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Article Index Date (click on story to read, use your Browser's back button to return to the Index) Sept 17 About 1 out of 3 Americans worried about Y2K Sept 14 Avoid the "transaction fee" credit cards Sept 12 Quick Currency Converter Sept 8 Survey says 36% of Americans believe they paid too much for their new car Sept 3 Consumers not so happy with online shopping Sept 2 Online car buying will continue to grow Aug 31 A site that forecasts stock prices Aug 27 Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) use in California rose sharply last month Aug 26 Chart your stocks free on the web Aug 25 Odds of future events occurring predicted by the Society of Actuaries Aug 24 All you need to know about your doctor, hospital, and health plan Aug 23 Free investing information at 10K Wizard Aug 20 Teletrade voted best rare coin auction site Aug 19 One in four Americans are independent workers Aug 18 Save money buying College Textbooks Aug 17 Need some online consumer buying advice? Aug 16 Intuit Inc. will provide free online tax filing for 1040EZ and other low income taxpayers Aug 13 Want to buy space on a Mars or a Moon probe Aug 12 Personal bankruptcies down this year Aug 10 Study says automobiles are more affordable Aug 9 Low unemployment rate leads to more jobs created in July Aug 6 HMOs not very healthy Aug 6 S&P writer sums up July's stock market trading Aug 5 Online stock trading growth slows to 8.2% in second quarter of 1999 Aug 4 Search 10K and historical SEC data for free Aug 3 Los Angeles has most expensive cellular phone rates in US Aug 3 New auction site for collectors and sellers Aug 2 Buy Delta airline tickets over the internet and save 10% July 31 Standard & Poor makes change to S&P MidCap 400 Index July 31 U.S. Earnings were up in June July 31 Salary increases for year 2000 expected to be moderate July 30 Mortgage Interest Rates at Highest Level in 2 Years July 30 Do most people take the introductory "teaser" credit card interest rate or not?
Today's Financial News and Tips
September 17 - About 1 out of 3 Americans worried about Y2K. A survey performed by PSI Global found that 38% of U.S. households express some concern about Y2K readiness in relation to any industry. Survey results show that 32% of consumers are concerned about the Y2K preparations of financial services providers; 33%, non-financial services providers; 29%, telephone companies and 30% have concerns about their local electric company's readiness. An estimated 32 million households plan to build a Y2K contingency fund.
September 14 - Avoid the "transaction fee" credit cards. A somewhat disturbing trend is taking place with credit cards, they are eliminating the 25 day grace period and have started charging transaction fees. Put another way, you are charged interest from the minute you use the card even if you pay all your charges at the end of the month. Surprisingly, even some rebate cards now charge a transaction fee. Often the fee is unadvertised, so scrutinize the credit agreement carefully to see if a grace period is allowed on new purchases.
September 12 - Quick Currency Converter. Need to make some foreign currency conversions but can't find a good calculator? Then you should visit Microsoft's Expedia.com. Their currency calculator will convert over 200 currencies into US dollars or other currencies.
September 8 - Survey says 36% of Americans believe they paid too much for their new car. In a CarsDirect.com Car Buying Survey, which polled 1,000 Americans to uncover how they felt about their most recent car-buying experience, almost 36 percent of the respondents said they paid too much for the vehicle. Also, 28 percent said they spent too much time on the purchasing process; and 24 percent didn't get exactly the color or options they wanted, and 9% didn't understand the financing terms.
What to do? Use online sources to obtain as much information as you can before you buy (see September 2 story for some sources).
September 3 - Consumers not so happy with online shopping. Data gathered from 420 actual online shopping experiences by e-BuyersGuide.com in August, indicates that 9% of consumers were not satisfied with online customer service; 10% of products ordered online were not even in stock, and 13% of consumers would not revisit the e-commerce sites where they had shopped online.
In spite of their poor treatment, 82.9% of consumers plan to spend over $100 online this holiday season and 32% of consumers are already shopping online at least once a week. Thirty-seven percent (37%) of products purchased online in August were over $50 per item.
September 2 - Online car buying will continue to grow. The online car industry is poised for sizeable growth. Gomez Advisors forecasts new and used automobile sales initiated via the Internet will rise from three percent of all U.S. sales in 1999 to 20% in 2002.
Gomez Advisors released the results of its Internet Auto Buying Scorecard today for fall `99. Newcomer CarsDirect.com landed the top overall ranking based in part on the strength of its ability to guarantee consumers pricing and delivery for new automobiles. Rounding out the Gomez Advisors top five are Autobytel.com (NASDAQ:ABTL), Cars.com, CarPoint, and DealerNet.
August 31 - A site that forecasts stock prices. Investors Forecast tracks about 40 stocks online, in real time, and predicts future stock prices. The site is free to all investors however, you must register to use it.
August 27 - Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) use in California rose sharply last month. The percentage of California home buyers who financed with an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) rose sharply last month, a result of attractive rates, rising home prices and rising mortgage interest rates, a real estate information service reported.
A total of 12,480 home purchases were financed with ARMs in July. That number was 26.2 percent of the purchase loan market, up from 20.8 percent for the prior month, and up from 15.3 percent for July a year ago.
The low of the 1990s was last February when 14.2 percent of California's home purchase loans were ARMs. The high was in December 1994 when 59.5 percent were ARMs.
August 26 - Chart your stocks free on the web. Equis has its new free stock charting software, MetaStock Online, up and running on its web site.
Per Equis, "It runs in any browser and centers around daily, weekly, monthly, or five-minute delayed intraday charts for U.S. stocks, mutual funds, or indices. Users can choose any one of four charting styles: bars, bars with open, candlesticks, and lines.
MetaStock Online's dynamic charts allow users to draw trendlines, insert indicators, scroll, and zoom in and out on charts -- without having to download static images every time they want to make a change. They can also add grids, colors, and drop shadows.
A complete online manual walks users through the simple steps for using all these features."
August 25 - Odds of future events occurring predicted by the Society of Actuaries.More than 140 members of the Society of Actuaries' Futurism Section revealed their educated beliefs on 25 questions about the future in a recent study. They concluded that there's less than a one in three chance that the United States will institute a national health plan, the U.S. suicide rate will rise, the Dow Jones Industrial Average won't see a one-day drop as dramatic as the 22.6 percent decline on Oct. 18, 1987, and health expenses will represent a larger percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Actuaries are professionals who use mathematical modeling to project future possibilities and the financial resources needed to meet them.
The complete report is posted on the Society's Web site at http://www.soa.org/.
August 24 - All you need to know about your doctor, hospital, and health plan. HealthGrades.com rates doctors, hospitals and health plans. Find out, before you get sick, about your area's health care services, and if your health insurance is any good.
August 23 - Free investing information at 10K Wizard. The 10K Wizard site has lots of free investing information including SEC Filings, financial statements, insider trading, and pension fund data. All information is free and you can sign up to be notified by e-mail when new filings occur.
August 20 - Teletrade voted best rare coin auction site. Greg Manning Auctions, Inc. (NASDAQ: GMAI) today announced that its www.teletrade.com site has won Coin Connoisseur Magazine's First Annual "Best on the Web" contest for the category, "Best Rare Coin Site."
Teletrade® auctions certified coins, sports cards, memorabilia, certified diamonds, stamps, movie posters and lobby cards, comic books, and fine art. Teletrade® features "live" Internet bidding and bidding over toll-free 800 lines using a touch-tone phone from anywhere in North America.
August 19 - One in four Americans are independent workers. The Aquent Index: An Annual Profile of the Independent Professional, found that America's 33 million independent professionals (IPs) are more satisfied with their careers and earn more than traditional W-2 workers.
Contrary to popular perceptions, the study revealed that nearly four in five IPs -- including consultants, contractors, freelancers, self-employed, on-call and temporary workers -- work independently by choice, not because they have been downsized or forced to by other circumstances.
Moreover, 77 percent of IPs say they are "advantaged" because they command greater control over their careers and are more likely to feel adequately compensated for their work. The survey found that IPs are twice as likely to earn annual salaries of more than $75,000.
August 18 - Save money buying College Textbooks - VivaSmart.com has developed a free comparison shopping service to help students find the best textbook deals. The new site, which champions the student consumer, identifies the lowest prices among bookstores, online merchants and student classifieds.
August 17 - Need some online consumer buying advice? Then Active Buyer's Guide is probably worth a visit. They offer free unbiased buying advice on appliance, office equipment, computer peripherals and other items. Items are recommended after the consumer answers an exhaustive lists of questions < at least I thought so >.
Our affiliate, 20-20 Consumer offers the same type of service for computers and peripherals without all the questions.
August 16 - Intuit Inc. will provide free online tax filing for 1040EZ and other low income taxpayers. Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ:INTU) announced today that all American citizens filing Form 1040EZ for tax year 1999 will qualify for Web-based tax preparation and electronic filing -- at no cost to the taxpayer -- through Quicken Tax Freedom, the company's public service initiative for U.S. taxpayers.
The company also will provide taxpayers with adjusted annual gross incomes of $20,000 or less with Web-based tax preparation and electronic filing at no charge, continuing a program that Intuit initiated for tax year 1998. The service applies to both federal and state income taxes.
According to IRS statistics, about 55 million Americans, or 45 percent of all taxpayers, will now be eligible to participate in Quicken Tax Freedom for 1999 available at http://www.quicken.com.
August 13 - Want to buy space on a Mars or a Moon probe? SpaceDev Inc. (OTCBB:SPDV) today announced it is offering low-cost Mars probe-carrier missions as a commercial product, starting with the 2003 Mars launch opportunity. For $20M SpaceDev will sell clients a lunar orbiter mission accommodating up to four payloads -- scientific instruments, advanced technologies such as the newly developing Interplanetary Internet, a Web server or other experiments.
SpaceDev's recent success in identifying low-cost spacecraft design approaches and in developing a range of modular microspacecraft concepts led the company to evolve its two-year-old Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP) spacecraft design into a smaller, simpler MicroNEAP. "We are in the business of producing low-cost, multi-use, modular spacecraft that can be sent to any destination in the inner solar system. NEAP -- as the MicroNEAP implementation is a seamless addition to our growing, fixed-price space-mission product line," said Chief Executive Officer Jim Benson.
August 12 - Personal bankruptcies down this year. The number of personal bankruptcies fell by 2 percent for the year ending June 30, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Data released Tuesday shows that the decrease in bankruptcies is the first yearly decline since 1995.
August 11 - Study says automobiles are more affordable. The purchase of an average-priced new vehicle during the second quarter of this year required 23.6 weeks of median family income, before taxes, according to the Auto Affordability Index compiled by Detroit-based Comerica Bank.
"Vehicles remain at their most affordable level in 19 years, with the current 23.6 weeks of required income rivaling the average 23.5 weeks recorded in 1980," said David L. Littmann, chief economist at Comerica.
"Family incomes continue to rise faster than vehicle prices, while financing rates remain flat. This is the principal reason for improved affordability, and it is driving this year's record vehicle sales pace," Littmann said.
The average vehicle price in the second quarter was $20,802.
August 10 - HMOs not very healthy. U.S. health maintenance organizations suffered a combined $490 million loss during 1998, with 56% of the companies reporting red ink, according to a study by Weiss Ratings, Inc., an HMO rating service.
Large HMOs reporting the heaviest losses include Harris Methodist Texas Health Plan (with a $99.1 million loss), Community Health Plan, Inc. in New York ($74.4 million), and Prudential Health Care Plan, Inc. in Texas ($63.6 million).
"This is not good news for the consumer," commented Martin D. Weiss, chairman of Weiss Ratings, Inc. "We're bound to see more HMOs dropping Medicare patients, more HMOs going under, and more rate increases as the industry tries to boost profits."
Consumers who need more information on the financial safety of a specific company may purchase a rating or analysis directly from Weiss for as little as $15 by calling 800/289-9222. Weiss Safety Ratings are also available at many public libraries.
August 9 - Low unemployment rate leads to more jobs created in July. Snelling Personnel Services reports that the U.S. unemployment rate at 4.3 percent remained unchanged from June, the 14th consecutive month in which the unemployment rate was at or below 4.5 percent. New unemployment claims across the nation dropped to the lowest level since last March.
A third of all the new jobs created in July were in service-producing industries, with significant gains in computer services, engineering and management services, and retail services.
August 6 - S&P writer sums up July's stock market trading. Sam Stovall, Sector Strategist, for Standard & Poor discusses why after June's growth of 5.4% the S&P 500 declined 3.2% in July. The discussion also includes sector analysis.
August 5 - Online stock trading growth slows to 8.2% in second quarter of 1999. A report from U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray says the growth of online stock trading slowed down from the record pace of 49% in the first quarter. While trading activity showed signed of slowing down, account growth continued to be robust. The industry added 1.4 million new accounts, up 17.7 percent from the previous quarter.
August 4 - Search 10K and historical SEC data for free. 10K Wizard, the Web site that offers free access to, and full-text search of, the Securities and Exchange Commission's entire database of corporate financial information, announced today the availability of real-time filings on its site at http://www.10Kwizard.com.
August 3 - Los Angeles has most expensive cellular phone rates in US. A survey by Econ One Research, Inc. disclosed that 1000 minute rates in Los Angeles were 29 percent higher than comparable cell phone rates in Philadelphia, which, at $94, offered the lowest average monthly prices for high volume users of the 14 cities surveyed in July.
August 3 - New auction site for collectors and sellers. AcuBid.com (OCTBB:EBID), is launching a premium auction Web site "dedicated to building trust and reliability among serious collectors and sellers." Its main focus will be on coins, stamps and sports memorabilia.
August 2 - Buy Delta airline tickets over the internet and save 10%. To receive the discounts, customers simply purchase tickets that have at least a three-day advance purchase requirement, from August 2 through August 6, 1999 at Delta's web site.
July 31 - Standard & Poor makes change to S&P MidCap 400 Index. Standard & Poor announced that Quantum Corp. DSSG Stock (DSSwi) will replace Quantum Corp (Nasdaq:QNTM) in the S&P MidCap 400 Index after the close of trading on Tuesday, August 3. The change occurred because Quantum is replacing its existing common stock with two new tracking stocks.
July 31 - U.S. Earnings were up in June. U.S. personal income grew by 0.7 percent during June, according to the Commerce Department. The Commerce Department also reported that spending rose by 0.3 percent last month, marking the first time since January that income growth was greater than the increase in spending.
July 31- Salary increases for year 2000 expected to be moderate. A survey by William M. Mercer, Inc concluded that salary increases are expected to average between 4% and 4.4% overall. The survey concludes that while salary increases remain modest, there has been an explosion in the popularity of incentive compensation programs, which allow employees to share in productivity gains and be compensated accordingly.
July 30 - Mortgage Interest Rates at Highest Level in 2 Years - Bankrate.com , a division of Intelligent Life Corporation (Nasdaq: ILIF), reported significant increases in home mortgage rates for the week of July 28. The 30 year fixed mortgage rates jumped to 7.79% from 7.56% one week ago. The survey also showed significant increases in 15 year fixed mortgage rates, which jumped from 7.20% to 7.37%. The rates on both 15 year and 30 year fixed mortgages are now at the highest level since June 4, 1997.
Seventy-four percent of the institutions surveyed raised rates on the 30-year mortgage. The increases follow comments made by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, who indicated that further Fed rate increases may be needed throughout the remainder of 1999, perhaps as soon as the next Fed meeting on August 24th.
July 30 - Do most people take the introductory "teaser" credit card interest rate or not? A 12 month study performed by PSI Global concludes that 52% of people opening a new credit card account accept the offer while 48% do not.
The study also reported that 70% of households ignore credit cards offers and choose to stay with their current credit card provider. Households in the survey received an average of 4 credit card offers a year. <Sometimes it seems like I receive 4 offers a week.>
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