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Top 10 Business Stories of 2012

This would be the year when the global economy finally regained its vigor. At least that's what many had hoped. It didn't happen. So what were the top ten business stories of 2012?

Women Investors: Smarter Than the Men in Every Way?

Financial services companies have a habit of publishing "special reports on women and investing," and their conclusions tend to describe women in less-than-flattering terms. But a new TD Ameritrade study once again shows why such stereotypes totally miss the mark.

Energy Independence by 2020? Maybe -- But It Wouldn't Last

The International Energy Agency claims in its World Energy Outlook that it is now possible for the United States to become energy independent by 2020. But it's also warning that any such energy independence would be short lived -- a message that has been lost on most analysts.

Weekly Jobless Claims Fell to 355,000

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The report is a sign the labor market's slow recovery is gaining traction, although Hurricane Sandy's impact on the Northeast may have distorted the data.

What Obama's Second Term Will Mean for Your Personal Economy

Barack Obama has been re-elected as the president of the United States. A nail-bitingly close election, with the economy consistently being named as the top issue, has been decided. Here are a few things to keep in mind for the days to come.

America's Richest Cities

Median household income in the United States has declined for the second straight year, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last month. But there are many cities that are doing well. These are America's richest cities.

Gas Prices Aside, Americans Have Been Hitting the Road Again

We're a nation that loves to drive, but in recent years, the soaring price of gas and the stuttering economy have kept our cars in our driveways more often. However, according to the Chase Freedom Lifestyle Index, our spending on road trips seems to be rising again.

The 7 Safest Banks in America

Moody's downgrade of 15 of the world's largest banks, along with JPMorgan Chase's multibillion-dollar trading loss, make it clear that big banks aren't always as safe as we'd hope. Still, we have to keep our money somewhere -- So 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the nation's safest banks.

U.S. Trade Deficit Narrows to $50.1 Billion in April

The U.S. trade deficit shrunk in April, but only because a big drop in imports offset the first decline in U.S. exports in five months. Exports, which had hit a record the previous month, fell 0.8%, but imports, which also set a record in March, dropped an even faster 1.7%.

America's 10 Worst States for Fraud

When times are hard, fraud often gets worse. Americans are under great financial pressure, and there is no shortage of criminals waiting to take advantage of it. 24/7 Wall St. examined the 10 states that had the most per-capita fraud complaints.

Obama Plan Closes Some Loopholes, Opens Others

Cutting corporate tax rates and the deleting loopholes that let some companies pay little or nothing in taxes is just what most economists prescribe for the tangled U.S. tax code. So why isn't everyone cheering the plan President Obama unveiled Tuesday to do just that?

Billion Dollar Phobia? Friday the 13th Fears Take a Big Toll

Oh, no! It's Friday the 13th! A day that has tens of millions of Americans on edge and awaiting disaster. But all this worrying and fear leads to more than just gray hairs -- it also leads to hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business.

Banks Back Away from New Fees, Eye Cost Cuts

The financial world's fee fever may have abated -- for now. Several big and medium-sized banks say they're not implementing fees for debit card use anytime soon. But with bank revenues slipping, they do need to act, and more are considering cost cuts to repair their bottom lines.

More Southerners Are Off the Banking Grid

More people in Southeast don't have bank accounts than in any other part of the country. The state of Mississippi leads the country with more than 16% of households using cash-and-carry for all their transactions. That's a situation that can keep families from climbing the ladder of success.

It's Europe's Fault: They're Holding Back the Recovery

Many European nations have deficits that make the U.S. look thrifty, and over a year after their problems came to light, they're still holding the worldwide recovery back. But because they share the euro, normal solutions aren't available, which means the EU must bite the bullet and accept an orderly default, or watch matters spiral downward.

The 7 Deadly Hobbies: Pastimes Your Insurer Hates

Some people take fun to the extreme, engaging in pastimes that put their health -- and even their lives -- at risk. Insurance companies refer to such activities as "hazardous vocations," and charge higher premiums to those who engage in them. One way or another, these hobbies will cost you.

Kraft Velveeta Shells & Cheese Recalled

Kraft Foods is recalling about 137,000 cases of Velveeta Shells & Cheese Microwaveable Cups because they might be tainted with wire-bristle pieces, the company announced Friday. The company said it has received no reports of injuries or complaints, and that it was voluntarily issuing the recall to be on the safe side.

Big Banks Boost Fees Again: What Will You Do About It?

Bank of America's announcement this week that it would start charging a monthly $5 fee for using a debit card to make purchases is the latest in banking industry upcharges. As fee-free options for banking dwindle, the bottom line is that consumers are paying more to use their own money.

Latest Mortage Mod Scam Is an Audit to Nowhere

A raft of con artists have cropped up over the last two years offering "forensic loan audits." They promise to review your mortgage documents, looking for errors and legal flaws that they say they'll use to expedite a loan modification deal. All they usually end up doing is taking more money from already stressed homeowners.

How to Cut Your Smartphone Data Bill ... Painlessly

Too many of us aren't being smart with our smartphone data consumption, and the results are clear: Clogged wireless broadband networks, dropped connections, rising prices, and worst of all, expensive data bills. But Onavo wants to help us cut, compress, and otherwise tame our wireless use -- and it won't hurt a bit.

Holiday Spending Will Rise Despite Fewer Customers

Consumers will spend a bit more this holiday shopping season, but there will be fewer of them in stores, predicts research firm ShopperTrak. It forecasts that national retail sales will rise 3% during November and December compared to the year before, but foot traffic will fall 2.2%.

Would You Spend $57,400 for a Cell Phone?

Russian billionaires are getting so rich that not even ordinary cell phones will do anymore. Danish company Aesir has created an 18-carat, limited edition cell phone that will retail for more than $57,000. The target buyer? Moscow's fashionistas and monied elite.

Retiring Solo: Singles Aren't Saving Enough

Most married people look forward to enjoying their golden years together -- at least in theory. But sometimes, reality is more bleak. For a host of reasons, millions of us may enter retirement on our own, and a large fraction of divorced, never-married, and widowed Americans aren't doing enough to prepare for it.

Americans Got Poorer in 2010, Says Census Bureau

The Great Recession officially ended in mid-2009, but a recent Census Bureau report shows that, for the average American family, 2010 only brought increased misery: Household incomes plummeted last year, while the number of people living in poverty rose sharply to an all-time high.

Should Smokers Pay More for Health Insurance?

Last week, Dallas County in Texas joined the growing ranks of employers that charge employees who smoke a higher monthly health insurance premium than employees who don't. It's an idea that's gaining momentum across the country -- but will it work to reduce smoking, or just to penalize the nicotine-addicted?

Sell Your Wedding Dress, Pay for the Honeymoon

With the ink barely dry on their marriage certificates, and piles of thank-you notes yet to be written, many brides are wasting no time getting their summer wedding dresses on the block for fall gown-buying season, hoping to cash out on their investment and eliminate a storage issue in one fell swoop.