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Mar 1, 2010

MarketWatch: Personal Finance Daily

Personal Finance Daily
MARCH 01, 2010

Monday's Personal Finance stories

By MarketWatch

Don't miss these top stories:

Consumers went out and bought a few more things in January, but they (we) aren't spending enough to push the economy out of its tepid recovery. Can't blame consumers -- in fact, we ought to celebrate this newfound frugality -- given the still very worrisome state of the job market. This Friday's employment report will shed more light on that topic, though February's storms will likely dampen the data. Read our Washington bureau's Economic Reports for more.

I've been playing consumer in recent months because, even after making the largest purchase of one's life, it seems the buying must continue. Curtains, door stops, carbon-monoxide detectors. Who knew? And then there are the repairs. For instance, my husband and I are now the proud owners of an auger. It's a small purchase, as purchases go, but as wannabe handy-people we were excited to fix our shower drain problem by ourselves.

We can but dream. The repair didn't work out quite as planned. All of our attempts with the auger had no effect on the slow drain. Luckily, we didn't hurt ourselves or the drain, and our neighbor the plumber quickly put matters to right. Read Amy Hoak's feature today on how to know when it makes sense to attempt home-improvement projects on your own and when it will save you time and money to call in the experts.

I'll see you at the hardware store.

-- Andrea Coombes , Personal Finance editor

When you should leave home-improvement projects to the experts

Eager to save money, homeowners are more willing to get their hands dirty with home-improvement projects these days. But the DIY route isn't always the safest or cheapest.
See Real Estate.

Consumer spending rises, savings fall

Real consumer spending increased a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in January to the highest level since May 2008 while after-tax incomes fell, the government reported Monday, a further sign that the economic recovery remains timid.
See Economic Report.


Job hunting in a new world

Your old job-hunting skills may need some polishing. Adrienne Mitchell explains in this edition of Recession and Recovery.
 Listen to Radio Report.

Social networks work

When I do a seminar for prospective career changers, I always ask the audience how many people are using LinkedIn to communicate directly with contacts in their new industries.
See Careers.

Get more time off

As companies continue to pinch pennies, now may not be the best time to ask for a raise. But what about extra time off, especially if you don't have many vacation, personal or sick days at your disposal?
See Careers.


Factory expansion eases, but employment index hits 5-year high

The expansion at U.S. manufacturing firms softened in February but remained very broad based, according to the Institute of Supply Management's survey released Monday.
See Economic Report.

D.C. stalemate threatens unemployment benefits

Extended unemployment benefits are on the chopping block this morning as part of a larger battle in Congress over the deficit - and it's going to have a big impact throughout the country. Fox News' Doug Luzader reports from Washington.
 Watch Video Report.

Job market clouded by storms in February

Mix some of the worst winter storms on record with a weak economy and you'll get disappointing payroll data when the government reports on February's job market this week.
See Economic Report.


Bid to curb mortgage tax breaks falters

The latest effort to scale back some tax deductions on mortgage interest, one of the nation's most-enduring tax breaks, is finding little support in Congress.
See story on mortgage-interest tax deduction.

Lawmakers offer competing plans for mortgage regs

Two key senators have released competing proposals to reform consumer protection for mortgages and credit-card products in the wake of the financial crisis that shook the economy to the brink, one that would set up a relatively autonomous entity and another that would place new powers within an existing agency.
See Capitol Report.

U.S. construction spending declines

Spending on U.S. construction projects fell at a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.6% in January, the third consecutive month of declines, the Commerce Department estimated Monday.
See Economic Report.


Why so many 529 plans flunk out

After posting dismal results during the market downturn, operators of "529" college-savings plans have been cutting expenses and adding lower-risk investment choices in hopes of making their plans more attractive.
See story on 529 plans.


Time to start investing in comic books?

Boff! Zam! Pow! With recent Superman and Batman editions selling for seven-figures, should you start investing in comic books? How do you know if your comics are worth money? Who's spending more money at casinos these days -- men or women? And Quizno's looks to sell toasty sandwiches at gas stations.
 Listen to Radio Report.

These new products could make tech investors money

Like the fashion industry and Hollywood, the technology sector relies on new products to create a buzz and boost company sales and earnings.
See Weekend Investor.

Airline ETF takes off, but flight plan looks cloudy

A tiny exchange-traded fund tracking airline stocks has enjoyed first-class returns over the past few months, but some recent turbulence may have knocked it off-course.
See ETF Investing.

Commentary: Book claiming mutual fund 'rip-off' is full of empty words

"Learn how the mutual fund industry is ripping you off!" That cover line had me hooked, so I opened "Payback Time," the new book by Phil Town, a self-styled investment adviser who makes a lot of television appearances and wrote the best-selling "Rule #1," where the ground-breaking message was "Don't lose money." (No, I'm not kidding.)
See Chuck Jaffe.

Commentary: How to protect yourself against a March rate hike

The markets have been waiting for months for the Federal Reserve to raise key interest rates that have been held artificially low as part of the emergency plan to battle the current economic and financial crisis.
See Trading Strategies.

Commentary: Protect your portfolio with defense, oil and health care

Suddenly, the word "nuclear" has mushroomed. Whether you credit our administration's willingness to go nuclear in terms of either clean energy or political aggrandizement, or with regard to Iran's continued gaming of a dangerous policy of appeasement, going nuclear is not simply an option, in some sense it's a done deal.
See Jim Lowell.

Commentary: A March momentum play

Momentum strategies appear to be particularly well poised to perform well in March.
See Mark Hulbert.

Wise bets on a smarter grid

Spending to build intelligent, networked power systems could soar in coming years, creating lots of green for consumers and investors.
 Watch Video Report.

Even the smart guys don't always get it right

Once again, as economic troubles in Greece, Spain and some other European countries threaten to spread to the broader market, investors are faced with the sinking feeling that the once unthinkable is all too possible.
See Investing.


U.S. residents begin fund-raising for Chile

Chile's Consul General in San Francisco says he's optimistic about the aid being offered to Chileans, while Chilean Americans begin fund-raising for Chile at a community center established in Berkeley, CA, thirty years ago. Fox's Debora Villalon reports.
 Watch Video Report.

Destruction along Chile's coast

At least 708 people died and more than 2 million people have lost their homes in the aftermath of a devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake. Video courtesy of Reuters.
 Watch Video Report.


Google blames Microsoft for lawsuits

Google is facing several antitrust lawsuits in the U.S. and Europe. The company claims that Microsoft is behind several of these lawsuits, Thomas Catan reports.
 Watch Digits.

Random House opens video game division

Publisher Random House hopes to start selling storylines to video game manufacturers, Jeffrey Trachtenberg reports.
 Watch Digits.


Does Buffett have his swagger back?

Following the publication of Warren Buffett's investor newsletter over the weekend, the New Hub panelists argue whether it still makes sense to invest like Buffett.
 Watch Video Report.

Buffett calls out big bank leaders

Warren Buffett, the world's most famous investor, launched an attack Saturday on big-bank executives, calling for penalties for those who led their companies to near-ruin.
See story on Warren Buffett.

Commentary: The Oracle's tips for the rest of us

Every few years, critics say Warren Buffett has lost his touch. He's too old and too old-fashioned, they claim. He doesn't get it anymore. This time he's wrong. It happened during the dotcom bubble, when Mr. Buffett was mocked for refusing to join the party. And it happened again last year.
See Brett Arends.


Census scams: The red flags

As the 2010 U.S. Census ramps up in March, you should be on the alert for potential scams. Con artists could use the event to acquire personal information that can lead to identity theft.
See story on Census scams.


Social Security payback

Is it really worth going through the trouble of repaying Social Security benefits for those who claim them early? Last month, we reported on a feature of the Social Security program that allows retirees to pay back benefits that they have received.
See story on Social Security.


2011 Hyundai Sonata

This is an old Gold Rush town that in the 1870's was said to have had several commercial establishments, including "the usual number of saloons." Julian, upon my visit, was host to what Hyundai hopes will be the start of a new gold rush.
See Car Review.

Toyota offers free transportation during repair in U.S.

Toyota Motor Corp. said it would extend free alternative transportation to owners nationwide while their recalled vehicles are being repaired.
See story on Toyota.

Toyota CEO apologizes in China

Toyota Motor Corp.'s chief executive apologized to Chinese consumers for its recall of vehicles Monday and emphasized the importance of the mainland market to the Japanese automaker, according to reports.
See story on Toyota.

ZDNet Alerts, March 1, 2010

Mary Jo Foley: Unsurprisingly, Microsoft and Google have taken their growing tit-for-tat rivalry to the courts. Yet again. In the latest round, Microsoft execs are confirming they've been talking to antitrust regulators in recent months about Google's dominant position in search and advertising.
Sun Feb 28 09:55:59 PST 2010

Mary Jo Foley: According to IDC's new server data, Windows is still the dominant player. While the fourth quarter was more robust than the third, in terms of total revenues and units, Windows' share of the total stayed constant unit-wise, yet declined, dollar-wise.
Fri Feb 26 05:38:08 PST 2010

CNBC. COM : Evening Brief, March 1, 2010


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Tom Brokaw defined the "Greatest Generation" and now he tells the story of their children - the largest, most influential generation ever. Through the eyes of boomers themselves, he chronicles an age that took us from hula hoops to healthcare. This landmark documentary documentary examines the challenges ahead for a generation 78 million strong that continues to shape our world.

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DAI: Wall St gains on AIG deal, March 1,2009

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Good evening Fernando,
MON 01 Mar 2010 
Wall St gains on AIG deal
Mexico's Slim happy with current NY Times stake
ISE slams dividend trade data as mkt share falls
U.S. consumer spending up again
EU urges new Greek cuts
CFTC, SEC eye clearinghouses governance - Gensler
Prudential to buy AIG Asia for $35.5 billion
Fed's Kohn to step down
IMF says Chinese currency substantially undervalued
Buffett: Health care "tapeworm" drags on economy

Wall St gains on AIG deal
March 01, 2010 04:35 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose for a second straight day on Monday, boosted by AIG's record-setting deal to sell a major Asian unit and on gains in semiconductor shares after SanDisk Corp raised its revenue forecast.

Full Article
Mexico's Slim happy with current NY Times stake
March 01, 2010 04:32 PM ET
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is "happy" with his current investment in New York Times Co, one of his close aides told Reuters on Monday.

Full Article
ISE slams dividend trade data as mkt share falls
March 01, 2010 03:18 PM ET
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A specialized trading strategy known as dividend trades harms markets, misleads investors, and should not be included in overall reports of trading volume, the International Securities Exchange said on Monday.

Full Article
U.S. consumer spending up again
March 01, 2010 04:17 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. manufacturing grew in February, though more slowly than expected, while consumer spending rose for a fourth straight month, showing the economy continued a modest recovery.

Full Article
EU urges new Greek cuts
March 01, 2010 03:37 PM ET
ATHENS (Reuters) - The European Union urged Greece on Monday to agree additional austerity measures within days to tackle a fiscal crisis that has shaken the euro zone and promised to help Athens overcome its debt problems.

Full Article
CFTC, SEC eye clearinghouses governance - Gensler
March 01, 2010 04:09 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress should give U.S. securities and futures regulators the authority to ensure clearinghouses are protected against conflicts of interest, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Monday.

Full Article
Prudential to buy AIG Asia for $35.5 billion
March 01, 2010 03:23 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Prudential will buy AIG's Asian arm for $35.5 billion in the insurance sector's biggest deal ever, helping the bailed-out U.S. group repay a big chunk of its taxpayer debt.

Full Article
Fed's Kohn to step down
March 01, 2010 02:56 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn, a 40-year veteran of the U.S. central bank, will step down in late June, giving President Barack Obama a freer hand to reshape the institution.

Full Article
IMF says Chinese currency substantially undervalued
March 01, 2010 03:39 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar is still somewhat overvalued while the Chinese renminbi is substantially undervalued, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday in an assessment of Group of 20 major economies.

Full Article
Buffett: Health care "tapeworm" drags on economy
March 01, 2010 12:39 PM ET
NEW YORK, March 1 Reuters) - Warren Buffett said "out of control" health care costs are a "tapeworm" limiting growth in an economy recovering only fitfully from the financial crisis.

Full Article