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Madonna's 'Material Girl' look hits the auction block

Written By limadu on Sabtu, 08 November 2014 | 14.44

iconic madonna memorabilia

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Several iconic pieces from Madonna's career and personal life are on the auction block, including the Marilyn Monroe-inspired dress, stole and jewelry featured in the 1984 "Material Girl" music video.

The dress is expected to go for $40,000-$60,000 and $4,000-$6,000 for the stole when the items go up for auction starting Friday in Beverly Hills.

Julien's annual Icons & Idols: Rock 'n' Roll auction has 700 items up for bid, including John Lennon's glasses, a T-shirt worn by Kurt Cobain, a guitar from David Bowie and belongings from Elvis Presley, Lady Gaga and more.

Remember 'Easy Rider'? That bike just sold for $1.35 million

But Madge is a top attraction of the auction, with 140 of her items up for sale, including a personal day planner, the inauguration dress she wore when she played Eva Peron in the movie "Evita" and her wedding dress and shoes from her marriage to Sean Penn. You can also get her signed, expired American Express credit card and the baseball uniform she wore in 1992's "A League of Their Own."

iconic madonna memorabilia dress The deep pink satin gown had a starting bid of $20,000

"Very little of her stuff comes to auction now," said Martin Nolan, executive director of the auction house.

He said Julien's is looking to set records with the two-day auction that allows people to bid in-person, over the phone and online.

Bids come from all over the world, according to Nolan, but the face of bidders have changed significantly since 2005. "Back then, it was what we call fanatical people, the huge fans that would bid on items. Now, you still see some fans, but they don't have the big dollars that are needed. Museums are big buyers."

Men are buying up these $1,200 sneakers

iconic madonna memorabilia planner The starting bid for Madonna's day planner circa 1988 was $1,000

A large portion of the items from The Queen of Pop up came from a private investment firm in the U.K. "They got together and pooled their money in 2007 and chose her as their blue chip icon," said Nolan. "They've now decided to liquidate their Madonna portfolio."

So how strong of a return on investment are celebrity-worn collectibles? In 2005, Julien's held a 200-lot auction of Marilyn Monroe's items that brought in $1 million. Today, Nolan said it would have sold for $10 million. "And that's being conservative." A skirt purchased in that auction for $1,500 sold for $50,000 two years ago.

First Published: November 7, 2014: 5:11 PM ET


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America's dual economy

economy scale

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

If you're a glass half-full type, it's easy to point to the fact that the economy is expanding again and unemployment is at a six year low. Gas is back under $3 a gallon, the stock market is at an all-time high and this year's job gains are on track to be the best since 1999.

America is certainly better off than it was during the financial crisis, and the nation looks a lot stronger economically than Japan and Europe.

America has added 2.3 million jobs in 2014

But there's a glass half-empty side of this economy, too.

Wages aren't rising for most Americans. A middle class family is actually bringing home the same income as it did in 1995, and millions of people want full-time jobs but are stuck in part-time positions.

There's no denying the rich are getting richer and the rest are stagnating.

The fact is there is truth in both sides -- the result of a slow-burn recovery from the worst financial crisis in generations.

Why voters hate the Obama economy

Here are the three key stats to that drive home America's dual economy:

1. Lucky to be employed.

On Friday the government reported another strong month of job gains. The unemployment rate is 5.8%, not far from what most economists think is typical rate of around 5% when the economy is humming along.

But the improving number masks the fact that the U.S. has 2.9 million people who have been out of work for half a year or more. That's double the number of long-term unemployed than before the recession.

economy unemployment

Even more troubling is that the U.S. has over 7 million people who are working part-time but want full-time employment.

2. Wages aren't growing.

Americans are spenders. We like to buy things and that powers our economy. But people can't make purchases if they don't have money. That's why it's so worrying that U.S. wages aren't getting any bigger.

Wages today are about the same as they were just before the recession.

exit poll earnings

In the past year, wages went up about 2%, but that is just ahead of how fast costs have been rising so the gains are basically canceled out.

The complete list of companies that are open and closed on Thanksgiving

3. More gains went to Wall Street than Main Street.

The one area that has bounced back since the end of the recession is the stock market. It bottomed out in March 2009 and has been on an incredible tear ever since.

The S&P 500 -- the benchmark index that has a lot of funds that mimic or track it -- is up nearly 200% since that 2009 low point.

Obama stock market record

But the catch is that only half of Americans have any money in the stock market. So all those gains have only exacerbated the "have versus have not" economy.

Wealthy whites are the most likely to own stocks. And since the rich own more stocks, they benefited more.

First Published: November 7, 2014: 4:43 PM ET


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Berkshire earnings take a hit on Tesco losses

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

That's because the investment company took a massive $678 million charge for its investment in Tesco (TESO), a British grocery chain that has seen its shares plunge this year. The grocer has been struggling amid increased competition and an accounting scandal in which it admitted to overstating its profit forecasts.

Berkshire is one of Tesco's largest shareholders.

Related: Warren Buffett's huge grocery bill

Despite the individual investment losses, Berkshire's portfolio is still ahead for the year.

The company said it earned $4.6 billion, or $2,811 per Class A share during the third quarter. That's better than Wall Street was expecting, but still down 8.6%, from the same period last year. Profits for the first nine months of the year, however, are doing better than they were this far into 2013.

The company's Class A shares closed Friday at $214,970 a piece. Berkshire's more accessible B-shares, which are worth 1/1500th of their pricier counterparts were flat in after-hours trading.

Next quarter might be a rough one as well. Berkshire lost big money late last month on shares of Coca-Cola (KO) and IBM (IBM, Tech30) after both companies delivered disappointing earnings. Coca-Cola, which is one Berkshire's largest investments, subsequently cut executive pay following some Buffett grumbling.

Warren Buffett loses $2 billion, but there's good news

First Published: November 7, 2014: 8:05 PM ET


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America's most expensive home for sale: $195 million

Written By limadu on Jumat, 07 November 2014 | 14.44

vineyard exterior The most expensive home for sale in the United States right now lies on a 25-acre site of Beverly Hills.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

That makes it the most expensive home listing in the United States, according to Coldwell Banker.

Called the Palazzo di Amore (or "Palace of Love"), the estate is enormous with 53,000 square feet of living space, 12 bedrooms and 23 bathrooms. The master suite alone -- at 5,000 square feet -- is bigger than most McMansions.

On the 25-acre property, there's a vineyard that produces 400 to 500 cases of syrah, cabernet, sauvignon blanc and other wines each year. There's also a guest house, formal gardens, a spa and a 128-foot long reflecting pool.

Related: $25 million homes from around the world

The estate is owned by real estate mogul, Jeff Greene, who bought the place as an investment and rents it out for $475,000 a month. In fact, Greene barely spends any time at the Beverly Hills estate, instead preferring to spend time at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., or at his summer house in the Hamptons.

exterior fountain

Visitors arrive through one of three sets of double gates and drive a quarter mile to the front entrance, where they encounter an Italian-made fountain carved of Carrara marble.

They can park pretty much anywhere. The estate has a 27-car garage and 150 additional parking spaces.

double stairway The house design is rather informal, except for the stunning entryway.

The main residence is more than 35,000 square feet with a front entryway that is a grandiose display of statue niches, inlaid marble floors, classical revival pilasters and a double staircase of marble and ornamental metalwork.

Don't feel like climbing the stairs? Take the elevator.

theater There's a hand-painted night sky ceiling in the media room.

The Palazzo di Amore was made for entertaining. Not only can it accommodate 1,000 guests, but it also boasts a 50-seat theater, a bowling alley and a game room. There's also space to host a seated dinner for 250 guests.

living room The disco/ballroom has it all, including a turntable dance floor.

The ballroom is outfitted with laser lights, a DJ booth and a revolving dance floor. It also features a trompe l'oiel, sky-dome ceiling with more clouds painted on it than the typical Southern Californian sees in a day. There are expansive views of West Side of Los Angeles, Century City and the ocean beyond.

den The family room features a carved white marble fireplace.

The family room, with its parquet floor, built-in cabinets, fireplace and comparatively modest dimensions, is perhaps the coziest room in the house.

wine room This is the small wine room. It holds a mere 3,500 bottles.

And any vineyard must have its own wine cellar and tasting room. This one has space for 3,500 bottles. If that's not enough space, there's a more utilitarian wine vault downstairs that holds 10,000 more bottles.

Without a doubt the Palazzo di Amore has a lot to offer, but can it bring in the full asking price?

Exact comparable sales are hard to come by but a similarly sized mansion in nearby Holmby Hills sold for $102 million in March, according to the record for Los Angeles County. The property, however, was on the market for years and sold for $23 million below the asking price.

And it was only on five acres of land. "This property is five times the size of that," said Stacy Gottula, the Coldwell Banker Previews International real estate agent who, along with colleague Joyce Rey, is showing the estate.

Related: 27 new billionaires on richest Americans list

Several other similarly sized mansions have sold over the past few years in the Los Angeles area but none for more than $100 million, according to Jonathan Miller, an appraiser with Miller Samuel in New York. So asking for nearly twice that amount may be a stretch, he said.

"What's unusual is the estate size," he said. "Still, $195 million is a huge number."

Gottula said that several people have inquired about buying the Palazzo di Amore over the past few years while it was being rented out.

First Published: November 6, 2014: 7:41 PM ET


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Hong Kong's growing wealth gap fuels protests

hong kong inequality Hong Kong's ongoing pro-democracy protests are also driven by worries over income inequality.

HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

The gap between the rich and poor in the city is among the widest in the world, and the problem is only getting worse.

Complaints over income inequality have bubbled to the surface during the pro-democracy "Occupy" protests, a movement dominated by students who worry they may not be able to afford a home or support a family.

The city has a sky-high Gini coefficient -- a measure in which zero means perfect income equality and 1.0 means one fat cat takes home everything. Hong Kong scores a 0.537, well ahead of the U.S. at 0.41.

chart gini coefficient monthly wages

Although raising Hong Kong's minimum wages from HK$28 per hour ($3.61) to HK$30 ($3.87) in May was one step in the right direction, more still needs to be done, said Paul Yip, a professor at Hong Kong University. The city has only had a minimum wage since 2011, and it's only been raised once.

Even though income taxes are very low compared to the U.S., minimum wage earners still only end up with around $600 a month.

Overall, monthly median earnings have only increased by 30% over the last 10 years, while Hong Kong's GDP has jumped 60%. Although the city's economy has grown, such "economic improvement doesn't benefit the majority of the people," Yip said.

chart hong kong gdpchart hong kong wage growth

For those in the 16 to 24 crowd, monthly median wages haven't budged an inch since 2001, and are still hovering at HK$8,000 ($1,031), said Chung Kim-wah, director of Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Centre for Social Policy Studies.

At the pro-democracy protests -- where student-led groups are calling for free elections -- complaints over housing costs are frequent.

"We cannot afford [an apartment], we could not have a shelter [even though] we work all the time," said protester Kaley Lau, 25, who works as a nurse.

In fact, housing prices have more than doubled over the last decade, according to CLSA.

chart residential data

Buying an apartment on Hong Kong island of less than 400 square feet now costs on average HK$5.23 million ($675,000), and average monthly rent for a place that size is HK$16,560 ($2,136). Homes on the outskirts of the city aren't much cheaper -- places under 400 square feet in the New Territories still average HK$3.68 million ($476,000).

Owning or renting takes a big chunk out of your paycheck, meaning far less disposable income and lower qualify of life, Yip said. And low-income earners who qualify for public housing still have to wait for up to seven years before getting an apartment, he said.

The property sector is dominated by tycoons, who also control a number of other industries from supermarkets to utilities. Three companies account for 72% of the residential property market in Hong Kong -- without greater market competition, the tycoons are seen as gaming an unfair system in their favor.

"Hong Kong people are frustrated because there is a structural inequality," Yip said. "These housing developers bid for land ... and make [property] so unaffordable for the people."

Related: Hong Kong has a tycoon problem

Read next: The poor pose election risk, says Hong Kong's leader

First Published: November 6, 2014: 9:46 PM ET


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Takata hid results of secret airbag tests - report

HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

The report, published by the New York Times, alleges that Takata engineers carried out secret tests on discarded airbags in 2004, after becoming concerned over an incident in Alabama in which one of the company's airbags ruptured.

The Japanese company's engineers were alarmed by what they found. But instead of alerting regulators, the report says that Takata executives "ordered the lab technicians to delete the testing data from their computers and dispose of the airbag inflaters in the trash."

The first airbag recall would not be issued until November 2008.

"All the testing was hush-hush," one former employee told the Times. "Then one day, it was, 'Pack it all up, shut the whole thing down.' It was not standard procedure."

Shares in Takata, which had been trading higher in Tokyo, plunged more than 7% after the report was published. Hideyuki Matsumoto, a Takata spokesperson, said the company had no comment.

In total, 10 different automakers have recalled vehicles due to flawed airbags that can explode and hit passengers with shrapnel. There have been four deaths and dozens of serious injuries tied to the faulty airbags, according to the Center for Auto Safety.

Related: The fix for exploding airbags may be more deadly than the problem

Last week, Takata and Honda Motor (HMC), one of the affected brands, were hit by a U.S. federal lawsuit. The suit seeks class action status on behalf of the owners of all five million Hondas affected by the recall, alleging that they've suffered inconvenience and financial losses.

Other automakers including Toyota (TM), BMW, Mazda (MZDAF), Mitsubishi (MBFJF), Subaru, Nissan, Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) have also issued recalls.

This has been a record year for car recalls affecting more than 52 million vehicles. About one in every five cars on the road has been recalled.

First Published: November 6, 2014: 11:33 PM ET


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The latest trend in housing? Roommates

Written By limadu on Kamis, 06 November 2014 | 14.44

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The percentage of adults living with someone other than a spouse or partner hit 32% nationwide in 2012, up from 26% in 2000, according to Zillow's analysis of the latest Census Bureau data.

And, judging by the ongoing decline in homeownership rates and tightened supply of rental vacancies, the trend appears to be gaining momentum.

People start pairing up when rents are climbing and incomes aren't keeping up -- and in recent years, rents have really been on a tear. They rose 6.5% over the 12 months ended in September, according to Trulia. Meanwhile, wages have remained more or less flat.

Related: Why I have a roommate at my age

The numbers make the case for sharing space.

In Brooklyn, N.Y., for example, the average one-bedroom apartment rents for more than $2,600 a month, according to Jonathan Miller, president of appraisal firm Miller Samuel. Renters willing to live together, however, pay an average of $3,200 for a two bedroom, each saving $1,000 a month. Those living in three bedrooms, which average $4,200 a month, save even more at $1,200 per person.

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Working adults in doubled up households tend to earn less, according to Zillow. So sharing a place enables them to afford and compete for more attractive housing.

Writer Dina Wilcox and executive coach, Ann Fry, live in Manhattan, one of the nation's most expensive housing markets. Both in their late 60s, most of Wilcox's and Fry's peers live with significant others or by themselves.

But these two have found life more enjoyable and affordable by splitting things like the utility bills and food costs in their Harlem apartment. Fry, for example, pays just $1,500 a month for her share of housing expenses.

"Financially, it's terrific. It meant I could pay what I was paying in my old sublet," said Fry.

There's also the added bonus of companionship: The two often entertain and cook together, she said.

ann fry Dina Wilcox and Ann Fry live together in an apartment in Harlem.

Thikshan Arulampalam, 46, said he has had a roommate for almost the entire 18 years he's lived in New York City. He's been thankful for the savings. Money got very tight after he was laid off last year and started his own IT company.

"My friends think I am crazy and should move to a suburb and live on low rent on my own," he said.

Related: Colleges with the highest paid grads

Not surprisingly, the metro areas with the largest percentage of doubled (or tripled or quadrupled) up households are the priciest ones. Among the cities where 42% or more of households include roommates: Honolulu, Los Angeles, Riverside, Calif., Miami, and New York, according to Zillow's analysis of Census data.

Cities where roommates are few and far between are mainly small affordable places in the Midwest, where slow growth means little pressure on housing stocks and rents and home prices are reasonable. These are places like Sheboygan, Oshkosh and Wausau, Wisc. as well as Ithaca, N.Y.

First Published: November 5, 2014: 6:52 PM ET


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Whole Foods shares pop on best-ever sales

whole foods earnings

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The company made $128 million in the fourth quarter on top of a record $3.3 billion in sales. Both figures were 9% higher than they were the same time last year. Its earnings beat Wall Street's expectations.

Related: Whole Foods debuts environmental ratings for veggies, fruits and flowers

The grocer also told investors that sales would continue to grow, just 10% slower than they did in 2014. That's good news for the supermarket chain which has been battling brands like Kroger (KR) and Trader Joe's for control of the organic food market.

Its shares were up more than 7% in after-hours trading, though they're still down nearly 31% for the year.

Related: It wasn't too long that Whole Foods stock was rotting away

First Published: November 5, 2014: 6:42 PM ET


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This suit will give you superhuman strength

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Lockheed Martin (LMT) has developed Fortis, an exoskeleton that can shoulder the first 36 pounds of whatever its user is holding. The company is beginning to test the technology in factories around the country, starting with the C-130 plant in Marietta, Ga.

Putting on Fortis looks a bit like attaching robot parts to your own appendages, with metal rods and braces outlining the body of the suit. While wearing it, a large tool feels light enough to swing around.

A 30-plus pound riveter felt "pretty much weightless" to Jim Medley, an assembly line worker at the cargo plane factory.

He was more graceful with his tools than on his feet, however: walking in Fortis is closer to a waddle. Still, Medley found that the equipment substantially lightened his load while drilling and riveting a section of a C-130J wing.

The benefit of this newfound strength (aside from feeling like a superhero) is that it enables workers to go for long periods without needing a break. The suit minimizes muscle fatigue, which increases productivity.

"It's actually holding the weight ... I just have to balance it and maneuver it to where it needs to go, " Medley said.

Fortis works by transferring weight from the arm of the exoskeleton through a series of joints and ultimately to the ground. It has counterweights on the back so users don't fall over.

The technology was under development for six years. Lockheed has developed four units so far, with more on the way. Two were sent to the Navy in mid-October for testing and evaluation at their shipyards.

Related: Shopping? The robot will help you now

"Workers there were experiencing fatigue from holding grinders up on the sides of ships for long periods of time," Lockheed's exoskeleton technology manager Patricia Aelker said.

The other two are traveling to Lockheed facilities around the country as the company tests different applications. At the C-130 plant, Fortis was put to work for riveting, grinding and overhead drilling.

"Iron Man is a fictional character that breaks the laws of physics, but Fortis is a real product for real people," Aelker said.

First Published: November 5, 2014: 11:53 PM ET


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New Jawbone tracker takes your heart rate

Written By limadu on Rabu, 05 November 2014 | 14.44

jawbone fitness tracker

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Unfortunately, it can't do it all those things right now.

Jawbone is adding two new fitness trackers to its lineup, including the new $179 Jawbone UP 3 wristband. But instead of waiting until all the features are ready to go, Jawbone is pushing the UP out in time for the holiday season (specific release date TBD). That means some of the more intriguing capabilities won't be added until a software update sometime next year.

The device's key new ingredient is something called a bioimpedance sensor. Most wearable fitness trackers use an optical heart rate sensor that flashes a light onto the skin to see blood flow and capillaries. The hardware can be bulky, which is why many entry-level fitness trackers don't do heart rates.

Related: Movie theaters ban Google Glass and other wearables

According to Jawbone, its bioimpedance sensor detects the physical resistance of body tissue to get more accurate readings for a wider range of metrics. For example, if you have more salt or liquid in your body, that slows down the resistance.

Out of the box, the $179 UP 3 will automatically read your resting heart rate. It will track sleep cycles and know when you're working out, in addition to the usual step and activity tracking.

Jawbone's other new product is the UP Move, a small $50 modular fitness and sleep tracker aimed at wooing the many first timers who aren't counting their steps yet.

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After years of success with audio devices, the company branched into consumer wearables in 2011 with the first Jawbone UP. Unfortunately, there were massive product failures, most notably bricking (when a device shuts down and can't be restarted). The CEO issued a public apology and offered full refunds to unhappy customers.

A year later, Jawbone released the far more stable UP 2, going up against competitors Nike and Fitbit. Now every company seems to be working on a wearable of some sort, whether it's a hardcore fitness gadget or high-end smart watch. Jawbone is focusing on lifestyle devices that people wear 24 hours a day. That means they can't be too big, too power hungry, or too unfashionable.

To stay competitive, Jawbone needed to bring something fresh to the wearables party. In 2013, Jawbone acquired wearable fitness company BodyMedia for more than $100 million. Some of that technology is in the new UP 3.

The power that technology adds to the UP could be a huge hit for Jawbone. When it actually makes it to consumers' wrists.

First Published: November 5, 2014: 12:10 AM ET


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