino in Atlantic City is planning a $56 million hotel renovation as it continues to reinvest in itself.

The casino says it's re-doing the Harbour Tower and renaming it the Coastal Tower. It also plans to re-design and renovate 507 guest rooms and suites.

The project should be completed by summer 2019, with the first re-done rooms becoming available early in the year.

The renovation is part of $250 million worth of spending the casino's parent company, Caesars Entertainment, has made at Harrah's.

The company also owns two other Atlantic City casinos, Bally's and Caesars.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Wayne Parry/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA['Amazon Effect' on Real Estate Anticipated, Feared in Va.]]>Tue, 13 Nov 2018 18:44:48 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/111318+Chirilagua+arlington+alexandria.jpg

As news of Amazon's move to Northern Virginia sinks in, residents and real estate watchers are monitoring the impact the announcement will have on rent costs and sale prices.

Northern Virginia realtor Jen Walker said she's already seen what's being called "the Amazon effect." Overnight, some of her potential buyers changed their minds from passing on a home to buying it.

"They woke up this morning, saw the Amazon announcement and they decided they wanted to move forward with a contract," she said. "They said, 'We’re going to get priced out if we don’t do this now.'"

Getting priced out is what Alex Howe fears will happen to low-income families in Northern Virginia. Howe is a member of the D.C. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. The group runs the website NoVa Says No to Amazon.

“We’re going to see, I think, an explosion in rents and housing prices. And folks in these communities, like up the street in the Chirilagua neighborhood — developers have been eyeing that area for a really long time," Howe said. "They’ve been able to hold them off, but honestly I think the pressure's going to get higher."

Chirilagua is the predominantly Latino neighborhood on the Arlington-Alexandria line.

Amazon says the tech giant is moving to an area they're calling National Landing, which is comprised of parts of Crystal City and Pentagon City in Arlington, and Potomac Yard in Alexandria.

But Howe says the fight isn't over. He hopes that activists and residents still can shape how much Amazon gets in tax incentives.

"We’re still giving away taxpayer money to one of the largest corporations on the planet and run by one of the richest men on the planet," Howe said.

In remarks Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam promised Amazon's new headquarters would benefit all communities.

"To be able to invest in our education system, infrastructure and affordable housing, this is an exciting day in Virginia," he said.

Walker, who has sold homes in Northern Virginia for more than two decades, said Amazon's move will make a lot of local homeowners happy. She said she wonders how much higher the already-booming local housing market can go.

"We are at the top of the market, but I’ve said that for two years, and the top just keeps continuing to go up," she said.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington
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<![CDATA[Big Question for Amazon's 2 Chosen Cities: Will It Pay Off?]]>Wed, 14 Nov 2018 12:11:01 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AmazonHQ2.jpg

The awarding of Amazon's second headquarters to two affluent localities has fanned intense speculation around a key question: For the winning cities, will the economic payoff prove to be worth the cost?

Amazon's decision will bring to Arlington, Virginia, and the Long Island City section of New York a combined 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment over the next two decades. But the influx is sure to swell already-high home prices and apartment rents and could overwhelm public transportation systems. And the two areas combined are providing over $2 billion in subsidies to one of the world's richest companies — a bounty that many analysts say probably wasn't necessary to sway Amazon.

The decision to bring those jobs, which Amazon says will pay an average of $150,000 a year, to the New York and Washington areas will also exacerbate U.S. regional inequalities, economists say. Such Midwestern cities as Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana, which made Amazon's short list, would have helped spread the tech industry's high-skilled, high-paying jobs more broadly.

"It's ambiguous for the winners, not good for the 'losers' and not good at all for the nation," said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Still, on the surface, the deal appears to be better than most. Amazon says it's receiving $1.525 billion in incentives and subsidies from New York state and $573 million from Virginia and Arlington County. That works out to $61,000 in incentives provided to Amazon for each job in Long Island City and roughly $23,000 for each job in Arlington.

That compares with a much larger average figure of $658,000 per job for other large deals, said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a nonpartisan watchdog group. Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, for example, received $4.8 billion in subsidies for a plant in Wisconsin on which it broke ground this year. That deal is expected to bring just 13,000 jobs.

Still, Amazon's total subsidies will likely end up much higher, LeRoy said. Amazon said it will also apply for existing incentive programs that could add nearly $1 billion to the subsidies from New York.

And Amazon's final selections suggest that all the subsidies and giveaways probably weren't needed, other economists said. Other state and local governments offered a lot more, including at least $8.5 billion on behalf of Montgomery County, Maryland, and $7 billion for Newark, New Jersey.

"If Amazon was pursuing subsidies, it made the wrong decision," said Michael Farren, a research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center. "Even the biggest subsidies you can imagine really don't sway these kinds of decisions."

Rather, Amazon's top priority was having access to a sizable pool of highly skilled employees, Farren said, and it likely would have chosen the same two locations even without the subsidies.

"The only things they're useful for are the companies that get them and the politicians who get the credit," he said.

Indeed, Jay Carney, an Amazon senior vice president, acknowledged in an interview on CNN that the company had chosen two locations that offered less in subsidies than others had.

"That reflects that talent was really the driving factor for us," Carney said.

Some experts in regional economics suggested that the payoff for the selected cities would go well beyond Amazon's initial investment. Stephen Fuller, an economist at George Mason University, estimates that the new headquarters in Arlington would generate roughly $1.3 billion in spending each year after the initial construction is complete. That would support nearly 50,000 jobs in the state, Fuller said, in addition to those at Amazon.

"It's really a no-brainer," Fuller said. "They're going to pay an enormous amount in real estate taxes and sales taxes."

Fuller also argues that the region is large enough to absorb the influx of new workers.

"The region adds 50,000 jobs every year, and no one complains about that," Fuller said. "They're not all coming at one time; they're coming over 15-20 years. It isn't as overwhelming as people think it's going to be."

At the same time, Tim Bartik, a senior economist at the Upjohn Institute, cautioned that with unemployment so low in both cities, many of the jobs Amazon will bring will likely go to people who don't now live in either Arlington or New York. The inflow of those workers could burden schools and transportation systems.

A coalition of nonprofit groups warned that Amazon's arrival will likely worsen housing affordability for many lower-income workers in the two cities. Roughly one-third of residents in Washington, D.C., and 40 percent in New York pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, the groups, which include LeRoy's Good Jobs First, pointed out. The typical rent in Queens, which includes Long Island City, is already $3,000 a month.

Some analysts had thought Amazon might follow a trend that other companies have set and add jobs in cities where salaries and housing were often cheaper. A few Wall Street banks, for example, have sent many of their back-office jobs to states far from New York. The auto factories that once filled the Midwest have migrated to the South, where labor unions have held less sway.

Instead, Amazon chose to expand its footprint to two places where salaries and home prices are relatively close to those of Seattle, its current sole headquarters city, said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at the real estate firm Zillow.

"These two markets definitely can absorb this kind of employment shock — and they have some time to prepare for it," he said.

AP Economics Writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.

CORRECTION (Nov. 14, 2018, 12:09 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this story misspelled Michael Farren's last name.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Images
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<![CDATA[National Landing? Amazon News Spurs Jokes, Confusion in DC]]>Tue, 13 Nov 2018 21:20:32 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/212*120/Illustrative_Multi-Modal_Transit_Hub.jpg

You've heard of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, but ... National Landing?

National Landing is where Amazon and Virginia officials announced Tuesday morning that the tech giant will open a new headquarters. The site is comprised of parts of Crystal City and Pentagon City in Arlington County, and Potomac Yard in the City of Alexandria. 

National Landing is not a place name in wide use in the D.C. area, as locals and Twitter users were quick to point out.

"It was created today. Made-up name," Crystal City resident Donna Grouse said on the streets of the neighborhood. 

Resident Isabelle Blanched agreed. 

"Amazon wants to take the world over, but they don't need to change everything that's already been set," she said. 


"I've lived in the area for more than 12 years and never heard 'National Landing' not even in reference to the runway at @Reagan_Airport ... Did @amazon just rebrand @crystalcityva?" NBC4's own Tommy McFly asked. 

Amazon and local officials explained. 

"National Landing is a newly branded neighborhood encompassing parts of Pentagon City and Crystal City in Arlington, and Potomac Yard in Alexandria," Arlington spokesman Ryan Hudson said in an email.

Here's how Amazon put it: "Straddling both Arlington County and the City of Alexandria alongside the Potomac River, National Landing is positioned to propel Amazon’s growth for decades. The vibrant, energized community and abundance of diverse housing will be a magnet for top-rated talent. And, if business takes you elsewhere, simply walk to Reagan National Airport or take every other conceivable kind of transit to your destination."

Stephen Koteen, who works in Crystal City, said he saw the advantages of the National Landing name. 

"This is a very competitive area. If they can go ahead and rebrand something and make it their own, that's a big deal for them," he said. 

The area is less than three miles south of D.C., on the west bank of the Potomac River.

Amazon's Virginia offices will be developed by JBG Smith, which described National Landing as a "newly defined, interconnected and walkable neighborhood" that already has offices, apartments and hotels.

Photo Credit: Courtesy JBG Smith
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<![CDATA[Young Entrepreneur's Bags Make a 'Big Impact' On Her Community]]>Tue, 13 Nov 2018 19:25:11 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/4PPlasticBagsDAVIDSONPKG_1796236.JPG

Eighth grader Anna Welsh started her own business before she started high school. The Lower Merion student's organization "Little Bags, Big Impact" both helps the environment by recycling fabric and promotes literacy by providing books to North Philly communities.]]>
<![CDATA[White House Economic Advisers Clash on China]]>Tue, 13 Nov 2018 13:17:35 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/kudlow-navarro-split.jpg

President Donald Trump's top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, on Tuesday disavowed comments from White House trade advisor Peter Navarro, who last week lambasted Wall Street influence in U.S.-China trade negotiations in comments that helped weaken the stock market. 

"He was not speaking for the president, nor was he speaking for the administration," Kudlow told CNBC on Tuesday. "His remarks were way off base. They were not authorized by anybody. I actually think he did the president a great disservice." 

"I think Peter very badly misspoke," added Kudlow, who took over as director of the National Economic Council earlier this year. "He was freelancing and he's not representing the president or the administration." 

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. 

Navarro, known for his hawkish economic views toward China, has encouraged President Trump's tough talk with Beijing throughout an escalating trade war between the two countries. He doubled down on his aggressive tone last week, saying any agreement between the two countries will be on Trump's terms and not subject to Wall Street intervention. 

"If there is a deal — if and when there is a deal, it will be on President Donald J. Trump's terms. Not Wall Street terms," Navarro said on Friday

"If Wall Street is involved and continues to insinuate itself into these negotiations, there will be a stench around any deal that's consummated because it will have the imprimatur of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street," he added. 

Both economic powerhouses have imposed and threatened tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of each other's goods. 

Gary Cohn, the former top national economic adviser, argued against imposing tariffs on China. Cohn was formerly the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[A Look at Amazon's Empire, From Audible to Whole Foods]]>Tue, 13 Nov 2018 21:23:00 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/93098766-Amazon-Fulfillment-Center.jpg

Amazon is hard to escape.

Whether you've bought shoes at Zappos, picked up milk at Whole Foods or listened to an audiobook on Audible, you've been caught up in Amazon's growing web of businesses.

And now, Amazon's sprawling empire will stretch even further. The company announced Tuesday that it will open two more bases outside of its Seattle headquarters: one in Arlington, Virginia, and the other in New York's Long Island City neighborhood.

Amazon, which got its start as an online bookstore two decades ago, has grown to a behemoth that had nearly $180 billion in revenue last year. Its workforce has ballooned to more than 610,000 employees worldwide, making it the second largest U.S.-based, publicly traded employer behind Walmart, according to FactSet. That growth has also made its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos one of the world's richest people, with his stake in Amazon worth more than $135 billion.

Here's a look at some of the various businesses Amazon has its hand in:

Online sales are still Amazon's biggest money maker, bringing in $108 billion in revenue last year. That's slightly more than 60 percent of its total revenue.

Besides Amazon.com, it also owns several smaller sites, including shoe retailer Zappos.com, rare books seller AbeBooks.com, deal site 6pm.com and women's clothing retailer Shopbop. It recently began selling medication after purchasing online pharmacy PillPack in September for $753 million.

Amazon's largest brick-and-mortar push was its nearly $14 billion purchase of Whole Foods last year, giving it about 500 grocery stores.

It has created its own shops, too. There are 18 Amazon bookstores, five cashier-less convenience stores and three 4-star stores, which sell toys, cookware and other items. There are also dozens of Amazon pop-up shops inside malls and Kohl's department stores where shoppers can touch and try out its gadgets.

Its physical locations had revenue of $13 billion in the first nine months of 2018.

There's more to Amazon than just shopping. Its Amazon Web Services unit, founded in 2006, provides cloud computing services to corporations and government agencies, and is one of Amazon's fastest growing businesses.

It had revenue of $17 billion last year, about 10 percent of its total revenue.

The ads at the top of Amazon search results are becoming a big business for the company. Amazon doesn't say exactly how much revenue it makes from ads, but an executive said that ad revenue makes up the majority of the "other revenue" listed in its financial reports. In its most recent quarter, its "other revenue" was $2.5 billion, more than double its revenue in the same period the year before.

Amazon Prime is a way to cement customer loyalty and get them to spend more on the site. For $119 a year or $12.99 a month, members get free shipping, access to its video streaming service and other perks. The company disclosed for the first time earlier this year that it had more than 100 million paid Prime subscribers worldwide. Revenue from subscriptions topped $9.7 billion last year.

Amazon has been churning out some successful gadgets, including: Kindle tablets, Echo voice-activated speakers and Fire TV video streaming devices. The company doesn't break out revenue for these products.

Amazon produces TV shows for its video streaming service, such as Emmy-winning "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," and films, such as "Manchester by the Sea." Amazon doesn't break out revenue for its studio.

Amazon also owns Twitch, a video streaming service for gamers; Audible, the audiobooks seller; and IMDb.com, an online database of movie and TV show starts, directors and other information. Amazon doesn't break out revenue for these businesses.

Instead of relying on famous brands, Amazon has been creating its own. It designs sofas for its Rivet brand, men's shirts for Goodthreads and batteries for AmazonBasics. Amazon has about 130 private label brands, according to TJI Research, which tracks Amazon and its businesses.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Chooses New York City, Northern Virginia for HQ2]]>Tue, 13 Nov 2018 15:08:11 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/amazonGettyImages-1061174676.jpg

Amazon is moving into New York City and Northern Virginia.

The company announced Tuesday it plans to locate its new "HQ2" headquarters in both areas, ending a year-long courtship by metropolitan areas across North America. Each location will receive $2.5 billion in economic investment and see 25,000 new jobs, Amazon said.

The company selected the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens in New York and the National Landing neighborhood of Washington suburb Arlington., Virginia. Both sit just outside massive urban centers and both emerged as late favorites in the search.

"These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities," CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.

Also Tuesday, Amazon announced a smaller, third investment another finalist city — in Nashville, Tennessee. It will become home to Amazon's East Coast operations hub and create 5,000 jobs, Amazon said.

"Our Retail Operations division handles customer fulfillment, customer service, transportation, and supply chain, amongst others," Amazon said. "The Operations Center of Excellence will be the Eastern U.S. regional hub for the tech and management functions of this division. It will be located in downtown Nashville just north of The Gulch."

Amazon launched its search for a second headquarters in September 2017. Four months later, the pool of 238 bids was narrowed to 20 finalists. Amazon originally said it would spend $5 billion and employ 50,000 workers in one winning area, but opted to split those investments between Long Island City and Arlington.

Earlier reports identified the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, just west of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, as a potential HQ2 pick. National Landing is a branded neighborhood encompassing Crystal City and adjacent areas.

Amazon said it chose two locations rather than one to better attract top talent. It said the average salary for new jobs created in New York, Arlington and Nashville will exceed $150,000 per year.

The company said it will receive up to $2.2 billion in performance-based incentives from the three areas: $1.5 billion associated with its investment in Long Island City, $573 million in Arlington and up to $102 million in Nashville. The incentives take the form of cash grants and tax credits, and some take effect over time.

Many lawmakers and local residents criticized New York's committed incentives, in particular, arguing city and state officials should be allocating money for subway repairs and public services instead.

Recently elected U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will represent the Bronx and parts of Queens, tweeted late Monday saying the tax breaks have concerned local residents.

"Amazon is a billion-dollar company," Ocasio-Cortez said in the tweet. "The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here."

"We don't have this kind of money. We're going to make this kind of money from this transaction," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference following the announcement. "For every dollar we invest we're going to get back about $9, give or take, so to find the money that we need to invest in the subways, invest in the schools, etc., this is a big money maker for us."

Divided response
Speculation around hefty investments and planned developments in each area have polarized lawmakers and residents, with some championing Amazon's interest and commitment, and others cautioning against rising housing costs and uncertainty for families.

Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter Monday that Amazon moving in could displace existing residents.

"Displacement is not community development. Investing in luxury condos is not the same thing as investing in people and families," Ocasio-Cortez said in another tweet. "Shuffling working class people out of a community does not improve their quality of life."

Some of the earliest investments from Amazon will be put toward infrastructure development in the larger neighborhood, rather than Amazon's specific campus, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the press conference.

"We don't — in the public sector, in the city of New York — we don't measure success in corporate profits. We measure success in how many everyday people benefit," de Blasio said. "This plan, that we all put together, we're convinced is going to benefit everyday New Yorkers in huge numbers, tens of thousands, and it's going to be something that really transforms people's lives."

Amazon said economic incentives were "one factor in our decision," but not the main driver, and offered links to download the company's agreements with each local government.

State Senator Michael Gianaris and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, representatives for Long Island City, said Tuesday they have "serious reservations" about the deal.

"Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong," the officials said in a joint statement. "The burden should not be on the 99 percent to prove we are worthy of the 1 percent's presence in our communities, but rather on Amazon to prove it would be a responsible corporate neighbor ... We were not elected to serve as Amazon drones. It is incumbent upon us to stand up on behalf of the people we represent and that is what we intend to do."

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., praised the choice, saying in a statement the Arlington headquarters would have a positive impact on the D.C. region and state as a whole.

"We've seen that major investments like these can bring not only thousands of direct jobs but also lead to job growth in other industries," Warner said. "As we welcome Amazon's new investment in Virginia, we must commit to implementing this announcement in a way that will benefit the whole region and all of the Commonwealth."


Here's Amazon's full announcement:

Amazon today announced that we have selected New York City and Arlington, Virginia, as the locations for our new headquarters. Amazon will invest $5 billion and create more than 50,000 jobs across the two new headquarters locations, with more than 25,000 employees each in New York City and Arlington. The new locations will join Seattle as the company's three headquarters in North America. In addition, Amazon announced that it has selected Nashville for a new Center of Excellence for its Operations business, which is responsible for the company's customer fulfillment, transportation, supply chain, and other similar activities. The Operations Center of Excellence in Nashville will create more than 5,000 jobs.

The new Washington, D.C. metro headquarters in Arlington will be located in National Landing, and the New York City headquarters will be located in the Long Island City neighborhood in Queens. Amazon's investments in each new headquarters will spur the creation of tens of thousands of additional jobs in the surrounding communities. Hiring at both the new headquarters will begin in 2019. The Operations Center of Excellence will be located in downtown Nashville as part of a new development site just north of the Gulch, and hiring will also begin in 2019.

"We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia," said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. "These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities."

Amazon in Long Island City in New York City
Located just across the East River from Midtown Manhattan and the Upper East Side, Long Island City is a mixed-use community where arts and industry intersect. It is a diverse community with a unique blend of cultural institutions, arts organizations, new and converted housing, restaurants, bars, breweries, waterfront parks, hotels, academic institutions, and small and large tech sector and industrial businesses. Long Island City has some of the best transit access in New York City, with 8 subway lines, 13 bus lines, commuter rail, a bike-sharing service, and ferries serving the area, and LaGuardia and JFK airports are in close proximity. As part of Amazon's new headquarters, New York and Long Island City will benefit from more than 25,000 full-time high-paying jobs; approximately $2.5 billion in Amazon investment; 4 million square feet of energy-efficient office space with an opportunity to expand to 8 million square feet; and an estimated incremental tax revenue of more than $10 billion over the next 20 years as a result of Amazon's investment and job creation. Amazon will receive performance-based direct incentives of $1.525 billion based on the company creating 25,000 jobs in Long Island City. This includes a refundable tax credit through New York State's Excelsior Program of up to $1.2 billion calculated as a percentage of the salaries Amazon expects to pay employees over the next 10 years, which equates to $48,000 per job for 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000; and a cash grant from Empire State Development of $325 million based on the square footage of buildings occupied in the next 10 years. Amazon will receive these incentives over the next decade based on the incremental jobs it creates each year and as it reaches building occupancy targets. The company will separately apply for as-of-right incentives including New York City's Industrial & Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP) and New York City's Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP). The community will benefit from New York City providing funding through a Payment In Lieu Of Tax (PILOT) program based on Amazon's property taxes on a portion of the development site to fund community infrastructure improvements developed through input from residents during the planning process. Amazon has agreed to donate space on its campus for a tech startup incubator and for use by artists and industrial businesses, and Amazon will donate a site for a new primary or intermediary public school. The company will also invest in infrastructure improvements and new green spaces. "When I took office, I said we would build a new New York State – one that is fiscally responsible and fosters a business climate that is attractive to growing companies and the industries of tomorrow. We've delivered on those promises and more, and today, with Amazon committing to expand its headquarters in Long Island City, New York can proudly say that we have attracted one of the largest, most competitive economic development investments in U.S. history," said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York. "With an average salary of $150,000 per year for the tens of thousands of new jobs Amazon is creating in Queens, economic opportunity and investment will flourish for the entire region. Amazon understands that New York has everything the company needs to continue its growth. The State's more than $100 billion transportation infrastructure program – the most ambitious in our history – combined with our education initiatives like K-12 tech education and the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship program, will help ensure long-term success and an unrivaled talent pool for Amazon."

"This is a giant step on our path to building an economy in New York City that leaves no one behind. We are thrilled that Amazon has selected New York City for its new headquarters," said Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City. "New Yorkers will get tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs, and Amazon will get the best talent anywhere in the world. We're going to use this opportunity to open up good careers in tech to thousands of people looking for their foothold in the new economy, including those in City colleges and public housing. The City and State are working closely together to make sure Amazon's expansion is planned smartly, and to ensure this fast growing neighborhood has the transportation, schools, and infrastructure it needs."

Amazon in National Landing in Arlington, Virginia
National Landing is an urban community in Northern Virginia located less than 3 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. The area is served by 3 Metro stations, commuter rail access, and Reagan National Airport – all within walking distance. The community has a variety of hotels, restaurants, high-rise apartment buildings, retail, and commercial offices. National Landing has abundant parks and open space with sports and cultural events for residents of all ages throughout the year. As part of Amazon's new headquarters, Virginia and Arlington will benefit from more than 25,000 full-time high-paying jobs; approximately $2.5 billion in Amazon investment; 4 million square feet of energy-efficient office space with the opportunity to expand to 8 million square feet; and an estimated incremental tax revenue of $3.2 billion over the next 20 years as a result of Amazon's investment and job creation. Amazon will receive performance-based direct incentives of $573 million based on the company creating 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000 in Arlington. This includes a workforce cash grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia of up to $550 million based on $22,000 for each job created over the next 12 years. Amazon will only receive this incentive if it creates the forecasted high-paying jobs. The company will also receive a cash grant from Arlington of $23 million over 15 years based on the incremental growth of the existing local Transient Occupancy Tax, a tax on hotel rooms. The community and Amazon employees will benefit from the Commonwealth investing $195 million in infrastructure in the neighborhood, including improvements to the Crystal City and the Potomac Yards Metro stations; a pedestrian bridge connecting National Landing and Reagan National Airport; and work to improve safety, accessibility, and the pedestrian experience crossing Route 1 over the next 10 years. Arlington will also dedicate an estimated $28 million based on 12% of future property tax revenues earned from an existing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district for on-site infrastructure and open space in National Landing. "This is a big win for Virginia – I'm proud Amazon recognizes the tremendous assets the Commonwealth has to offer and plans to deepen its roots here," said Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia. "Virginia put together a proposal for Amazon that we believe represents a new model of economic development for the 21st century, and I'm excited to say that our innovative approach was successful. The majority of Virginia's partnership proposal consists of investments in our education and transportation infrastructure that will bolster the features that make Virginia so attractive: a strong and talented workforce, a stable and competitive business climate, and a world-class higher education system."

"We are proud that Amazon has selected National Landing for a major new headquarters. This is, above all, a validation of our community's commitment to sustainability, transit-oriented development, affordable housing, and diversity," said Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. "The strength of our workforce coupled with our proximity to the nation's capital makes us an attractive business location. But Arlington's real strength is the decades of planning that have produced one of the most vibrant, civically engaged communities in the world. Those plans have paved the way for this investment, and we look forward to engaging the Arlington community about Amazon's plans and how we can grow together."

Amazon's new Operations Center of Excellence in Nashville
Downtown Nashville, along the Cumberland River, is the heart of the city just north of the Gulch and is home to urban living, retail, restaurants, entertainment venues, hospitality, open green spaces, and offices. The area is served by commuter rail, more than a dozen bus routes, and is a 15-minute drive to Nashville International Airport. As part of Amazon's investment, Tennessee, Davidson County and the city of Nashville will benefit from 5,000 full-time, high-paying jobs; over $230 million in investment; 1 million square feet of energy-efficient office space; and an estimated incremental tax revenue of more than $1 billion over the next 10 years as a result of Amazon's investment and job creation. Amazon will receive performance-based direct incentives of up to $102 million based on the company creating 5,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000 in Nashville. This includes a cash grant for capital expenditures from the state of Tennessee of $65 million based on the company creating 5,000 jobs over the next 7 years, which is equivalent to $13,000 per job; a cash grant from the city of Nashville of up to $15 million based on $500 for each job created over the next 7 years; and a job tax credit to offset franchise and excise taxes from the state of Tennessee of $21.7 million based on $4,500 per new job over the next 7 years. "We want to thank Amazon for its continued investment in the state of Tennessee and are excited about the additional 5,000 corporate jobs they will be creating in Nashville," said Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee. "It has never been clearer that Tennessee is a great place to do business, and we continue to attract a wide variety of global companies that provide high-paying, quality jobs for our residents."

"Amazon's decision to expand its presence in Nashville is a direct result of the talented workforce and strong community we've built here," said Mayor David Briley of Nashville. "These are quality, high-paying jobs that will boost our economy, provide our workers with new opportunities, and show the rest of the world that Nashville is a premiere location for business investment. We thank Amazon for investing in Nashville, and we look forward to welcoming them to this community."

With more than 610,000 employees worldwide, including over 250,000 in North America, Amazon ranks #1 on American Customer Satisfaction Index, #2 on Fortune's World's Most Admired Companies, #1 on The Harris Poll's Corporate Reputation survey, and #1 on LinkedIn's U.S. Top Companies, a ranking recognizing the most desirable workplaces in the country. Amazon was also recently included in the Military Times' Best for Vets list of companies committed to providing opportunities for military veterans.

All economic impact and incentive figures are best estimates calculated by relevant entities in each of the selected communities based on current information.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Tech Giants Slide, Pulling US Stock Market Sharply Lower]]>Mon, 12 Nov 2018 17:11:47 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/wallAP_18305727111017.jpg

A broad sell-off in technology companies pulled U.S. stocks sharply lower Monday, knocking more than 600 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The wave of selling snared big names, including Apple, Amazon and Goldman Sachs. Banks, consumer-focused companies, and media and communications stocks all took heavy losses. Crude oil prices fell, erasing early gains and extending a losing streak to 11 days.

The tech stock tumble came followed an analyst report that suggested Apple significantly cut back orders from one of its suppliers. That, in turn, weighed on chipmakers.

"With the news out of the Apple supplier this morning, you have the market overall questioning the growth trajectory as we look out to 2019," said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA. "We continue to like tech going into next year, but we think it could be a little bit of a rocky period for the group as we continue through the last two months of the year."

The market's slide came after a two-week winning streak.

The S&P 500 index dropped 54.79 points, or 2 percent, to 2,726.22. The Dow fell 602.12 points, or 2.3 percent, to 25,387.18. It was down briefly by 648 points.

The Nasdaq composite slid 206.03 points, or 2.8 percent, to 7,200.87. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 30.70 points, or 2 percent, to 1,518.79.

Bond trading was closed for Veterans Day. Stocks in Europe also suffered losses.

Apple tumbled 5 percent to $194.17 after Wells Fargo analysts said the iPhone maker is the unnamed customer that optical communications company Lumentum Holdings said was significantly reducing orders. Shares in Lumentum plunged 33 percent to $37.50.

Several chipmakers also fell. Advanced Micro Devices gave up 9.5 percent to $19.03, while Nvidia lost 7.8 percent to $189.54. Micron Technology gave up 4.3 percent to $37.44.

Amazon slid 4.4 percent to $1,636.85.

Banks and other financial companies also took heavy losses Tuesday. Goldman Sachs slid 7.5 percent to $206.05.

"Expectations are really that the deregulation process that has benefited banks up to this point is going to be slowed down with the Democrats in charge," Bell said.

Stocks appeared to have regained their footing after a skid in October snapped a six-month string of gains for the S&P 500. Stocks rallied last week after the U.S. midterm elections turned out largely as investors expected, with a divided Congress promising legislative gridlock in Washington the next couple of years.

While the market has typically thrived in periods of divided government, investors continue to grapple with uncertainty over the U.S.-China trade dispute and the potential impact of increased oversight of Corporate America by Democrats, who will be taking over leadership in the House of Representatives in January.

In addition, some companies have recently reported third-quarter earnings and outlooks that have stoked investors' worries about the future growth of corporate profits.

While companies got a boost this year from the lower tax rates put in place by President Donald Trump and the GOP last December, several companies have recently warned about the impact of higher costs related to tariffs and rising interest rates.

"The bull market is not over, the economic expansion is not over, but things are starting to wind down," said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading & derivatives at Charles Schwab. "We're clearly getting into the late innings of the ball game."

British American Tobacco, which makes Newport cigarettes, plunged 8.8 percent to $38.08 on reports that regulators were considering a ban on menthol cigarettes.

PG&E tumbled 17.4 percent to $32.98 after the electric utility told regulators that a high-voltage line experienced a problem near the origin of one of the major California wildfires before the blaze started.

Investors bid up shares in Athenahealth after the struggling medical billing software maker said it received a $5.7 billion cash buyout offer. The stock jumped 9.7 percent to $131.97.

About 90 percent of S&P 500 companies have reported third-quarter results so far, with some 51 percent of those posting earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street's forecasts, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Several big retailers are due to deliver results this week, including Walmart, Home Depot, Williams-Sonoma, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney.

"That could actually probably boost the market," Bell said. "Retailers are going to have a better third quarter than most people expect. A lot of them ordered goods ahead of the tariffs going into place, so they're not going to have to pass on higher prices on to the consumer this holiday season."

Benchmark U.S. crude gave up an early gain, sliding 0.4 percent to settle at $59.93 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dipped 0.1 percent to close at $70.12 per barrel in London. Oil futures rose earlier on news that Saudi Arabia and other major producers planned to reduce output.

The dollar strengthened to 113.86 yen from 113.80 yen on Friday. The euro fell to $1.1240 from $1.1336. The British pound weakened to $1.2853 from $1.2975 amid concerns that Britain's government is struggling to find unity on a Brexit deal.

Gold fell 0.4 percent to $1,203.50 an ounce. Silver lost 0.9 percent to $14.01 an ounce. Copper slid 0.3 percent to $2.68 a pound.

In other energy trading, heating oil fell 0.8 percent to $2.16 a gallon and wholesale gasoline gained 0.9 percent to $1.64 a gallon. Natural gas rose 1.9 percent to $3.79 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Major stock indexes in Europe also ended lower Monday. Germany's DAX lost 1.8 percent and France's CAC 40 fell 0.9 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 shed 0.7 percent.

In Asia, markets finished mixed. Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent. Australia's S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent. The Kospi in South Korea dipped 0.3 percent. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Pabst Says MillerCoors is Trying to Put it Out of Business]]>Mon, 12 Nov 2018 12:54:40 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/167*120/GettyImages-4559290361.jpg

Pabst Brewing Company and MillerCoors are going to trial, with hipster favorite Pabst contending that MillerCoors wants to put it out of business by ending a longstanding partnership through which it brews Pabst's beers.

The case has high stakes for Pabst, whose lawyers argue that the company's very existence relies on the partnership with Chicago-based MillerCoors, which produces, packages and ships nearly all its products, which include Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, Natty Boh and Lone Star. MillerCoors, meanwhile, says it's not obligated to continue brewing for Pabst and that Pabst doesn't want to pay enough to justify doing so.

The trial in Milwaukee County Circuit Court begins Monday and is scheduled through Nov. 30.

Pabst's attorneys have said in court documents and hearings that MillerCoors LLC is lying about its brewing capacity to break away from Pabst and capture its share of the cheap beer market by disrupting Pabst's ability to compete. At a March hearing in which MillerCoors tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, Pabst attorney Adam Paris said "stunning documents" obtained from MillerCoors show that it went as far as hiring a consultant to "figure out ways to get rid of us." MillerCoors has called that a mischaracterization of the consultant's work.

The 1999 agreement between MillerCoors and Pabst, which was founded in Milwaukee in 1844 but is now headquartered in Los Angeles, expires in 2020 but provides for two possible five-year extensions. The companies dispute how the extensions should be negotiated: MillerCoors argues that it has sole discretion to determine whether it can continue brewing for Pabst, whereas Pabst says the companies must work "in good faith" to find a solution if Pabst wants to extend the agreement but MillerCoors lacks the capacity.

Pabst needs 4 million to 4.5 million barrels brewed annually and claims MillerCoors is its only option. It is seeking more than $400 million in damages and for MillerCoors to be ordered to honor its contract.

During 2015 negotiations about extending the contract, MillerCoors announced it would close its brewing facility in Eden, North Carolina, and that it eventually might have to shutter another facility in Irwindale, California. Pabst contends that MillerCoors refused to provide any information to substantiate its claim that it would no longer have the capacity to continue brewing Pabst's beers, and that it wouldn't consider leasing the Eden facility and would only sell it for an "astronomical" price.

Pabst says MillerCoors wouldn't agree to an extension unless Pabst paid $45 per barrel — "a commercially devastating, near-triple price increase" from what it pays now. At the March hearing, Paris said MillerCoors knew Pabst couldn't accept that proposal "because it would have bankrupted us three times over."

In court filings, MillersCoors said Pabst's proposals to keep the Eden facility open "were commercially unreasonable" and that Pabst sought "a windfall through litigation" instead of offering to pay enough to keep a facility open. It also said the facility's closing was "to ensure the longer-term sustainability" of MillerCoors because thousands of new brewers have entered the market over the past decade.

MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, which have the biggest U.S. market share at 24.8 percent and 41.6 percent, respectively, have been losing business to smaller independent brewers, imports, and wine and spirits in recent years, according to the Brewers Association.

"The beer market has shifted and beer lovers are increasingly demanding more variety, fuller-flavor, and local products from small and independent producers," said Bart Watson, the Brewers Association's chief economist.

Overall U.S. beer sales have declined, with shipments down from 213.1 million barrels in 2008 to 204.2 million in 2017, according to the Brewers Association.

Pabst depends on MillerCoors because the only other U.S. brewer with capacity to make its products is Anheuser-Busch, which doesn't do contract brewing, Paris said.

"It really is an existential issue for Pabst because it has no real alternatives," Paris said at the March hearing.

Paris said the report from the consultant MillerCoors hired in 2013 proves the company never intended to act in good faith. Pabst's attorneys say the report had sections focused on how to "eliminate Pabst altogether" and noted that MillerCoors would need to close two breweries "to be sure they don't have excess capacity for contract manufacturing."

MillerCoors' attorney, Eric Van Vugt, said in court that the company didn't rely on the consultant's report when it decided to close Eden or when it has contemplated closing the Irwindale brewery.

"If we keep Irwindale open, yes, we can supply their beer," Van Vugt said. "No one disputes that. That's the only factor that we need to look at."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A Tale of Amazon HQ2 Cities: Similar Basics, Different Vibes]]>Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:07:09 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AmazonHQ2.jpg

The communities said to be favored to become homes to a pair of big, new East Coast bases for Amazon are both riverfront stretches of major metropolitan areas with ample transportation and space for workers. 

But there are plenty of differences between New York's Long Island City and Crystal City in Northern Virginia. 

Set within eyeshot of the nation's capital, Crystal City is a thicket of 1980s-era office towers trying to plug into new economic energy after thousands of federal jobs moved elsewhere. 

Rapidly growing Long Island City is an old manufacturing area already being reinvented as a hub for 21st-century industry, creativity and urbane living.

Seattle-based Amazon, which set out last year to situate one additional headquarters but now may reportedly open two, has declined to comment on its plans. But people familiar with the talks said this week that Long Island City and Crystal City have emerged as front runners for the "HQ2" project and its total of 50,000 jobs. 

A look at two communities said to be at the top of Amazon's list:

Long Island City
It's already the fastest-developing neighborhood in the nation's most populous city, and Amazon could pump up the volume in this buzzy part of Queens. 

If chosen, the neighborhood stands to burnish New York City's reputation as a tech capital. Landing Amazon would also cement Long Island City's transformation from a faded manufacturing zone to a vibrant, of-the-moment enclave of waterfront skyscrapers, modernized warehouses and artsy-tech ambience across the East River from midtown Manhattan.

"I joke that we're experiencing explosive growth 30 years in the making," says Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership, a neighborhood development group. 

But Long Island City also has been straining to handle its growth.

Days before the potential Amazon news emerged, the city announced a $180 million plan to address Long Island City's packed schools, street design and a sewage system that groans in heavy rain. But those projects will just catch up with current needs, says area City Councilman Jimmy van Bramer.

"I know that there are a lot of people cheerleading for this, but HQ2 has to work for Queens and the people of Queens. It can't just be good for Amazon," says van Bramer, a Democrat.

Once a bustling factory and freight-moving area, Long Island City saw many of its plants and warehouses closed as manufacturing shriveled in New York City.

The neighborhood's rebirth began in the 1980s, when officials broached redeveloping a swath of the waterfront, while artists were drawn by warehouse spaces, affordable rents and a building that is now the MoMA PS1 museum. Silvercup Studios — where such TV shows as "Sex and the City," "30 Rock" and "The Sopranos" have been filmed — opened in 1983. 

Long Island City gained a new commercial stature, and the start of a high-rise skyline, when the banking giant now called Citi opened an office tower there in 1989. But the area's growth lately has been driven by residential building.

Some 9,150 new apartments and homes have been built since 2010, more than in any other New York City neighborhood, according to the city Planning Department. Thousands more units are in the works.

New York has striven for nearly a decade to position itself as a tech hotspot.

Venture capitalists poured $5.8 billion into New York-area startups last quarter, more than any other region except the San Francisco area, according to the consulting and accounting firm PwC. Established tech giants, including Google and Facebook, have been expanding their New York footprints. 

Still, landing HQ2 would represent "incredible validation of just how far New York has come," says Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future think tank.

Waiting for a subway, Long Island City community board chairwoman Denise Keehan-Smith could envision Amazon benefiting the neighborhood.

"But I think we have to be careful about it," she said.

Crystal City
If any place in America can absorb 25,000 Amazon jobs without disruption, it may well be Crystal City, Virginia, where nearly that many jobs have vanished over the last 15 years. 

The neighborhood in Arlington County is bounded by the Potomac River and the nation's capital on one side, by the Pentagon on another and Reagan National Airport on a third. 

Despite its prime location and abundant transportation options, the neighborhood has been hit by a massive outflow of jobs. The Patent and Trademark Office began moving more than 7,000 jobs out of Crystal City in 2003. In 2005, the Defense Department announced plans to move roughly 17,000 jobs elsewhere as part of a base realignment. 

Arlington County has worked hard to bring in new employers, and had some success. The Public Broadcasting Service moved its headquarters to Crystal City in 2006. 

Still, large swaths of the neighborhood remain vacant. Among other challenges, the area has fought to overcome a reputation for outdated architecture.

Crystal City is populated by '70s and '80s-era office buildings. The buildings are connected by a network of tunnels populated with food-court style dining options, hair salons and newsstands. The tunnels leave the ground-level outdoor streetscape sometimes looking empty. 

Brookings Institution urban planner Jenny Schuetz suggested the buildings may require an upgrade, or even replacement. But she noted that while people often associate tech companies with converted lofts or state-of-the art workspaces, many big Silicon Valley tech companies actually work out of '80s-era office buildings.

For all the talk about antiquated architecture, people who've actually worked in Crystal City appreciate its convenience and its worker-friendly features, including the tunnels.

"I loved it here," said Christine Gentry of Greenbelt, Maryland, as she ate breakfast in a largely empty food court. She works for the Patent and Trademark Office and preferred the days when her office was in Crystal City.

"Everything is accessible here," she said. "When it was raining or snowing or sleeting, I never had to go out." 

Perhaps no place better illustrates the vibe of Crystal City than the region's only revolving restaurant, the Skydome atop the Doubletree Crystal City. Diners enjoy a panoramic view of the D.C. skyline, completing a full rotation every 47 minutes.

Sam Getachew, the hotel's food and beverage manager, said the restaurant fits the neighborhood's retro atmosphere. 

"It's huge draw," Getchew said. "People come for the curiosity of it." 

The only downside, he said, is that "when customers get up to go to the restroom, they don't know where they are when they come back."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pennsylvania Kmart, Sears Stores Now Slated to Close]]>Fri, 09 Nov 2018 13:47:44 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Roosevelt+Boulevard+Kmart+Mayfair.jpg

Sears has released another list of stores it will close, including the Kmart in Philadelphia's Mayfair neighborhood and the Sears at the Berkshire Mall in Berks County.

The new list, which includes the Kmart at 7101 Roosevelt Boulevard and the Sears at 1665 State Hill Road in Wyomissing, is in addition to previous lists of unprofitable Sears and Kmart stores that will be closing.

Two other Pennsylvania stores, the North Versailles Kmart and the Sears at the Stroud Mall in Stroudsburg, are now also slated to close in February.

Liquidation sales at the closing stores will begin late next week, Sears Holdings said Thursday.

Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month.

At its peak, the operator of Sears and Kmart had 4,000 stores in 2012, but will now be left with a little more than 500.

See the store locator on Sears' website to see which Sears stores remain open.

See the store locator on Kmart's website to see which stores remain open. 

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Villanova Finance Students Learning the Best Ways to Invest]]>Fri, 09 Nov 2018 09:12:40 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Villanova+Business+School+Generic+Nova.jpg

The biggest take away from Villanova University finance students is it's never to soon to start saving for your financial future.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[FDA Plans Limits on Sale of Flavored E-Cigarettes: Report]]>Fri, 09 Nov 2018 01:01:53 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ecigarettesAP_18313147982108.jpg

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to require strict limits on the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, including age verification controls for online sales, in an effort to curtail their use among children and teenagers.

FDA officials told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday the actions are expected to be announced as early as next week. The move is an attempt to curb what many are saying is an epidemic of underage vaping.

"What I can't tolerate is another year of this level of growth," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview Wednesday.

The new policy will apply to flavored cartridge-style vaping products like Juul that have become popular among youths, not the open tank-style systems sold in vape shops and mostly used by adults, officials said.

No retail outlets will be allowed to carry them unless it restricts minors from entering the store or creates an off-limits area.

Since 2017, FDA officials had discussed e-cigarettes as a potential tool to wean adult smokers off cigarettes, but in September the FDA reversed course and warned the industry to address the problem of surging teenage e-cigarette use or risk having their flavored products pulled off the market.

Gottlieb said then that the agency did not predict an "epidemic addiction" among youth, mainly driven by flavored products.

The FDA's new restrictions were earlier reported by The Washington Post.

Also Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration announced plans to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes as soon as next year, possibly making his state the first to prohibit such vaping products often marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Steven Senne/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Tis the Season for Holiday Jobs]]>Thu, 08 Nov 2018 19:20:17 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/5PHolidayJobsPreviewJIMENEZPKG_1734708.JPG

Are you looking for a job? Now is the time to kick your search into full gear! Many local businesses are looking to hire seasonal workers ahead of the holiday season.]]>
<![CDATA[This Holiday Season Could Seal Barnes & Noble's Fate]]>Thu, 08 Nov 2018 16:01:29 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/barnesGettyImages-1017467926.jpg

This could be the most crucial holiday season in Barnes & Noble's history.

Its sales have been in a decline for six years as the bookseller cedes market share to Amazon and consumers turn to their phones or portable tablets instead of books. There's been a revolving door in the retailer's C-suite, and activist investors have piled on. Now, Barnes & Noble is considering a sale of its business after receiving interest from a handful of parties, including its founder and executive chairman, Leonard Riggio, and reportedly, U.K. retailer W.H. Smith.

Barnes & Noble must prove it can deliver sales growth in its core book business this holiday season. The retail industry as a whole is expected to benefit from strong consumer spending, with the average American household expected to spend $1,536 through the holidays, according to a survey by Deloitte. That's up 25 percent from a year ago. If Barnes & Noble can't grow sales against such a healthy, economic backdrop, the company could ultimately head down the same path as its former rival Borders, or shuttered Toys R Us or Sears , which is in bankruptcy court.

All things considered, Barnes & Noble is feeling "highly anxious" and somewhat "paranoid" this holiday season, Riggio told CNBC. But it still has high hopes.

"We've done a lot of things this year to try to put ourselves on the right track and to get our comp-store sales number to head in the positive direction, ... and we are hoping that that comes — we are planning for it to come — during this holiday season."

The company will report its fiscal second-quarter earnings on Nov. 20, where it could say more about expectations for its holiday quarter. In September, without giving a specific range, Barnes & Noble said it expected "improving sales trends, positive comps during the holiday period, better gross margins, and continued expense reductions" for the remainder of the year. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv predict same-store sales for fiscal second quarter will be down 1.75 percent, but then moderate in the holiday quarter, its fiscal third quarter ending Jan. 19, to drop only 0.25 percent.

Last holiday season, the bookseller's sales tumbled more than 6 percent, with e-commerce sales also in the red. After the dismal results, the company slashed its staff.

Now, it has a new plan in place for this year. In a new ad campaign that's being rolled out this week in movie theaters and on cable television, Barnes & Noble touts its more than 20,000 current employees, along with their knowledge of books, as reasons why its stores are unique. "Nobody Knows Books Like We Do" is the message of the campaign, which will run though the middle of January.

Barnes & Noble also will be testing roughly 10 to 15 store layouts during the holidays, featuring different spreads of merchandise, to see what sticks.

"We have a lot of things out there in test form," Riggio said. "Retail is all about that. ... If you're smart, you conduct tests during the holiday season, and that informs you how to run the next holiday."

'We should be a private business'

Within just the past five years, Barnes & Noble has lost more than $1 billion in market value. Its shares have fallen about 4 percent from a year ago, having spiked more recently on deal speculation, and now trade under $7.

"To have a company with a small market cap is somewhat problematic," Riggio said. "Our market cap is an indicator that we should be a private business."

Riggio, who is still is the retailer's biggest shareholder with a 19.2 percent stake, has tried to buy Barnes & Noble before, only to abort that effort. Even in 2013 — when Riggio was considering a plan to buy the retailer's stores but not its Nook business — Barnes & Noble's future was largely uncertain.

Amazon all the while has managed to take almost 50 percent of new book sales, according to Codex Group, a book audience research firm. While it doesn't break out Barnes & Noble's share, Codex says Walmart has about 4.2 percent of the new book market, tied with the category of independent booksellers, which after a period of decline are staging a comeback.

The downward spiral of large-scale book stores has been "a long pattern developing from the late 1990s, when both Border's and Barnes & Noble were equally winning from opening up new stores every year at the expense of the independents," Mike Edwards, Borders' last CEO, said. "But I don't think anyone knew how big a threat Amazon would be at the time." Borders was forced into bankruptcy in 2011.

More recently, however, analysts say Barnes & Noble has struggled from perhaps innovating too much. It's tested restaurants called "The Kitchen," but the concept proved too expensive to grow at scale. It still has just five of these eateries, offering $12 avocado toast and $16 brisket burgers. "The top line on our restaurants is good. The bottom line is awful," Riggio said on a recent earnings call.

America's independent book chains, meanwhile, are gaining their footing again by sticking to what's simple and what they know best — selling books. There are still more than 2,300 independent book stores in the U.S., according to the American Booksellers Association.

And speaking to the power of the store — Amazon has opened 18 across the U.S., according to its website, with plans for more.

"This is a very fragile industry now," Codex Group CEO Peter Hildick-Smith said. "Our data is suggesting a lot of the books business today is behind the Amazon curtain." He said more than two-thirds of all books sold on a unit basis are now transacted online.

Taking note of this trend, Riggio has said investments online will be the company's next priority. Still, he explained, "the magnitude of what the Amazons and the Apples and the Googles can achieve in terms of technology is so far beyond that which we could achieve, we've really got to carve out a space for ourselves. ... We can't do it all."

Another area the company still needs to compete on is price. A copy of new release "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown" by Jeff Kinney was recently for sale for $8.96 on Barnes & Noble's website, but was $8.37 on Amazon, for example.

Aside from Amazon, there are plenty other challenges. Many of Barnes & Noble's stores today are situated in suburban shopping centers, where foot traffic has fallen off. Further, if customers do walk through the bookseller's doors, many funnel into its Starbucks coffee shops without making other book purchases.

"The foot traffic in the coffee shops used to match that in the stores," said John Tinker, a senior media analyst at Gabelli & Co. "Now the foot traffic in the coffee shops is more than the stores."

Rethinking its stores

Riggio, now 77, acknowledges this issue. "The stores we've built over the many years have kind of followed moves to the suburbs and exurbs," he said. "Now we see America is moving from those areas back to inner cities and main streets."

With 630 locations as of the end of fiscal 2018, Barnes & Noble's strategy has been to shut some of its larger locations (roughly 30,000 square feet) in favor of opening smaller shops (some as small as 8,000 square feet). Five prototype locations that will condense book selection to focus on educational toys and games are planned to open this fiscal year.

Activist investors all along have seen Barnes & Noble's setbacks as opportunities.

In July 2017, Sandell Asset Management tried to take the bookseller private. The firm, which held about a 2.75 percent stake in the company at the time, called Barnes & Noble's real estate "beachfront property," adding: "What makes the under-valuation of Barnes & Noble all the more shocking is that, as opposed to the numerous other national apparel, footwear, grocery, and home furnishing chains abounding in this country, there is but one truly national bookstore chain."

Sandell went on to propose a deal valuing Barnes & Noble at around $650 million, or $9 a share. But Riggio soon after stepped in and said he didn't think the deal was "bona fide," considering Sandell's stake in the chain and the extra financial backing needed to make it work.

Then, the past September, activist investor Schottenfeld disclosed a nearly 7 percent stake and pushed the board to explore strategic options, which is underway. Like many of its critics, Schottenfeld has said Barnes & Noble needs to do a better job of converting visitors in stores to paying, and even loyal, customers.

Sandell and Schottenfeld didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

A role for Riggio?

Though he's made a name for himself in retailing, Riggio has been criticized for not wanting to let go of the business that he built from a flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York in the 1970s to what it is today. In 2016, he said he was retiring from day-to-day tasks, but he's still in the mix. And some of that is because former CEO Demos Parneros was let go in July for claims he sexually harassed a female employee.

In a complaint filed after he was let go,Parneros said an unnamed "book retailer" was nearing a deal this summer to buy Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble then rebutted that Paneros "intentionally sabotaged a potential acquisition of the company." The Wall Street Journal said the unnamed retailer was W.H. Smith, based on conversations with people familiar with the situation. W.H. Smith didn't immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Edwards said Riggio should always have "an iconic place at Barnes & Noble." However, he said, "the new CEO coming in has to have more of a transformational background" and lead it through a much-needed turnaround.

It was Riggio who took Barnes & Noble public and became CEO in 1993. He held that position through 2002. During that time, he launched its website and built out a book database online. The CEO title was then handed to his younger brother, Stephen Riggio. Since his departure in 2010, the company has had four CEOs, all but one of them were promoted internally.

Publishers and investors have been disgruntled by the shakeups, saying it's leaving Barnes & Noble with little direction and no clear path forward.

"I'm not looking to secure a legacy, you know, I'm just looking to do as much I can to see this company be successful," Riggio said. "It's a huge responsibility considering I've been doing this for more than 50 years."

This story first appeared on CNBC.com More from CNBC.com:

Sears to shut 40 more stores early next year

This is how much profit Porsche averages a day

Here's what could be on Trump's economic agenda

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<![CDATA[Villanova University Puts Investing on Finance Curriculum]]>Thu, 08 Nov 2018 08:32:06 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Villanova+Wall+sTreet+Journal.jpg

Villanova School of Business is teaching young investors to change with the times. They have added new classes to reflect the changing business world.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Tesla Names Robyn Denholm New Board Chair]]>Thu, 08 Nov 2018 02:10:58 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/teslarobyn-denholm.jpg

Tesla late Wednesday announced that Robyn Denholm would take over as the chair of the company's board, effective immediately. 

Denholm presently serves as the CFO and Head of Strategy at Australia's largest telecommunications company, Telstra, according to a news release. She will replace the company's CEO, Elon Musk.

“I believe in this company, I believe in its mission and I look forward to helping Elon and the Tesla team achieve sustainable profitability and drive long-term shareholder value,” Denholm said in a statement.

Musk gave up the chairman's role earlier this year under a settlement with the Securites and Exchange Commisison, but remains CEO of the company. 

Tesla said Denholm will temporarily step down as the chair of Tesla's audit committee as well, until she exits Telstra. She has been on the company's board as an independent director since 2014, Tesla said. 

"Robyn has extensive experience in both the tech and auto industries, and she has made significant contributions as a Tesla Board member over the past four years in helping us become a profitable company," Musk said in a statement. "I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy."

Besides a new chair, Tesla was also ordered to appoint two new, independent members to its board. The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit the SEC filed charging Musk with misleading investors in August with a tweet that said he had "funding secured" for taking the company private.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Tesla]]>
<![CDATA[Comcast Developing Video-Streaming Platform]]>Wed, 07 Nov 2018 17:09:54 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18164579360505+%281%29.jpg

Comcast plans to roll out a new product for broadband-only subscribers that will allow customers to aggregate certain streaming apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube, with a voice-activated remote — a response to the ongoing challenge of navigating video between a variety of sources, according to people familiar with the matter.

The product, which will first be a set-top box and is meant to be an operating platform similar to X1, will launch next year, said the people, who asked not to be named because the internal discussions are private. Comcast hasn't decided how much it will charge per month for the device, said the people.

Comcast declined to comment on the plans.

Comcast currently gives its video customers access to its X1 platform, which aggregates cable TV with many of the same apps that will be available on the new product, such as Netflix and YouTube, said the people. The new product won't have cable TV, although it will give customers the option to rent shows and movies and upgrade to a Comcast video package, the people said.

The product isn't quite a direct competitor to Roku or Apple TV because it won't allow customers access to hundreds of apps, including streaming TV bundles like AT&T's DirecTV Now or Dish's Sling. Those services are direct competitors to Comcast's video bundle, and Comcast wouldn't be able to push its own video service to its broadband-only customers if it allowed them access to those bundled OTT services. Comcast hasn't decided the exact number of apps that will be accessible through the device, said the people.

Rather, Comcast wants the device to be the hub to the connected home, they said. In addition to aggregating streaming apps, the device will also allow customers to control anything that's connected to the Internet, including thermostats and smart-locks.

Comcast will be marketing the product to Internet-only customers, said the people. Comcast added 334,000 residential broadband subscribers in third quarter, it announced last month, and views broadband as the primary growth engine of its telecommunications business. The company has about 25 million total home broadband customers.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:


Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco/Comcast via AP Images, File
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<![CDATA[New Service Offers Alternative to Predatory Payday Loans]]>Wed, 07 Nov 2018 16:15:05 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Generic+Money+Generic+Dollar+Bill.jpg

Americans take out roughly $50 billion in payday loans a year, each racking up hundreds of dollars in fees and interest. But a small and growing service that allows its users to take an advance on their paycheck might be giving the payday loan industry a run for its money.

San Francisco-based financial technology company Even made headlines late last year when Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, announced it would start offering Even's service as part of its employee benefits package.

Along with providing tools that allow employees to track their spending and save money, Even features Instapay, which allows users to advance some of their next paycheck up to 13 days before payday. Because the Even user is tapping into his or her already accumulated hours, Even doesn't charge the employee interest on the advance.

Even founder Jon Schlossberg said publicly that part of the company's mission is to put the payday loan industry out of business, claiming it exploits the financially vulnerable. He shared internal usage data exclusively with The Associated Press that shows, at least preliminarily, that Even users are less likely to tap the payday loan market once they sign up for the company's services.

"You have this entire industry of financial institutions taking advantage of Americans struggling to live paycheck to paycheck, and payday lenders are really the most predatory," Schlossberg said.

Payday lenders say they provide a necessary service, with many Americans unable to come up with cash to cover an unexpected financial emergency. They also say they lend to the country's most desperate, who are often the highest risk for not paying back the loan.

But critics say the rates and fees are exorbitant and can trap the borrower in a cycle of debt that can last months.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, under the Obama administration, was trying to regulate the payday lending industry nationwide, but under the Trump administration the bureau has begun the process of reversing those regulations.

Even's data show that roughly 28 percent of its users took out a payday loan in the months before signing up for the service. Four months after signing up for Even, that figure drops to less than 20 percent. Even calculated the figure by studying usage behavior of its members from December 2017 until September 2018.

Even is able to tell which users are still using payday loans because Even users link their bank accounts to the app. The company is then able to tell what types of transactions a user is making, and whether they bear the characteristics of a payday loan transaction or name a payday lender as the other party.

Schlossberg admits that Even could be missing some payday loan transactions, particularly ones where a check is used instead of a direct debit from a borrower's account. The data is also limited by the fact that Walmart, by far its biggest customer, only started using the product on Dec. 15, 2017. Schlossberg said the company is working with academic researchers on the efficacy of Even's Instapay product versus payday loan usage, with the goal of publishing sometime in 2019.

Walmart is the only company that publicly says it uses Even, but an Even spokesman says it has "more than" 10 companies signed up currently, with 400,000 active subscribers. Even does charge Walmart employees a $6 monthly fee to use its premium features, which includes Instapay.

Consumer advocates, who have long targeted the payday lending industry, said they were glad to see alternatives to payday loans available but urged caution about their usage.

"The decrease is interesting and potentially promising but too soon to draw any conclusions," said Scott Astrada, director of federal advocacy at the left-leaning Center for Responsible Lending.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[China Grants 18 Trademarks in 2 Months to Trump, Daughter]]>Tue, 06 Nov 2018 22:47:47 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_183103516600531.jpg

The Chinese government granted 18 trademarks to companies linked to President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump over the last two months, Chinese public records show, raising concerns about conflicts of interest in the White House.

In October, China's Trademark Office granted provisional approval for 16 trademarks to Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, bringing to 34 the total number of marks China has greenlighted this year, according to the office's online database. The new approvals cover Ivanka-branded fashion gear including sunglasses, handbags, shoes and jewelry, as well as beauty services and voting machines.

The approvals came three months after Ivanka Trump announced she was dissolving her namesake brand to focus on government work.

China also granted provisional approval for two "Trump" trademarks to DTTM Operations LLC, headquartered at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York. They cover branded restaurant, bar and hotel services, as well as clothing and shoes.

The marks will be finalized if there is no objection during a 90-day comment period.

All the trademarks were applied for in 2016.

"These trademarks were sought to broadly protect Ms. Trump's name, and to prevent others from stealing her name and using it to sell their products," Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump's ethics attorney, said in an email. "This is a common trademark practice, which is why the trademark applications were granted."

Both the president and his daughter have substantial intellectual property holdings in China. Critics worry that China, where the courts and bureaucracy are designed to reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party, could exploit those valuable rights for political leverage.

There has also been concern that the Trump family's global intellectual property portfolio lays the groundwork for the president and his daughter, who serves as a White House adviser, to profit from their global brands as soon as they leave office.

"Ivanka receives preliminary approval for these new Chinese trademarks while her father continues to wage a trade war with China. Since she has retained her foreign trademarks, the public will continue to have to ask whether President Trump has made foreign policy decisions in the interest of his and his family's businesses," wrote Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group that first published the news about Ivanka Trump brand's new Chinese trademarks.

Lawyers for Donald Trump in Beijing declined to comment.

Companies register trademarks for a variety of reasons. They can be a sign of corporate ambition, but many companies also file defensively, particularly in China, where trademark squatting is rampant. Trademarks are classified by category and may include items that a brand does not intend to market. Some trademark lawyers also advise clients to register trademarks for merchandise made in China, even if it's not sold there.

China has said it handles all trademark applications equally under the law.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP/ Carolyn Kaster]]>
<![CDATA[Experts Pushing Millennials to Invest in Their Financial Future Now]]>Wed, 07 Nov 2018 08:10:01 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Money+Generic+20+Dollars.jpg

For the millennials that are drowning in debt after college, we have some great financial tips to help you along your lifelong financial journey. Experts advise young people to start investing in their future early because they are able to bounce back.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Delaware State University Closes in on Lofty Enrollment Goal]]>Tue, 06 Nov 2018 10:40:05 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/192*120/Del+sTate+Delaware+State+University.JPG

Delaware State University has broken its enrollment record for the sixth straight year.

A university news release says the school enrolled 4,872 students for the 2018-2019 academic year, a 5 percent jump over last year's enrollment.

The Dover university has set a goal to reach 5,000 students by 2020.

Officials say freshmen retention rose to 73 percent, the highest average in the school's history.

University President Dr. Wilma Mishoe credits recruitment, enrollment and retention initiatives like the creation of a strategic enrollment management system and team and the Early College High School program.

“Delaware State University has continued to grow year after year because we have continued to innovate, and have become much more strategic in how we attract and retain students, Mishoe said. "This year’s success builds upon past efforts to improve recruitment, enrollment, and retention. It is certainly an ongoing process, and is absolutely necessary, if we are going to meet our goal."

The school is currently building a new 20,000-square-foot residence hall to increase the number of students housed on campus. Currently, less than half of students live on campus.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Google Street View]]>
<![CDATA[Millennials Are Investing Money Through Apps]]>Tue, 06 Nov 2018 07:16:47 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Betterment+Millennial+Investing+App.jpg

Millennials are considered the perfect demographic for mobile investment app. These apps take the guess work out of investing by putting it into an automated system. They are also often more affordable than traditional investment firms, which has attracted the millennial generation.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[3 Steps for Millennial Financial Security]]>Mon, 05 Nov 2018 07:59:55 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Life+Goals+to+Be+Succesful.jpg

Financial advisor Rob Wilson says that, despite stereotypes surrounding millennials, they are on the fast track to becoming the least entrepreneurial generation in a long time. Because of this, he advises that people set financial goals they can work on over time.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
JOHN GEORGE ]]><![CDATA[Philly Ranked Among Top Cities 'Getting Health Care Right']]>Sat, 03 Nov 2018 14:44:49 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/hospital+generic+pexels.jpg

Healthgrades, a Denver-based health care data company, released its list of the top 100 U.S. cities “getting health care right,” and Philadelphia cracked the top 10.

Cities were ranked in the Healthgrades 2019 National Health Index based on 14 variables that included a population’s overall health, whether consumers had good access to doctors, if local specialists achieved high marks in patient satisfaction and if patients had access to high quality hospitals.

Rochester, Minn, ranked at the top of the list followed by Burlington, Vt, and Charleston, S.C. Philadelphia, which placed sixth, finished one spot behind Baltimore and one spot ahead of Gainesville, Fla.

Find out what reports had to say about Philadelphia's health care, here

Read up on all things business with the Philadelphia Business Journal. 

Photo Credit: Pexels/CC]]>
<![CDATA[NJ, PA Casinos Crossing Borders Into Each Other's Markets]]>Fri, 02 Nov 2018 14:19:24 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Dealer+Chips+Generic+Gambling++Betting.jpg

For decades after it began offering legal gambling in 1978, Atlantic City had the East Coast market pretty much to itself. And its failure to realize that situation would one day end nearly put it out of business once competition showed up.

Now, two of the fastest-growing areas of New Jersey's gambling market — internet gambling and sports betting — will soon get some competition next door from Pennsylvania.

But this time, at least some Atlantic City casinos and their parent companies are hedging their bets by competing in both states.

MGM, which owns Atlantic City's Borgata, and the Golden Nugget are among companies seeking internet gambling licenses in Pennsylvania once it begins there sometime next year. They were the applicants for Pennsylvania's remaining online licenses this week, seeking five of the 11 still available there.

A Pennsylvania casino, SugarHouse, already competes online in New Jersey through a licensing affiliation with the Golden Nugget.

And Pennsylvania gambling regulators recently gave a sports betting license to Harrah's Philadelphia, owned by Caesars Entertainment, which operates three Atlantic City casinos as well.

David Schwartz, director of the University of Las Vegas Nevada's Center for Gaming Research, said gambling companies are smart to operate on both sides of the border.

"Regional diversification is a sound strategy, particularly in the online arena," he said. "In this market, convenience is a major factor, so the ability to gamble at home rather than traveling across state lines is a major factor. In that case, licensure in multiple jurisdictions makes a great deal of sense."

That is particularly true for internet and sports betting, which in New Jersey are restricted to those physically present within the state. The same restrictions will apply to Pennsylvania.

The Golden Nugget says it wants to compete in Pennsylvania despite its 54 percent tax rate on internet slots and 16 percent for table games. Thom Winter, senior vice president and general manager of online gambling for the Golden Nugget called the Keystone State "a natural next step for us."

"We take a long-term approach to online gaming and believe that we can replicate our New Jersey success in other jurisdictions," he said.

Internet gambling and sports betting are the two bright spots in what until fairly recently had been a dismal Atlantic City gambling market. Due in large part to competition from Pennsylvania casinos, five Atlantic City casinos shut down between 2014 and 2016; two have since reopened as the Hard Rock and the Ocean Resort.

Online gambling, which began in New Jersey in Nov. 2013, and sports betting, which started in June of this year, have provided new revenue streams to help the casinos recover from their previous struggles.

Over the first nine months of this year, internet gambling has brought in nearly $216 million, an increase of 17.6 percent over the same period last year. And each month, online gambling increases at a double-digit pace from a year earlier.

Sports betting is also taking off in New Jersey; since it began in mid-June, over $336 million worth of bets has been placed. Pennsylvania is taking notice; the state has approved sports betting licenses for five casinos thus far: Parx, Harrah's, SugarHouse, Rivers and Hollywood. Parx also received approval for sports betting at the Philadelphia Turf Club, their off-track betting facility.

Pennsylvania's first sports bets could be taken within the next few weeks.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Free Coffee at Wawa's Newest Center City Location]]>Fri, 02 Nov 2018 13:31:50 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/wawa+12th+and+market.jpg

Wawa's 12th and Market location in Center City is now open for business – and it's offering free coffee until Sunday.

In April, Wawa announced its plans to open multiple new locations in the Philadelphia area in 2018: one in Frankford, one in Byberry, a 34th and Market location in University City, a 13th and Chestnut location in Center City, and this one.

It's all a build-up to what some are calling "the ultimate Wawa". An 11,300-square-foot location will be the largest Wawa in the world and is set to open across from Independence Mall (inside the Public Ledger building at Sixth and Chestnut) in December.

True to grand-opening form, Wawa is providing free coffee at its newest 12th and Market location until the 4th. That makes for a full weekend of joe, gratis.

“We are thrilled to further our commitment to our hometown by opening another new store in Center City,” said Chris Gheysens, Wawa President & CEO. 

Grand opening visitors were met with fanfare, ribbon-cutting, and the chance to watch a hoagie-building competition between two teams representing the Philly Police Department and the Philly Eagles.

Photo Credit: Wawa]]>
<![CDATA[Survey: One-Quarter of Renters Couldn't Cover $400 Emergency]]>Fri, 02 Nov 2018 13:04:42 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-146399458.jpg

Financial stress visits renters more than homeowners.

That's the main takeaway from a new report by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

Rental costs are rising much faster than renters' salaries. Between 1960 and 2016, the median income for a renter grew by just 5 percent. During the same period, the median rent ballooned by more than 60 percent, according to The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. (Both figures account for inflation.) 

To be sure, buying a house has also become harder for many Americans — to do so now costs four times the median household income. The homeownership rate fell to 63 percent in 2016 – the lowest rate in half a century.

"Still, renters seem to be worse off," said Corianne Scally, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute and a co-author of the study.

The Urban Institute's findings come out of its 2017 well-being and basic needs survey, which received responses from 7,500 people ages 18 to 64.

Half of renters in the survey reported a material hardship in the past year, compared with one-third of homeowners.

More than one-quarter of U.S. renters in the survey were not confident they could cover a $400 emergency. Around 18 percent of homeowners reported low emergency savings.

Nearly 18 percent of the renters experienced a large and unexpected decline in income in the past year, compared with 14 percent of the homeowners.

More than 12 percent of the renters report difficulty covering their housing costs, compared with 9 percent of the homeowners.

Over 15 percent of the renters say they struggled to pay a utility bill during the last 12 months, while 11 percent of the homeowners did.

While renters are worse off, Scally said, it's clear that many homeowners are also struggling with their bills.

"It seems that some of them are having to make trade-offs in just meeting their basic needs," she said.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:


Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File
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JEFF BLUMENTHAL ]]><![CDATA[Maternity Retailer Cutting Shop Size, Closing Stores]]>Fri, 02 Nov 2018 13:03:56 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/15_Million_Women_Lack_Maternity_Care.jpg

Destination Maternity Corp. plans to close hundreds of stores in the coming years and trim the size of many others as part of a turnaround plan, new CEO Marla Ryan said Thursday on a conference call with investors.

The Moorestown, N.J., clothing retailer intends to close between 42 and 67 stores and leased shops by the end of next year and projects shuttering a total of 240 to 280 stores and leased shops by 2022. The company has a total of 480 stores and 634 leased shops in department and baby specialty stores, according to its most recent quarterly report. That means the cuts would equal a quarter of all its stores.

According to the Courier-Post, the moves are part of a larger plan for the struggling company to reduce brick-and-mortar expenses while boosting online sales.

Ryan became CEO of the maternity apparel designer and retailer in May after a proxy battle. She is the fourth leader the company has had in the span of a year.

For more on Destination Maternity Corp.'s future store closings, click here

Stay up-to-date on all things business with the Philadelphia Business Journal.

<![CDATA[Wages Surge as US Adds a Robust 250,000 Jobs in October]]>Fri, 02 Nov 2018 11:51:12 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18203839625641.jpg

U.S. businesses ramped up hiring in October, and wages rose by the largest year-over-year amount in nearly a decade, a combination that is pulling a rising share of Americans into the job market.

In the final major economic report before Tuesday's congressional elections, the government said Friday that U.S. employers added a robust 250,000 jobs in October. The unemployment rate stayed at a five-decade low of 3.7 percent.

Healthy economic growth is spurring employers to hire at a rapid pace that shows no sign of flagging even with the economy in its 10th year of expansion. With the supply of unemployed dwindling, companies appear to be finally putting up generous enough pay raises to attract and retain employees.

Average hourly wages rose 3.1 percent in October from a year earlier, the fastest annual gain since 2009.

Still, inflation has picked up a bit in the past year as well, eating away at some of those pay raises. And the increase in wages last month also partly reflected a one-time drop in pay a year ago because of Hurricane Harvey.

Even so, October's increase suggests that after a decade of anemic growth, wage growth is picking up. At the same time, an influx of new job-seekers increased the proportion of Americans with jobs to its highest level since 2009.

The economy has now added jobs for 97 straight months, a record. That steady hiring has helped reduce the unemployment rate for Latinos to 4.4 percent, a record low. Teenage unemployment dropped last month to 11.9 percent, also the lowest on records. And the proportion of Americans without a high school degree who are working has reached the highest point on records dating from 1992.

"It doesn't get any better than this," said Sun Wong Sohn, chief economist at SS Economics. "Evidently, the word has spread that there are good jobs to be had at decent wages."

Cheyenne Mauzy of Springfield, Missouri, had held out for higher pay when she started job hunting in June. She felt she needed a high enough hourly wage to make up for the cost of child care for her three children.

"There was a minimum we had to make," Mauzy, 28, said, referring to calculations she made with her husband. "I had to bring home enough on top of child care. If I am just going to work to pay for our child care, I should be our child care."

In late August, she took a job at a hospital in Springfield that pays $11.22 an hour.

Becky Frankiewicz, president of staffing firm ManpowerGroup North America, said companies are trying a variety of strategies to fill jobs. Many retailers are removing the label "seasonal" from their job postings and looking for permanent workers instead. Others are dropping their requirements for a college degree.

"We absolutely see employers getting more and more creative about ways to get people in," Frankiewicz said.

By some measures, consumers are the most confident they have been in 18 years, and their spending is propelling brisk economic growth. The economic expansion is now the second-longest on record, and October marked the 97th straight month of hiring, a record streak.

Strength in their customer demand has been a key factor leading companies to steadily add workers. Though economists have predicted that hiring will eventually slow as the pool of unemployed Americans dwindles, there's no sign of that happening yet.

Still, the latest month of healthy job growth might not tip many votes in the midterm elections. Polls have suggested that while Americans generally approve of the economy's performance, that sentiment hasn't necessarily broadened support for President Donald Trump or for Republican congressional candidates.

The strong job growth and bigger pay increases will likely encourage the Federal Reserve to keep raising short-term interest rates. Most analysts expect the Fed to resume its rate hikes in December.

Hurricane Michael, which slammed into the Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia last month, had no discernible effect on the jobs data, the government said. Still, October's outsize gain might have reflected, in part, a rebound from September, when Hurricane Florence depressed job growth.

Hiring in October was strong in higher- and middle-income jobs. Professional and business services, which include engineers, architects and accountants, gained 35,000 jobs. Manufacturers added 32,000 after two months of smaller gains, defying fears that Trump's trade fights would slow hiring in that sector. Construction companies added 30,000 positions.

Retailers barely hired, adding just 2,400 positions, possibly reflecting the Sears bankruptcy. Restaurants and hotels gained 33,000, most of them lower-paying.

In the July-September quarter, consumer spending grew by the most in four years and helped the economy expand at a 3.5 percent annual rate. That growth followed a 4.2 percent annual pace in the April-June quarter. Combined, the two quarters produced the strongest six-month stretch of growth in four years.

Housing remains a weak spot in the economy, with sales of existing homes having fallen for six straight months as mortgage rates have risen to nearly 5 percent. But slower sales have started to limit home price increases, which had been running at more than twice the pace of wage gains.

Although pay increases can help boost spending and propel the economy's growth, they can also lead companies to raise prices to cover their higher labor costs. That trend, in turn, can accelerate inflation.

So far, though, inflation remains in check. The Federal Reserve's preferred price measure rose 2 percent in September compared with a year earlier, slightly lower than the year-over-year increase in August.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File
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<![CDATA[Tech Companies Oppose Trump's Gender Definition Changes]]>Thu, 01 Nov 2018 20:45:29 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/future-isnt-binary-sign.jpg

More than 50 companies representing over $2.4 trillion in annual revenue took a stand Thursday for legal protections for transgender people following a report that the Trump administration is considering limiting the definition of gender to birth anatomy.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are among the companies spanning tech, consumer products and financial services that signed a statement supporting the protections.

The move is a response to an Oct. 21 New York Times report that the Trump administration is considering limiting the definition of gender to birth genitalia.

"Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth," the Department of Health and Human Services proposed in a memo obtained by the Times.

If legislation were to move forward, it would jeopardize legal protections for an estimated 1.4 million Americans who identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, the Times said.

The statement from the companies, which have nearly 4.8 million employees, said "diversity and inclusion are good for business."

"Transgender people are our beloved family members and friends, and our valued team members," the statement said. "What harms transgender people harms our companies."

Out Leadership and the Human Rights Campaign mobilized the 15 LGBTQ community organizations that sought signatures for the statement.

This is the full statement along with the list of signatories:

We, the undersigned businesses, stand with the millions of people in America who identify as transgender, gender non-binary, or intersex, and call for all such people to be treated with the respect and dignity everyone deserves.

We oppose any administrative and legislative efforts to erase transgender protections through reinterpretation of existing laws and regulations. We also fundamentally oppose any policy or regulation that violates the privacy rights of those that identify as transgender, gender non-binary, or intersex.

In the last two decades, dozens of federal courts have affirmed the rights and identities of transgender people. Cognizant of growing medical and scientific consensus, courts have recognized that policies that force people into a binary gender definition determined by birth anatomy fail to reflect the complex realities of gender identity and human biology.

Recognizing that diversity and inclusion are good for business, and that discrimination imposes enormous productivity costs (and exerts undue burdens), hundreds of companies, including the undersigned, have continued to expand inclusion for transgender people across corporate America. Currently more than 80 percent of the Fortune 500 have clear gender identity protections; two-thirds have transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage; hundreds have LGBTQ+ and Allies business resource groups and internal training efforts.

Transgender people are our beloved family members and friends, and our valued team members. What harms transgender people harms our companies.

We call for respect and transparency in policy-making, and for equality under the law for transgender people.

  • Accenture
  • Adobe Systems Inc.
  • Airbnb
  • Altria Group
  • Amalgamated Bank
  • Amazon
  • American Airlines
  • Apple
  • Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP)
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Ben & Jerry’s Homemade
  • BNY Mellon
  • Cargill
  • Cisco Systems Inc.
  • Citi
  • Clifford Chance
  • Corning Incorporated
  • Corteva Agriscience™, the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont
  • Deutsche Bank
  • E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company
  • Facebook
  • Fastly, Inc.
  • Google
  • Hogan Lovells International LLP
  • HSBC
  • IBM Corporation
  • Intel Corporation
  • Intuit Inc.
  • Iron Mountain
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Levi Strauss & Co.
  • LinkedIn
  • Lush Handmade Cosmetics
  • Lyft
  • Marriott International
  • MassMutual
  • MGM Resorts International
  • Microsoft Corp.
  • Nike Inc.
  • PepsiCo
  • Replacements, Ltd.
  • Ropes & Gray
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • S&P Global
  • Salesforce
  • Sheppard Mullin
  • Sodexo Inc.
  • Splunk
  • State Street Corporation
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • The Dow Chemical Company
  • TiVo Corporation
  • Trillium Asset Management
  • Twitter Inc.
  • Uber
  • Warby Parker

Photo Credit: Yana Paskova/Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[With Employers Eager to Fill Jobs, Hiring Could Stay Strong ]]>Thu, 01 Nov 2018 20:50:23 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18203839625641.jpg

Against the backdrop of next week's midterm elections, the U.S. job market is the healthiest it's been in at least two decades. And with another strong hiring report expected Friday, some barometers of the job market suggest that it has room to strengthen further.

Businesses, hungry for workers, are advertising a record number of openings. Companies in October added the most jobs in eight months, a private survey found. Pay has been picking up.

In the past year or so, as unemployment has dwindled to a now-49-year low, economists had been predicting that hiring would slow as the pool of jobless workers shrank. Yet so far that hasn't happened. In fact, job growth has actually accelerated this year from 2017.

And though some industries have complained of a lack of qualified applicants, other signs point to a pool of readily available workers, including the number of part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs.

"It doesn't seem to me that we're anywhere near the point where, oh my God, we can't find people," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief economist for the Americas at Natixis, an asset management company.

So far in 2018, employers have added a robust average of 208,000 jobs a month. That's stronger than last year's average of 182,000, though not quite at the sizzling pace of roughly 250,000 in 2015. Combined, all that hiring has been enough to cut the jobless rate to 3.7 percent, the lowest level since 1969.

Economists have forecast that the October jobs report being released Friday — the final snapshot of the labor market before Election Day — will show that a solid 190,000 jobs were added and that unemployment was unchanged. Polls have suggested that while Americans generally approve of the economy's performance, that sentiment hasn't necessarily broadened voter support for President Donald Trump or Republican congressional candidates.

At some point, job growth will moderate and likely even reverse itself, particularly if the economy — now in its 10th year of expansion, the second-longest such stretch on record — tips into recession. LaVorgna thinks the cause will most likely be the Federal Reserve's ongoing interest rate hikes, which could squelch growth by making borrowing increasingly expensive for businesses and households. Or the Trump administration's trade wars could weaken the economy enough to depress hiring.

Contrary to the concerns of some analysts, LaVorgna doesn't envision an economy-wide shortage of available hires anytime soon.

"There is no evidence that the economy ever runs out of workers during an economic expansion," he said.

More employers are stepping up their pay increases in order to attract and retain workers. Retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target have been steadily raising their entry-level wages, with Amazon paying $15 an hour starting on Thursday.

A pickup in average pay suggests that companies have to work harder to fill their open positions. Higher pay can also draw people who aren't working and hadn't been seeking a job to begin looking.

Americans who are neither working nor looking for work aren't counted as unemployed. For some of them, the costs of child care and commuting to a job can outweigh the financial benefit of a job. Yet as pay rises, that calculation can change in favor of seeking work.

Salaries for private-sector workers rose 3.1 percent in the July-September quarter compared with a year ago, the government said Wednesday. That was the strongest increase in a decade.

Still, by most measures, average wage increases remain below the levels they reached the last time unemployment was this low. That may indicate that employers aren't quite panicking about finding enough people to hire.

Pay increases are "grinding higher," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. "But they aren't exploding."

One reason may be there are some ways in which employers can find workers without offering larger raises. Research by economists at the job listing site Indeed has found that that the proportion of Americans working part time who would prefer full-time jobs remains elevated. About 2.9 percent of all workers are in that category, compared with 2.6 percent before the recession and 2.2 percent in 2000, when the unemployment rate was nearly as low as it is now.

Martha Gimbel, research director for Indeed, says that companies can offer more hours to their part-time workers without necessarily having to raise pay. That's easier than having to dangle sizable raises to recruit workers from other companies. The number of part-time workers who would prefer more hours has been dropping — a sign that companies are already taking that step.

"I do think the job market has room to improve," Gimbel said.

The proportion of Americans in their prime working years — 25 through 54 — who have jobs remains below its pre-recession level, though it's risen since 2013. If more people in this group began looking for work, employers could keep hiring despite the low unemployment rate. Such a trend would help offset the steady retirement of the baby boom generation.

In the meantime, some economists have forecast that strong hiring will continue to shrink the unemployment rate, potentially to levels not seen since the Korean War in the 1950s. Goldman Sachs forecasts that the jobless rate could decline to 3 percent by the end of 2020. Federal Reserve policymakers foresee a smaller drop by then to 3.5 percent.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said that the monthly pace of hiring will ultimately have to drop by as much as half as the ranks of the unemployed fall further.

"This rate of job growth is not sustainable," he said.

But, Zandi acknowledges that the strength of U.S. hiring has endured longer than he had expected.

"I am surprised that we have been able to maintain this rate of job growth up until this point," he said. "I don't know when, but it will slow."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File]]>
<![CDATA[Target Plans to Open Its Doors at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving]]>Wed, 28 Nov 2018 11:11:01 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-459666756.jpg

Target on Thursday said it will open its doors earlier on Thanksgiving this year, as it expects throngs of shoppers to head to its stores across the U.S. after an early turkey dinner to shop its deals. 

The retailer will open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and close at 1 a.m., then reopen on Black Friday at 7 a.m. Last year, Target opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Kohl's and Macy's also have announced plans to open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving this year, sticking with what they did in 2017. 

On past holidays, "we've had lines outside our stores across the country," a Target spokeswoman told CNBC. "In fact, some guests show up hours in advance of opening. That tells us there's a desire from our guests to start their holiday shopping earlier." 

Target also said it will have a new, mobile checkout option in stores this year to allow rushed shoppers to "skip the line." Walmart announced a similar program earlier this week. Target workers will have handheld devices to help scan items and speed transactions from anywhere in the store. It said it expects to use this service for bigger items, like electronics. 

Target late last month already laid out much of its strategy to woo shoppers this holiday season. That includes offering free, two-day shipping with no minimum purchase required, something it's never tried before. Walmart is keeping its $35 threshold for free shipping during November and December. 

Many companies are still opting to stay closed on Turkey Day this year to give workers time off with their families.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 


Photo Credit: Getty Images for Target, File
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<![CDATA[Google Employees Walk Out to Protest Treatment of Women]]>Thu, 01 Nov 2018 17:08:48 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Google-walkout.jpg

Carrying signs that included a mocking use of the company's original "Don't be evil" motto, thousands of Google employees around the world briefly walked off the job Thursday to protest what they said was the tech giant's mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives.

From Tokyo, Singapore and London to New York, Seattle and San Francisco, highly paid engineers and other workers staged walkouts of about an hour, reflecting rising #MeToo-era frustration among women over frat-house behavior and other misconduct in heavily male Silicon Valley.

In Dublin, organizers used megaphones to address the outdoor crowd of men and women, while in other places, workers gathered in packed conference rooms or lobbies. In New York, there appeared to be as many men as women out in the streets, while in Cambridge, Massachusetts, men outnumbered women by perhaps 6 to 1.

"Time is up on sexual harassment!" organizer Vicki Tardif Holland shouted, her voice hoarse, at a gathering of about 300 people in Cambridge. "Time is up on systemic racism. Time is up on abuses of power. Enough is enough!"

About 1,000 Google workers in San Francisco swarmed into a plaza in front of the city's historic Ferry Building, chanting, "Women's rights are workers' rights!" Thousands turned out at Google's Mountain View, California, headquarters.

The demonstrations reflected a sense among some of the 94,000 employees at Google and its parent Alphabet Inc. that the company isn't living up to its professed ideals, as expressed in its "Don't be evil" slogan and its newer injunction in its corporate code of conduct : "Do the right thing."

"We have the eyes of many companies looking at us," Google employee Tanuja Gupta said in New York. "We've always been a vanguard company, so if we don't lead the way, nobody else will."

The protests unfolded a week after The New York Times detailed allegations of sexual misconduct about the creator of Google's Android software, Andy Rubin. The newspaper said Rubin received a $90 million severance package in 2014 after Google concluded the accusations were credible. Rubin has denied the allegations.

The same story also disclosed allegations of sexual misconduct against other executives, including Richard DeVaul, a director at the Google-affiliated lab that created self-driving cars and internet-beaming balloons. DeVaul had remained at the "X'' lab after the accusations surfaced a few years ago, but resigned on Tuesday without severance, Google said.

In an unsigned statement, the Google protesters called for an end to forced arbitration in harassment and discrimination cases, a practice that requires employees to give up their right to sue and often includes confidentiality agreements.

Besides being angry about what they contend has been lenient handling of executives who mistreat women, the protest organizers demanded more aggressive steps for gender pay equity and more inclusive hiring practices to reduce the high concentration of white and Asian men in the industry's best-paying programming jobs.

Women account for 31 percent of Google's employees worldwide, and it's lower for leadership roles. The numbers are similar elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

"I have seen friends get hurt and have their careers destroyed by this, not just at Google but everywhere," protester J.J. Wanda, a male software engineer, said in Mountain View. "We need to show that time's up."

In a statement, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is reviewing all the "constructive ideas" from employees to improve policies and practices.

Beyond Google, Facebook has faced criticism over pay inequity and discrimination. The appearance of a Facebook executive behind Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings also caused rifts inside the company.

As Thursday dawned, organizers had predicted about 1,500 employees would participate in the walkouts, mostly women. But the numbers appeared to exceed that, based on media accounts and images posted on the protest's Twitter account.

The protests at Google are the latest sign that frustrations among women are reaching a boiling point, said Stephanie Creary, a professor who specializes in workplace and diversity issues at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

"People simply aren't willing to put up with it anymore," Creary said. "The workers at Google seem to be saying, 'How is it that we are still having to have this conversation?'"

Google's CEO assured employees earlier this week that the company would support them in their protest. He also apologized for Google's "past actions."

"I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel," Pichai said in an email. "I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society ... and, yes, here at Google, too."

Pichai last week sought to assure employees that the company had cracked down on misconduct, saying it had fired 48 employees, including 13 senior managers, for sexual harassment in recent years without giving any of them severance packages.

In recent months, Google and other Silicon Valley companies have also been plagued by dissension over other corporate policies, customer privacy and what some employees regard as misuses of technology.

More than 1,000 Google employees signed a letter protesting the company's plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship rules.

And thousands signed a petitio asking Google to cancel an artificial-intelligence protect to help the Pentagon improve the targeting of drone strikes. Google later said it won't renew the contract, according to published reports, and opted not to bid for another military contract that could be worth $10 billion.

AP Technology Writers Mae Anderson, Matt O'Brien and Frank Bajak, and AP videojournalists Joe Frederick and Haven Daley contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mason Trinca/Getty Images
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PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL - ALISON BURDO]]><![CDATA[SEPTA to Start Charging for 7 Regional Rail Lots]]>Thu, 01 Nov 2018 07:02:22 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Generic+SEPTA+Train+SEPTA+Generic+Wilmington.JPG

SEPTA could see an uptick in revenue next year when more than half a dozen Regional Rail station parking lots start requiring payment.

The public transit agency told The Inquirer it will switch seven free parking lots, which total 1,500 spaces, to paid.

Commuters should expect the change – affecting the lots at the Woodbourne, Bristol, Wissahickon, Ivy Ridge, Miquon, Conshohocken, and Levittown stations – to occur in 2019, in sync with other system wide updates, including an increase in parking fees and the addition of technology that accepts the SEPTA Key card for payment, the report said.

For more on parking pricing changes, click here.

Stay in the know on all things business with the Philadelphia Business Journal

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Google Employees to Protest How Company Handled Sexual Misconduct]]>Thu, 01 Nov 2018 01:06:32 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/google_protest_1031_4779248.JPG

Hundreds of Google employees from the main campus and the Google X lab in Mountain View are expected to walk out Thursday because they’re not happy with the way the company has handled sexual misconduct in the workplace.

The employees say it's a protest and a push for change.

"We’re here. We’re all here together," Google employee Amy Vernetti said. "We can fix this. We’re Google. If we can’t fix this, who can?"

The planned walkout comes after bombshell allegations published in The New York Times last week, accusing Google of protecting certain executives and paying them millions as an exit package after they were accused of sexual misconduct.

"We think there’s a layer of transparency that can go on while protecting privacy," Vernetti said.

In an email to employees after the Times article was published, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company has fired 48 people in the past two years for sexual misconduct.

But Meghna Virick, who has a background in human resources and is San Jose State’s associate dean of the School of Business, told NBC Bay Area it can be tricky to balance employee privacy and transparency.

"We have to protect the privacy not just of the victims but of other people who may be involved," Virick said. "And they have to do it out of respect."

Vernetti and her colleagues think the company can definitely do better.

"Our aspiration is that they will go above and beyond, be as transparent as they possibly can to protect us," she said.

In Pichai's message to employees, he said, "We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace."

The walkout is slated for Thursday morning and could involve other Google offices across the country.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Southern California Suffers Its Worst Housing Slump in Over a Decade]]>Wed, 31 Oct 2018 12:16:05 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-520157840-blur.jpg

Higher mortgage rates and overheated home prices hit Southern California home sales hard in September. 

The number of new and existing houses and condominiums sold during the month plummeted nearly 18 percent compared with September 2017, according to CoreLogic. That was the slowest September pace since 2007, when the national housing and mortgage crisis was hitting. 

Sales have been falling on an annual basis for much of this year, but this was the biggest annual drop for any month in almost eight years. It was also more than twice the annual drop seen in August. 

"The double whammy of higher prices and rising mortgage rates has priced out some would-be buyers and prompted others to take a wait-and-see stance," said Andrew LePage, a CoreLogic analyst, in the release. "There was one caveat to last month's sharp annual sales decline — this September had one less business day for recording transactions. Adjusting for that, the year-over-year decline would be about 13 percent, still the largest in four years." 

On a monthly basis, sales fell 22 percent in September compared with August. Sales usually fall about 10 percent from August to September. 

Sales of newly built homes are suffering more than sales of existing homes, likely because fewer are being built compared with historical production levels. Newly built homes also come at a price premium. Sales of newly built homes were 47 percent below the September average dating back to 1988, while sales of existing homes were 22 percent below their long-term average. 

The median price of Southern California homes sold in September, $505,000, was still 3.6 percent higher than it was a year ago. That was the lowest annual gain for any month in more than three years. 

"Price growth is moderating amid slower sales and more listings in many markets," LePage said. "This is welcome news for potential homebuyers, but many still face a daunting hurdle – the monthly mortgage payment, which has been pushed up sharply by rising mortgage rates." 

LePage noted that while the median sale price was up 3.6 percent year over year in September, the principal and interest mortgage payment on the median-priced home was up 14.2 percent because mortgage rates increased about 0.8 percentage point over that period.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[A New Place to Eat, Shop and Drink in Center City]]>Thu, 01 Nov 2018 10:14:54 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_100000002233141.JPG

East Market is a brand new place opening in Center City Philadelphia. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and block party will celebrate the opening Thursday.]]>
<![CDATA[Blind Customers Sue Walmart Over Self-Service Accessibility]]>Mon, 29 Oct 2018 17:03:59 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/walmart30.jpg

A new lawsuit contends Walmart's self-checkout kiosks aren't fully accessible to blind customers and therefore violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Three blind Maryland residents and the National Federation of the Blind filed the lawsuit in federal court Oct. 25, The Baltimore Sun reports. The lawsuit also says an employee at an Owings Mills location selected cash back from a plaintiff's debit card and took $40 without her knowledge. 

The plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction that would bring the self-service kiosks in line with accessibility regulations, a declaration that Walmart has been violating the ADA, court costs and attorneys' fees. 

The lawsuit says the federation tried to work with Walmart to address problems before suing. 

Walmart representatives didn't return the newspaper's requests for comment.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Stocks Tumble Again on Report US Plans More Tariffs]]>Mon, 29 Oct 2018 15:47:29 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/NYSEAP_18299530230915.jpg

Fear that the Trump administration will announce tariffs on all remaining imports from China helped knock U.S. stocks from a strong early gain to another sharp loss Monday.

Technology companies sank again after Bloomberg News reported that the U.S. is planning new tariffs if the two sides don't make progress in trade talks next month.

Technology and internet companies, industrials and retailers took steep losses as Wall Street's recent bout of volatility continued. The S&P 500 index has dropped 9.4 percent in October and is on track for its worst monthly loss since February 2009. That was right before the market hit its lowest point during the 2008-09 financial crisis.

Bloomberg News reported that the Trump administration will put tariffs on the rest of the country's imports from China if Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping don't make substantial progress in easing the trade dispute next month.

So far the U.S. has placed $250 billion in taxes on imported Chinese goods, about half of all imports from China, and the taxes on most of those goods are set to rise on Jan. 1. The administration has threatened tariffs on the rest. China hiked tariffs on $110 billion in imports from the U.S.

The S&P 500 index fell 17.44 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,641.25.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained as much as 352 points Monday morning but closed down 245.39 points, or 1 percent, to 24,442.92. It fell as much as 566 during the day.

The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, lost 116.92 points, or 1.6 percent, to 7,050.29. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 6.51 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,447.31.

Stocks have plunged since early October and trading has been especially volatile the last few days.

Among industrials, Boeing sank 6.6 percent to $335.59. Some early gains for tech and internet stocks also faded. Microsoft shed 2.9 percent to $103.85. Alphabet, Google's parent company, lost 4.5 percent to $1,034.73.

Amazon.com dropped another 6.3 percent to $1,538.88. The online retailer tumbled Friday after it reported weak sales and gave a lower-than-expected revenue estimate for the quarter that includes the holiday shopping season. Its stock traded above $2,000 a share in early September and has fallen 24.5 percent since then, its worst decline in two and a half years.

The S&P 500, the main benchmark for the U.S. stock market, has fallen 9.9 percent from its latest record high on Sept. 20. The Nasdaq has plunged 13 percent from its record high reached Aug. 29.

For most of this year investors have remained hopeful that the U.S. and China would work out there disagreements on trade, but in recent weeks they've lost some of their confidence.

Increased tariffs could slow economic growth and increase inflation. The effects could be especially severe for technology companies, which make many of their products in China, and for industrials. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP]]>
<![CDATA[test]]>Fri, 26 Oct 2018 18:03:29 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_100000002162163.JPGtest]]><![CDATA[Dow Dives 300 Points, S&P 500 Dips Into Correction Levels]]>Fri, 26 Oct 2018 15:13:58 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18299530316683.jpg

Stocks fell sharply on Friday as investors slogged through another volatile session on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 416 points lower after dropping more than 500 points at its lows of the day. The Nasdaq Composite was down 2.6 percent. At its lows, the tech-heavy Nasdaq had fallen more than 3 percent.

The S&P 500 fell 2.2 percent and entered into correction territory, trading more than 10 percent below its 52-week high. The average stock market correction, since WWII, results in a 13 percent drop and lasts for four months if it does not turn into a full-fledged bear market.

Larry Benedict, CEO of The Opportunistic Trader, said traders "don't want to be long heading into the weekend." He added, "S&P now down on the year and people are more afraid to be long today than they were when market was 10 percent higher."

Seven of the 11 S&P 500 sectors were still down at least 10 percent from their 52-week highs, including energy, materials and financials. Around three quarters of the index's stocks are also in a correction.

"The 19.7 percent correction in 2011 is as close to a bear market as we've had in recent years. I don't think we'll close to that, but I think we're heading for a deeper correction than the one we had in January and early February," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research. He noted investors are realizing that earnings growth will slow down moving forward, thus they are pricing this in.

Among the driving forces for the market's sharp drop were disappointing earnings from key tech companies that overshadowed strong economic data.

Amazon fell 8.1 percent after the company released its latest quarterly results on Thursday. Alphabet shares, meanwhile, dropped as much as 5.6 percent before trading 3.1 percent lower. Earnings for both companies topped analyst estimates, but revenues fell short.

There were "high expectations" for this earnings season, King Lip, chief strategist at Baker Avenue Asset Management, told CNBC. "The earnings are not coming in as great as people had suspected," Lip said, adding that "for Amazon specifically, forward guidance was surprisingly light."

These declines were enough to offset a better-than-expected report on U.S. economic growth. The Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy grew at a 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter, above a 3.4 percent estimate. The government also said its personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, a key measure of inflation, increased by 1.6 percent last quarter.

Stock have suffered in recent weeks as fears of rising inflation — and rising interest rates — trim corporate profit expectations. Since the PCE index is the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge, any sign that the measure may be slowing could stall the central bank in its plan to continue to increase the overnight rate.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity, surged by 4 percent in the third quarter, the fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2014.

"The GDP number really solidified some of the points that have been made for the fourth quarter," said Minh Trang, senior FX trader at Silicon Valley Bank. "The Fed is still on track for another rate hike" even though the inflation numbers were a bit weaker than expected.

Friday's decline comes after equities rallied in the previous session. The major averages are also set to post big losses for the week. The S&P 500 and Dow are down 2.2 percent and 1.8 percent this week, respectively, entering Friday's session.

These losses also add to a sharp drop seen throughout this month. Through Thursday's close, the Dow and S&P 500 were down 5.6 percent and 7.2 percent for October, respectively. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, had lost 9.1 percent.

"What's happened is we have a number of outside issues overshadowing what has been strong economic data and overall good earnings," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

Several factors have conspired to knock markets down this month — some earnings disappointment, fear of rising interest rates, a brewing conflict between Italy and the European Union over budget spending, criticism of oil power Saudi Arabia after the killing of a dissident journalist and finally, worries that world growth is losing steam.

— CNBC's Ryan BrowneEustance Huang and Thomas Franck contributed reporting.

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Photo Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew
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<![CDATA[Halloween Is Scariest Day of Year for This Financial Shock]]>Fri, 26 Oct 2018 10:49:07 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/halloweenGettyImages-1039329616.jpg

Halloween could be scarier for your budget than anticipated: Homeowners and auto insurance claims tend to jump during the holiday.

On average, Halloween has 17 percent more home claims for theft, vandalism and other crimes than any other day of the year, according to a new assessment from Travelers.

That includes problems like doors kicked in, mailboxes knocked down and rocks thrown through windows, said Angi Orbann, vice president of personal insurance property for Travelers. In some cases, damage can run into thousands of dollars.

Data from the Highway Loss Data Institute found a similar boost among auto insurance claims over the 2008 to 2012 period, citing Halloween as the day of the year with the highest average number of auto insurance claims for vandalism — almost twice as many as the typical day. (A spokesman said that trend still holds.)

Spookier: Damage bills may be even more prevalent than those numbers imply.

Homeowner policies, for example, often have a deductible of $500 to $1,000 before coverage kicks in. So acts of theft or vandalism that fall shy of that threshold (meaning you shoulder that expense and don't file a claim) aren't included in the numbers, said Orbann.

And in some areas, the evening before Halloween — aka Devil's Night, Mischief Night and other variants — is better known for such pranks. Halloween claims data likely include damage from that night discovered Halloween morning, she said, although Travelers also noted a slight jump in claims on Oct. 30.

The first step to limiting Halloween insurance scares is checking your insurance policy for potential gaps, said Michael Barry, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute. A typical homeowners policy would cover theft and vandalism, but you should make sure you're comfortable with your deductible.

Liability coverage, should a trick-or-treater or other visitor be hurt on your property, is another consideration.

"There may not be only bodily injury and property damage, but there can also be a lawsuit," he said.

With auto insurance, weigh comprehensive coverage, which encompasses a wide range of damage including vandalism and theft of auto parts, Barry said. About 8 in 10 drivers have it, and for those who don't, it can be cheap peace of mind.

Then, cut the potential for tricks.

Clear your yard and sidewalk of potential hazards that could trip up trick-or-treaters, and make sure the path to your door is well lit, Orbann said. Consider crating your pets or securing them in a room away from the front door to limit the risk they could injure themselves or a costumed visitor.

"Some of them are eager to greet all the trick-or-treaters, but some get scared," she said.

Heading out to enjoy Halloween festivities yourself? Enlist a neighbor to keep an eye on your property, she said. Leave security systems, motion-triggered lights and other theft deterrents activated to make your home a less-attractive target.

If possible, park your car off the street — and ideally, in a garage.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:


Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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<![CDATA[Economy Grew at Strong 3.5 Percent Rate in Q3]]>Fri, 26 Oct 2018 08:05:01 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18295560517295.jpg

The U.S. economy grew at a robust annual rate of 3.5 percent in the July-September quarter as the strongest burst of consumer spending in nearly four years helped offset a sharp drag from trade.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the third quarter's gross domestic product, the country's total output of goods and services, followed an even stronger 4.2 percent rate of growth in the second quarter. The two quarters marked the strongest consecutive quarters of growth since 2014.

The result was slightly higher than many economists had been projecting. It was certain to be cited by President Donald Trump as evidence his economic policies are working. But some private economists worry that the recent stock market declines could be a warning signal of a coming slowdown.

The GDP report along with next week's unemployment report for October are the last major looks at the economy before voters go to the polls in the mid-term elections.

For this year, economists are projecting the momentum built up should result in growth of 3 percent, the best annual showing in 13 years. But they believe the impact of Trump's trade war with China and rising interest rates will slow growth in 2019 to around 2.4 percent, with a further decline to under 2 percent in 2020.

"I think we will see a significant slowdown, in part because economic growth has been raised to an artificially high level by the tax cuts," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at SS Economics in Los Angeles.

Trump in recent weeks has accelerated his attacks on the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, contending that the higher rates by slowing the economy will work against his efforts to speed up growth through the $1.5 trillion tax cut package Trump got Congress to pass last year.

"Every time we do something great, he raises interest rates," Trump said in an interview this week with the Wall Street Journal in which he again said he viewed the Fed as the "biggest risk" facing the economy "because I think interest rates are being raised too quickly."

The central bank has raised rates three times this year and signaled it will raise rates one more time this year and expect to raise rates three times in 2019. Those moves are being made to ensure that tight labor markets, with unemployment at a 49-year low of 3.7 percent, and strong growth don't trigger unwanted inflation.

The GDP report Friday was the government's first of three reviews of overall economic activity for the July-September period.

The report showed that consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, surged at an annual rate of 4 percent in the third quarter, even better than the 3.8 percent gain in the second quarter and the best showing since last 2014.

Trade, which had boosted second quarter growth by 1.2 percentage points, shaved 1.8 percentage points off growth in the third quarter. Exports, which had surged at a 9.3 percent rate in the second quarter, fell at a 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter. Analysts had forecast this turn-around, saying it reflected the surge in exports of goods such as soybeans in the spring as producers tried to beat the higher tariffs being imposed by China in retaliation for Trump's tariffs.

Another big swing factor in the third quarter was business restocking of their shelves. Inventories had trimmed 1 percentage point off growth in the second quarter but boosted growth by 2 percentage points in the third quarter.

Housing continued to be a drag, falling for a third straight quarter. Business investment, which had surged at an 8.7 percent rage in the second quarter, slowed to a small 0.8 percent gain the third quarter.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File]]>
<![CDATA[Google Reveals 48 Employees Fired for Sexual Harassment]]>Thu, 25 Oct 2018 21:12:44 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/googAP_18131020738677.jpg

Google announced that it has fired 48 employees for sexual harassment during the past two years and sent them away without severance packages, hours after a news report that it had protected some male executives facing sexual misconduct allegations and offered them large sums to leave the company.

The surprise disclosure Thursday came in an email to Google employees from CEO Sundar Pichai. It was a direct response to a New York Times report that the company had dismissed the executive in charge of its Android software for sexual misconduct in 2014 and paid him handsomely to leave.

A spokesman for Andy Rubin, the former Android executive, said he left on his own accord and has never been informed of any accusations of sexual misconduct. Rubin acknowledges having consensual sexual relationships with Google employees that didn't report to him, adhering to the boundaries drawn by Google policy at that time, according to the spokesman, Sam Singer.

The Times story was based on unidentified people and court documents, including some filed in an ongoing divorce between Rubin and his wife. The Times reported that Google also protected two other executives accused of sexual misconduct, ousting one with a severance package while retaining another.

In his email, Pichai said Google adopted tougher policies in 2015. Those rules require all of Google's vice presidents and senior vice presidents to disclose any relationship with an employee, even if they don't work in the same department or have any other potential conflict.

Although Pichai didn't directly address the allegations against Rubin and other executives, he conceded the Times story "was difficult to read" and did not dispute it.

In an apparent attempt to assure employees that things had changed since Rubin's departure, Pichai said 13 of the 48 workers that Google had fired for violating the company's sexual harassment policies were either senior managers or executives. None of those 13 received severance packages, Pichai wrote.

"We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace," Pichai wrote.

Despite Pichai's reassurances, the revelations about sexual harassment are a setback for a 20-year-old company that adopted "Don't Be Evil" as its motto early in its existence and now embraces "do the right thing " as its creed under the umbrella of its holding company, Alphabet Inc.

The bombshells are also another troubling example of a Silicon Valley culture that for decades has relied heavily on male engineers, some of whom still behave like fraternity boys attending a keg party in college.

The phenomenon led to this year's release of "Brotopia: Breaking Up The Boys Club of Silicon Valley ," a book by Emily Chang that delves into the stories of women who say they have been sexually harassed at tech companies and venture capital firms.

Allegations of sexual misconduct also have resulted in the resignations of venture capitalists and executives and triggered an ongoing overhaul at ride-hailing company, Uber.

Prodded by the public complaints of a former female engineer, Uber last year conducted an internal investigation that it had fostered an environment that allowed rampant sexual harassment .

The problems unfolded under Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, who wound up being forced to resign by investors as CEO amid a raft of other problems. At one point, Uber hired former Google engineer Amit Singhal and then asked him to resign last year after discovering he hadn't disclosed he had been accused of sexual misconduct at Google.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Waiting Longer to Buy a House Could Hurt Millennials in Retirement]]>Thu, 25 Oct 2018 14:29:41 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/cms-%283%29.jpg

Homeownership in America is not as common as it once was — especially for today's young people. 

That's the main takeaway from a new investigation into generational housing trends by the Stanford Center on Longevity. 

The homeownership rate fell to 63 percent in 2016 – the lowest rate in half a century, and down from the all-time high of nearly 70 percent by the end of 2005, the peak in subprime lending. 

The researchers found homeownership declining most steeply among people under the age of 30 when compared with other generations. "They're not able to hit the mark at the same age as their parents," said Tamara Sims, a research scientist at Stanford. 

Why the delay? People often want to put down roots once they have a family. Indeed, the likelihood of owning a home by the age of 30 swells by nearly 30 percentage points for those already married and with children. 

But younger people today are not in a rush to wed and reproduce.

In 1960, the average age women and men first married was in their early 20s. Today, the median age for a first marriage is closer to 30. Meanwhile, the share of married households with children, aged 18 to 34, dropped to 25 percent in 2015, from 37 percent in 1990, according to the Urban Institute, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C. 

The growth in student debt is another factor explaining the decline in homeownership among the young. Average debt at graduation is currently around $30,000, up from an inflation-adjusted $16,000 in the early 1990s. 

Those who are still repaying their student loans at 30 are 32 percentage points less likely to own a house than those who never borrowed for their education, the researchers at Stanford calculated. 

As a result of purchasing property later in life, Sims said, millennials may enter old age with less financial security. 

"Homeownership is one of the touchstones of being prepared for retirement," she said. "Buying a home at age 50 or 60 isn't going to do you much good in funding a 30-year retirement."

This story first appeared on CNBC. More from CNBC: 

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[After Long Losing Streak, US Stocks Surge on Solid Earnings]]>Thu, 25 Oct 2018 16:42:37 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18297519776691.jpg

Stocks soared Thursday as strong earnings reports from market bellwethers like Microsoft and Comcast gave a boost of confidence to investors shaken by the recent wave of selling.

The rally wiped out a large part of the market's plunge from the day before, but stocks are still down sharply over the past three weeks.

Technology companies rallied after reports from Microsoft and others, while Twitter and Comcast led the way for internet and media companies. Ford's results helped consumer-focused stocks.

Some encouraging economic news also helped stabilize markets. The Commerce Department said orders to U.S. factories for major manufactured goods grew in September, and the increase was larger than analysts expected.

The S&P 500 index jumped 49.47 points, or 1.9 percent, to 2,705.57. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 401.13 points, or 1.6 percent, to 24,984.55 after rising as much as 520 points during the day. The Nasdaq surged 209.93 points, or 3 percent, to 7,318.34 after its biggest drop in seven years.

Stock trading turned volatile in October, with big sell-offs in the sectors that have powered the bulk of the gains during the market's long bull run. Even after Thursday's gains, the S&P 500 is down 7.5 percent since Oct. 3 as investors worried about climbing interest rates and the effects of the U.S-China trade dispute. The Nasdaq has plummeted 8.8 percent.

Investors are worried that rising interest rates and disputes with trading partners could hurt economic growth and corporate profits. They will get more insight into how the U.S. economy is doing early Friday when the government reports on economic growth during the third quarter. Experts think the country's gross domestic product grew 3.3 percent from July to September, according to FactSet.

Microsoft surpassed analysts' forecasts in the first quarter as it mined new revenue sources in online subscriptions, gaming and its LinkedIn professional networking service. Shares of the tech giant jumped 5.8 percent to $108.30.

"It's certainly reassuring to see stocks bounce back today on stronger earnings, but I would expect that we continue to see a lot of day to day volatility," said Kate Warne, an investment strategist for Edward Jones.

Twitter soared 15.5 percent to $31.80 and electric car maker Tesla jumped 9.1 percent to $314.86 after their quarterly reports, while video game maker Take-Two vaulted 8.8 percent to $120.70 after strong reviews for its latest game, "Red Dead Redemption 2."

The S&P 500 suffered two separate six-day losing streaks this month and had fallen for 13 out of the past 15 days. That stretch also included a couple of big rallies, but the losses erased the benchmark index's gains from earlier in the year. After Thursday's gains, the Dow and S&P 500 are each up about 1 percent for the year.

Earnings for S&P 500 companies have been growing at a clip of better than 20 percent this year, but much of that comes from last year's corporate tax cut, so it won't be repeated next year. While investors expect earnings to keep rising, they're not sure how much growth to expect, and that's contributed to the recent selling.

Those concerns could surface again as early as Friday. Investors didn't like what they heard from Amazon and Alphabet when they reported their results after the close of trading. The internet retailer dropped 9.1 percent in aftermarket trading while Google's parent company lost 4.8 percent.

Warne, of Edward Jones, said investors have been dumping shares of companies that reported weak results, while companies that surpassed expectations haven't been rewarded much. She expects that to change when the dust settles.

"When we get beyond earnings season and investors are wondering what now can drive the market higher or lower, knowing that we had a strong earnings season and companies did not lower their guidance very much will provide some support for stocks," she said.

On Thursday the stock market looked the way it has looked for most of this year: high-tech and consumer-focused companies lead the way while steadier, defensive stocks that pay big dividends weren't doing much, or lost ground.

Smaller, more U.S.-focused companies have also been sinking as Wall Street worries about future growth in the U.S. economy, which is tightly connected to their profits, as well as the possibility that rising interest rates will make it tougher for them to pay back their debts.

The Russell 2000 index gained 31.70 points, or 2.2 percent, to 1,500.40. It's fallen 13.8 percent since the end of August and is down 2.3 percent so far this year.

In Europe, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the region's economy is still growing at a solid clip even though there are signs it has weakened somewhat recently. But Asian markets took big losses, as the U.S. market did the day earlier.

The French CAC 40 jumped 1.6 percent and Germany's DAX added 1 percent. The British FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent, although WPP, the world's largest advertising company, said its business slowed in the third quarter and warned about weaker annual earnings. U.S.-traded shares of WPP fell 17.5 percent to $57.75.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index swooned 3.7 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended 1 percent lower. The Kospi in South Korea dropped 1.6 percent. The heaviest losses came from technology companies including chipmakers Tokyo Electron and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and South Korea's Samsung Electronics. Japanese telecom and energy giant Softbank lost 4.4 percent.

U.S. bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note remained at 3.12 percent.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 0.8 percent to $67.33 a barrel. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, rose 0.9 percent to $76.89 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline lost 0.5 percent to $1.81 a gallon. Heating oil added 1.2 percent to $2.28 a gallon and natural gas gained 1.1 percent to $3.20 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose 0.1 percent to $1,232.40 an ounce. Silver fell 0.3 percent to $14.63 an ounce. Copper dipped 0.1 percent to $2.75 a pound.

The dollar climbed to 112.61 yen from 112.44 yen. The euro fell to $1.1359 from $1.1387. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew)]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Fined $644K by UK Watchdog Over Users' Data Breach]]>Thu, 25 Oct 2018 06:12:44 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/facebook+hacked+ShUTTERSTOCK.jpg

British regulators on Thursday slapped Facebook with a fine of 500,000 pounds ($644,000) — the maximum possible — for failing to protect the privacy of its users in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The Information Commissioner Office found that between 2007 and 2014, Facebook processed the personal information of users unfairly by giving app developers access to their information without informed consent. The failings meant the data of some 87 million people was used without their knowledge.

"Facebook failed to sufficiently protect the privacy of its users before, during and after the unlawful processing of this data," said Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner. "A company of its size and expertise should have known better and it should have done better."

The ICO said a subset of the data was later shared with other organizations, including SCL Group, the parent company of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. News that the consultancy had used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign ignited a global scandal on data rights.

The fine is the maximum allowed under the law at the time the breach occurred. Had the scandal taken place after new EU data protection rules went into effect this year, the amount would have been far higher — including maximum fines of 17 million pounds or 4 percent of global turnover, whichever is higher.

"We are currently reviewing the ICO's decision," Facebook said in a statement. "While we respectfully disagree with some of their findings, we have said before that we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and taken action in 2015. We are grateful that the ICO has acknowledged our full cooperation throughout their investigation."

Facebook also took solace in the fact that the ICO did not definitively assert that U.K. users had their data shared for campaigning. But the commissioner noted in her statement that "even if Facebook's assertion is correct," U.S. residents would have used the site while visiting the U.K.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Tech Companies Lead Another Steep Sell-Off in US Stocks]]>Wed, 24 Oct 2018 17:53:18 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/wallAP_18297519857260.jpg

Another torrent of selling gripped Wall Street Wednesday, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeting more than 600 points and erasing its gains for the year.

The Nasdaq composite, with a hefty roster of tech stocks, bore the brunt of the sell-off, leaving it more than 10 percent below its August peak, what Wall Street calls a "correction."

Disappointing quarterly results and outlooks continued to weigh on the market, stoking investors' jitters over future growth in corporate profits. Bond prices continued to rise, sending yields lower, as traders sought safe-haven investments.

"Investors are on pins and needles," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. "There has definitely been a change in sentiment for investors starting with the volatility we had last week. The sentiment and the outlook seems to be turning more negative, or at the very least, less rosy."

Investors have grown concerned in recent weeks that Corporate America's tax cut-fueled earnings growth this year will be arrested in coming months amid rising inflation, uncertainty over the escalating trade conflict between the U.S. and China and the likelihood of higher interest rates. Recent data showing the housing market is slowing have also fueled speculation that U.S. economic growth will start to slow next year.

The outlooks from some of the companies that reported third-quarter results this week, including Caterpillar, 3M and United Parcel Service, only stoked those worries.

"You've seen more discouraging (company) commentary this quarter than you have the last two," said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments. "You're really starting to get more of a groundswell of caution. There's some concern about the fourth quarter and what that's going to look like."

The S&P 500 lost 84.59 points, or 3.1 percent, to 2,656.10. The index is now off about 9.4 percent from its Sept. 20 peak.

The Dow tumbled 608.01 points, or 2.4 percent, to 24,583.42. The Nasdaq slid 329.14 points, or 4.4 percent, to 7,108.40. That's the Nasdaq's biggest drop since August 2011, but it's still up 3 percent for the year.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 57.89 points, or 3.8 percent, to 1,468.70, and is down 4.4 percent for the year.

Bond prices rose, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 3.12 percent from 3.16 percent late Tuesday. The slide in bond yields came as traders sought out lower-risk assets.

Technology stocks and media and communications companies accounted for much of the selling. Banks, health care and industrial companies also took heavy losses, outweighing gains by utilities and other high-dividend stocks.

Most companies that missed earnings expectations or issued cautionary outlooks were punished.

AT&T sank after reporting weak subscriber numbers, and chipmaker Texas Instruments fell sharply after reporting slumping demand.

Shares in iRobot plunged 12.3 percent to $80.49 after the robotics technology company said tariffs will reduce its profitability in the fourth quarter.

Texas Instruments fell 8.2 percent to $92.01 after the chipmaker delivered quarterly results that fell short of Wall Street's forecasts, noting that demand across most markets is slowing.

United Parcel Service slid 5.5 percent to $107.93 after the shipping company reported weak international revenue, while the strong dollar and high fuel prices also hurt its results.

S&P 500 companies are expected to deliver 22 percent earnings growth for the third quarter, with every sector except communications services, which includes Walt Disney, AT&T, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet, expected to show earnings growth, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

About 24 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 had reported third-quarter results as of Wednesday. Of those, 57 percent delivered earnings and revenue results that topped Wall Street's forecasts.

High-flying companies like Netflix and Amazon took some of the biggest losses Wednesday. Netflix gave back 9.4 percent to $301.83 and Amazon dropped 5.9 percent to $1,664.20.

AT&T was among the big decliners in the media and communications sector, dropping 8.1 percent to $30.36 after the communication giant's latest quarterly results fell short of Wall Street's expectations.

The Commerce Department said sales of new U.S. homes plunged 5.5 percent in September, the fourth monthly drop. The report is the latest sign that the housing market is cooling amid rising mortgage rates. Several homebuilders declined following the release of the report. Beazer Homes USA slumped 8.4 percent to $8.44.

Boeing was one of the few gainers Wednesday. It rose 1.3 percent to $354.65 after the defense contractor's latest quarterly results topped analysts' forecasts. The company also raised its estimates for the year, citing faster orders for aircraft.

Despite the tumbling stock prices, the U.S. economy looks solid. Helped by tax cuts, the economy expanded at a 4.2 percent annual pace from April through June, fastest in nearly four years. When the Commerce Department report on third-quarter growth comes out Friday, it's expected to show another solid pickup of 3.3 percent. Unemployment has dropped to a 49-year-low 3.7 percent.

Responding to the healthy growth, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates three times this year and is expected to hike them again in December. "The economy is on solid footing," analysts at BNP Paribas wrote Wednesday. "We think the Fed will continue its gradual pace of rate hikes, for now."

Benchmark U.S. crude edged up 0.6 percent to settle at $66.82 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid 0.4 percent to $76.17 a barrel in London.

Heating oil was little changed at $2.25 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline slipped 0.8 percent to $1.82 a gallon. Natural gas declined 1.4 percent to $3.17 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The dollar weakened to 112.44 yen from 112.47 yen on Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.1387 from $1.1467.

Gold fell 0.5 percent to $1,231.10 an ounce. Silver dropped 0.8 percent to $14.68 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.76 a pound.

Germany's DAX fell 0.7 percent, while the CAC 40 in France lost 0.3 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 inched up 0.1 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped 0.4 percent and the Kospi in South Korea gave up 0.4 percent. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Yahoo to Pay $50M, Other Costs for Massive Security Breach]]>Tue, 23 Oct 2018 15:07:30 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/yahoo-hq.jpg

Yahoo has agreed to pay $50 million in damages and provide two years of free credit-monitoring services to 200 million people whose email addresses and other personal information were stolen as part of the biggest security breach in history.

The restitution hinges on federal court approval of a settlement filed late Monday in a 2-year-old lawsuit seeking to hold Yahoo accountable for digital burglaries that occurred in 2013 and 2014, but weren't disclosed until 2016.

It adds to the financial fallout from a security lapse that provided a mortifying end to Yahoo's existence as an independent company and former CEO Marissa Mayer's six-year reign.

Yahoo revealed the problem after it had already negotiated a $4.83 billion deal to sell its digital services to Verizon Communications. It then had to discount that price by $350 million to reflect its tarnished brand and the specter of other potential costs stemming from the breach.

Verizon will now pay for one half of the settlement cost, with the other half paid by Altaba Inc., a company that was set up to hold Yahoo's investments in Asian companies and other assets after the sale. Altaba already paid a $35 million fine imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission for Yahoo's delay in disclosing the breach to investors.

About 3 billion Yahoo accounts were hit by hackers that included some linked to Russia by the FBI . The settlement reached in a San Jose, California, court covers about 1 billion of those accounts held by an estimated 200 million people in the U.S. and Israel from 2012 through 2016.

Claims for a portion of the $50 million fund can be submitted by any eligible Yahoo accountholder who suffered losses resulting from the security breach. The costs can include such things as identity theft, delayed tax refunds or other problems linked to having had personal information pilfered during the Yahoo break-ins.

The fund will compensate Yahoo accountholders at a rate of $25 per hour for time spent dealing with issues triggered by the security breach, according to the preliminary settlement. Those with documented losses can ask for up to 15 hours of lost time, or $375. Those who can't document losses can file claims seeking up to five hours, or $125, for their time spent dealing with the breach.

Yahoo accountholders who paid $20 to $50 annually for a premium email account will be eligible for a 25 percent refund.

The free credit monitoring service from AllClear could end up being the most valuable part of the settlement for most accountholders. The lawyers representing the accountholders pegged the retail value of AllClear's credit-monitoring service at $14.95 per month, or about $359 for two years — but it's unlikely Yahoo will pay that rate. The settlement didn't disclose how much Yahoo had agreed to pay AllClear for covering affected accountholders.

The lawyers for Yahoo's accountholders praised the settlement as a positive outcome, given the uncertainty of what might have happened had the case headed to trial.

Estimates of damages caused by security breaches vary widely, with experts asserting the value of personal information held in email accounts can range from $1 to $8 per account. Those figures suggest Yahoo could have faced a bill of more than $1 billion had it lost the case.

But Yahoo had disputed those damages estimates and noted many of its accountholders submitted false information about their birthdates, names and other parts of their lives when they set up their email.

The lawyers representing Yahoo accountholders have a big incentive to get the settlement approved. Yahoo will pay them up to $37.5 million in fees and expenses if it goes through.

Oath, the Verizon subsidiary that now oversees Yahoo, declined to comment.

A hearing to approve the preliminary settlement is scheduled for Nov. 29 before U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose. If approved, notices will be emailed to affected accountholders and published in People and National Geographic magazines.

This story has been corrected to read that the settlement was reached in a court in San Jose, California, not San Francisco.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP (File)]]>
<![CDATA[MoviePass to Be Spun Off From Parent Company]]>Tue, 23 Oct 2018 09:08:31 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/080918moviepass.jpg

Ailing movie subscription service MoviePass will be spun off from its parent company, Helios and Matheson, the company announced Tuesday. 

The new entity, MoviePass Entertainment Holdings, will take over full ownership of the service and other film related assets currently held by Helios and Matheson. The new entity will be publicly traded, the company said. 

"Since we acquired control of MoviePass in December 2017, HMNY largely has become synonymous with MoviePass in the public's eye, leading us to believe that our shareholders and the market perception of HMNY might benefit from separating our movie-related assets from the rest of our company," CEO of Helios and Matheson Ted Farnsworth said in a statement. 

The company is also planning to distribute some outstanding shares of MoviePass Entertainment common stock as a dividend to Helios and Matheson shareholders. 

Shares of Helios and Matheson surged as high as 80 percent in premarket trading Tuesday, though the stock trades for pennies per share. 

In recent months, MoviePass has repeatedly adjusted its movie subscription plans and taken out hefty loans to cover massive losses. The company skyrocketed to popularity with an initial subscription that allowed moviegoers to see a film a day in theaters for $9.95 per month. But the popularity hurt profits, and MoviePass adjusted the plan. 

Last week, the New York Attorney General launched a probe into Helios and Matheson to determine whether the company misled the investment community regarding the company's financials, a person familiar with the investigation told CNBC. 

Here's the full release announcing the spin-off.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 

Photo Credit: Darron Cummings/AP
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<![CDATA[Honey Smacks Returns to Shelves With New Recipe After Recall]]>Tue, 23 Oct 2018 08:42:17 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/honey-smacks.jpg

Kellogg's Honey Smacks is returning to shelves following a voluntarily recall after salmonella infected 100 people in 33 states.

The company announced on Monday the cereal will return next month in limited quantities with "a simpler, updated recipe." The company says production was moved to a "trusted and tested Kellogg-owned facility that has been reliably producing cereal for decades."

The recall was issued in June. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 30 of the people infected in the outbreak were hospitalized.

Salmonella usually causes fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Stocks Roar Back But Still End Day Lower]]>Tue, 23 Oct 2018 15:17:39 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/nysAP_18233703599027.jpg

Stocks fell on Tuesday as corporate results from Caterpillar and 3M disappointed investors, but the market managed to recover most of its losses later in the session as investors rotated into McDonald’s and defensive stocks like Procter & Gamble. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 126 points lower while the S&P 500 was down 0.6 percent. The Nasdaq Composite,meanwhile, closed 0.4 percent lower and was briefly positive. The small-caps Russell 2000 dropped 0.8 percent and turned negative for the year.

At its session lows, the Dow had fallen 548.62 points, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq had lost more than 2 percent each. The comeback was led by McDonald’s, which rose more than 6 percent on strong earnings, and a 0.7 percent gain in Procter & Gamble. Coca-Cola also rose 0.9 percent while the S&P 500 consumer staples sector climbed 0.4 percent.

“We broke below that 2,700 level on the S&P 500 and buyers came out of the woodworks,” said Jeff Kilburg, CEO of KKM Financial. “I think people were waiting for this and are now more comfortable” buying at these levels. But while he finds the move to be impressive, Kilburg said there will be more volatility moving forward.

The S&P 500 posted its fifth straight decline and briefly dipped below the lows hit earlier in October during this ongoing sell-off. The major indexes are all down at least 4.8 percent for October.

Tuesday’s initial sell-off picked up steam after Caterpillar and 3M released their latest quarterly results, disappointing Wall Street.

Caterpillar dropped more than 10 percent following the release of its results before closing 7.6 percent lower. The company said its manufacturing costs rose due to higher material and freight costs. Material costs were driven by higher steel prices and tariffs. This drop adds to Caterpillar’s steep monthly losses. Through Tuesday’s close, the stock is down 22 percent for the month.

The U.S. and China have implemented tariffs on billions of dollars worth of their goods this year, increasing costs for companies and raising fears that tighter global trade conditions could slow down the global economy. Negotiations between the two countries have stalled recently, increasing fears that this spat will be prolonged.

“We just look like we’re getting further away from a deal with China,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR. “The ramifications of a prolonged trade war are really seeping into investors’ minds right now.”

“I think we’re coming to a capitulation point,” he said.

Shares of 3M fell as much as 8.4 percent before trading about 4.4 percent lower. Its quarterly earnings and revenue missed expectations. The company also trimmed its earnings outlook for 2018.

The latest bout of selling comes during the busiest week of the earnings season, with more than 150 members of the S&P 500 set to report. Of the companies that have reported thus far, 79.6 percent have topped analyst estimates for earnings, according to FactSet.

“US corporate earnings season has started with more of a whimper than a bang,” said Nick Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, in a note. “Yes, companies are beating expectations, but by less than usual.”

“This week has the chance to turn things around with 32% of the S&P 500 reporting. Still, it is now clear that we are past peak earnings momentum,” Colas added.

—CNBC's John Melloy and Ryan Browne contribute to this report.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP, File
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<![CDATA[Goldman Sachs, Adviser to the Ultra-Rich, Plans to Offer Wealth Management for the Little Guy]]>Mon, 22 Oct 2018 13:02:21 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/marcus-by-goldman-sachs.jpg

For decades, you had to have at least $10 million for Goldman Sachs to manage your money. Now, the bank is preparing digital wealth management for the little guy. 

The firm is working on a digital wealth product, its first new offering under a Marcus brand that so far has had high-interest savings accounts and personal loans. Ahead of that move, Goldman said Monday it was moving Marcus into its investment management division, home to businesses that manage wealth for the ultra wealthy (who average $50 million in holdings) and create mutual funds and ETFs. 

Goldman Sachs is broadening beyond the wealthy families, hedge funds and governments that have historically been its clients. In May, then-President David Solomon outlined his vision for the bank's retail finance arm, which could eventually offer wealth management, checking accounts, credit cards and mortgages. In two years, Marcus has swelled to $4 billion in loans and $29 billion in deposits by allowing ordinary consumers to earn better-than-average interest or consolidate credit-card debt. 

While the bank hasn't officially said what form the product will take, one option is a robo-advisor, according to people with knowledge of the plans. Most robo-advisors have low or no account minimums to start investing. 

Presumably, the company could offer mutual funds and ETFs created in-house through its digital channel. (Goldman already uses robo-advisor Betterment to distribute some of its smart-beta funds.) That was part of the rationale of moving Marcus into the investment management division, according to a statement from CEO Solomon, President John Waldron and incoming CFO Stephen Scherr. 

"We plan to launch a broader wealth management offering, combining Marcus' digital capabilities with the more established sales channels and products currently housed within the investment management division," the executives said in the release. 

The division is being renamed consumer and investment management, and Tim O'Neill and Eric Lane, the current co-heads of investment management, will run it. Harit Talwar, who joined Goldman in 2015 from Discover Financial, will run the digital finance business globally, while Omer Ismail will manage it in the Americas.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:


Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Act Now to Save Money on Holiday Travel]]>Mon, 22 Oct 2018 07:04:10 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Least_Expensive_Times_To_Travel_For_The_Holidays.jpg

Planning on traveling during the holidays? Travel experts suggest purchasing tickets before Halloween. They say fares will be going up.]]>
<![CDATA[NBC10 Airs 1st Newscasts From Comcast Technology Center ]]>Mon, 22 Oct 2018 12:24:31 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/New+Studio+Lead+Photo+Resized.jpg

It’s official! NBC10 made local broadcast history Sunday evening by launching our first newscast from our new studio in the Comcast Technology Center. 

It’s official! NBC10 made local broadcast history Sunday evening by launching our first newscast from our new 80,000 square-foot broadcast center located within the new Comcast Technology Center on 18th and Arch streets in Center City. Telemundo62 will launch their first newscast from CTC Monday at 6 a.m. 
The stations began moving out of our Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, facility in late September. NBC10’s Jacqueline London and Jim Rosenfield delivered Sunday’s 6 p.m. newscast from inside our new studio.
“We are excited to finally pull back the curtains on our beautiful facility and reveal to our audiences what our vision for a multi-platform and bilingual news facility looks like,” Ric Harris, President and General Manager, NBC10 and Telemundo62 said. “From our open-space newsroom layout to news sets that feature cutting edge technology and distinctive Philadelphia-area designs, this facility allows our teams to use new technologies to innovate on their storytelling. We look forward to delivering the news and information our audiences expect from us while setting a new standard for our market and our industry.” 
Spanning three floors, NBC10 and Telemundo62’s new modern news facility includes the following key features: 
o Open-Space Layout: Using feedback received from staff, the new facility was designed to encourage and increase staff collaboration. The center features wall-to-wall Wi-Fi access, sit-stand desks and flex-work spaces, coffee bars, quiet/focus rooms, huddle rooms and mothering rooms, among other features. 
o Cutting Edge Newsroom Technology:  As the most modern local TV stations in the country, the new NBC10 and Telemundo62 facility uses an IP-based network, two news sets that feature 4K LED screens, automated cameras, three control rooms, eight edit rooms, a 1,500 square-foot room dedicated to shooting promotions in-house, extensive use of LED panel displays for immersive experience and Augmented Reality capabilities, among other newsroom technology that is being used for the first time by local TV stations in the U.S. 
o Energy Efficiency: Designed to be the most energy efficient local news stations in the country, the facility uses heating/cooling and ventilating systems that improve indoor quality and reduce noise. Wall-to-floor windows capture natural light while automated window shades reduce heat from sunlight.  In addition, all displays and computers are Energy Star compliant. The stations are currently pending for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Platinum certification, the highest energy efficient ratings within the Council’s rating system. 
NBC10 and Telemundo62 worked with local businesses to design and build their modern news center. The companies include LF Driscoll (construction), Liberty Property Trust (construction project management/operations), Gensler (architects/design), and Diversified (technical design and integration).
Along with NBC10 and T62, the 60-story CTC also features Comcast and NBC offices as well as a Four Seasons Hotel. 
We’re excited about our new home, which will help us bring you the best in breaking news, weather and sports from the Philadelphia region!It’s official! NBC10 made local broadcast history Sunday evening by launching our first newscast from our new 80,000 square-foot broadcast center located within the new Comcast Technology Center. Telemundo62 will launch their first newscast from CTC Monday at 6 a.m. 

NBC10 and Telemundo62 began moving out of our Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, facility to our new 80,000 square-foot broadcast center in CTC on 18th and Arch streets in Center City in late September. NBC10’s Jacqueline London and Jim Rosenfield delivered Sunday’s 6 p.m. newscast from inside our new studio.

The first morning newcast took place Monday with Tracy Davidson, Vai Sikahema and Lucy Bustamante delivering the news headlines.

Telemundo62's first newscast from their new studio in the CTC began Monday at 6 a.m. 

“We are excited to finally pull back the curtains on our breathtaking facility and reveal to our audience what our vision for a multiplatform, bilingual news operation looks like,” Ric Harris, President and General Manager, NBC10 and Telemundo62 said. “From our open newsroom layout to our studios that feature cutting edge technology and distinctive Philadelphia-area designs, the Comcast Technology Center enables our team to leverage innovative technologies in our storytelling. We look forward to delivering news and information that our audience expects from us while setting a new standard for Greater Philadelphia and our industry.” 

Spanning three floors, NBC10 and Telemundo62’s new modern news facility includes the following key features: 

  • Open-Space Layout: Using feedback received from staff, the new facility was designed to encourage and increase staff collaboration. The center features wall-to-wall Wi-Fi access, sit-stand desks and flex-work spaces, coffee bars, quiet/focus rooms, huddle rooms and mothering rooms, among other features. 
  • Cutting Edge Newsroom Technology: the new NBC10 and Telemundo62 facility uses an IP-based network, two news sets that feature 4K LED screens, automated cameras, three control rooms, eight edit rooms, a 1,500 square-foot room dedicated to shooting promotions in-house, extensive use of LED panel displays for immersive experience and Augmented Reality capabilities, among other newsroom technology that is being used for the first time by local TV stations in the U.S. 
  • Energy Efficiency: Designed to be the most energy efficient local news stations in the country, the facility uses heating/cooling and ventilating systems that improve indoor quality and reduce noise. Wall-to-floor windows capture natural light while automated window shades reduce heat from sunlight. In addition, all displays and computers are Energy Star compliant. The stations are currently pending for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Platinum certification, the highest energy efficient ratings within the Council’s rating system. 

NBC10 and Telemundo62 worked with local businesses to design and build their modern news center. The companies include LF Driscoll (construction), Liberty Property Trust (construction project management/operations), Gensler (architects/design), and Diversified (technical design and integration).

Along with NBC10 and T62, the 60-story CTC also features Comcast and NBC offices as well as a Four Seasons Hotel. We’re excited about our new home, which will help us bring you the best in breaking news, weather and sports from the Philadelphia region! 

Photo Credit: Joseph Kaczmarek ]]>
NATALIE KOSTELNI ]]><![CDATA[Wells Fargo Relocating Center City Offices From South Broad]]>Sun, 21 Oct 2018 08:47:46 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/wells+fargo+center+city.jpg

Wells Fargo & Co. — after spending at least two decades on South Broad Street and for many years as one of Philadelphia’s biggest tenants — is relocating to a new building and neighborhood.

The bank, which has shed office space in recent years, has signed a long-term lease on four floors totaling 84,588 square feet at Two Logan Square. The space at Two Logan is being vacated by Comcast Corp., which is moving into its newly constructed Comcast Technology Center. The relocation of its offices will mean the bank will diminish its presence on South Broad Street.

Two Logan is a 35-story office building at 100 N. 18th St. owned by Brandywine Realty Trust. When asked, Wells Fargo did not elaborate on why it selected the building to consolidate its Center City offices.

“Philadelphia is a key market for us and we are excited to be moving team members to Two Logan Square in September 2020,” said Crystal Dundas, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said in a statement. “When completed, this will bring approximately 400 employees currently working at 123 S. Broad St., One South Broad Street and 1500 Market St. together into one central hub.”

A branch and the Wells Fargo History Museum will remain at 123 S. Broad St., Dundas said.

Comcast is the parent company of NBC10.

For more on Wells Fargo's office move, click here.

Stay in the know on all things business with the Philadelphia Business Journal

Photo Credit: Hart Roberts/Philadelphia Business Journal]]>
<![CDATA[Home Sales Fell in September to Slowest Pace in 3 Years]]>Fri, 19 Oct 2018 12:24:01 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/bay-area-homes.jpg

U.S. home sales fell for the sixth straight month in September, a sign that housing has increasingly become a weak spot for the economy.

The National Association of Realtors said Friday that sales declined 3.4 percent last month, the biggest drop in 2 ½ years, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million. That's the lowest sales pace since November 2015.

Hurricane Florence dragged sales in North Carolina, but even excluding the storm's effects, sales would have fallen more than 2 percent, the NAR said. After reaching the highest level in a decade last year, sales of existing homes have declined steadily in 2018 amid rapid price increases, higher mortgage rates and a tight supply of available houses.

Housing will likely weaken further in the coming months, weighing on economic growth. September's weakness came before mortgage rates jumped further this month to their highest levels in seven years. Sales fell 4.1 percent in September from a year ago.

"Without a doubt there is a clear shift in the market," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

One sign of the shift is that demand for existing homes is slowing. Home prices are rising at a slower rate and the supply of available houses, while low, is increasing. Buyer traffic has also declined, Yun said.

And with rents also stabilizing in many cities, many would-be buyers may not feel as much pressure to buy a new home.

"Renting itself may be seen as a better bargain as rising mortgage interest rates, still-rising home prices and sluggish wage growth dent the affordability advantage of a typical mortgage," said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at real estate data provider Zillow.

Although housing is unlikely to add to growth this year, analysts are still mostly optimistic about the broader economy.

"Housing is no longer a tail wind for the economy, but the headwinds are blowing very gently," said Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, before the report was released.

Sales have fallen by the most in the West, where most of the nation's hottest real estate markets are located and where prices have soared for several years. Sales tumbled 12.2 percent in that region in the past year, compared with just 5.6 percent in the Northeast and 1.5 percent in the Midwest. They dropped just 0.5 percent in the South from a year earlier, despite a sharp decline in September due to Hurricane Florence.

The highest-priced homes are also reporting slower sales, a shift from earlier this year, when sales slowdowns were concentrated in mid-priced and cheaper homes. Homes priced at $1 million and higher saw sales drop 2 percent from a year ago.

Higher borrowing costs are making housing less affordable. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage slipped this week but remained near a seven-year high of 4.85 percent. A year ago, it stood at 3.88 percent.

There are also signs that home owners are increasingly unwilling to sell as mortgage rates rise. That's because many have rates below 4 percent, so selling a home and buying a new one would require them to accept a higher rate.

The Realtors surveyed consumers and found that 16 percent are unwilling to give up their mortgage rate and buy a new home. That's up from a typical level of 10 percent.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Tony Avelar/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Job Growth is Found to be No Cure for a Community's Poverty]]>Thu, 18 Oct 2018 14:11:49 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/JobGrowthNoCure.jpg

A healthy dose of job growth has long been seen as a likely cure for poverty. But new research suggests that poor Americans are frequently left behind even when their cities or communities benefit from hiring booms.

When such cities as Atlanta and Charlotte enjoyed a job surge in the 20 years that began in 1990, for example, the job gains mostly bypassed residents — often African-American — who had been born into poverty.

That is among the findings of a study led by Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist whose newly launched Opportunity Atlas found no association between job growth and economic mobility for poor residents of the affected areas.

"Job growth is not sufficient by itself to create upward mobility," Chetty said. "It's almost as though racial disparities have been amplified by job growth."

His finding challenges much of the conventional thinking, of government officials, business executives and economists, that job gains are the surest way to lift up people in impoverished communities.

President Donald Trump pledged to save neglected towns through "jobs, jobs, jobs." His 2016 presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, asserted that government investments to foster hiring would help create "an economy that works for everyone." Governors and mayors have traded tax breaks for pledges by companies to create jobs in distressed communities.

But Chetty and his colleagues, whose atlas examined communities down to Census tract levels, found that economic mobility hinges more frequently on other factors. A person's race, for example, plays a pivotal role. Economic mobility varied widely among people of different races who lived in the same neighborhoods in Los Angeles or Houston, among other places.

Additionally, living in neighborhoods with many two-parent families improves the likelihood of emerging from poverty— even when someone was raised by a single parent. Mobility is often greater for children who come from neighborhoods with higher-priced housing. And it's generally better when a high proportion of adults in a neighborhood are working, according to the analysis by Chetty; economists Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard and John Friedman of Brown University; and researchers Sonya Porter and Maggie Jones of the Census Bureau.

"It has been a surprising finding," Hendren said. "Places that have a lot of job growth don't tend to be places that are better to grow up in."

In the two decades that ended in 2010, the Atlanta and Charlotte areas were flooded with jobs. Yet many of those positions appear to have skipped over the residents who were born in those cities' poorer neighborhoods. The jobs were instead filled by college graduates who had moved to the South. At the same time, mobility worsened in neighborhoods with a high concentration of African-Americans.

Metro Pittsburgh, on the other hand, lost jobs between 1990 and 2010, yet its residents' economic mobility improved as the area became a nexus for college graduates working in technology and health care.

In the Seattle area, the home of such corporate powerhouses as Amazon and Microsoft, both jobs and economic mobility grew over the same period. (Those gains have, in turn, caused home prices to jump to levels that could threaten continued economic mobility.)

Disparities exist not just among metro areas but also among neighborhoods within the same city, according to an Associated Press examination of the data in the Opportunity Atlas.

In Baltimore, the "Old Town" neighborhood near Johns Hopkins Hospital is a mecca of entrepreneurship. The number of jobs there surged 21 percent between 2004 and 2013, compared with job growth of just 3.4 percent nationally. Nearly 15,000 people work in the area because of the hospital, and 60 percent of the companies are younger than 4 years old, according to government data compiled by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance.

Yet the neighborhood is marked by abandoned storefronts, public housing and a 93 percent non-white population. More than half its residents live in poverty. Ninety percent of the children are raised by single parents. And the Opportunity Atlas shows that a low-income child from that neighborhood is likely to become even poorer as an adult.

Connecting its residents with employers has proved problematic, as it has in poor communities across the country. The disparity between residents and workers in the neighborhood suggests that the jobs have gone to people who either live in other, more prosperous neighborhoods or who commute from the surrounding suburbs.

For nearly four years, a program called Turn Around Tuesday has been trying to address this mismatch. Backed by the interfaith group Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, the program seeks to match employers like Johns Hopkins to workers who have lived in poverty, have struggled with drug addiction or have criminal records but who are regarded as qualified for a job. Recently, about 40 people sat in a church basement of an otherwise desolate block of Baltimore to learn how to tell their personal stories to hiring managers — a first step toward getting and holding steady work.

Melvin Wilson, the co-director, opened with a prayer for them.

"Pray for jobs," he said. "Though we've created 555 living-wage jobs, you know, as we know, God, that's not enough."

The gap in outcomes among Baltimore neighborhoods is hardly surprising to City Councilman Leon Pinkett, who represents a western slice of the city and has worked in economic development.

"What the data does for us," he said of the research, "is that it validates all the things that we know to be true: That many of the residents of these communities start at a deficit, and little is done through policy or investments to assist them in closing that gap."

Some metro areas have experimented with programs that might broaden economic mobility. With its home prices having shot up, Seattle, for instance, has developed vouchers to help families afford to move to the neighborhood surrounding the Northgate Mall, which has a track record of solid economic mobility. Minneapolis is considering a similar program.

"This is really fundamental in terms of what America is about," Chetty said of the drive to improve economic mobility for people chronically left behind. "The way people perceive of America is as a land of opportunity. If you let that go, that changes what America means not only for the people here but for the world."

The discovery that job growth is no panacea for impoverished neighborhoods adds a new complication to economic policy. As a community adds jobs, the pool of unemployed people should, in theory, decline, force up incomes and revitalize neighborhoods. But if economic mobility hinges at least as much on having a college degree, an intact family and racial equality, solutions become trickier.

There are even signs that the recovery of jobs after the Great Recession could worsen economic mobility. Recent data suggests that Americans who can afford to do so are increasingly clustering in the most prosperous parts of the country. Since the financial meltdown a decade ago and the recovery that followed, people with college degrees have increasingly settled in the wealthiest 20 percent of ZIP codes. These areas have enjoyed the most job growth and have accounted for almost all new business formation, according to a new report by the Economic Innovation Group, a policy and advocacy organization.

By contrast, in the most financially distressed 20 percent of ZIP codes, populations have dwindled, and there has been almost no recovery from the recession that officially ended more than nine years ago.

"Prosperous areas just take off — and they're driving a national trend that looks increasingly disconnected with the median area, or what we call Anytown, USA," said John Lettieri, president of EIG.

Part of the challenge is that even when poor communities manage to add jobs, residents who finally have reliable incomes often move to neighborhoods with less crime and better housing. They, too, tend to seek a better quality of life.

Octavia Mason, 53, has attended Turnaround Tuesday for the past nine months. She is a dedicated mother to her adult children, yet she lost her license as a pharmacy technician after a broken marriage led to drug use. She's now on the path to regain her license and find work. But she hopes to leave the western Baltimore neighborhood where she grew up, which has stagnated because of unemployment, crime and a break down in trust.

She wants to move to a neighborhood where it's "normal" to have a job.

"There's a lot of families that aren't working — and you've got generations of that and that's their normal," she said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP/Patrick Semansky]]>
<![CDATA[How to Download a Copy of Everything Apple Knows About You]]>Thu, 18 Oct 2018 12:44:32 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/tim-cook2.jpg

Apple launched a new privacy website on Wednesday that makes it easier to download a full copy of everything you've stored on the company's servers. You can also delete everything in case you want to move your data from Apple to another company. 

CNBC has covered how to do this before, but you used to have to send a request saying you wanted to download your data. Apple's new website makes it even easier. It was originally available in Europe to comply with the EU's new GDPR privacy law, but now it's available in the U.S. You can get a copy of your app usage and activity, your Apple Store (both retail and online) activity, iCloud bookmarks, iCloud Calendars, Notes, a complete copy of your iCloud Drive, iCloud Mail, iCloud Photos and more. 

Here's how. 

Visit Apple's new privacy website
First, go to Apple's new privacy website, privacy.apple.com. This is where you'll choose exactly what you want to download. You can select certain things that might be important, like your App Store activity or all the notes you've stored in iCloud. If there are items you don't use, then you don't have to check them. 

At the bottom of the page you'll see a list of files that might be large, like your entire iCloud photo library. My iCloud Photos library is huge and, since I'm not planning to delete or leave Apple services, I didn't download a copy of this. 

Once you've selected what you want to download a copy of, hit continue on the bottom of the page. 

Select a file size
Next, you'll select a maximum file size. I suggest just choosing the largest. It'll take the longest time to download, but then everything is at least in a single folder, instead of multiple files. Then, select "Complete Request." 

Check your email and download your files 
Next, Apple will send you an email confirming that it's preparing your data for download. Apple warns that it might take up to seven days to get a copy of your data. Some of it will be in spreadsheet form, like the apps you've purchased. If you've chosen a hard copy of your data, like photos, then you'll have a copy of all of them too. 

How to delete everything Apple has stored on you

Finally, you can choose to delete everything if you want to. 

Here's how: 

  • Visit Apple's privacy website.
  • Select "Delete your account."
  • Choose a reason why you're deleting your information.
  • Select "Continue."

Note: If you delete your account, you won't be able to access any iTunes purchases, including books, apps, movies or music. You also won't receive iMessage or FaceTime chats. Your iCloud email will also stop working.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: AP, File
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<![CDATA[Dieting Is Out, Posing a Problem as Weight Watchers Rebrands]]>Thu, 18 Oct 2018 10:16:29 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-512022306.jpg

Traces of the name "Weight Watchers" have been scrubbed from the company's headquarters on Manhattan's Avenue of the Americas.

Purple letters — WW — now hang from the lobby announcing the $4.6 billion diet giant's new name that it unveiled in September along with its purpose: "We inspire healthy habits for real life. For people, families, communities, the world — for everyone."

The cosmetic changes are the final touches on the 55-year-old company's new plan: Sell wellness instead of weight loss to its 4.5 million subscribers.

CEO Mindy Grossman, who took the helm last summer, is tasked with maintaining a balance between WW's status as a weight-loss leader while trying to attract new subscribers who don't want to lose weight. She also has to persuade existing members to stay after reaching their goal.

Weight Watchers had weathered threats over the decades from the likes of Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem and fad diets like Atkins. But its biggest competition in recent years hasn't been from any of its rivals, and it was coming from all directions.

Free apps like MyFitnessPal allowed consumers to track their calories without committing to a diet. People started to give up processed foods and grains in favor of cleaner, gluten-free options. Members stopped coming to meetings. Its revenue, which climbed almost every year since its 2001 IPO, peaked in 2012 at $1.83 billion, according to data compiled by FactSet. Its sales hit decade-lows of about $1.16 billion in 2015 and 2016 before starting to rebound under Grossman's watch last year.

Investors lost confidence in 2015 after its membership, which accounts for about 80 percent of its annual revenue, slid almost 20 percent during the post-Thanksgiving period, its biggest diet season of the year. Its first-quarter numbers in 2015 showed that it lost about 700,000 members over the year, from 3.6 million in the beginning of 2014 to 2.9 million. Its stock hit $3.67 a share, an all-time intraday low, on July 7, 2015.

People wanted to eat healthier but didn't want to diet. For a company named Weight Watchers, that posed a problem.

Weight Watchers tapped Oprah Winfrey in 2015 as an advisor. It added flexible meal plans and overhauled its digital app, among other changes. Last spring, it hired Grossman. A "friend of Oprah," she had proven she could modernize a legacy brand at the Home Shopping Network. She also had successful runs as a top executive at Ralph Lauren and Nike.

Wellness cruises

The company already had been inching closer toward becoming a lifestyle brand over the previous few years.

But the 61-year-old Grossman is extending its new wellness mantra into everything the company does: wellness-themed Caribbean cruises, cookware and removing artificial sweeteners from its line of snacks. It's adding a rewards system with WW swag and prizes from trendy names like Rent the Runway and ClassPass to keep people engaged.

So far, these changes are paying off. More people are subscribing to WW now than ever before and they're staying with the program longer. Wall Street has rewarded the company, sending its stock price to a record intraday high of $105.73 on June 20. Its shares have tumbled to $68 a share since then, but the stock is still up by more than 50 percent this year, and the company has a market value of $4.5 billion.

"Everything we try and do, I try to look through the lens of we need to be surprising yet familiar," Grossman told CNBC in an interview this month at WW's headquarters. "We will never not celebrate and believe that our heritage and everything we do is important. So we're not going to take a sharp left, but we have to be relevant. We have to understand that people need different things."

Executives are targeting $2 billion in annual revenue by the end of 2020. Last year, revenue reached $1.31 billion, up 12.2 percent from $1.16 billion in 2016. They want to add new members and improve retention to fuel the growth.

WW needs to keep the momentum alive to convince shareholders it can achieve these goals.

Investors quickly soured in August when the company said the number of subscribers slipped to 4.5 million at the end of June from 4.6 million three months before. The company's shares fell nearly 15 percent. Some members want Weight Watchers to stick to weight-loss programs.

Keeping it off

Few companies have changed so many lives in such profound ways as Weight Watchers.

It's hard to pinpoint how many members the company has served since Jean Nidetch founded it in 1963 because millions of people have cycled in and out of the program.

The points system has made it easy for people to evaluate how nutritious foods are since being formally introduced in 1997 as the "1-2-3 Success Plan." The company has tweaked the system over the years as science has evolved and consumers have demanded more flexibility, but it's still the cornerstone of the program.

So is the sense of community that Nidetch built Weight Watchers on. Members can attend in-person meetings where they weigh themselves and discuss problem issues, such as strategies for handling the food-temptation-filled holidays like Thanksgiving. Members can also opt for the online-only program where they can track foods on the app and connect with other members there, too.

One of Weight Watchers' struggles has been that while people lose weight on the program, they tend to gain it back.

"This is a universal challenge that people generally speaking are much more successful in achieving initial weight loss than maintaining weight loss," said Dr. Kevin Volpp, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics. "I think a lot of people get frustrated and move on to something else."

Michael Schildt, 48, has tried Weight Watchers five or six times over the past 20 years. He said he would lose weight, the most being 125 pounds in 1998, then get bored.

First he would become less vigilant in monitoring what foods he was eating. Then the portion sizes. Then he would stop losing weight. Then he would gain a pound or 2, a dreaded experience that would cause him and countless other members to skip in-person meetings so they would not have to step on the scale.

Earlier this year, Schildt rejoined WW. Now about eight weeks in, he said he's lost 57 pounds, down to 434.5 pounds from 491.5 pounds. This time, he's determined to stick with the program.

"People take it for granted to just go to the supermarket," he said. "I need two knee replacements, and seven weeks ago, I couldn't walk into the grocery store. I would walk 20 feet, and I was in so much pain I had to turn around. I went into Whole Foods just now to buy some fruit, and I can actually go into stores and walk around."

WW wants Schildt and its millions of other members to stay around this time. A key component of the company's new strategy is to become a lifetime health partner rather than a diet.


Turnover can be costly to the business. WW has improved its member retention to "well over nine months," a 15 percent increase from three years ago, Chief Financial Officer Nicholas Hotchkin told analysts on a call discussing its second-quarter earnings results. Grossman wants that to one day be measured in years, not months.

WW recently introduced WellnessWins, a program that rewards members for engaging with the app, whether that's tracking the food they eat or the activity they've completed.

"To be able to do that, we have to keep providing more and more value, more and more tools, more and more community and support so people feel that we are a really key component in having what they consider their success to be. We don't dictate that. They do," Grossman said.

Since joining the WW board in 2015, Winfrey has appeared in ads promoting WW as a lifestyle, not a diet. It's a striking shift for the company and Winfrey, who has publicly struggled with her weight for years.

"Healthy is the new skinny," Winfrey, spokeswoman and investor, proclaimed on stage at a WW event unveiling its new vision in February.

With WW's new tagline, "wellness that works" the company is pinning weight loss to overall health, not dress size. Grossman says WW will never abdicate its status as the leader in weight loss, but it wants to be more than that.

WW is adding meditation content from Headspace to its own app. Members can access free fitness activities like entry to rock 'n' roll marathons and fitness classes from ClassPass as part of the new WellnessWins program.

Artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors and preservatives will be removed from WW's meal replacements and snacks.

Workshops over meetings

Even meetings, the bedrock of WW, are changing. They'll now be called workshops. Leaders are coaches. Receptionists are guides. The actual content will change, too. Executives declined to describe what those changes will look like, but they hinted at making them more interactive and to focus on other aspects of health in addition to weight.

One Saturday morning in October, Schildt attended a workshop where the group discussed tai chi and other breathing exercises. That was new to him. He said meetings typically had focused on weight loss or exercise.

"In general, the weight-loss industry has gone toward a more holistic approach to weight loss," said Linda Bolton Weiser, an analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co. "My theory is this is positive for the industry because it gives women permission to spend money on a weight-loss brand."

More people are signing up for less expensive digital memberships, which Bolton Weiser said may dampen the revenue but has helped WW improve its gross margin.

Of the total 4.5 million current subscribers, 1.6 million attend in-person meetings for about $45 a month while 2.9 million have access only to online features for about $20 a month. But it costs less to run an app than the meetings, and the savings have shown up in its profit margins. Last year, WW's gross profit margin increased to 53 percent, up from 50.3 percent in 2016.

Partying WW style

A group of women snapped pictures holding pillows flecked with white, gold and purple sequins spelling the letters WW at a party in Brooklyn on Oct. 4. More women took turns posing for photos in front of a wall of red, orange, yellow and white lights pointing to a bright circle surrounding the letters WW.

If someone had unknowingly walked in, they might not realize this party was for Weight Watchers — at least until they saw servers carrying hors d'oeuvres with signs displaying their point values. A slice of avocado toast with watermelon, radish, lime, cilantro and 12-grain toast equaled 4 points. A vodka and tonic from the bar? Six points.

Here at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, executives were celebrating Weight Watchers' transformation into WW. The party was built for Instagram. Bruno Mars, the night's headliner, was the ideal person to celebrate a 55-year-old company trying to balance decades of history with its quest to attract newer, younger members.

Grossman recognizes the challenge. She joined the company after helping turn around the Home Shopping Network. Similar to Weight Watchers, the channel shortened its name to HSN.

It's too early to tell whether the company can convince people this brand is different than the one they tried decades ago or the one they grew up watching their parents use.

"They have to do physical things that show this is something deeper than a name change," said Oliver Hahl, assistant professor of organizational theory and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. "Will this be enough to fully embrace weight as wellness and not just weight for weight's sake?"

Some members aren't entirely sold.

Wayne Muhlstein has been a Weight Watchers member since 1968. Then 13, his parents sent him to a meeting because they didn't want him looking "chubby" in his bar mitzvah pictures. In 1984, he became a leader and taught for "31 wonderful years" before retiring in 2015.

Muhlstein praises the company for enduring all these years but cautions WW against moving too far away from weight loss.

"If I want yoga, I go to my yoga studio," he said. "If I want a massage, I go to a massage therapist. If I need a shrink, I go to a shrink. If I want to lose weight, I go to Weight Watchers. And there's nothing wrong with that."

At the party, Grossman put on a captain's hat and smiled for pictures in front of a green screen promoting WW cruises. She sat and watched celebrity chef Cat Cora tell the crowd about creating a menu for the new cafe.

Grossman admired the wall behind Cora decorated with posters of WW spokespeople, including Winfrey. She smiled softly and turned her attention back to the moment.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:


Photo Credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Procter & Gamble Is Testing 3D Printed Gillette Razors]]>Thu, 18 Oct 2018 09:58:12 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/gillette-razors.jpg

Gillette customers will now be able to order personalized 3D printed razors in a pilot program from parent company Procter & Gamble

Razor handles will be printed using stereolithography, a type of 3D printing technology from Boston-based Formlabs and people will be able to choose from 48 designs and seven colors, priced between $19 and $45, including one razor blade. A pack of four extra blades will cost $15 and orders will shop in two to three weeks from the company's new Razor Maker website. 

3D printing has mostly been used in manufacturing, according to David Lakatos, chief product officer at Formlabs. "Mass customization with 3D printing is finally becoming a reality for consumers to experience end-use printed products," he said in an online statement. 

Gillette has used the slogan "The Best A Man Can Get," since 1989, and guys now want razors more tailored to their needs, according to P&G's director for Gillette and Venus North America, Pankaj Bhalla. "Earlier this year we introduced a range of new razor products and declared that 'one size' does not fit all men when it comes to razors," he said in an online statement. "The Razor Maker pilot furthers our commitment to place power in the hands of consumers," he added. 

P&G is competing against newer rivals such as Dollar Shave Club, the subscription company bought by Unilever for a reported $1 billion in 2016. In May 2017, Gillette launched its own on-demand service and earlier this year expanded it so that people can add photos and text to their razor handles. 

On Tuesday, P&G was told it is now exempt from the 25 percent U.S. tariff levied on the steel it imports from Japan and Sweden for razor blades, nearly four months after its rival Edgewell Personal Care, which makes Wilkinson Sword and Schick blades, got a similar exemption. 

Both manufacturers said they needed to go overseas for steel suppliers, because U.S. producers cannot supply steel of a high enough grade, according to a Reuters report.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:


Photo Credit: Gillette
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<![CDATA[New York AG Launches Probe Into MoviePass Parent Company ]]>Wed, 17 Oct 2018 18:09:43 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/210*120/MoviePassProbeNYAG.jpg

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has opened a probe into MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC.

The attorney general's office is investigating whether the company misled the investment community regarding the company's financials, said the person. The investigation is in the early stages.

The attorney general is using the Martin Act, a statute designed to protect New York investors and the integrity of the financial markets from fraud.

It's another stumble for MoviePass, which in recent months has repeatedly adjusted its movie subscription plans and taken out hefty loans to cover massive losses.

In August, Helios and Matheson reported a loss of $100 million in the second quarter, putting the company on pace to blow through its remaining assets in the span of months.

The company skyrocketed to popularity with an initial subscription that allowed moviegoers to see a film a day for $9.95 per month. But the popularity hurt profits, and MoviePass quickly adjusted the plan to limit the available movies, raise monthly prices and restrict the number of films users could see per month.

Meanwhile, Helios and Matheson's stock lost practically all of its value. Based on the company's most recently reported share count of 1.5 billion shares outstanding, the company trades at an implied valuation of $30 million.

Shares of Helios and Matheson fell 3 percent in extended trading Wednesday, though the stock trades for just 2 cents per share. A spokesperson for Helios and Matheson declined to comment.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:


Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images/Andrew Harrer
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<![CDATA[US Says It Plans to Leave UN Postal Rate System]]>Wed, 17 Oct 2018 14:51:30 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18198606293214.jpg

The United States announced Wednesday that it is preparing to pull out of an international postal treaty that allows China to ship packages to America at discounted rates. The move would escalate a trade dispute with China.

President Donald Trump argues that the 144-year-old Universal Post Union benefits China and other countries at the expense of U.S. businesses — making it cheaper to ship packages from Beijing to New York than from San Francisco to the U.S. East coast, which particularly benefits Chinese manufacturers. The officials say the treaty is used by shippers of the narcotic fentanyl to the U.S. from China.

The U.S. is willing to renegotiate the treaty over the next year but will leave the union if no agreement can be reached, the officials said.

Bishar Hussein, director of the Universal Postal Union, said he regrets the U.S. decision and will seek a meeting with American officials.

The move was welcomed by the U.S National Association of Manufacturers, which called the exiting postal pact "outdated" in the age of e-commerce and at a time of Chinese manufacturing dominance.

"Manufacturers and manufacturing workers in the United States will greatly benefit from a modernized and far more fair arrangement with China," Jay Timmons, president of the manufacturers association, said in a statement.

The U.S. and China are already locked in a trade war. The United States has imposed tariffs on about $250 billion in Chinese goods, and Beijing has responded by targeting about $110 billion in U.S. products.

The world's two biggest economies are clashing over U.S. allegations that China is using predatory practices to challenge American technological dominance. These include hacking into U.S. companies' computers to steal trade secrets and forcing American firms to hand over technology to China in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

Trump has made a point of cutting America's international ties. His first week in office he pulled the United States out of a trade pact with 11 Pacific Rim countries. He also has left UNESCO and the United Nations Human Rights Council and pulled U.S. funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Hack Affected 3 Million in Europe]]>Tue, 16 Oct 2018 14:44:27 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Facebook-sign.jpg

Approximately 3 million Europeans were affected by a September Facebook security breach in which users’ personal information was stolen, the Irish Data Protection Commission told CNBC on Tuesday.

This security breach is expected to be the first major test of Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation, and the number of European users affected could help determine the severity of any penalties against the company.

Under GDPR, companies handling the personal data of Europeans must adhere to strict requirements for holding and securing that information, and must report breaches to authorities within 72 hours. Under the regulation, companies can face fines of up to 4 percent of their annual global revenue. For Facebook, which made more than $40.65 billion in revenue in 2017, that fine could be as much as $1.63 billion.

Facebook first disclosed the security breach on Sept. 28, saying 50 million accounts had their login access tokens stolen. That figure was reduced to 30 million on Friday, and Facebook confirmed that 29 million of the impacted users had their names and contact information exposed. Among those users, 14 million of also had other personal information, such as their gender, relationship status and their recent place check-ins, stolen by the attackers.

Facebook previously declined to share how many users impacted by the breach were based in Europe. But Facebook told the Irish Data Protection Commission that 10 percent of the affected accounts were European, according to Graham Doyle, the commission’s head of communications.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The Irish Data Protection Commission is investigating the data breach.

“The update from Facebook last Friday, 12 October, was significant as Facebook has confirmed that the personal data of millions of users was taken by the perpetrators of the attack,” said a spokesman for the office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. “The Data Protection Commission’s statutory investigation into the breach and Facebook’s compliance with its obligations under the GDPR continues.”

Vera Jourova, the EU’s justice commissioner, told CNBC earlier this month, “We have very strict rules and we have very strong instruments to discipline the companies which deal and which handle the private data of people, which is obviously the case with Facebook.”

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:


Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP (File)
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<![CDATA[Judge Approves Elon Musk's Tesla Settlement With SEC]]>Tue, 16 Oct 2018 09:50:16 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/1035226692-Elon-Musk-SpaceX-.jpg

A judge approved Tesla CEO Elon Musk's settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that Musk committed fraud when he said he had secured the funding needed to take Tesla private.

Tesla shares jumped nearly 5 percent on the news, which was first reported by Bloomberg.

The deal is a positive development for Musk and Tesla, which is in the midst of ramping up production and deliveries of its Model 3 sedan, and trying to assure investors the company can become sustainably profitable.

Musk and the SEC had filed a joint letter late Wednesday saying the terms of their settlement would be in the best interests of investors.

Under the terms of the deal, Musk has to pay a $20 million fine and step down as Tesla chairman within 45 days for a period of at least three years. Tesla must also put in place a system for monitoring Musk's statements to the public about the company, whether on Twitter, blog posts, or any other medium.

The SEC filed charges against Musk on Sept. 27, just hours after reports said Musk had rejected an initial settlement offer from the agency.

Tesla confirmed the settlement by declined to comment further.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA['Patients Deserve to Know': US Wants Drug Prices in TV Ads]]>Tue, 16 Oct 2018 03:42:59 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/drugpricesAP_18288613969544.jpg

The federal government said Monday that it wants to force drugmakers to disclose prices for prescription medicines in their TV commercials.

The drug industry's main trade group said drug companies are only willing to disclose the prices on their websites, not in commercials, and they'll start doing that next spring.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar unveiled a proposal that would apply to all brand-name drugs covered by the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which is most medicines.

"Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they're being told about the benefits and risks it may have," Azar said in prepared remarks. "They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels. And they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV."

Most Americans don't pay the full price for prescriptions — one reason drugmakers have opposed disclosing the list prices, arguing that would just confuse the public. But insurance plans base their copayments on the list price set by drugmakers. And patients with high-deductibles plans or no insurance sometimes pay full price.

President Trump has long promised to bring down drug prices, and in May, his administration released a "blueprint" with vague proposals for doing so, including exploring listing prices in TV commercials.

Hours before Azar's announcement, the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA, said its 33 member companies agreed to include in commercials a website that would give the drug's list price, the range of likely out-of-pocket costs and any available financial assistance. The group also plans its own website, where patients could look up drugs by name and find similar information.

"We appreciate their effort," Azar said. "But placing information on a website is not the same as putting it right in an ad."

PhRMA CEO Stephen J. Ubl and others in the trade group said they believe requiring list prices in ads would violate the companies' First Amendment free speech rights. But Azar, speaking at a National Academy of Medicine conference, said there is precedence for such a move, pointing out that federal law requires automakers to disclose sticker prices for cars.

Direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs has been allowed in the U.S. for two decades. Ads are required to list side effects but not prices.

Many details of the proposed rule still must be worked out, including whether it should be expanded to cover radio, print or internet ads. According to the proposal, TV commercials would have to state in legible type the list price set by the manufacturer for all drugs costing more than $35 per month or for a standard course of treatment, such as for an antibiotic.

If the rule is adopted after a 60-day public comment period, Azar's department plans to publicize the names of drugmakers that don't comply and could take legal action against them.

Drugmakers generally can charge as much as the U.S. market will bear because the government doesn't regulate medicine prices, unlike most other developed countries.

List prices have long been closely guarded, and those prices are the starting point for drugmakers' price negotiations with middlemen, such as insurance companies and prescription benefit managers.

According to the government, the list prices for the top 10 prescription medicines advertised on TV range from $535 to $11,000 for a month or course of treatment.

Pfizer's heavily advertised nerve pain drug Lyrica has a monthly list price of $669. Humira, AbbVie's treatment for immune system disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, has a list price of $4,872 per monthly injection. Both have nearly doubled in four years.

Patients for Affordable Drugs, an advocacy group funded by foundations, called PhRMA's website choice "a transparent attempt to pre-empt full disclosure of list prices in ads," adding that it doesn't think disclosing list prices will reduce patients' costs. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Here's the Local Sears, Kmart Stores That Are Closing]]>Mon, 15 Oct 2018 22:47:52 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-838634714.png

Sears, a retail icon on the American landscape for generations, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, buckling under its massive debt load and staggering losses.

With the financial restructuring comes a new list of 142 store closings nationwide, including stores in the Philadelphia region. Store locations at the Deptford, Neshaminy and Oxford Valley malls are among those slated to close, according to CNBC.

Sears closings in our area:

1750 Deptford Center Rd., Deptford, NJ
1500 Highway 35, Middletown, NJ
100 Neshaminy Mall, Cornwells Heights, PA
2300 E. Lincoln Hwy., Langhorne, PA

Kmart closings in our area:

779 Delsea Dr., Glassboro, NJ
1502 South Fourth St., Allentown, PA
1170 Mae St., Hummelstown, PA
1000 Nutt Rd., Phoenixville, PA
3205 Lincoln Hwy., Thorndale, PA

CNBC has a full list of the new round of store closings.

Sears once dominated the American retail landscape. But the big question is whether the shrunken version of itself can be viable or will it be forced to go out of business, closing the final chapter for an iconic name that originated more than a century ago.

The company, which started out as a mail order catalog in the 1880s, has been on a slow march toward extinction as it lagged far behind its peers and has incurred massive losses over the years. 

Sears Holdings employs roughly 68,000 employees. About 400 stores continue to have positive cash flow, the company said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Budget Deficit Expands to $779 Billion in Fiscal 2018]]>Mon, 15 Oct 2018 13:43:14 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/mnuchinAP_18142539355162.jpg

The U.S. federal budget deficit rose in fiscal year 2018 to the highest level in six years as spending climbed, the Trump administration said Monday. 

The deficit jumped to $779 billion, $113 billion or 17 percent higher than the previous fiscal period, according to a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. It was larger than any year since 2012, when it topped $1 trillion. The budget shortfall rose to 3.9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. 

The deficit increased by $70 billion less than anticipated in a report published in July, according to the two officials. 

Federal revenues rose only slightly, by $14 billion after Republicans chopped tax rates for corporations and most individuals. Outlays climbed by $127 billion, or 3.2 percent higher. A spike in defense spending, as well as increases for Medicaid, Social Security and disaster relief, contributed to the increase. 

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have pledged their commitment to fiscal discipline, despite the fact that they passed a tax law projected to dramatically expand budget deficits last year and then authorized a boost in spending. In a statement, Mulvaney claimed that "America's booming economy will create increased government revenues," a point the GOP has repeatedly argued in favor of its tax plan. 

"But this fiscal picture is a blunt warning to Congress of the dire consequences of irresponsible and unnecessary spending," he added. "... Going forward, President Trump and this Administration will continue to work with Congress to make the difficult choices needed to bring fiscal restraint, which, when matched with increasing revenue, will reduce our deficit." 

The Trump administration has proposed dramatic cuts to spending in several government agencies to reduce deficits. Even many Republicans have rejected the severity of proposed budget cuts. 

The Treasury noted that receipts related to "excise, customs and other" jumped to $35 billion in September 2018, a 35 percent increase over the prior-year period. It is unclear how much of that revenue relates to Trump's tariffs on imports from major trading partners.

This story first appeared on CNBC. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Bottle of Wine Sells for a Record $558,000]]>Mon, 15 Oct 2018 10:51:12 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/sothby%27s.jpg

A 73-year-old bottle of French Burgundy became the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at auction, fetching $558,000. 

The bottle of 1945 Romanee-Conti sold at Sotheby's for more than 17 times its original estimate of $32,000. Another bottle of the same wine and vintage went for $496,000 moments later at Saturday's auction. 

The bottles shattered the previous record fort the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold — a 3-liter (known as "large format") bottle of 1945 Mouton-Rothschild that sold at Sotheby's in 2007 for $310,000. 

The sales — along with a bottle of whiskey that sold at Sotheby's on Saturday for $843,200 — shows that demand for the rarest and best trophy wines and spirits remains strong despite global stock market jitters and trade wars. Demand for the top vintage French wines — especially Burgundy — is largely being driven by China, so the sales also suggest that while China's economy may be slowing, China's rich are still spending. 

"The new world record established in today's sale is further proof that the demand for wine and spirits of exceptional quality is at an all-time high, and that global collectors are willing to go the extra mile to acquire the rarest bottles of any kind," said Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby's Wine. 

Romanee-Conti has become the king of collectible wines, and the 1945 is considered its most prized vintage. Romanee-Conti only produced 600 bottles in 1945, which was the last year before the producer pulled up its older, prized vines and replaced them with younger vines in 1947. 

While wealthy Chinese wine buyers drove up prices of Bordeaux in the early 2000s, they quickly shifted to Burgundy, which are much more scarce. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti has led Sotheby's Wine Annual Market Report, which looks at sales and price performance, as a top producer since 2013. 

Sotheby's described the 1945 vintage as "concentrated and exotic, with seemingly everlasting power — a wine at peace with itself." 

Adding to the value of the bottles sold Saturday was its ownership or "provenance." They were sold from the personal cellar of Robert Drouhin, a legend in the wine world and the patriarch of the family-run Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy. Drouhin originally bought the bottles directly from Romanee Conti, which made for what Sotheby's called "pristine provenance."

This story first appeated on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 


Photo Credit: Sotheby's]]>
<![CDATA[A Summit to Get a 'Level Up']]>Mon, 15 Oct 2018 14:11:17 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/2018_Level_Up_Summit.jpg

The African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware will host an event to ensure that young professionals who are typically underrepresented and underserved have the tools necessary to "Level Up" in their perspective fields. The summit is a two-day event that launches with an opening ceremony on Friday.]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Administration Eyes Military Bases for Coal, Gas Exports]]>Mon, 15 Oct 2018 13:27:57 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/coal.jpg

The Trump administration is considering using West Coast military bases or other federal properties as transit points for shipments of U.S. coal and natural gas to Asia as officials seek to bolster the domestic energy industry and circumvent environmental opposition to fossil fuel exports, according to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and two Republican lawmakers.

The proposal would advance the administration's agenda of establishing American "energy dominance" on the world stage and underscores a willingness to intervene in markets to make that happen. It's tantamount to an end-run around West Coast officials who have rejected private-sector efforts to build new coal ports in their states.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Zinke cast the proposal as a matter of national security to ensure U.S. allies have access to affordable fuels. The Trump administration also has cited national security as justification for keeping domestic coal-burning power plants online to prevent disruptions of electricity supplies.

It's unclear which sites are under consideration other than one in Alaska. Experts said the possibilities are constrained by the need for a deep water port.

Zinke said the administration is interested in partnering with private entities to ship coal or liquefied natural gas through naval installations or other federal facilities. He added it's still early in the process.

"I respect the state of Washington and Oregon and California," Zinke said. "But also, it's in our interest for national security and our allies to make sure that they have access to affordable energy commodities."

Accomplishing that, he said, may require the use of "some of our naval facilities, some of our federal facilities on the West Coast."

Zinke specified only one site that could serve as an export hub, for natural gas: the former Adak Naval Air Facility in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, which he suggested could receive fuel by barge from the North Slope. The base closed in 1997 and has been largely abandoned. Roughly 300 people live in the town of Adak, the westernmost community in the U.S.

Zinke did not reveal government properties that could serve as potential coal ports.

Exports have been held up as a lifeline for struggling domestic coal miners since demand for the fuel started to wane a decade ago, when many power plants switched to cheaper, cleaner fuels. The West Coast offers the most economical route for shipments to Asia because of its relative proximity to the largest coal-producing region in the U.S.: the Powder River Basin, which straddles the Montana-Wyoming border.

Any export site would need access to deep waters to accommodate large ships and enough land to store fuel awaiting shipment. Few such locations can be found on the West Coast, said Joe Aldina, a coal industry analyst with S&P Global Platts Analytics.

With the U.S. coal export market booming in recent months, Aldina said any new port established by the government would quickly fill with coal for shipment overseas. Yet with demand expected to fall over the long-term, particularly in Europe, the current high prices for coal are expected to drop.

Aldina expressed skepticism that government intervention could make much difference.

"Like everything else the Trump administration has tried to do, it's a long shot whether some of these things will work, and it's questionable whether they will really help the market," he said, adding prices and fuel quality are the main drivers of coal markets, not government policies.

Resistance to exports — rooted in worries about air pollution, climate change and rail safety — and changing market conditions have resulted in six proposed coal ports in Washington and Oregon being rejected or shelved. A $680 million project in Longview, Washington, was denied a key permit last year by state regulators who said it would increase greenhouse gas emissions and cause "significant and unavoidable harm to the environment."

That's brought a backlash from elected officials in coal-producing states, who have blasted Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in particular. They argue the rejection of the Longview port, sponsored by Utah-based Lighthouse Resources, violated the commerce clause in the Constitution that says only Congress has the power to regulate international and interstate trade.

Montana, Wyoming and four other states joined Lighthouse Resources in a lawsuit challenging the rejection of the company's Millennium Bulk Terminals port, which could handle up to 48.5 million tons (44 million metric tons) of coal a year.

Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, said she's spoken with Zinke and U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry about using federal facilities to circumvent opposition to proposed ports.

"That might be, for example, retired military facilities or other places where we would be able to use those for exports — frankly, to get around some of the unreasonable obstacles that have been thrown up," Cheney said.

Prior to joining Trump's cabinet, Zinke was a Montana congressman and Perry was governor of Texas. Both states are among the United States' top coal producers.

Zinke said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also was involved in the proposal.

Commerce Department officials said in a statement that the agency was working with the Interior and Energy Departments "to advance the Administration's export agenda, and this is one such effort."

Energy Department officials declined comment.

Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana said Zinke was looking at "all possibilities" for export terminals, including West Coast military installations.

"As a Montanan, he's looking for ways here to help these Rocky Mountain states like Montana and Wyoming get access to Asian markets," Daines said.

Coal exports to Asia more than doubled in 2017, according to the Energy Information Administration. The rise continued in the first half of 2018 with almost 23 million tons (21 million metric tons) of U.S. coal exported to Asian nations through June. South Korea, Japan and China were among the biggest recipients.

Despite those increases, the U.S. holds only a small share of the more than 1 billion tons (907 million metric tons) of coal shipped annually by sea. Clark Williams-Derry with the Sightline Institute, a left-leaning think tank based in Seattle, said there's little chance of that changing in the long-term.

"All the forces are lining up for the time being, making U.S. coal profitable, but fundamentally we're in no position to dominate the Pacific Rim coal markets," Williams-Derry said. "We're bit players on the global stage."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sears Through the Years: From Watch Seller to Tower Builder]]>Mon, 15 Oct 2018 09:22:49 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-838634714.png

Sears got its start as a watch seller more than 130 years ago and grew to become one of the world's largest retailers. But the company has struggled in recent years and on Monday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A look at the company through the years:

1886 — Richard Sears starts the R.W. Sears Watch Co. in Minneapolis.

1888 — The Sears catalog is born, featuring watches and jewelry. By 1894, sewing machines, baby carriages and other items are added.

1893 — The company becomes Sears, Roebuck and Co.

1906 — Sears becomes a public company.

1913 — Sears launches the Kenmore brand of sewing machines. Today, refrigerators, washing machines and other appliances are sold under the name.

1925 — The first Sears brick-and-mortar store opens in Chicago.

1927 — Sears buys the Craftsman trademark for $500 and begins to sell power tools under the brand about two years later. In 2017, it sold the brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. in a $900 million deal.

1931 — Allstate Insurance Co. is launched, offering auto insurance. Sears sold its stake and Allstate became an independent company in the 1990s.

1973 — The company finishes building its new headquarters, the Sears Tower in Chicago. At the time, it was the world's tallest building at 1,454 feet. Sears sold the landmark in 1994. Its current headquarters are in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

1985 — The Discover Card is introduced nationally. Sears spun off a financial company in the 1990s which included the card.

1993 — Sears stops sending its famous catalog.

2005 — Kmart buys Sears and the company becomes the Sears Holdings Corp.

2017 — The company announces plans to cut $1 billion in costs by selling more store locations, cutting more jobs and putting more of its famous brands on the block.

2018 — Filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sears Files for Chapter 11 Amid Plunging Sales, Massive Debt]]>Mon, 15 Oct 2018 13:51:30 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/searsGettyImages-1053277910.jpg

Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, with plans to shutter 142 unprofitable stores in the hopes that it can stay in business.

The question now is whether a smaller version of the company that once towered over the American retail landscape can be viable. Sears, which started as a mail order catalog in the 1880s, has been on a slow march toward extinction as it lagged far behind its peers and incurred huge losses over the years.

At its peak, the operator of Sears and Kmart had 4,000 stores in 2012 but will now be left with a little more than 500.

"This is a company that in the 1950s stood like a colossus over the American retail landscape," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy. "Hopefully, a smaller new Sears will be healthier."

Others don't share Johnson's optimism.

"That a storied retailer, once at the pinnacle of the industry, should collapse in such a shabby state of disarray is both terrible and scandalous in equal measure," said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, in a note published Monday. "In our view, too much rot has set in at Sears to make it viable business."

Even President Donald Trump weighed in on Sears' collapse, calling it "a shame."

"Sears, Roebuck, when I was growing up, was the big deal. And it's very sad what happened, very, very sad," he said to reporters on Monday outside of the White House. But Trump added that many of the Sears' sites will be put to "good use" and mean a lot of jobs.

The company has struggled with outdated stores and complaints about customer service even for its once crown jewels: major appliances like washers and dryers. That's in contrast with chains like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Macy's, which have been enjoying stronger sales as they benefit from a robust economy and efforts to make the shopping experience more inviting by investing heavily in remodeling and de-cluttering their stores.

Sears Holdings will close 77 Sears stores and 65 Kmart stores near the end of the year and liquidation sales are expected to begin shortly. That's in addition to the closure of 46 unprofitable stores that had already been announced.

Edward S. Lampert, the company's largest shareholder, has stepped down as CEO but will remain chairman of the board. A new Office of the CEO will be responsible for managing day-to-day operations.

The company said Monday it has secured $300 million in financing from banks to keep the operations going through bankruptcy. It's negotiating an additional $300 million loan from Lampert's ESL Hedge fund.

The filing listed between $1 billion and $10 billion in assets while liabilities range between $10 billion to $50 billion. It listed the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., the federal agency that insures pensions, as Sears' biggest unsecured creditor, but noted the amount it owed as "unknown," according to court documents.

Sears joins a growing list of retailers that have filed for bankruptcy or liquidated in the last few years amid a fiercely competitive climate. Some, like Payless ShoeSource, successfully emerged from reorganization in bankruptcy court. But plenty of others like, Toys R Us and Bon-Ton Stores Inc., haven't. Both retailers were forced to shutter their operations this year soon after Chapter 11 filings.

Given its sheer size, Sears' bankruptcy filing will have wide ripple effects on everything from already ailing mall landlords to its tens of thousands of workers. But unlike other retailers that have gone bankrupt, there are not a lot of spoils for rivals to pick up. The company, once a big seller of toys, now has a tiny 2 percent market share in that area, according to investment research firm Jefferies. And its market share in major appliances has shrunk to just under 10 percent from 41 percent in 2001, according to Johnson of Customer Growth Partners.

Lampert has been loaning out his own money for years and has put together deals to prop up the company, which in turn has benefited his own ESL hedge fund.

Last year, Sears sold its famous Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc., following earlier moves to spin off pieces of its Sears Hometown and Outlet division and Lands' End.

In recent weeks, Lampert has been pushing for a debt restructuring and offering to buy some of Sears' key assets, like Kenmore, through his hedge fund as a $134 million debt repayment came due on Monday. Lampert personally owns 31 percent of the company's shares, while his hedge fund has an 18.5 percent stake, according to FactSet.

Sears' stock has fallen from about $6 over the past year to below the minimum $1 level that Nasdaq stocks are required to trade in order to remain on the stock index. In April 2007, shares were trading at around $141.

The company, which once had 350,000 workers, has shrunk to 68,000 workers as of Monday's court filing. It had fewer than 900 stores as of May.

In a March 2017 government filing, Sears said there was "substantial doubt" it would be able to keep its doors open — but insisted its turnaround efforts would mitigate that risk.

Lampert pledged to return Sears to greatness by leveraging its best-known brands and its vast holdings of land, and more recently planned to entice customers with a loyalty program. But losses continued and the company struggled to get more people through the doors or to shop online.

Jennifer Roberts, 36, of Dayton, Ohio, was a long-time fan of Sears and has fond memories of shopping there for clothes as a child. But in recent years, she's been disappointed by the lack of customer service and outdated stores.

"My mom had always bought her appliances from Sears. That's where my dad got his tools," she said. "But they don't care about their customers anymore."

She said a refrigerator her mother bought at Sears broke after two years and still hasn't been fixed.

"If they don't value a customer, then they don't need my money," Roberts said.

Sales at the company's established locations tumbled nearly 4 percent during its fiscal second quarter. Still, that was an improvement from the same period a year ago. Total revenue dropped 30 percent in the most recent quarter, hurt by continued store closings.

"The problem in Sears' case is that it is a poor retailer," Saunders wrote in an analyst note last week. "Put bluntly, it has failed on every facet of retailing from assortment to service to merchandise to basic shop keeping standards. Under benign conditions, this would be problematic enough but in today's hyper-competitive retail environment it is a recipe for failure on a grand scale."

For decades, Sears was king of the American shopping landscape. Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s iconic catalog featured items from bicycles to sewing machines to houses, and could generate excitement throughout a household when it arrived. The company began opening retail locations in 1925 and expanded swiftly in suburban malls from the 1950s to 1970s. But the onset of discounters like Walmart created challenges for Sears that have only grown. Sears faced even more competition from online sellers and appliance retailers like Lowe's and Home Depot.

Store shelves have been left bare as many vendors have demanded more stringent payment terms, says Mark Cohen, a professor of retailing at Columbia University and a former Sears executive.

Sears said it intends to pay workers' wages and benefits without interruption. Sears plans to hold a meeting for its employees at its corporate headquarters and other corporate locations on Tuesday.

But Sears workers are nervous about what kind of severance they'll receive if their stores close.

John Germann, 46, works full-time and makes $14 per hour as the lead worker unloading merchandise from trucks at the Chicago Ridge, Illinois, store, which has been drastically reducing its staff since he started nine years ago. Germann now has only 11 people on his team, compared with about 30 a few years ago.

"We're doing the job of two to three people. It's not safe," he said. "We're lifting treadmills and refrigerators."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Corbis via Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Sears Ready to File Bankruptcy, Struggles to Stay Alive]]>Sun, 14 Oct 2018 22:34:19 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/SearsGettyImages-57100189.jpg

Sears Holdings plans to file for bankruptcy protection after midnight in the East Coast, culminating the collapse of what was once America's largest retailer, people familiar with the situation tell CNBC.

As part of the bankruptcy plan, Sears will immediately close roughly 150 of its stores, people familiar with the matter have said. It has approximately 700 stores, one of the people said.

It is unclear how the closures would impact Sears' workers, which totaled roughly 90,000 in February 2018. 

Sears will aim to stay in operations through the holidays, during which it will seek a buyer. That buyer could include its CEO, Eddie Lampert, or others that wish to make a higher bid.

The retailer has secured roughly $500 million to support its holiday operations, the people said. As of Sunday evening, negotiations were ongoing, two of the people said.

The people, who requested anonymity because the information is confidential, cautioned no plan is definite until the retailer formally submits its bankruptcy paperwork. Sears did not immediately respond to comment.

Sears has a $134 million debt payment due Monday it will not meet.

The retailer's last profitable year was in 2010. It rang up less than $17 billion in sales in fiscal 2017, half of the roughly $40 billion in revenue it brought in five years earlier, according to FactSet. 

Sears wasn't immediately available for comment.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Trump's Business Ties to Saudi Kingdom Run Long and Deep]]>Sat, 13 Oct 2018 03:16:14 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/207*120/BinSalmanTrumpTies.jpg

He's booked hotel rooms and meeting spaces to them, sold an entire floor in one of his buildings to them and, in desperate moments in his career, gotten a billionaire from the country to buy his yacht and New York's Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park.

President Donald Trump's ties to Saudi Arabia run long and deep, and he's often boasted about his business ties with the kingdom.

"I love the Saudis," Trump said when announcing his presidential run at Trump Tower in 2015. "Many are in this building."

Now those ties are under scrutiny as the president faces calls for a tougher response to the kingdom's government following the disappearance, and possible killing, of one of its biggest critics, journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi.

"The Saudis are funneling money to him," said former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub, who is advising a watchdog group suing Trump for foreign government ties to his business. That undermines "confidence that he's going to do the right thing when it comes to Khashoggi."

Trump paid his first foreign visit as president to Saudi Arabia last year, praised its new young ruler and boasted of striking a deal to sell $110 billion of U.S. weapons to the kingdom.

But those close ties are in peril as pressure mounts from Congress for the president to find out whether Khashoggi was killed and dismembered after entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey, as Turkish officials have said without proof.

Trump said Friday that he will soon speak with Saudi Arabia's king about Khashoggi's disappearance. But he also has said he doesn't want to scuttle a lucrative arms deal with the kingdom and noted that Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, is not a citizen. For its part, Saudi Arabia has called allegations it killed Khashoggi "baseless."

The president's links to Saudi billionaires and princes go back years, and appear to have only deepened.

In 1991, as Trump was teetering on personal bankruptcy and scrambling to raise cash, he sold his 282-foot Trump yacht "Princess" to Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal for $20 million, a third less than what he reportedly paid for it.

Four years later, the prince came to his rescue again, joining other investors in a $325 million deal for Trump's money-losing Plaza Hotel.

In 2001, Trump sold the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower across from the United Nations in New York for $12 million, the biggest purchase in that building to that point, according to the brokerage site Streeteasy. The buyer: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Shortly after he announced his run for president, Trump began laying the groundwork for possible new business in the kingdom. He registered eight companies with names tied to the country, such as "THC Jeddah Hotel Advisor LLC" and "DT Jeddah Technical Services," according to a 2016 financial disclosure report to the federal government. Jeddah is a major city in the country.

"Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million," Trump told a crowd at an Alabama rally on Aug. 21, 2015, the same day he created four of the entities. "Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."

The president's company, the Trump Organization, said shortly after his 2016 election that it had shut down those Saudi companies. The president later pledged to pursue no new foreign deals while in office.

In a statement this week, the company said it has explored business opportunities in many countries but that it does "not have any plans for expansion into Saudi Arabia."

Since Trump took the oath of office, the Saudi government and lobbying groups for it have been lucrative customers for Trump's hotels.

A public relations firm working for the kingdom spent nearly $270,000 on lodging and catering at his Washington hotel near the Oval Office through March of last year, according to filings to the Justice Department. A spokesman for the firm told The Wall Street Journal that the Trump hotel payments came as part of a Saudi-backed lobbying campaign against a bill that allowed Americans to sue foreign governments for responsibility in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia cited the payments by the Saudi lobbying firm as an example of foreign gifts to the president that could violate the Constitution's ban on such "emoluments" from foreign interests.

The Saudi government was also a prime customer at the Trump International Hotel in New York early this year, according to a Washington Post report.

The newspaper cited an internal letter from the hotel's general manager, who wrote that a "last-minute" visit in March by a group from Saudi Arabia accompanying Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had boosted room rentals at the hotel by 13 percent for the first three months of the year, after two years of decline.

Saudi Arabia has also helped on one of Trump's key policy promises, and helped the president's friends along the way.

Last year, the kingdom announced plans to invest $20 billion in a private U.S.-focused infrastructure fund managed by Blackstone Group, an investment firm led by CEO Stephen Schwarzman. Blackstone stock rose on the news. Earlier this year, Trump unveiled a $200 billion federal plan to fix the nation's airports, roads, highways and ports, tapping private companies for help and selling off some government owned infrastructure.

Schwarzman, who celebrated his 70th birthday at the president's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, accompanied Trump on his visit to Saudi Arabia.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP/Evan Vucci, File]]>
<![CDATA[Prospect of China Talks Raises Hope for Thaw in Trade War]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 23:48:36 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/215*120/XiJinPingTrumpTalks.jpg

With China and the United States opening the door to a meeting next month between Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, hopes are rising for a potential easing of tensions in the trade war between the world's two largest economies.

Worries about the increased tariffs the two sides have imposed on each other's goods contributed to a dizzying bout of volatility in financial markets this week. The higher tariffs raise costs for companies in both countries, and economists say that if they remain in place indefinitely, they could depress economic growth.

A Xi-Trump meeting, if it happens, would take place during a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 biggest global economies in Argentina in late November.

"I don't think any decision has been made in regards to a meeting," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Saturday in Bali, Indonesia, where he's attending global finance meetings.

Still, Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, said in Washington on Friday that preparations for the talks were underway.

"It looks like there will be a meeting in Buenos Aires at the G-20," Kudlow said in an interview with CNBC. "We are looking at it. The Chinese are looking at it. Preparations are being made. I can't say 100 percent certainty, but there is no question everybody is looking at it."

Kudlow said that so far, the administration viewed China's negotiating offers as "rather unsatisfactory" but that "maybe talks between the two heads of state will bear fruit."

Asked if China would need to make specific concessions for such a meeting to take place, Mnuchin said, "To the extent that we can make progress toward a meeting I would encourage that and that's something we're having discussions about, but for the moment there's no preconditions. The president will decide on that."

The trade feud has been fueled by U.S. accusations that China engages in cyber-theft and coerces foreign companies into handing over technology in return for access to the Chinese market, as well as by Trump's anger over China's trade surplus with the U.S. It is far from clear if the U.S. might be preparing to consider lifting penalty tariffs on about $250 billion of Chinese products.

Mnuchin repeated the Trump administration's determination to achieve a more balanced trading relationship that does not require foreign companies to form joint ventures to transfer technology to gain market access.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, offered no specifics Friday but said, "I have also seen the relevant reports."

The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have cited officials as saying Trump has decided to proceed with a meeting with Xi.

Global indexes bounced back sharply Friday after their recent plunges, on word of the possible presidential meeting, along with strong Chinese export data. Japan's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.5 percent to 22,694.66 after a nearly 4 percent loss on Thursday.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng surged 2.1 percent to 25,801.49. The Shanghai Composite index advanced 0.9 percent to 2,606.91. Shares recovered in Taiwan and rose throughout Southeast Asia.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 305 points, or 1.2 percent, in late-morning trading, and the Nasdaq composite surged 138 points, or 1.9 percent. Later, both stock indexes gave up much of their gains.

Friday's volatility followed a swoon over the previous two days that erased 1,300 points from the Dow and dragged the S&P 500 down more than 5 percent.

Reports that Mnuchin has advised against labeling China a currency manipulator — a status that could trigger penalties — were also seen as easing tensions. The Chinese currency has been falling in value against the dollar in recent months, raising concerns that Beijing is devaluing its currency to make Chinese goods more competitive against U.S. products.

In his comments in Bali, Mnuchin did not say what the forthcoming Treasury report, set to come out next week, will conclude about China's currency practices. In the past, Treasury has placed China on a watch-list but found that Beijing did not meet the threshold to be labeled a currency manipulator.

Mnuchin met Thursday with Yi Gang, head of China's central bank.

"I expressed my concerns about the weakness of the currency," Mnuchin said.

He said that in the discussions he had with the Chinese, they had made clear that they didn't see a further weakening of the Chinese yuan as being in their interests.

Concerns have been raised that China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasurys, might start dumping its holdings as a way to pressure the United States in the trade dispute. But Mnuchin said this possibility didn't concern him because it would be contrary to Beijing's economic interests to start dumping its Treasury holdings.

"That would be very costly for them," Mnuchin said.

China's surplus with the United States widened to a record $34.1 billion in September as exports to the American market rose 13 percent from a year earlier to $46.7 billion, down slightly from August's 13.4 percent growth. Imports of American goods increased 9 percent to $12.6 billion, down from August's 11.1 percent growth.

Beijing's exports to the United States have at least temporarily defied forecasts they would weaken after being hit by punitive U.S. tariffs of up to 25 percent.

September marked the second straight record Chinese monthly trade surplus with the United States. Export numbers have been buoyed by producers rushing to fill orders before American tariffs rose. But they also benefit from "robust U.S. demand" and a weaker Chinese currency, which makes their goods cheaper abroad, Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics said in a report.

The Chinese yuan has lost nearly 10 percent of its value against the dollar this year. That prompted suggestions Beijing might weaken the exchange rate to help exporters. But that might hurt China's economy by encouraging an outflow of capital. The central bank has tightened controls on currency trading to prevent further declines.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP/Andy Wong, File]]>
<![CDATA[Elon Musk's Tesla Seeks to Trademark 'Teslaquila']]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 13:09:37 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Musk-Elon.jpg

An April Fool's joke may become a reality for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Tesla's CEO teased a Tesla-branded tequila earlier this year as part of a ruse on social media. On Monday, the company officially filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark "Teslaquila."

The trademark is for "distilled agave liquor" and "distilled blue agave liquor."

Teslaquila first appeared as part of an April Fool's prank in which Musk said on Twitter that his electric car company was going bankrupt and that he had been found "passed out against a Tesla Model 3, surrounded by "Teslaquila" bottles."

A few days later, he posted a photo on Instagram of a tequila bottle with a "Teslaquila" label plastered on it.

Representatives for Tesla did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

While there is no guarantee that a Tesla-brand tequila will hit the market, the company filed an "intent to use" trademark for Teslaquila, which means that it is currently not using it, but has a "good faith intention" to use it in the future. In addition, Tesla appears to have initially applied for this trademark in Jamaica back in April and is asserting a U.S. priority date based on that foreign application.

Since Tesla's U.S. application was filed within six months of its foreign application, the USPTO will use the first-filed foreign application date as the filing date for the U.S. application. This can provide a major advantage for Tesla, as it provides the earliest possible filing date for the mark. In other words, if other applicants file similar marks after that date, they will be rejected or suspended.

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<![CDATA[Cryptocurrencies Continue Plunge With Another $6 Billion of Value Wiped Out in a Day]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 11:29:30 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/cryptobitcoin.jpg

Over $6 billion was wiped off global cryptocurrency markets in a day, led by XRP and ethereum as prices of digital coins continued to fall. 

The entire market capitalization or value of cryptocurrencies had plunged $6.72 billion in 24 hours as of about 11:32 a.m. HK/SIN time on Friday, according to data from Coinmarketcap.com. That came after a sharp sell-off across the board on Thursday, which erased billions of dollars of value in a matter of hours. 

Friday's drop was led by XRP, which was trading at around 39.13 cents at 11.32 a.m. HK/SIN time, marking a 7.9 percent drop from the day before. It fell as low as 37.89 cents. Ethereum also fell to around $191.07, dropping 7.4 percent from the day before. 

Meanwhile, bitcoin largely stabilized at around $6,278.61, falling just under 0.8 percent on the day. 

Ethereum, bitcoin and XRP pared some of those losses, but were still sharply lower.

It's not clear there was a catalyst that sparked the selling over Thursday and Friday, but financial markets around the world saw big declines

There's also been a lot of negative sentiment toward cryptocurrencies from important financial institutions and major figures. 

"Continued rapid growth of crypto assets could create new vulnerabilities in the international financial system," the International Monetary Fund said in a recent report

Nouriel Roubini, an economist who predicted the 2008 financial crisis and a long-time cryptocurrency bear, sounded a fresh warning about digital coins. 

"Crypto is the mother or father of all scams and bubbles," Roubini told the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Community Affairs at a hearing on Thursday

Regulators across the world have been looking at how to deal with the growth of crypto assets with diverging views emerging. Countries like Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates are looking to become hubs for cryptocurrency businesses, while other nations like China have come down hard on the industry. 

Cryptocurrency bulls were hoping more institutional investors would get involved in the space thanks to new financial products like bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the U.S. But the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has not approved any ETFs. 

The top three cryptocurrencies by market capitalization — bitcoin, ethereum and XRP — are all significantly off their record high prices, which were hit at the end of last year and beginning of 2018. 

"I'm surprised people think bitcoin can never reach its old highs. We have to remember today that not even 50 million wallets that use crypto today, but there are four and a half billion Visa cards, so you know this is the early stage for crypto, I don't think $12,000 will be a problem in the future," Fundstrat's Tom Lee told CNBC last week. 

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<![CDATA[Despite Sell-Off, Your 401(k) Should Be Fine If You Don't Mess With It]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 10:27:32 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18067647060467-Wall-Street-Bull-Market.jpg

Though the recent stock market volatility is likely giving investors motion sickness, financial advisors are reminding them that it might be best for them to hang on through the decline. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 800 points on Wednesday. Stocks continued their descent on Thursday morning. 

As if that weren't enough to shake up investors, mutual firm giant Vanguard experienced outages on Wednesday, resulting in some clients having problems accessing their accounts online or on the phone. 

"We identified and fixed the problem, which was related to maintenance to one of our network connections," said Carolyn Wegemann, a spokeswoman for Vanguard. 

"I'd note the issues were unrelated to yesterday's U.S. equity market downturn, or associated call or online trading volumes," she said. 

If you were unable to get into your account to partake in the sell-off, it just might be a good thing, financial advisors said. 

"We're not recommending any changes for people who are saving and accumulating," said Blair duQuesnay, a certified financial planner and investment advisor at Ritholtz Wealth Management. 

"Next time, you can buy into the market at a lower price than last month, but a 3 percent decline off of all-time highs isn't a time to become concerned," she said. 

Here's what you need to know. 

Keeping perspective
Stocks have hit record highs during 2018 in the march toward this latest decline. The overall trend has been upward since stocks hit their nadir on March 9, 2009. 

That said, it's easy for investors to lose sight of their longer-term goals and obsess over a stretch of down days. 

"Literally 10 years ago today, there was an intraday swing of 12 percent," said Jeffrey Levine, CEO and director of financial planning at BluePrint Wealth Alliance. "The fact is that nobody thinks about that now: It's noise and it happened 10 years ago." 

A bad day isn't necessarily a sign of an impending downturn, said Andrew Adams, a market strategist with Raymond James. 

"This is perfectly normal, and we've gotten complacent," he said. "We're of the opinion that we're in the middle stages of a bull market. 

"We see a few more years of good stock returns." 

Stay in the game 
Rather than reflexively selling out of your stock holdings, take a step back and consider the following. 

Revisit your goals: As long as you don't bail from stocks, you aren't locking in your losses. Think about your savings goals and the amount of time you have to reach them. 

"If you're investing for a one-year time horizon, then maybe the market isn't right for you," said Levine. "But even today, people need to be invested long-term." 

Resist the urge to act impulsively: It's okay to be a little concerned about the market sell-off, just make sure you don't act on your fears. 

"We jump reflexively from the emotional to action," said Daniel Crosby, president of Nocturne Capital. "Most people think we have to act in a way that is wholly consistent with our feelings." 

Buying on a discount: If you're investing for the years ahead, a downturn might be a good time to snap up stocks while they're cheaper. 

"This is the best buying opportunity we've been given in quite a few months," said Adams.

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Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP, File
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<![CDATA[Tech Stock Rally Helps Snap Losing Streak as Rough Week Ends]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 16:08:30 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/nysAP_18233703599027.jpg

Stocks rebounded Friday, clawing back some of the week's steep losses, but the turbulent trading of the last few days left no doubt that the relative calm the markets enjoyed all summer had been shattered.

Major U.S. indexes ended the week down about 4 percent, their worst weekly loss in six months. An index measuring the performance of small-company stocks had its worst week since early 2016.

Big technology and consumer-focused companies led the recovery Friday. Longtime favorites of many investors, they had plunged in the last few days.

A major factor cited by market watchers for the pullback was a sharp increase in interest rates, which can slow the economy and make bonds more attractive to investors relative to stocks.

Apple climbed 3.6 percent to $222.11 and Microsoft gained 3.5 percent to $109.57. Amazon jumped 4 percent to $1,788.41. Those are the three most valuable companies in the U.S., and they suffered startling declines the last few days: on Wednesday each took its biggest loss in more than two years. That made for a dramatic end to three months of calm on the U.S. market.

The S&P 500 index rose 38.76 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,767.13 to end a six-day losing streak. The benchmark index tumbled 4.1 percent this week, and it's down 5.6 percent since from its latest record high, set Sept. 20. Thanks in part to the big gain for technology companies, the Nasdaq composite jumped 167.83 points, or 2.3 percent, to 7,496.89.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose as much as 414 points early on, then gave it all up and turned slightly lower. It rebounded and finished with a gain of 287.16 points, or 1.1 percent, at 25,339.99.

The market's recent skid started last week, when strong economic data and positive comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell helped set off a wave of selling in the bond market as investors they bet that the U.S. economy would keep growing at a healthy pace. That pushed bond prices lower and sent yields up to seven-year highs.

That drove interest rates sharply higher, which worried stock investors who felt that a big increase could stifle economic growth. The big swings in the market Friday suggest those fears haven't gone away. The VIX, a measurement of how much volatility investors expect, hasn't been this high in six months.

"What seems to have driven this is a fear interest rates were going to rise more quickly because the Fed was being too aggressive or the economy was going to overheat," said David Kelly, chief global strategist for JPMorgan Funds. Kelly said he doesn't think either of those fears is justified, as the Fed isn't raising interest rates that rapidly and economic growth hasn't sped up recently.

Small companies didn't fare as well. The Russell 2000 index rose just 1.30 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,546.68 to wrap up its largest loss in one week since January 2016. High-dividend stocks like utilities and real estate investment trusts also rose less than the rest of the market. They held up relatively well over the past few days. Investors view them as relatively safe, steady assets that look better when growth is uncertain and the rest of the market is in turmoil.

U.S. automakers Ford and General Motors continued to slump. GM shed 1.6 percent to $31.79, its lowest in almost two years. Ford, trading at its lowest in almost nine years, dipped 1.9 percent to $8.64. Both have plunged this year as they deal with slowing sales and the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum, which are sending their manufacturing costs higher.

The stocks have fallen further in recent days following reports Ford might cut jobs. In late September, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said the steel and aluminum duties would cost the company $1 billion through 2019.

Investors are also growing more concerned that U.S.-China trade tensions are impairing global economic growth. The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for global economic growth this week because of trade tensions and increased interest rates.

Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist for CFRA, said he thought stocks fell too far, but there could be more turmoil ahead for the markets. While stocks had done well in spite of the rising trade tensions between China and the U.S., investors seem more worried now.

"Everybody has been pretty much dismissing the effect of the trade war on U.S. equities, and now they're beginning to think 'wait a minute, maybe there could be a problem,'" he said. "I don't think the reasons for the decline have been resolved."

Bond prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.15 percent 3.13 percent. At the beginning of the year it stood at 2.46 percent.

U.S. crude oil added 0.5 percent to $71.34 a barrel in in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 0.2 percent to $80.43 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 0.5 percent to $1.94 a gallon. Heating oil fell 0.5 percent to $2.32 a gallon. Natural gas lost 1.9 percent to $3.16 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Asian stocks also rebounded. Japan's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.5 percent after sinking early in the day and following a nearly 4 percent loss on Thursday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng surged 2.1 percent and the Kospi in South Korea rose 1.5 percent.

European stocks finished mostly lower. The French CAC 40 dipped 0.2 percent and so did the FTSE 100 in Britain. The DAX in Germany slipped 0.1 percent.

After a big jump Thursday, gold lost 0.5 percent to $1,222 an ounce. Silver rose 0.2 percent to $14.64 an ounce. Copper slipped 0.1 percent to $2.80 a pound.

The dollar slipped to 112.01 yen from 111.94 yen. The euro fell to $1.1563 from $1.1594. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP, File
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<![CDATA[Lawsuit: NYC Woman Sexually Assaulted By 2 WeWork Employees]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 09:44:42 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-540246118.jpg

A former WeWork employee was sexually assaulted by two fellow WeWork employees at company-wide events — incidents enabled by the coworking giant's "entitled, frat-boy culture," a new lawsuit charges. 

Ruby Anaya, 33, who lives in New York City, started working in WeWork’s technology department as a director of product management in 2014, a lawsuit filed against the company and its co-founder Miguel McKelvey in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday says.

In 2017, Anaya became WeWork’s Director of Culture, according to the suit.

The lawsuit claims Anaya had just left the stage at a company-wide "Summit" event in January 2018 after presenting an award when she tripped over one of her heels and stumbled as she was trying to “navigate the large and alcohol-infused crowd,” the lawsuit says.

Anaya put her hand on a man’s shoulder to steady herself, then apologized and told the man she’d almost tripped, at which point the man grabbed her waist, pulled her toward him and “forcibly kissed her,” the suit claims.

She pushed the man away and slapped him, but he “just smiled at her,” according to the suit.

Anaya told her coworkers what had happened after the incident and reported it to WeWork's human resources department, but didn’t hear anything after a month, the suit says.

When Anaya reached out to an HR employee about the investigation, the employee told her the company had interviewed the male employee, who'd said he "had ‘no recollection’ of the incident and… ‘would have remembered if he had been slapped,’” the suit says.

The HR employee told Anaya the man was a “high performer,” and said the company had “closed out” the investigation, according to the suit.

Distraught, Anaya sent a text message to McKelvey and to WeWork's Chief People Officer about the incident, but McKelvey never responded, the suit claims.

The January incident wasn’t the first time Anaya was sexually assaulted by a male WeWork employee, according to the lawsuit.

At a "Summer Camp" event in August 2017, Anaya was in a crowd of employees when one of them grabbed her from behind “in a sexual manner,” the lawsuit claims.

Anaya took his hands off of her and told him not to touch her, but the employee “just smiled and walked away,” the suit says.

Anaya reported the incident to HR the next day, but the employee later told HR he “was black-out drunk and had no recollection of the incident,” according to the lawsuit.

The HR department told Anaya the man would take a sexual harassment prevention course, the suit says.

Both men still work at the company today, according to the suit.

“The sexual harassment and assaults of [Anaya] did not happen in a vacuum,” the suit says. “They are product in part of the entitled, frat-boy culture that permeates WeWork from the top down.”

The lawsuit claims WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann asked Anaya whether she drank tequila during her interview with the company, pouring her shots when she said she did.

WeWork also stocks free beer at its outposts and “has a mandated happy hour for employees every Friday,” which employees are pressured to attend, according to the suit.

The "Summits," for which attendance is mandatory, are “a huge, three-day, alcohol- and drug-laden party for all employees at the company,” the lawsuit claims.

More than one WeWork employee in the company’s New York office “has commented to [Anaya]... that ‘it’s only a matter of time until someone gets raped’” at one of the company's events, the suit says.

The suit claims Anaya was fired on Aug. 3, after she’d voiced “disagreement and distress” over WeWork’s decision not to fire the second WeWork employee who allegedly assaulted her, and brought up concerns about women at WeWork not receiving the same pay as men.

McKelvey told Anaya she had “not been showing up for her team” when he fired her, according to the suit, but she claims that the “timing of [her] termination was no accident.”

“Aug. 3 was just before the company’s 2018 Summer Camp event, and just before [Anaya] was to vest in another tranche of her stock options — options that have increased tremendously in value since she began working,” the suit says.

A WeWork spokesperson on Thursday called Anaya’s claims “meritless,” adding that the company would “fight this lawsuit.”

"WeWork has always been committed to fostering an inclusive, supportive and safe workplace," the spokesperson said in a statement. "WeWork investigated this employee’s complaints, took appropriate action, and this employee was terminated solely because of her poor performance."

The spokesperson claimed Anaya “received negative performance reviews, including one more than a year before she was terminated,” adding that she was “rated as one of the lowest performers on her team, based on feedback from her peers and managers.”

“Upon being terminated, she acknowledged her poor performance and that she hadn’t been showing up to work regularly,” the statement added. “She even expressed concerns about her performance to a colleague shortly before her termination.”

The lawsuit, however, claims Anaya “received almost exclusively positive feedback on her work efforts and performance” and “only positive performance reviews” up until she was fired.

Anaya's attorney Seth Rafkin on Thursday said his client "denies the statement's WeWork's unidentified spokesperson has asserted." 

"We also note the obvious: if our client had been a poor performer for a year or more, why didn't WeWork ever give her a warning or a performance plan, something human resources professionals will tell you is typical practice?" he asked in a statement. "And why did the decision to fire her come only after she complained again about a sexual assault and the way it was handled?" 

WeWork's spokesperson on Thursday noted that WeWork's "Summits" are three-day business meetings, with a single evening event. 

Friday happy hours, the spokesperson added, are not mandatory. 

Anaya is seeking damages including lost wages and benefits, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs of suit.

WeWork provides shared office space for rent by entrepreneurs, freelancers, artists and other businesses.

Photo Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Retailers Up Their Game After Toys R Us Closures]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 08:14:02 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18242685183391.jpg

When Toys R Us closed its doors, customers mourned the loss of a beloved brand that conjured memories of their own childhood.

Retailers, on the other hand, saw an opportunity.

Rather than cede any more ground to online behemoth Amazon, companies like Target, Walmart and Party City ramped up their offerings. Now, ahead of the pivotal holiday season, they're going even further by focusing on making their stores a dynamic shopping experience. That means creating play areas for kids, offering demos of new toys and staging events like scavenger hunts in the stores.

Retailers are trying to grab a piece of the nearly $3 billion left on the table by Toys R Us, or 12 percent of the U.S. toy market, according to NPD Group Inc., a market research group.

Last month, Party City opened 50 Toy City pop-up shops that feature six-by-eight-foot Lego dinosaurs and other interactive displays. Walmart says 30 percent of its holiday toy assortment will be new. It will also offer 40 percent more toys on Walmart.com from a year ago. In November and December, the company's toy area will be rebranded as "America's Best Toy Shop."

Starting in late October, Target will devote extra space at 500 stores located near former Toys R Us stores for bigger toys like electric cars, playhouses and musical instruments as well as adding nearly 200 more products. And 100 Target stores will see new layouts and fixtures in the toy area. The company is also expanding the number of kids' events it hosts. Most recently, it had a Lego Minecraft event that featured a scavenger hunt.

At least one foreign toy retailer is looking into the U.S. market after the demise of Toys R Us. Mexico-based Distroller World, an experience-based retailer with more than 60 stores in Mexico and Latin America, is set to open its third store in the U.S. in October. And it will be approaching U.S. department stores to open shops to replicate its model in Mexico, says CEO Daryn Fillis. At the center of the experience: Parents and children create their own adventure to adopt an alien baby delivered in a space capsule.

"It's all about the demonstrations, the hands-on experience," said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of TTPM, a toy review site. "When you get your hands on a toy and you can touch and feel, it does lead to greater sales. And those are the experiences that shoppers enjoy."

Meanwhile, Amazon is reportedly planning a toy catalog to be distributed at its Whole Foods stores. The company declined to comment on the catalog, but analysts say Amazon could grow its market share in toys from 15 percent to 20 percent this year.

Toy sellers had been long taking advantage of Toys R Us woes, but it stepped up its efforts when the chain filed Chapter 11 in the fall of 2017 and accelerated the pace when the chain announced it was liquidating its operations in March. As of early this year, Toys R Us had more than 800 U.S. stores. It closed the last 200 stores at the end of June.

But no one can replicate Toys R Us' constant supply of hot products to its stores until Dec. 25. In fact, NPD expects 20 percent of Toys R Us sales will "simply evaporate." It's not issuing a holiday toy sales forecast, but others expect the figure to be unchanged compared to a year ago, when it was up about 2 percent.

With reports of the retailer's demise, there was an outpouring of nostalgia from shoppers, and some analysts credit that empathy for helping to drive an uptick in toy sales for the first half of the year. U.S. toy sales from January through June increased 7 percent to $7.9 billion, according to NPD. Last year, toy sales increased 1 percent to $20.7 billion from 2016.

"I am convinced that the strong toy industry growth so far this year has been at least partially supported by the empathy that people felt toward losing a store like Toys R Us," said Juli Lennett, NPD's senior vice president and industry adviser for toys in a statement. "I think it brought about an emotional response that resulted in parents buying more toys overall."

Even FAO Schwarz is taking advantage of the nostalgia. The iconic toy store is set to reopen in November in Manhattan shuttering three years ago.

The store will be staffed with theatrical performers and will feature new play areas like a mini grocery store where kids can buy pretend food made of wood. In another section, there'll be a mechanic who will help kids build radio controlled race cars. FAO Schwarz is also bringing back the oversized piano made famous in the Tom Hanks movie "Big."

Jessica McCune, 30, was a big fan of Toys R Us and she stocked up on a number of toys when the stores were closing. Although she said she plans to shift her toy shopping to Walmart, Target and Amazon, she still misses her old go-to.

"There's a void," she lamented. "It's one less place dedicated to toys and babies."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew]]>
<![CDATA[Stock Market Experts Say This Is a Stumble, Not a Plunge]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 02:51:26 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/stockmarketAP_18284750820123.jpg

Woah, what was that?

After months of relative calm, Wall Street has been jolted by a sudden run of turbulent trading.

The swoon wiped more than 1,300 points from the Dow Jones Industrial Average over two days and dragged the benchmark S&P 500 index down more than 5 percent. The VIX index, which measures how worried traders are about a decline in stocks, climbed Thursday to its highest level since February, when the S&P last had a correction, or a 10 percent drop.

What now?

Experts say this new eruption of market volatility should not be surprising, especially after the long stretch of relative calm investors have enjoyed.

Over the summer, traders set aside worries about the escalating U.S.-China trade dispute and instead focused on more encouraging developments: solid economic growth and record corporate earnings. It helped that stocks were on the rise — the S&P 500 hit an all-time high just four weeks ago.

So after several months of gains, a pullback would be expected, said John Lynch, chief investment strategist at LPL Research.

"Volatility is back and it may require more active strategies on the part of investors to pursue their long-term goals," Lynch said. "Volatility is also not to be feared, but embraced, as varying data points will cause bouts of market anxiety. But remember that fundamentals are still strong."

The economy is indeed quite strong by many measures — consumer spending is growing, unemployment is low and manufacturing surveys are near record levels. And many experts say that is more important than the market's daily ups and downs.

So what's behind this week's upset?

Investors have grown concerned about a recent, steep drop in U.S. government bond prices and an ensuing upward move in bond yields, which makes bonds more attractive relative to stocks. The market is also worried about rising interest rates, which tend to climb on expectations of future economic growth and inflation and can increase costs for business — slowing growth and dampening corporate profits.

"There's some concern that third-quarter earnings could be maybe a little bit less robust than they were in the second quarter and there could be more pressure on profit margins," said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird.

Worries about a slowdown in the global economy and the escalating U.S.-China trade dispute also have contributed to investors' unease. And markets typically see increased volatility in months preceding midterm elections.

"We are not surprised by the uptick in volatility toward more normal levels," market strategists at Wells Fargo Investment Institute wrote in a report Thursday, adding that "it's too soon to say that the pullback is over."

Having bonds and equities selling off may feel like the worst of both worlds for investment portfolios, but the market's shift isn't as bad as it might seem, said Michael Crook, head of institutional strategy at UBS Global Wealth Management.

He notes that the S&P 500 is basically back to where it was during the summer, and only down slightly from its all-time high. In addition, the negative return in bonds barely registers when one considers how bonds have performed this year.

"That's very normal volatility, and while it has been acute — like all market drops — it only erases a few weeks of gains," Crook said.

The market's stability in 2017 may have given investors a false sense of security too, said Nationwide Chief of Investment Research Mark Hackett. The fundamental strength of that year resulted in historically low volatility and market pullbacks.

One natural reaction to increased volatility is the inclination to get off the wild ride and sell. If you have a lengthy time horizon for the investment, say a decade, the general recommendation is to resist that temptation. Stocks have historically offered some of the biggest returns over the long term for investors.

For investors who want less volatility, bonds, savings accounts or other investments offer less risk. The trade-off is that returns over the coming decade will likely be lower.

Remember that what is happening in the headlines is not necessarily what is happening in your portfolio, said Judith Ward, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price.

Still feeling jumpy? Review your portfolio and make sure your holdings are where you want them to be and that they're on course to meet your goals. Rebalance the portfolio, if needed, but resist the urge to flee.

Any financial adviser will remind you that those who sold in the depths of the global financial meltdown missed out on big gains in years that followed.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP]]>
<![CDATA[China Trade Surplus With US Widens to Record $34.1B]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 01:16:26 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/tariffsAP_18260267813381.jpg

China's trade surplus with the United States widened to a record $34.1 billion in September as exports to the American market rose by 13 percent over a year earlier despite a worsening tariff war.

Exports to the United States rose to $46.7 billion, down from August's 13.4 percent growth, customs data showed Friday. Imports of American goods increased 9 percent to $12.6 billion, down from 11.1 percent.

Chinese exports to the United States have at least temporarily defied forecasts they would weaken after being hit by punitive tariffs of up to 25 percent in a fight over American complaints about Beijing's technology policy.

"Exports continued to defy U.S. tariffs last month but imports struggled in the face of cooling domestic demand," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report. "We expect both to soften in the coming quarters."

September marked the second straight record Chinese monthly trade surplus with the United States after August's $31 billion.

Export numbers have been buoyed by producers rushing to fill orders before American tariffs rose, but they also benefit from "robust U.S. demand" and a weaker Chinese currency, which makes their goods cheaper abroad, said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics in a report.

The yuan has lost nearly 10 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this year. That prompted suggestions Beijing might weaken the exchange rate to help exporters, but that might hurt China's economy by encouraging an outflow of capital. The central bank has tightened controls on currency trading to head off further declines.

China's overall export growth accelerated, temporarily defying forecasts of a slowdown as the global economy and consumer demand cool.

Exports rose 14.5 percent over a year earlier to $226.7 billion, up from August's 12.2 percent growth. Imports grew 14.3 percent to $195 billion, down from the previous month's 20.9 percent rate.

Exports to the 28-nation European Union, China's biggest trading partner, rose 11.6 percent to $37.4 billion. The Chinese trade surplus with Europe was $12.7 billion.

Chinese leaders have rejected pressure to scale back plans for state-led development of global champions in robotics and other technologies.

Washington, Europe and other trading partners complain those violate Beijing's free-trade commitments and U.S. officials worry they might erode American industrial leadership. But communist leaders see their industry plans as the path to prosperity and global influence.

As tensions mounted, Beijing agreed in May to narrow its trade gap with the United States by purchasing more American soybeans, natural gas and other exports. Chinese leaders scrapped that deal after Trump's first tariff hikes hit.

Communist officials have ordered companies to stop buying American soybeans — the biggest U.S. export to China — and find alternative suppliers and export markets for other goods.

"Prospects for significant progress toward de-escalation of their trade conflict are low in the short term," said Kuijs.

Chinese exporters of lower-value goods such as handbags and surgical gloves say U.S. orders have fallen off. But sellers of factory machinery and other more advanced exports express confidence they can keep their market share.

With global growth cooling and U.S. threats of more tariff hikes, "the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained," said Evans-Pritchard.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Andy Wong/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Richard Branson Suspends $1B Investment Talks With Saudis]]>Thu, 11 Oct 2018 20:06:39 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/richard-branson1.jpg

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson suspended discussions with Saudi Arabia about a proposed $1 billion investment in Virgin's space companies following allegations that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the country's consulate in Istanbul.

"What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government," Branson said in a Thursday statement.

Khashoggi is a U.S. resident who had voluntarily exiled himself from Saudi Arabia and was often openly critical of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's government.

The journalist has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials allege that Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered by agents under royal orders from the Saudi government. The kingdom has denied any wrongdoing.

Last year, the Saudi government announced its intention to invest $1 billion total into Virgin Galactic, which focuses on space tourism, and Virgin Orbit, which aims to launch small satellites into space.

Branson said that he will suspend discussions amid ongoing investigations into Khashoggi's whereabouts, but did not give any other indication of when or if talks might resume.

Branson also announced that he will step down from his role as director of two Saudi tourism projects aimed at transforming islands in the Red Sea into luxury resorts.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Abraham Caro Marin/AP, File
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<![CDATA[Stocks Plunge Again; Dow's 2-Day Loss Reaches 1,300 Points]]>Thu, 11 Oct 2018 16:54:07 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18283733742643.jpg

U.S. stocks sank more than 2 percent Thursday, the second day of steep declines around the globe driven by concerns about rising interest rates and trade tensions that could slow economic growth.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 545 points after dropping 831 points Wednesday. The two-day loss of 5.3 percent is the biggest for Dow since February. The S&P 500 is also down more than 5 percent over the two days and after falling for the past six trading days is almost 7 percent below its Sept. 20 high.

The recent turbulence in financial markets is a contrast to what investors have grown accustomed to in a bull market that has lasted more than 10 years, the longest in history. A hallmark of the past decade has been ultra-low interest rates, which the Federal Reserve used to promote growth in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

The Fed has been gradually raising interest rates over the past two years, after not having increased them since the recession. Those higher rates have been the catalyst for recent selling, stoking concerns that slower growth would impinge on corporate profits.

The selling Thursday was widespread. Energy companies sank along with oil prices and CVS lead a rout in health care stocks. Technology companies and retailers, including longtime market favorites Apple, Alphabet and Amazon, extended their recent slide.

"There isn't much of a place to hide right now in the equity market," said Willie Delwiche, an investment strategist at Baird.

Seeking safety, investors bought gold and government bonds. That pushed bond prices up and their yields down, ending a surge in yields that had touched off the market's current decline. But investors found more things to worry about.

There are ongoing concerns about the unresolved trade dispute between the U.S. and China. Strong earnings reports in the coming weeks could soothe investor nerves, but negative comments from company executives about future profits could have the opposite effect. Recently a larger-than-normal number of companies have warned that their third-quarter results could be weaker than analysts expected.

The benchmark S&P 500 index rose in morning trading, but ultimately gave up 57.31 points, or 2.1 percent, to 2,728.37, its lowest close in three months. The index has declined 6.7 percent during its current losing streak. That's its steepest downturn since a 10-percent drop in early February.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 545.91 points, or 2.1 percent, to 25,052.83 after falling as much as 698. The Nasdaq composite skidded 92.99 points, or 1.3 percent, to 7,329.06. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 30.03 points, or 1.9 percent, to 1,545.38.

Thursday's losses in the U.S. followed steep declines overseas. Markets in France, Britain and Germany fell after stocks declined sharply in Hong Kong and Japan.

"People are trying to get a sense of 'where should my money actually be right now?'" said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist for TD Ameritrade.

The S&P 500's current decline is the longest since a nine-day skid shortly before the 2016 presidential election. It has climbed 27.5 percent since Donald Trump was elected, and is still up 2.1 percent in 2018.

The market had been calm from late June through September as investors were satisfied with continued economic growth, strong company profits, and signs of progress in trade talks between the U.S. and several partners, although the U.S. remained at odds with China.

Delwiche, the Baird strategist, thinks the current slump isn't over yet.

"I don't see evidence right now that this is a one-off event," he said.

On Thursday, President Trump renewed his criticism of the Federal Reserve, blaming the recent downturn in the stock market on the Fed's rate policy.

"We have interest rates going up at a clip that's much faster than certainly a lot of people, including myself, would have anticipated. I think the Fed is out of control," the president said to reporters in the Oval Office.

Trump said he had no intention of firing Jerome Powell, who he appointed as Fed chairman in February.

Bond prices rose as the recent surge in yields attracted the attention of some investors. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.15 percent from 3.22 percent late Wednesday. That's still sharply higher than it was about a week ago, and earlier this week the yield on the 10-year note reached its highest level since mid-2011.

The drop in yields hurt banks, and JPMorgan Chase fell 3 percent to $1078.13 while Bank of America sank 3 percent to $28.36. JPMorgan Chase and several other banks will report their third-quarter results Friday morning.

Technology and retail companies continued to stumble. Amazon dropped another 2 percent to $1,719.36 and Apple fell 0.9 percent to $214.45. Microsoft and Alphabet, Google's parent company, were little changed. Those stocks have made huge gains for years, but they're currently out of favor. Amazon and Alphabet, respectively the second- and fourth-most valuable U.S. companies, are in what's known as a "correction," a drop of more than 10 percent from a recent peak. Facebook, the sixth-largest company, has tumbled 29 percent since late July, surpassing the 20-percent threshold for a "bear market."

The Nasdaq composite has fallen 9.6 percent since it set a record high in late August and the Russell 2000 has fallen 11 percent.

U.S. crude dropped 3 percent while Brent crude, the international standard, dropped 3.4 percent. Wholesale gasoline, heating oil and natural gas also declined.

After months of declines, the price of gold jumped by the most in two years, rising 2.9 percent to $1,227.60 an ounce.

In other metals trading, silver rose 2 percent and copper added 0.8 percent.

The dollar fell to 111.94 yen from 112.59 yen, and the euro rose to $1.1594 from $1.1525. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP
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<![CDATA[Toxic Metal Cadmium Found in National Chain Stores' Jewelry]]>Thu, 11 Oct 2018 09:48:39 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/jewelryAP_18268701424191.jpg

Jewelry with the toxic metal cadmium is showing up on the shelves of national retailers including Ross, Nordstrom Rack and Papaya, according to newly released test results.

Analysis done for the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health revealed some jewelry sold with women's dresses and shirts was nearly pure cadmium, which can cause cancer and reproductive harm after prolonged exposure.

Consumer advocates were hopeful cadmium had disappeared from the U.S. jewelry market following changes prompted by a 2010 Associated Press investigation that found Chinese manufacturers were using the metal to make kids' jewelry. States including California outlawed cadmium in children's jewelry, and testing by the center found the chemical had virtually disappeared from jewelry by 2012.

No laws address cadmium in adult jewelry, however, and last year the center decided to check those products. Lab testing found 31 adult jewelry items purchased from retail stores were at least 40 percent cadmium, and most were more than 90 percent, according to results shared exclusively with the AP.

California's law allows no more than 0.03 percent cadmium in children's jewelry. The precise health risk from the tested jewelry is unclear because researchers did not assess whether small amounts shed when the jewelry is handled and worn.

Over time, cadmium accumulates in the body and can damage the kidneys and bones. Most exposure happens by ingesting small amounts or by breathing it, most commonly through tobacco, which can contain cadmium. Researchers also have documented some absorption through skin contact, though the phenomenon is not well-studied.

Michael Harbut, a practicing doctor who as a university professor has researched cadmium's cancer-causing properties, noted that contact can trigger skin rashes including psoriasis.

"Cadmium is bad," said Harbut, who teaches at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine. "Given a choice between wearing something with cadmium in it, or wearing something without cadmium in it, I would take the product without cadmium."

The Oakland-based nonprofit bought all the test samples in the San Francisco Bay Area this year or last. The extent to which contaminated jewelry is in stores elsewhere isn't clear, though a national retailer would not typically limit a product to just one region.

The center said the problem should not be underestimated because of the limited market sampling.

"If you're the person that buys and is wearing that jewelry, you don't really care whether it's a common problem or a rare problem," said Caroline Cox, senior scientist at the center. "You have a problem."

Brent Cleaveland, executive director of the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association, said he does not believe the test results suggest a larger problem. Most major retailers have a stringent system for testing and analyzing what they sell, he said.

Most of the tainted items were sold at Ross, which operates more than 1,400 stores in 38 states. One pendant from a necklace chain was 100 percent cadmium, according to the testing.

In a written statement, Ross said it is committed to protecting its customers and has "addressed this issue with our supplier." The retailer would not say whether it pulled suspect jewelry from stores.

The brands found with high cadmium levels in Ross stores include Tacera and Vibe Sportswear.

Xinwei Xie, chief executive officer at Trend Textile Inc., which owns Tacera, declined to comment when reached by phone. The Skate Group Inc., which owns Vibe Sportswear, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Papaya said it considers cadmium in its products a serious problem. It operates more than 100 retail locations nationwide.

Steven Kim, an attorney representing Papaya, said the company has recalled the products where contamination was found and stopped buying from the manufacturer in China.

"Our manufacturers are required to represent and warrant that their products are in legal compliance," Kim said. "Papaya is very strict and stops doing business with any manufacturer which fails to comply."

Nordstrom spokeswoman Emily Sterken said the company is "reaching out to these vendors to make them aware of the situation and get more information on these items."

The Center for Environmental Health has long used California law to force companies to reduce levels of harmful materials in consumer products, including cadmium and lead in jewelry.

Under the state's Proposition 65, businesses must inform consumers about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer or other reproductive harm. The nonprofit has settled Proposition 65 claims against 36 companies, including Gap Inc. and Target Corp., which agreed to not sell jewelry with more than 0.03 percent cadmium.

That limit for children's jewelry took effect after the AP reported in 2010 that some Chinese jewelry manufacturers were substituting cadmium for lead, the use of which Congress clamped down on following a string of imported-product safety scandals.

The jewelry industry helped write voluntary U.S. standards following the AP investigation, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission did not mandate any cadmium limits.

Associated Press writer Justin Pritchard contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Center for Environmental Health via AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dow Industrials Sink 831 Points as Tech Companies Plunge]]>Wed, 10 Oct 2018 18:07:15 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/nysAP_18233703599027.jpg

U.S. stocks plunged Wednesday as investors, fearful that rising interest rates and trade tensions could hurt company profits, ramped up their selling of high-flying technology and internet stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 831 points, its worst loss in eight months.

The losses were widespread, and stocks that have been the biggest winners on the market suffered steep declines. Apple and Amazon, the two most valuable companies in the S&P 500, each had their worst day in two and a half years.

The Nasdaq composite, which has a high concentration of technology companies, sustained its biggest loss in more than two years and has dropped almost 8 percent since the start of October.

Wednesday's drop should be placed in perspective. Since early 2009, the S&P 500 has quadrupled, driven higher by the U.S. economic expansion, hefty profits for corporations and historically low interest rates, all of which makes stocks an attractive investment.

But stocks have slumped over the last week, largely due to worries over rising interest rates. The Federal Reserve recently raised short-term interest rates for the third time this year. Strong economic data and a positive outlook from Fed officials last week sent bond yields sharply higher and sparked concerns about even higher interest rates.

Big moves in interest rates tend to unsettle investors, and they can also push them to sell stocks and buy bonds instead. And there is still an overhang from the U.S. trade dispute with China, which accounts for sizeable portions of some tech companies' revenue.

Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell, said investors fear that rising interest rates and growing expenses are going to erode the boost company profits have gotten from the GOP tax overhaul.

"The tax cuts juiced earnings this year and that's not sustainable," he said. "The market's starting to say that the glass may be half empty."

President Donald Trump reiterated those concerns Wednesday. Trump told reporters after landing in Erie, Pennsylvania, for a campaign rally that he believes the Fed "is making a mistake" with its campaign of rate increases.

"I think the Fed has gone crazy," he said.

At the same time, Trump called Wednesday's market plunge "a correction we've been waiting for for a long time."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 831.83 points, or 3.1 percent, to 25,598.74. The S&P 500 index sank 94.66 points, or 3.3 percent, to 2,785.68. The benchmark index fell for the fifth straight day, which hadn't happened since just before the 2016 presidential election.

The Nasdaq composite, with a large contingent of tech stocks, tumbled 315.97 points, or 4.1 percent, to 7,422.05. It's fallen 7.5 percent in just five days.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks shed 46.45 points, or 2.9 percent, to 1,575.41.

The market had enjoyed a stretch of relative calm, where even big intraday losses were erased by the end of the day. But over the past five days, the losses stuck, and on Wednesday the selling went on right to the closing bell.

Some of the big losers were stocks that have scored double-digits gains earlier in 2018. Apple gave up 4.6 percent to $216.36 and Microsoft dropped 5.4 percent to $106.16. Amazon skidded 6.2 percent to $1,755.25 and Alphabet, Google's parent company, gave up 4.6 percent to $1,092.16.

Amazon has soared 50 percent this year, but has fallen 14 percent from its all-time high in early September. Alphabet has dropped 15 percent since late July.

Although the yield on the 10-year Treasury declined toward the end of the day, its jump from 3.05 percent early last week to more than 3.20 percent — a seven-year high — has spooked investors. The yield was just 2.82 percent in last August.

The Federal Reserve has been gradually raising interest rates for more than two years as the U.S. economy grows. When yields rise for that reason, it is generally good for stocks. But eventually the high rates worry stock investors, as higher rates tend to increase borrowing costs and cut into profit margins. They also make bonds more attractive investments.

There is some concern among investors that the Fed could overreact to the strong economy — it grew at a robust annual rate of 4.2 percent in the second quarter — and ramp up rate hikes and prematurely put the brakes on growth.

Technology and internet-based companies are known for their high profit margins, and many have reported explosive growth in recent years, with corresponding gains in their stock prices.

Gina Martin Adams, chief equity strategist for Bloomberg Intelligence, said the stocks have become more volatile in the last few months because investors have concerns about their future profitability.

"Amazon recently announced they were increasing wages, Facebook is spending a ton on security," she said. "Semiconductors have the most exposure to China out of segments in the S&P 500."

Sears nosedived after the Wall Street Journal reported that the struggling retailer hired an advisory firm to prepare a bankruptcy filing that could come within days. The stock fell 16.8 percent to 49 cents. It was more than $40 five years ago.

Sears has closed hundreds of stores and sold several famous brands or put them on the block as it sees more customers abandon its stores.

Insurance companies dropped as Hurricane Michael continued to gather strength and came ashore in Florida bringing winds of up to 155 miles an hour. Berkshire Hathaway dipped 4.7 percent to $213.10 and reinsurer Everest Re slid 5.1 percent to $217.73.

Luxury retailers tumbled after LVMH, the parent of Louis Vuitton, said its sales growth in China slowed. Tiffany plunged 10.2 percent to $110.38 and Ralph Lauren fell 8.4 percent to $116.96.

Stocks from emerging markets were also hard hit. Investors see many of these countries as being vulnerable to higher U.S. interest rates, which can pull away investment dollars. Brazil's Bovespa lost 2.5 percent and the Merval in Argentina sank 2.2 percent.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[After Backlash, Amazon to Boost Pay for Longtime Workers]]>Wed, 10 Oct 2018 12:24:18 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-825343402.png

Amazon, facing a backlash from longtime warehouse workers who say its $15 hourly minimum wage wouldn't benefit them, will now provide a bigger raise.

The company said Wednesday that "slight adjustments" are being made this week, and workers who already made $15 an hour will get more than the $1 an hour raise promised last week. The company said the raise will differ by warehouse and affect a small amount of employees, but declined to say how many.

A worker at a Maryland warehouse, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity for fear of being fired, said employees were told Tuesday that they would now get a raise of $1.25 an hour after Nov. 1. That's 25 cents more an hour than what they were told last week.

The worker said they were also told they would get cash payouts for reaching certain milestones. They'll receive $1,500 for staying with the company for five years and $3,000 after reaching their 10-, 15- and 20-year anniversaries. Previously, the company gave those workers one or two shares of Amazon stock after each of those anniversaries.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Market Forces Put America's Recycling Industry in the Dumps]]>Wed, 10 Oct 2018 11:05:52 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18249711231491-EL-Harvey-Recycling-Warehouse.jpg

America's recycling industry is in the dumps.

A crash in the global market for recyclables is forcing communities to make hard choices about whether they can afford to keep recycling or should simply send all those bottles, cans and plastic containers to the landfill.

Mountains of paper have piled up at sorting centers, worthless. Cities and towns that once made money on recyclables are instead paying high fees to processing plants to take them. Some financially strapped recycling processors have shut down entirely, leaving municipalities with no choice but to dump or incinerate their recyclables.

"There's no market. We're paying to get rid of it," says Ben Harvey, president of EL Harvey & Sons, which handles recyclables from about 30 communities at its sorting facility in Westborough, Massachusetts. "Seventy-five percent of what goes through our plant is worth nothing to negative numbers now."

It all stems from a policy shift by China, long the world's leading recyclables buyer. At the beginning of the year it enacted an anti-pollution program that closed its doors to loads of waste paper, metals or plastic unless they're 99.5 percent pure. That's an unattainable standard at U.S. single-stream recycling processing plants designed to churn out bales of paper or plastic that are, at best, 97 percent free of contaminants such as foam cups and food waste.

The resulting glut of recyclables has caused prices to plummet from levels already depressed by other economic forces, including lower prices for oil, a key ingredient in plastics.

The three largest publicly traded residential waste-hauling and recycling companies in North America — Waste Management, Republic Services and Waste Connections — reported steep drops in recycling revenues in their second-quarter financial results. Houston-based Waste Management reported its average price for recyclables was down 43 percent from the previous year.

"A year ago, a bale of mixed paper was worth about $100 per ton; today we have to pay about $15 to get rid of it," says Richard Coupland, vice president for municipal sales at Phoenix-based Republic, which handles 75 million tons of municipal solid waste and 8 million tons of recyclables nationwide annually. "Smaller recycling companies aren't able to stay in business and are shutting down."

Kirkwood, Missouri, announced plans this summer to end curbside recycling after a St. Louis-area processing facility shut down. Officials in Rock Hill, South Carolina, were surprised to learn that recyclables collected at curbside were being dumped because of a lack of markets. Lack of markets led officials to suspend recycling programs in Gouldsboro, Maine; DeBary, Florida; Franklin, New Hampshire; and Adrian Township, Michigan. Programs have been scaled back in Flagstaff, Arizona; La Crosse, Wisconsin; and Kankakee, Illinois.

Other communities are maintaining recycling programs but taking a financial hit as regional processors have raised rates to offset losses. Richland, Washington, is now paying $122 a ton for Waste Management to take its recycling; last year, the city was paid $16 a ton for the materials. Stamford, Connecticut, received $95,000 for recyclables last year; the city's new contract requires it to pay $700,000.

A big part of the problem, besides lower commodity prices overall, is sloppy recycling.

In the early days of recycling, people had to wash bottles and cans, and sort paper, plastic, glass and metal into separate bins. Now there's single-stream recycling, which allows all recyclables to be tossed into one bin. While single-stream has benefited efficiency, and customers like it, it's been a challenge on the contamination side.

A tour of Republic's facility in Beacon, about an hour's drive north of New York City, makes the challenges clear. A third of the material dumped by collection trucks is non-recyclable "contaminants" such as garden hoses, picnic coolers and broken lawnmowers. Workers have to pull that out and truck it to a landfill, adding to overall costs. Plastic bags contaminate bales of other materials and tangle machinery. Spilled ketchup and greasy pizza boxes turn otherwise marketable material into garbage.

"The death of recycling was completely avoidable and incredibly easily fixed," says Mitch Hedlund, executive director of Recycle Across America, which advocates standardized labeling on recycling bins so people understand what goes in and what doesn't.

A range of initiatives have been launched to get people to recycle right. Chicago is putting "oops" tags on curbside recycling bins with improper contents and leaving them uncollected. Rhode Island is airing "Let's Recycle Right" ads.

While some recyclables have been diverted to other Asian markets since China's closure, there are also signs of market improvement in the U.S. to offset the lost business, said David Biderman, CEO and executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America. He noted Chinese paper manufacturers that had relied on recyclables imported into their country have recently purchased shuttered mills in Kentucky, Maine and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, recyclable materials processors are re-negotiating contracts with municipalities to reflect the fact that prices paid for recyclables no longer offset the cost of collecting and sorting them.

"What we're advocating is to step back and re-look at recycling," Republic's Coupland said. "This is the new normal. The model no longer funds itself."

Associated Press writer Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon, contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sears Lines Up Emergency Financing for Potential Bankruptcy]]>Wed, 10 Oct 2018 09:52:02 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/964561226-Sears-STore.jpg

Sears Holdings has contacted banks in recent days to arrange the financing necessary to file for bankruptcy after 125 years in business, people familiar with the situation told CNBC.

The stock plummeted 32 percent, to 40 cents a share, in Wednesday's premarket trading after the report.

The so-called "debtor-in-possession" loan, which companies need to have enough liquidity to keep running the business during bankruptcy, is the clearest sign yet that the department store chain may finally file after years of losses. Sears has a $134 million debt payment due Monday that it previously said it may not be able to cover.

A bankruptcy filing is not yet definite and still could be averted. Sears' CEO Eddie Lampert has kept the company afloat through financial maneuvering and pouring his own money into the company. He may again choose to do so.

His hedge fund, ESL Investments, has also proposed a restructuring, and he has offered to buy some of Sears' remaining key assets through his hedge fund. It is unclear whether Sears' lenders will agree to it.

Lampert, who has a controlling ownership stake in Sears, personally owns some 31 percent of the retailer's shares outstanding, according to FactSet. His hedge fund ESL Investments owns about 19 percent.

As it weighs bankruptcy, Sears has been working with advisors including Lazard and M-III Partners, according to the people who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. It has been working with M-III for more than two years, the sources said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Sears hired M-III Partners to prepare for a bankruptcy filing that could come as soon as this week.

Representatives from Sears and M-III did not respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Lampert, a hedge fund manager called "the next Warren Buffett," bought Sears in 2004. A year later, he merged it with Kmart, in which he had a controlling stake.

Both department stores were already struggling with the rise of new competition, but Lampert believed he could revive the business in part by taking advantage of its lucrative real estate.

The challenges though, proved greater than expected. And the timing was bad — a few years before the Great Recession — which drove down sales of new home products like washers and dryers. The rise of the online shopping brought it a new giant with which it struggled to compete. Sears' 140,000-square-foot stores were monstrous as foot-traffic declined.

The retailer's last profitable year was in 2010. Analysts say Sears would need to generate more than $1 billion a year to keep running, as its sales continue to erode.

Sears has been survival mode for more than a decade. Since its merger with Kmart, Sears has spun off Lands' End, sold the Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker and closed hundreds of stores, 250 of which he put into a real estate investment trust offshoot known as Seritage.

Efforts to keep the company alive by selling its best assets to pay down debt have left it with little money to reinvest in its stores. They have also left shelves progressively barren, as key vendors, wary of Sears' future, have demanded tighter payment terms.

"That failure has manifested itself in lost customers, lost market share, and a brand that has become tarnished and increasingly irrelevant," GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders told CNBC late Tuesday. "The firm simply has no reason to exist."

It is also grappling with an underfunded pension. In 2015, it reached a final agreement with PBGC a federal government oversight organization that guarantees individuals' pension that acts as a parachute if a company goes bankrupt. As part of the deal, Sears gave the PBGC a lien on many of its most valuable remaining assets. That deal also thereby lessened Sears' ability to pour all of its proceeds back into reviving the company.

Sears lost $508 million during the second quarter as sales tumbled at a double-digit pace. Its adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization widened to $112 million, compared with a loss of $66 million during the same quarter a year earlier. Sales at stores open at least 12 months also fell 3.9 percent during the second quarter, which ended Aug. 4.

ESL in August made a bid to buy the storied Kenmore appliance brand and home improvement division, as one more attempt to put money into the company. Sears appointed a special committee earlier this year to balance out the potential conflict of interest inherent in ESL's bid.

The committee has frustrated Lampert with its slow pace, sources familiar with the situation have told CNBC. It has refused to approve Lampert's rescue plan, worried about opening the company up to litigation, Reuters reported on Wednesday. Industry experts have suggested Sears may have made itself vulnerable to lawsuits by its strategy of selling its valuable assets to pay down its debt, instead of putting more money towards rehabilitating the company or paying down its pension.

When those efforts stalled, ESL last month asked Sears' creditors to agree to restructure their debt in a detailed presentation that highlighted the risks it was facing. With so few key assets left, however, the retailer has little to offer its lenders by way of collateral.

Lampert sounded the alarms in a Sept. 13 blog post, saying Sears needed to restructure its debt or sell off some assets if it wanted to continue as a "going concern."

"It is imperative that the company reduce debt, adjust its debt maturity profile and eliminate the associated cash interest obligations," he wrote. "We continue to believe that it is in the best interests of all our stakeholders to accomplish this as a going concern, rather than alternatives that could result in significant reductions in value."

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC:

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Netflix to Bring New US Production Hub to New Mexico]]>Mon, 08 Oct 2018 20:17:50 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ABQAP_18281808534314.jpg

Netflix has chosen New Mexico as the site of a new U.S. production hub and is in final negotiations to buy an existing multimillion-dollar studio complex on the edge of the state's largest city, government and corporate leaders announced Monday.

It's the company's first purchase of such a property, and upcoming production work in Albuquerque and at other spots around New Mexico is forecast to result in $1 billion in spending over the next decade.

More than $14 million in state and local economic development funding is being tapped to bring Netflix to New Mexico. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, a Democrat, touted the investment and said lengthy efforts to put New Mexico on the movie-making map are paying off.

"This is awesome," the governor told dozens of people gathered inside a cavernous sound stage at ABQ Studios. "This massive investment will have a huge impact of course on New Mexico and continue our efforts to grow and diversify the economy."

Martinez acknowledged the state's reliance on federal funding and oil and gas development, saying more needs to be done to encourage diverse ventures such as Netflix as the private sector is the backbone of the American economy.

Keller said the city has laid the groundwork to make sure the film industry is part of its economic development plan. He called landing Netflix a "transformative victory" for the city.

Netflix projects produced in New Mexico include the Emmy Award-winning limited series "Godless" and "Longmire." Company officials said previous experience working in the state inspired them to jump at the opportunity to establish a new production hub in Albuquerque.

Netflix earlier this year announced it was establishing its first European production hub in Spain. That operation is expected to help the online video entertainment platform expand its Spanish-language content.

It also has a production hub in Los Angeles and it's possible the company's footprint will continue to expand, given the amount of content the online entertainment provider is aiming to create.

"We will look at each place on its merits — the same kind of decision-making that went into the impending purchase of this studio," said Ty Warren, Netflix's vice president for physical production. "The combination of great crews, existing infrastructure, financial incentives — it was all part of it."

Netflix has about 130 million subscribers worldwide.

Officials did not release details about the sales price of the studio complex in New Mexico. The property includes several sound stages, production offices, mill space and a back lot.

Martinez, whose second and final term ends this year, initially talked about trying to rein in New Mexico's film incentive program and an annual $50 million cap was instituted.

As the state dug its way out of the recession, she said it was important to avoid cuts to critical programs such as education, health care and public infrastructure. She was criticized by many who thought the cap would stifle the growth of the film industry.

In 2013, she signed the "Breaking Bad bill," named after the Emmy-winning TV drama that filmed primarily in Albuquerque during its five seasons. The legislation enhanced incentives for television productions.

Martinez said the industry has since marked three consecutive record-breaking years in New Mexico and it is lining up to be another monumental year.

The industry has drawn more in-state direct spending from film and TV productions each year since 2014, topping out at $505 million last fiscal year, according to the state film office.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Susan Montoya Bryan/AP]]>
<![CDATA[2 American Researchers Win Nobel Economics Prize]]>Mon, 08 Oct 2018 07:23:35 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/209*120/NobelEconomicsPrize.jpg

Two American researchers have been awarded the Nobel Prize for economics for studying the interplay of climate change and technological innovation with economics.

William Nordhaus of Yale University and Paul Romer of New York University were announced winners of the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize on Monday by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The academy said Romer's work "explains how ideas are different to other goods and require specific conditions to thrive in a market." Previous macroeconomic research had emphasized technological innovation as a driver of growth but had not modelled how market conditions and economic decisions affected creation of new technologies, the academy said.

Romer said Monday morning that he thought the calls from the Royal Academy were spam, so he didn't answer them at first.

Nordhaus in the 1990s became the first person to create a model that "describes the global interplay between the economy and the climate," the academy said. He showed that "the most efficient remedy for problems caused by greenhouse gases is a global scheme of universally imposed carbon taxes."

The prize comes just a day after an international panel of scientists issued a report detailing how Earth's weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape if the world's leaders could somehow limit future human-caused warming to just 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (a half degree Celsius) from now, instead of the globally agreed-upon goal of 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C).

Nordhaus has argued that climate change should be considered a "global public good," like public health and international trade, and regulated accordingly, but not through a command-and-control approach. Instead, by agreeing on a global price for burning carbon that reflects its whole cost, this primary cause of rising temperatures could be traded and taxed, putting market forces to work on the problem.

Many economists have since endorsed the concept of taxing carbon and using this financial lever to influence societal behavior. But adopting the regulatory frameworks on a global scale has been a complex challenge, and the world's political leaders are failing to meet it, the head of the United Nations said last month.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres bluntly told leaders in New York that unless current emission trends for greenhouse gases are reversed by 2020, it will be impossible to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), which was a key goal of the 2015 Paris climate accords. The U.N. chief challenged governments to end fossil fuel subsidies, help shift toward renewable energy and back a price for carbon emissions that reflects their actual cost. He cited, for example, that climate-related disasters already cost the world $320 billion last year, a figure likely to grow with increased warming.

The economics prize is the last of the Nobels to be announced this year. Last year's prize went to American Richard Thaler for studying how human irrationality affects economic theory.

The peace prize was awarded Friday to Denis Mukwege of Congo and Iraqi Nadia Murad for their work to draw attention to how sexual violence is used as a weapon of war.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Henrik Montgomery]]>
<![CDATA[Delaware Valley Veterans Job Fair]]>Tue, 09 Oct 2018 12:50:36 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Delaware_Valley_Veterans_Job_Fair.jpg

The Battleship New Jersey is the venue for the Delaware Valley Veterans Job Fair on Oct. 10.]]>
<![CDATA[As Joblessness Falls, Skilled Workers Might be Harder to Find]]>Sun, 07 Oct 2018 23:32:25 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/207*120/JobOpeningsJoblessnessSkilled.jpg

Are America's employers at risk of running out of skilled people to hire?

The U.S. economy has become a seemingly perpetual job-generating machine, having steadily added workers for nearly eight years. Even with the unemployment rate now at 3.7 percent — its lowest point since 1969 — hiring hasn't stalled. So far this year, job growth has averaged a robust 208,000 a month, up from a pace of 182,000 for all of 2017.

The trend has defied the predictions of most economists. Many have long warned that as hiring surged and unemployment fell, the pool of potential hires would shrink and trigger a bidding war that would ignite wage gains.

It hasn't happened. Many people are still being hired each month. And pay raises, though rising, remain modest

"Every single time that we predict job growth is going to start slowing and wage growth is going to start picking up in recent years, we haven't gotten that right," said Martha Gimbel, research director for the jobs listing site Indeed.

To try to explain why employers are still managing to hire skilled workers at a steady pace, Gimbel paraphrased a line from the 1971 movie "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory":

"There's no knowing where we're going, but it shows no sign of slowing."

In July, America's employers posted a record 6.9 million job openings, which actually exceeded the number of unemployed people. The abundance of openings suggests that companies expect to keep hiring.

Even the Trump administration, for all its brash public confidence, acknowledges uncertainty about how much further unemployment can fall.

"It's a tricky question, because I don't think we know," Larry Kudlow, the president's top economic adviser, told reporters Friday.

At some point, many employers will likely feel they're running out of skilled workers to hire. Just not yet. Here will be five signals that a labor shortage may finally be at hand:

Average hourly wages have risen 2.8 percent in the past 12 months. That's basically keeping pace with the inflation rate for consumer prices. But the theory is that as economy keeps expanding and employers find they need to pay more to attract employees, pay could jump, especially in some sectors of the economy that require heavily skilled workers.

Some companies are already taking action. Consider Amazon's just-announced boost in its minimum hourly wage to $15 starting in November. Amazon's rival retailers and warehouse operators, in particular, may feel pressure to raise pay, too.

For now, many employers appear to be raising pay only modestly while in some cases also offering short-term bonuses not included in the government's gauge of hourly earnings.

American Textile, a 93-year-old manufacturer of pillows, sheets and comforters based in Pittsburgh, has found it a challenge in recent months to add and keep workers for its 800-person staff. It's been raising pay by 3 percent to 4 percent annually for years. But it's now introducing the perk of paying bonuses as soon as three months after a worker joins the company.

"Just show up — you'll get something extra," said Pete Marsalis, the company's director of human resources. 

One of the best measures of available workers is what's called the participation rate. That's the proportion of working-age adults who either have a job or are actively looking for one.

The participation rate for people defined as prime age — 25 to 54 years old — was 81.8 percent in September. That is below the peak of 84.6 percent in January 1999.

The rate increased in 2016 and 2017, but it's fluctuated this year. Because the rate remains below its peak, it suggests that a pool of people exists who could potentially start looking for work or return to school to obtain specialized skills or training for a job.

To return to the peak participation rate would require roughly an additional 4 million people to start looking for a job and potentially find one.

If there already were a severe shortage of skilled workers, a broad mismatch would likely exist between the types of jobs available and the types of jobs people are seeking. But research published last month by the job listing site Indeed suggests that the degree of the mismatch has actually narrowed since 2014.

In examining resumes posted to Indeed, the researchers found that roughly one-third don't match the available jobs. Though that's a relatively high proportion, it's less than in 2014, when the proportion was closer to 40 percent.

A shortage of skilled workers, like nurses, might now exist in certain sectors of the economy, Gimbel said. But a shortage doesn't necessarily exist across the entire economy. If it did, the pressures to raise wages would be stronger.


When Joe Brusuelas scanned the September jobs report, he saw signs that a shortage of skilled workers could emerge in the near future. He's the chief economist for RSM, a consulting firm that specializes in mid-size businesses.

"Over the past 12 months, we should start to see the pace of hiring grind down," he said.

Brusuelas sees fewer people entering the labor force, a consequence of lower birth rates and other demographic changes as the vast baby boom generation retires. In June, the growth of the labor force was 1.2 percent compared with a year earlier. By September, the 12-month growth in the labor force had more than halved to 0.52 percent.

Fewer people entering the job market could cause employers to slow their pace of hiring because they couldn't find enough skilled workers.

The Trump administration's drive to limit immigration could worsen any shortage of qualified workers.

Brusuelas suggested that employers who foresee a lack of qualified workers might broaden their searches to groups they wouldn't have previously considered for hires. He estimated, for example, that 8 million to 10 million people with felony records can't fully participate in the job market now. Bringing these people into the job market is among the priorities of President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka.

On the White House lawn Friday, Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council, also endorsed the initiative.

"I'm all for it," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Alan Diaz/AP]]>
<![CDATA[As Joblessness Falls, Skilled Workers Might Be Hard to Find]]>Sat, 06 Oct 2018 09:56:36 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18203839625641.jpg

Are America's employers at risk of running out of skilled people to hire?

The U.S. economy has become a seemingly perpetual job-generating machine, having steadily added workers for nearly eight years. Even with the unemployment rate now at 3.7 percent — its lowest point since 1969 — hiring hasn't stalled. So far this year, job growth has averaged a robust 208,000 a month, up from a pace of 182,000 for all of 2017.

The trend has defied the predictions of most economists. Many have long warned that as hiring surged and unemployment fell, the pool of potential hires would shrink and trigger a bidding wire that would ignite wage gains.

It hasn't happened. Many people are still being hired each month. And pay raises, though rising, remain modest.

"Every single time that we predict job growth is going to start slowing and wage growth is going to start picking up in recent years, we haven't gotten that right," said Martha Gimbel, research director for the jobs listing site Indeed.

To try to explain why employers are still managing to hire skilled workers at a steady pace, Gimbel paraphrased a line from the 1971 movie "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."

"There's no knowing where we're going, but it shows no sign of slowing," Gimbel said.

In July, America's employers posted a record 6.9 million job openings, which actually exceeded the number of unemployed people. The abundance of openings suggests that companies expect to keep hiring.

Even the Trump administration, for all its brash public confidence, acknowledges uncertainty about how much further unemployment can fall.

"It's a tricky question, because I don't think we know," Larry Kudlow, the president's top economic adviser, told reporters Friday.

At some point, many employers will likely feel they're running out of skilled workers to hire. Just not yet. Here will be five signals that a labor shortage may finally be at hand:



Average hourly wages have risen 2.8 percent in the past 12 months. That's basically keeping pace with the inflation rate for consumer prices. But the theory is that as economy keeps expanding and employers find they need to pay more to attract employees, pay could jump, especially in some sectors of the economy that require heavily skilled workers.

Some companies are already taking action. Consider Amazon's just-announced boost in its minimum hourly wage to $15 starting in November. Amazon's rival retailers and warehouse operators, in particular, may feel pressure to raise pay, too.

For now, many employers appear to be raising pay only modestly while in some cases also offering short-term bonuses not included in the government's gauge of hourly earnings.

American Textile, a 93-year-old manufacturer of pillows, sheets and comforters based in Pittsburgh, has found it a challenge in recent months to add and keep workers for its 800-person staff. It's been raising pay by 3 percent to 4 percent annually for years. But it's now introducing the perk of paying bonuses as soon as three months after a worker joins the company.

"Just show up — you'll get something extra," said Pete Marsalis, the company's director of human resources.



One of the best measures of available workers is what's called the participation rate. That's the proportion of working-age adults who either have a job or are actively looking for one.

The participation rate for people defined as prime age — 25 to 54 years old — was 81.8 percent in September. That is below the peak of 84.6 percent in January 1999.

The rate increased in 2016 and 2017, but it's fluctuated this year. Because the rate remains below its peak, it suggests that a pool of people exists who could potentially start looking for work or return to school to obtain specialized skills or training for a job.

To return to the peak participation rate would require roughly an additional 4 million people to start looking for a job and potentially find one.



If there already were a severe shortage of skilled workers, a broad mismatch would likely exist between the types of jobs available and the types of jobs people are seeking. But research published last month by the job listing site Indeed suggests that the degree of the mismatch has actually narrowed since 2014.

In examining resumes posted to Indeed, the researchers found that roughly one-third don't match the available jobs. Though that's a relatively high proportion, it's less than in 2014, when the proportion was closer to 40 percent.

A shortage of skilled workers, like nurses, might now exist in certain sectors of the economy, Gimbel said. But a shortage doesn't necessarily exist across the entire economy. If it did, the pressures to raise wages would be stronger.



When Joe Brusuelas scanned the September jobs report, he saw signs that a shortage of skilled workers could emerge in the near future. He's the chief economist for RSM, a consulting firm that specializes in mid-size businesses.

"Over the past 12 months, we should start to see the pace of hiring grind down," he said.

Brusuelas sees fewer people entering the labor force, a consequence of lower birth rates and other demographic changes as the vast baby boom generation retires. In June, the growth of the labor force was 1.2 percent compared with a year earlier. By September, the 12-month growth in the labor force had more than halved to 0.52 percent.

Fewer people entering the job market could cause employers to slow their pace of hiring because they couldn't find enough skilled workers.



The Trump administration's drive to limit immigration could worsen any shortage of qualified workers.

Brusuelas suggested that employers who foresee a lack of qualified workers might broaden their searches to groups they wouldn't have previously considered for hires. He estimated, for example, that 8 million to 10 million people with felony records can't fully participate in the job market now. Bringing these people into the job market is among the priorities of President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka.

On the White House lawn Friday, Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council, also endorsed the initiative.

"I'm all for it," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File]]>
<![CDATA[Here's How Target Plans to Beat Amazon and Walmart in the Shipping Wars This Holiday Season]]>Fri, 05 Oct 2018 12:08:38 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/180*120/target19.jpg

Target has been busy upgrading its supply chain, and this holiday season marks its biggest test yet. 

Early last year, the retailer said it would pour $7 billion into investments to turn around its business over the next three years. A portion went into bulking up its delivery options — making it more convenient for people to shop in Target stores and online. While Target declined to say exactly how much it spent on those efforts, it's easy to see the results. It has rolled out free two-day shipping, acquired a transportation company and is adding services like curbside pickup and same-day delivery in major metro areas. 

There's a huge opportunity for Target as it competes with rivals like Walmart and Amazon this holiday season. These new convenient options may make the difference in where a shopper goes to stock up on holiday treats and gifts. U.S. shoppers are poised to give retailers another strong holiday, but it may not be as robust as last year, according to some forecasts. 

"From my perspective I think Target has a more differentiated product assortment than Walmart today," Stacey Widlitz, president of consulting group SW Retail Advisors, told CNBC. "They have the product to win, and now they are putting the tools in customers' hands — like two-day shipping." 

"Customers are now like: 'Wait a minute. Target behaves like Amazon, and they have strong private-label categories. Why would I not add some extra stuff in my basket?'" she said. 

Last holiday season, Target said its stores fulfilled 70 percent of all digital orders. This year, that percentage will be even higher. That's a big reason why the company is hiring 120,000 temporary workers, or 20 percent more people than it did a year ago. About 7,500 of those workers are expected to help pack boxes in warehouses, Target said. Overall, Target said it will double the number of hires fulfilling online orders in stores and distribution centers this year. 

"Our stores are at the center of our digital growth," CEO Brian Cornell told CNBC last month. "They are fulfilling the majority of our online orders. … They are center to everything we are doing at Target." 

The company just had one of its strongest quarters ever. This holiday season, Target will have to prove it can keep the momentum going. One way to do that is to prove that its network of distribution centers and delivery services can handle what could turn out to be an unprecedented surge in traffic in stores and digital orders. 

"Last August, I ordered a bunch of stuff from Target, and it took so long to get it," Widlitz said. "This year, I ordered stuff, and I got it next day, and some of it was even flown in. That is a game changer." 

One improvement was free two-day shipping for Target credit card holders, which launched earlier this year. For everyone else, two-day shipping is free with a minimum order of $35. That compares with Amazon, which offers free two-day shipping for Prime members who pay $119 annually, and Walmart, which offers free two-day shipping on orders totaling more than $35, but doesn't have the credit card perk. 

For Target, the perks for free two-day shipping serve as another way to lure more shoppers to sign up for its REDcard, which also takes 5 percent off purchases. 

Target said 90 percent of its orders for two-day delivery are now fulfilled from the back of its stores. The company said it uses about 1,400 of its roughly 1,800 stores in the U.S. today to do this. 

For those customers who are still choosing to visit Target stores, the retailer has been rolling out options like order online, pick up in store, along with curbside pickup. From the time orders associated with these services are placed, Target said it has the majority of items ready within an hour for customers. The drive-up service in particular has grown from a trial at one store to more than 800 locations across the U.S. today. And Target said roughly one-third of customers who come inside a store to pick up an online order end up making other purchases while they are there. 

"Once you are in one of our stores, you might come in for a toy and walk out with something for your home," Cornell told CNBC. "We are making sure that whole offering is readily available." 

To become a bigger force with same-day delivery, Target acquired Instacart rival Shipt for $550 million late last year. The deal brought with it a network of Shipt's personal shoppers that pick items off of shelves and deliver them to customers' homes. The service, which is also available at other retailers including Costco and Publix, retails for $99 per year. Target said Shipt's membership has tripled since it was acquired. 

Shipt currently delivers a wide variety of items that Target sells — the company chose to start with groceries, home decor and electronics, primarily. "All major product categories," including apparel, are expected to be available on the service by the end of 2019. 

By comparison, Walmart has been using its Jet.com business to make a same-day delivery push in New York. And Amazon's Fresh, which serves select ZIP codes in many major U.S. cities, offers same-day delivery of groceries, so long as shoppers place their orders that morning. 

Before Shipt, Target last August acquired transportation service Grand Junction, which now helps the company deliver items purchased within the store to shoppers' homes within two hours. This is being tested in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Boston. The company said the average basket size of these customers is $200, the most of any fulfillment service. That's primarily because shoppers use it for bulkier, and likely more expensive, items like coffee tables and flatscreen TVs. 

Target also has an offering similar to Amazon Prime Now called Restock. Customers can pack a box full of household items like dish soap and cereal, until the box reaches 45 pounds. Again, this is free for Target credit card members, with other customers paying a $2.99 fee for shipping. 

It's also possible these services could expand or be supplemented with other offers during the holiday period. This has happened in the recent years. 

"Zooming out, as we think about Target's supply chain and inventory management in the context of Walmart, we believe Target does need to catch up to its competitor, but also acknowledge progress is being made behind the scenes," Cowen & Co.'s Oliver Chen said in a research note. 

"We do believe Target has demonstrated the retailer can very quickly scale initiatives and acquire differentiated assets to drive growth," he said.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 


Photo Credit: Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Mattress Firm, Largest US Mattress Retailer, Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection]]>Fri, 05 Oct 2018 08:39:27 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/mattressfirm.jpg

The largest U.S. mattress retailer, Mattress Firm, said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection so it can take steps to strengthen its balance sheet and reshape its store footprint. 

Under bankruptcy protection, the retailer will close a number of its stores. It has already filed court motions for approval to reject up to 700 leases. It will begin to close roughly 200 stores in the next few days. 

It expects to complete prepackaged restructuring within the next 45 to 60 days, it said. 

It has secured roughly $250 million in so-called debtor-in-possession financing to support its operations under bankruptcy. It has also secured $525 million in senior secured credit facilities so support its emergence from bankruptcy and continuing operations. 

Mattress Firm says it has filed motions to support the continued payment of employee wages and health and welfare benefits, as well as honor its customer policies and programs. 

It said it is seeking court authorization to pay suppliers and contractors in full for all services provided before and after its bankruptcy filing. 

Shares of Tempur Sealy International jumped more than 5 percent on the news. The mattress company unexpectedly pulled its products from Mattress Firm in 2017 over disputes about pricing. 

Mattress Firm was acquired by South African retailer Steinhoff International Holdings for $3.8 billion in 2016. The conglomerate, which owns more than 40 retail brands including Conforama in France, Poundland in the U.K., has been embroiled in an accounting scandal that has crushed its stock price and created liquidity concerns. Its shares are down nearly 54 percent since January.

This story first appeared on CNBC.com. More from CNBC: 


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Employees of Shuttered Trump Casino to Receive Severance]]>Fri, 05 Oct 2018 05:42:13 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Trump+Plaza+AC.jpg

Former employees of the now-closed Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City are set to receive their long-awaited severance checks.

A representative for the union Unite Here Local 54 said Thursday that nearly 354 eligible ex-employees can collect their $1,500 severance checks from the union office on Oct. 18 and 19. The Press of Atlantic City reports the payments were contractually negotiated by the union and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009.

The casino filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2014. The closing of the Trump Plaza capped off a year that saw four other Atlantic City casino properties close.

Local 54 President Bob McDevitt says workers have waited too long to collect money that is rightfully theirs, calling the wait "an indictment of the bankruptcy court system."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Unemployment Rate Falls to 49-Year Low of 3.7 Percent]]>Fri, 05 Oct 2018 10:26:39 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/jobsreportGettyImages-154411189.jpg

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent in September — the lowest level since December 1969 — signaling how the longest streak of hiring on record has put millions of Americans back to work.

Employers added just 134,000 jobs last month, the fewest in a year, the Labor Department said Friday. But that figure was likely depressed by the impact of Hurricane Florence.

That storm struck North and South Carolina in mid-September and closed thousands of businesses. A category that includes restaurants, hotels and casinos lost jobs for the first time since last September, when Hurricane Harvey exerted a similar effect.

In recent months, though, healthy consumer and business spending has been fueling brisk economic growth and emboldening employers to continue hiring. Americans are confident about the economic outlook, buoyed by the job gains and signs of higher pay. The September gain extended an 8½-year streak of monthly job growth.

What's more, the government on Friday revised sharply up its estimate of hiring for July and August by 87,000 jobs. So far this year, monthly job growth has averaged 208,000, up from a pace of 182,000 for all of last year.

"The acceleration in job gains this year is extraordinary in an environment where firms are having great difficulty finding qualified candidates," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.

Average hourly pay rose 2.8 percent from a year earlier, a moderate gain and one tick below the year-over-year increase in August. Many economists expect pay growth to accelerate in coming months. With unemployment so low, companies are facing intense pressure to raise pay to land workers. Amazon responded this week by raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Financial markets were down sharply in late-morning trading. Investors have grown concerned about higher interest rates and the impact they might have on the economy and the stock market.

Friday's jobs report will likely keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise short-term interest rates, economists said, with another rate hike expected at its meeting in December.

The Fed's hikes might be starting to bite. Borrowing costs for businesses and consumers are rising. Pointing to the economy's health, the Fed last week raised its benchmark short-term rate and predicted that it would continue to tighten credit into 2020 to manage growth and inflation. Over time, higher borrowing costs make auto loans, mortgages and corporate debt more expensive and can eventually slow the economy.

Anticipating stronger growth — and perhaps higher inflation — investors have dumped bonds and forced up their yields. The yield on the government's 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for mortgages and other loans, has touched its highest level in seven years.

For now, consumers, business executives and most economists remain optimistic. Measures of consumer confidence are at or near their highest levels in 18 years. Retailers have begun scrambling to hire enough workers for what's expected to be a robust holiday shopping season. A survey of service-sector firms this week, including banks, hotels and health care providers, found that they are expanding at their fastest pace in a decade.

Americans have continued spending steadily and appear to be in generally stable financial shape. Households are saving nearly 7 percent of their incomes — more than twice the savings rate before the recession. That trend suggests that a brighter economic outlook hasn't caused consumers to recklessly build up unsustainable debt.

During the April-June quarter, the U.S. economy expanded at a 4.2 percent annual rate, the best in four years. Economists have forecast that growth reached a 3 percent to 3.5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter.

The economy does show some weak spots. Sales of existing homes have fallen over the past year. Increasingly expensive houses, higher mortgage rates and a shortage of properties for sale are slowing purchases. Auto sales have also slumped.

President Donald Trump's trade fights could also weigh on the economy, though the effect on hiring won't likely be felt until next year, economists say. The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as well as on roughly half of China's imports to the United Sates. Most U.S. businesses will try to absorb the higher costs themselves, at least for now, economists say, and avoid layoffs.

Still, should the tariffs remain fully in effect a year from now, roughly 300,000 jobs could be lost by then, according to estimates by Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.

Manufacturers, which are more dependent on foreign markets than other industries, added 18,000 jobs last month, a sign that the trade fight so far is having little effect on hiring.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Musk Taunts SEC as 'Shortseller Enrichment Commission']]>Thu, 04 Oct 2018 22:17:58 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Musk-Elon.jpg

Elon Musk on Thursday lashed out at the Securities and Exchange Commission, taking to Twitter to mock the “incredible work” of the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission.”

“Just want to [say] that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!” the Tesla Motors CEO wrote on Twitter.

The jabs were posted just days after the billionaire tech entrepreneur reached a proposed settlement with the SEC over yet another series of tweets Musk sent in August, NBC News reported.

Those August tweets said Musk was considering taking Tesla private and that he had “funding secured” for such a transaction. That caught the attention of the SEC, which last week sued Musk, alleging that the tweet and others Musk sent were false and misleading to investors.

Under the proposed settlement, announced on Saturday, Musk would step down as board chairman at Tesla while remaining CEO, and he and Tesla would each pay $20 million in penalties.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Ahead of 3-Way Split, DowDuPont Unveils New DuPont Logo]]>Thu, 04 Oct 2018 17:15:53 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/dupontlogo.png

Ahead of next year's spinoff, the division that will retain the DuPont name has a new look.

News outlets report temporary holding company DowDuPont unveiled DuPont's new logo Wednesday.

While retaining its predecessor's oval shape, it ditches the red ribbon around the company name, now bolder. Now gone is the space between "Du" and "Pont," a legacy holdover still used by some of the namesake family.

The company's statement says the new design recognizes the company's heritage "while conveying our focus on a customer-led innovation strategy."

The specialty products division will become the new DuPont company in June. It will remain based in Delaware, along with agriculture spinoff Corteva Agriscience.

The Michigan-based materials science division will keep the Dow name after it spins off in April.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: DuPont]]>
<![CDATA[Mortgage Rates Edge Lower; 30-Year Rate at 4.71 Percent]]>Thu, 04 Oct 2018 11:13:53 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/bay-area-homes.jpg

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged slightly lower this week, taking a pause after five straight weeks of increases.

Costs for would-be homebuyers have been climbing, and the key 30-year rate has been running at its highest levels in more than seven years. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages ticked down to 4.71 percent this week from 4.72 percent last week. The average benchmark rate has risen from 3.85 percent a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans slipped to 4.15 percent this week from 4.16 percent last week.

The Federal Reserve signaled its confidence in the economy last week by raising a key interest rate for a third time this year, forecasting another rate hike before year's end.

The strong economy and anticipation of more short-term rate hikes by the Fed are helping drive the increase in mortgage rates.

Against the backdrop of economic strength, interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds have been rising as their prices have fallen. The yield on the key 10-year Treasury note climbed Thursday to 3.18 percent, its highest level in more than seven years.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.

The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 0.4 point from 0.5 point last week. The fee on 15-year mortgages also declined to 0.4 point from 0.5 point.

The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 4.01 percent from 3.97 percent last week. The fee was unchanged at 0.3 point.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Tony Avelar/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Hersheypark Plans for $150M Expansion, New 'Hypercoaster']]>Wed, 03 Oct 2018 16:37:02 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/chocolateworld2.png

Hersheypark has announced plans for a $150 million expansion that includes a new roller coaster.

The central Pennsylvania amusement park said Wednesday that its new, 23-acre Chocolatetown attraction will "unlock an all-new chapter - one Where Fun Meets Chocolate in more ways than ever before."

Chocolatetown will include a restaurant and bar, a confectionery kitchen, an ice cream parlor, a Starbucks, a 10,000-square-foot flagship Hershey store where patrons can shop their favorite Hershey merchandise, a roller coaster, and more.

Hersheypark says its newest roller coaster will be the park's "tallest, longest, fastest and sweetest" ever. According to park filings with the Federal Aviation Administration, the ride will rise over 200 feet, classifying it as a "hypercoaster."

Additionally, visitors will be able to "get to the fun faster than ever before," as the expansion features a new arrival experience which streamlines entrance to the main attractions. One of the park's most historic rides – the carousel, has found a new home in Chocolatetown.

Officials say the expansion project is the largest capital investment in Hershey Entertainment & Resorts history. Chocolatetown is expected to be completed in time for the 2020 season.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Hersheypark rendering]]>
KENNETH HILARIO ]]><![CDATA[The Philadelphia Film Society's Plan to Revive Price Theater]]>Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:09:07 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/prince-theater-2017_1200xx2000-1125-0-103.jpg

The Philadelphia Film Society has a multimillion-dollar plan to transform the Prince Theater, the goal of which is to add more movie screens in a city lacking them and to become the "hub of film."

The Philadelphia Film Society bought the Prince Theater in 2015 for $8 million, and in the years since made a few changes that positioned it as a mixed-used venue of sorts — from converting space into a first-run theater to renting out spaces to outside companies.

The organization's priority right now is the 27th annual Philadelphia Film Festival, which runs Oct. 18-28 and will feature Academy Award hopefuls like Widows starring Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis and Roma by Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón.

But as audiences fill the city's theaters to see high-profile and under-the-radar flicks this month, the Film Society has grand future plans for the Prince, which will be renamed the Philadelphia Film Center.

For more news on the future transformation of the Prince Theater, click here

Stay up-to-date on all things business with the Philadelphia Business Journal.

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<![CDATA[5 Tips for Saving Money and Time on Halloween Costumes]]>Wed, 03 Oct 2018 10:33:14 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-867992540.jpg

Shopping for Halloween costumes doesn't have to be scary.

This year, shoppers can find more ways to save time and money. Discounters like Walmart and Target are expanding their costume offerings and creating designated sections where customers can find more of their Halloween needs in one place. And for the first time, Party City is offering an assortment of Halloween costumes on Amazon. Party City and others are either revamping their apps or launching new ones to make shopping easier.

And of course, pop-up shop pioneer Spirit Halloween, the largest Halloween store franchise, is a reliable option. It now has about 1,400 temporary locations in the U.S. and Canada, with more of a presence in the malls.

Meanwhile, crafts chain Jo-Ann Stores Inc., is now catering to procrastinators with a bigger assortment of ready-made costumes.

"More retailers are getting into the game," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser at NPD Group, a market research firm. "Stores are creating broader assortments. And you can get an instant costume from start to finish."

Halloween costumes are a big business for retailers. Americans are expected to spend $9 billion on Halloween, slightly down from the $9.1 billion spent last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group. The 2018 spending estimate includes $3.2 billion on costumes, according to the survey. Goodwill says Halloween is its biggest season in terms of sales.

Here are five tips:

Last year, Target launched a Halloween destination called Hyde & Eek where customers can find Halloween decor and costumes all in one place. It added candy to the shop this year. It also increased its costume assortment by nearly 30 percent. Online, the bulk of the prices for Halloween costumes range from $15 to $50. Walmart is also pulling together more Halloween items into one destination. It used to only have costumes, decor and makeup in one section; now, it's adding Halloween candy. And for the first time, Walmart created an online shop in the beauty section to help customers find complete makeup looks for Halloween costumes inspired by DC comics, including Wonder Woman or an Ice Princess.

Stores are revamping their apps or adding new ones to make it easier to shop for Halloween costumes — and to share. Jo-Ann's revamped app allows shoppers to share their Halloween costumes with friends on social media. And Party City launched a new app called Spookify that lets customers virtually try on their costumes and makeup.

If you don't need to get the hottest costume of the season, it's best to shop right before Halloween to get the best deals of the season. Discounts can be up to 50 percent. But as NPD's Cohen says, "Truly the best time is right after Halloween and store it for next year." That's when costume prices are slashed by 75 percent.

Go to your closet and you'll most likely find leftovers from past Halloweens such as a witch's hat or a feather from a flapper's costume. Or turn your regular clothes into costumes. Shoppers should also turn to thrift stores like Goodwill, which offers both used and new Halloween costumes. Goodwill's website has a special page devoted to Halloween. The site offers makeup tutorials and shows how shoppers can create a costume with up to three items from the thrift chain. Shoppers can purchase a costume in its entirety including wig, shoes, and headbands for an average price of $30, according to Lauren Lawson-Zilai, a Goodwill spokeswoman.

You don't have to have the skills of Martha Stewart to make your own costume. Get ideas from Pinterest or Etsy, or go to the online sites of Jo-Ann's and Michael's for ideas. Jo-Ann's has broadened its assortment to include more ready-made accessories like tutus. On Jo-Ann's online site, customers can find costumes that can be made in an hour or take three weeks and it separates the project by age and skill level.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

Photo Credit: Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[New Jersey Puts Microbrewery Regulations on Ice]]>Wed, 03 Oct 2018 08:23:13 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/New+JErsey+Beer+Generic+Microbrewery.JPG

New regulations to limit the number of events craft breweries in New Jersey can hold were put on ice Tuesday.

Just a few weeks after the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control issued rules on Sept. 21 limiting the state's roughly 90 microbreweries to 25 on-site activities a year, the office said it was suspending the regulations.

"We want to make sure that we get this right," ABC Director David Rible said in a statement.

Rible says the division will work with stakeholders to understand concerns and consult with lawmakers on potential changes.

The reversal comes after the initial rules led to some pushback from legislative leaders, including Democrats Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday the rules surprised him and pledged to look into it.

A day later, the division announced the about-face.

The rules stemmed from an attempt to clarify a 2012 law that allowed the breweries to serve their beers on-site. They would have limited microbreweries to 25 on-site activities each year, such as trivia nights and live performances.

It also called for barring them hosting more than 52 private parties each year or showing sports on television unless it counted as one of their 25 special events.

Eric Orlando, executive director of the Brewer's Guild of New Jersey, said the group is happy to now be included in the decision-making process and added that most brewers would say the latest development was good news.

Though, he said, the degree to which the regulations would have affected breweries depended on each brewery's business model.

New Jersey's liquor laws limit retail licenses based on population. With a limited number of licenses in each town, and with some towns choosing not to allow any alcohol sales, demand for the licenses can drive up the price retailers pay.

That leads establishments to worry that microbreweries could be diluting the value of their licenses. Some license holders, like bars and restaurants, also raised concerns that they faced a separate set of rules compared to breweries.

Coughlin said in a statement he applauds the decision to halt the regulations and wants to work with the division and "address the needs of microbreweries and help New Jersey small businesses continue to thrive."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

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<![CDATA[Ripple Effect? Amazon's $15 Wage May Help Lift Pay Elsewhere]]>Wed, 03 Oct 2018 06:44:06 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP_18275495084303-Amazon-Employee.jpg

After years of sluggish pay gains, the economy may be starting to work for America's low-wage workers.

Amazon's announcement Tuesday that it will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour will intensify pressure on other companies to lift their pay levels as well. Among the most likely to do so: Amazon's rival retailers and warehouse operators, many of which are facing the prospect of staff shortages as they ramp up for the holiday shopping season.

"This is going to be a big deal for very low-wage workers," said Ben Zipperer, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute. "It's going to compel other businesses to raise wages as well."

Low-wage workers typically receive higher pay from an expanding economy only after higher-income people have benefited, economists note. Now, with the unemployment rate near a 50-year low and the number of job openings exceeding the number of unemployed, more lower-income Americans are finally receiving meaningful raises.

Low-paid workers "get kicked the most in the recession, and they generally benefit more later in the boom," said David Neumark, an economist at University of California, Irvine.

Accordingly, retailers, who employ a sizable share of the nation's lower-paid workers, have been stepping up pay increases. Average hourly wages for retail workers, excluding managers, rose 4 percent in August compared with 12 months earlier.

Amazon's announcement will likely embolden labor activists and unions that have been pressing large fast-food and retail chains to raise pay, provide more reliable work schedules, and allow for union representation.

Among the critics Amazon has faced over its pay and work conditions, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has noted that some of its workers receive food stamps and other benefits that are geared for the poor, while its owner Jeff Bezos has become the world's wealthiest person.

"Now that activists have succeeded, they can now take that demand to other employers," said Marshall Steinbaum, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. "You say you can't afford this, but your competitor obviously can."

Indeed, shares of retail companies fell sharply Tuesday in a sign that investors expect them to have to raise pay to compete with Amazon, a step that would potentially slow their profits. Best Buy's share price dropped nearly 5 percent; Kohl's Stores fell 3.9 percent.

Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, also said Tuesday that it will lobby to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour, though it did not say what figure it would push for. The impact of a higher federal wage, though, would likely be modest, because more than 20 states have minimum wages above the federal level.

A higher federal minimum wage could intensify pressures on smaller businesses that don't have the financial resources that Amazon has to raise pay significantly.

Historically, large companies have been a driving factor in pushing up the minimum wage, Steinbaum said. Once they start to raise pay in response to competitive forces, they typically lobby to push others to follow suit, to prevent other companies from undercutting them.

Darren Moscato, who owns an Express staffing agency in Buffalo, New York, where Amazon has built a warehouse, said the higher pay offered by Amazon "will make it harder for local businesses to compete for workers."

Moscato noted that smaller companies typically spend more on labor than does Amazon, which uses more automation.

"This is why Amazon is also pushing for a higher national minimum wage," Moscato said. "It will give them a competitive advantage."

Other retailers and shipping companies are likely to feel the brunt of Amazon's decision as well, analysts said. The pay increases would apply to about 100,000 Amazon seasonal workers. That's equal to roughly 16 percent of the 623,800 retail jobs that the economy added in October and November last year.

"We've already seen just how much pressure there is — I think this is only going to increase it," said Judy Conti, director of government affairs at the National Employment Law Project.

An advocate for higher minimum wages, Conti added that Amazon would likely benefit if $15 an hour became the new baseline. Any small businesses that compete with larger companies by providing better service rather than by matching every price cut should also manage fine, she said.

Companies like UPS, FedEx and XPO Logistics typically hire tens of thousands of seasonal workers to meet the crushing demands of online shopping during the winter holidays. Amazon plans to add 100,000, many of them at the higher $15 wage, which takes effect Nov. 1.

"The crisis in warehouse and shipping personnel is very real, and there's going to have to be a meaningful increase in wages to attract and increase talent," said Steve Barr, consumer markets leader at PwC.

Iesha Townsend, who works as a McDonald's cashier in Chicago, said she hopes other companies follow suit. Townsend, 32, plans to demonstrate for higher pay on Thursday as part of the Fight for $15 movement.

"Why shouldn't we get it too?" she said, referring to Amazon's raise. "We work so hard, and we get less."

AP Writers Anne D'Innocenzio and Josh Boak contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

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<![CDATA[Play Back? Toys R US Investors Plan Comeback for Brand]]>Wed, 03 Oct 2018 07:32:38 -0500https://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/toysrusGettyImages-932489130.jpg

There may be a second act for Toys R Us, the retail wonderland for children that turned out the lights at hundreds of stores for what was thought to be the final time over the summer.

After joining the parade of retailers that never recovered from the recession and radical changes in the way Americans shop for toys and everything else, a group of investors is planning a comeback for Geoffrey the giraffe and his crew.

The group, made up of secured lenders, said in a bankruptcy court filing Tuesday that it's scrapping an auction for Toys R Us assets despite receiving a number of qualified bids.

The group now believes that it stands a better chance of a realizing a return on its investment by potentially reviving the toy chain, rather than selling it off for parts. The group will attempt to establish a "company that maintains existing global license agreements and can invest in and create new, domestic, retail operating businesses under the Toys "R'' Us and Babies "R'' Us names."

The investors said they'll work with potential partners to develop new ideas for stores in the U.S. and other countries "that could bring back these iconic brands in a new and re-imagined way."

Toys R Us suffocated under a staggering $5 billion debt load before liquidating its U.S. assets this year. A leveraged buyout hobbled the company and hundreds of stores were shuttered in June to the dismay of children and numerous generations of one-time children.

The seeming end of Toys R Us rippled through the toy industry and beyond. When the company closed the doors at some 800 stores, more than 30,000 people lost their jobs. Less than a month later, Mattel said it would cut more than 2,200 jobs partly because of lost sales to Toys R Us.

Economists were caught off guard that month by the slow growth in jobs, particularly retail, and some blamed the collapse of Toys R Us.

There was a net gain of 7,000 retail jobs in July, but the overall number was weighed down by the loss of approximately 32,000 jobs in the category that includes games and toys. That figure correlates with the number of Toys R Us employees that were cut loose without severance pay.

Toys R Us was overwhelmed on several fronts in the months leading up to its filing for bankruptcy protection.

In addition to the debt it was saddled with by its private-equity owners, Toys R Us found itself in a battle to its seeming death with Amazon.com and other big toy sellers like Target and Walmart.

The current asset holders did not go into detail about how the company, which maintained its headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey, would thrive in such an environment.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 10 Philadelphia

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<![CDATA[J.C. Penney Names Former Exec of Jo-Ann's as CEO]]>