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Regulator calls out student loan industry

Written By limadu on Kamis, 30 Oktober 2014 | 14.45

student loan servicers Graduates cheer during the Bowie State University graduation ceremony in May 2013.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The report, which doesn't name any individual companies that collect on the $1.2 trillion in student debt, was compiled between March and June of this year.

Related: Do any of these practices sound familiar? Tell us about it.

The agency found these companies would charge borrowers late fees on all their loans when payments for one fell short -- even if the rest were paid in full.

The CFPB spotted lots of other little tricks: minimum payments were overstated and late fees got charged to some borrowers even if they made payments within a grace period. Or servicers might fail to provide necessary information borrowers needed to deduct student loan payments from their taxes.

Related: These nine people are drowning in student debt

In more serious cases, some borrowers who fell behind on payments were told they couldn't dismiss their student loans in bankruptcy even though there's a slim possibility in cases of "undue hardship".

Some debt collectors called borrowers at inappropriately early or late times. The CFPB identified 5,000 such calls during its 45-day examination period. One borrower reported got 48 of them.

Related: Abolish my debt too, Occupy Wall Street!

The agency, born of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, said in a statement that firms with questionable practices are contacted for corrective measures. In particularly severe cases, it opens investigations.

First Published: October 29, 2014: 7:46 PM ET


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Samsung profit plunges 60% amid smartphone troubles

HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

The South Korea-based firm posted operating profit of 4.1 trillion won ($3.9 billion) for the third quarter -- a 60% decline from the previous year.

Third quarter sales were also lower than the previous year, falling nearly 20% to around 47.5 trillion won ($44.6 billion).

The earnings report was actually stronger than analysts had expected, pushing Samsung shares trading in Seoul up by 2%.

The company blamed the lackluster performance on weakness in its smartphone business, which has lost ground to high-end competitors, including Apple (AAPL, Tech30). At the other end of the cost spectrum, upstart smartphone makers like China's Xiaomi have also stolen market share from Samsung.

Related: Forget Samsung, Xiaomi is China's new smartphone king

The pressure on Samsung is part of an industry trend, driven by declining margins and growing saturation in the smartphone business. The company has been forced to rely on sales from other parts of its business including semiconductors and other technology to offset smartphone losses.

Samsung said it "cautiously" expects an earnings increase next quarter as it plans to ship more TV products.

Related: Want to invest in Samsung? Good luck!

Mark Newman, a senior research analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, told CNN before the earnings release that Samsung can regain market share if it acts quickly.

"What Samsung really needs to do is be more aggressive," Newman said. "They've been too arrogant that they could continue to maintain significant market price premium with lower spec products."

-- Andrew Stevens contributed reporting.

First Published: October 29, 2014: 10:30 PM ET


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Ballmer: Clippers' opener is a 'product launch'

Laguna Beach, Calif. (CNNMoney)

Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, (MSFT, Tech30) is finding that owning a basketball team isn't so different from running a tech company.

Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers in August for a record $2 billion -- and Thursday is the season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"It's a product launch for all intents and purposes," Ballmer said at a Wall Street Journal tech conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. "You have no control over the outcome."

Related: Under Ballmer, L.A. Clippers bench iPads

"You can build a great product, you can give it all the good marketing, you can tune it, you can tweak it, you can worry about it -- but we still gotta win the darn game tomorrow night for this story to have a good next chapter."

Ballmer, who is still Microsoft's largest individual shareholder (with no plans to sell), said he's far from abandoning his role in the tech industry.

Related: Murdoch takes ownership for Myspace failure

"I've learned as much about machine learning in the last three months getting ready for the Clipper home opener as I did in the last three months I was at Microsoft," said Ballmer, referring to a partnership with an L.A.-based startup that will use the arena's cameras to analyze plays and engage attendees.

"We've got stuff with tech that we're absolutely doing," he added.

But the excitable executive is looking forward to other things, too.

"Fergie's going to sing the national anthem," said Ballmer, who broke out in her new song, "L.A. Love" at the announcement. "La la la la la," he sang.

First Published: October 29, 2014: 11:18 PM ET


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Madison Square Garden to explore split

Written By limadu on Selasa, 28 Oktober 2014 | 14.44

madison square garden

HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

The sports and media operation would include the NBA's New York Knicks and the NHL's New York Rangers, as well as the MSG television network. The second firm would include MSG's booking, production and venue management operations.

The company's legendary namesake arena, which sits atop Penn Station, has hosted numerous political conventions, marquee boxing matches and concerts. The company bills it as "the world's most famous arena."

Should the MSG (MSG) split come to pass, it would be the latest in a string of corporate breakups pushed by investors that see value in smaller, more nimble businesses.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Tech30) has announced plans to split into two companies. EBay (EBAY, Tech30) is spinning off PayPal. CNNMoney owner Time Warner (TWX) spun off its publishing unit Time Inc. (TIME) a few months ago. And another media company, USA Today publisher Gannett (GCI), plans to separate its newspapers from its TV station business.

Several well-known consumer companies have also announced breakups or are in the process of doing so.

"Investors favor companies with greater strategic focus on their core businesses," MSG CEO Tad Smith said in a statement.

MSG shareholders would own shares in both new companies.

Related: USA Today owner spins off newspaper biz

First Published: October 28, 2014: 12:42 AM ET


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Jack Ma: I don't shop online

jack ma

Laguna Beach, Calif. (CNNMoney)

"I don't shop online, but my wife buys everything at home," Ma said during an interview at a Wall Street Journal tech conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. on Monday. "We buy sea crabs, fresh crabs, all kinds of things."

Ma's surprising lack of online shopping experience doesn't seem to have impacted his business savvy. In September, Alibaba (BABA, Tech30) went public with the largest IPO in history. And Ma -- who once was an English teacher making $20 an hour -- is now China's richest man.

Related: Battle of the billionaires

"You've made more money in Alibaba in the last 90 days than Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) has made in the last 20 years," said Dennis Berman of the Wall Street Journal, who interviewed Ma. "That's actually true."

But Ma is far from complacent. In fact, the entrepreneur said he's always looking about a decade ahead.

So what's in the future for Ma, Alibaba, and China?

Related: China is real winner from Alibaba IPO

Ma raised the possibility of working with Apple (AAPL, Tech30), saying that he's "very interested" in a potential partnership between Alipay (his payments company) and Apple Pay.

"I hope we can do something together," he said.

Apple (AAPL, Tech30) CEO Tim Cook, who took the stage after Ma, said he too would be interested in a collaboration.

First Published: October 28, 2014: 2:12 AM ET


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Tim Cook: Apple Pay signup is 'fantastic'

Laguna Beach, Calif. (CNNMoney)

One million people have signed up for Apple Pay in just 72 hours, and the service is already the industry leader in contactless payments, Tim Cook said Monday during an interview at a Wall Street Journal tech conference in Laguna Beach, Calif.

"And we've got the whole rest of the world," the Apple CEO said. "We're only in the U.S. right now ... but the early ramp looks fantastic. It's sort of that 'ahh' moment. You use the phone and that's all you have to do."

Cook's optimism comes amid news that CVS and Rite Aid have both stopped accepting Apple Pay. One of the reasons? They want to keep collecting data on shoppers.

Cook drew a clear line on Apple's privacy policies.

Related: Google: Tim Cook is wrong about us

"We believe that your data is yours," said Cook. "We're not about collecting every detail about you and knowing what time you go to bed and where you spend your money, what things you searched on, none of that. We don't read your email, your iMessages. If somebody tries to get your FaceTime records, we can't supply it."

Cook acknowledged, however, some pushback from law enforcement agencies on recent iOS 8 updates (which have added further measures to encrypt data).

"I look at that and say: If law enforcement wants something, they should go to the user and get it. It's not for me to do that," Cook said.

Related: Is Apple the perfect stock?

Cook also revealed some details about the Apple Watch, including his expectation that frequent use will require the devices to be charged daily. The new watches are slated to come out early next year.

First Published: October 28, 2014: 3:24 AM ET


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The Ebola stocks: Effect of an outbreak

Written By limadu on Minggu, 26 Oktober 2014 | 14.44

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Some people have considered canceling visits to big theme parks and have aired worries about whether airports and public areas are safe zones.

It's no wonder that investors are assessing Ebola's impact on the economy. Stocks of companies that make drugs that treat the virus have had a wild ride.

It's no small issue. Ebola has killed nearly 5,000 people, mostly in West Africa. The deadly virus has killed one person in the United States and on Friday, a doctor in New York City became the fourth person to have tested positive for Ebola in the country.

One trader, Dave Lutz of Jones Trading, has compiled a list of stocks that are either directly impacted or could be affected by the spread of Ebola.

tekmira stock

Canadian biotech firm Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (TKMR)' stock surged in September after the FDA authorized the company's drug for patients with Ebola in the United States. Shares have since pulled back. The company has started limited production of its drug, TKM-Ebola, which will be available in early December.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX) is another small biotech company working on a drug that could be used to treat Ebola. Its stock has been on a roller coaster ride lately.

biocryst stock

NewLink Genetics (NLNK) is working with the World Health Organization and other agencies on an Ebola vaccine. Its shares have surged 57% in the past month.

newlink stock

Companies that make protective equipment for healthcare workers or provide services to governments have also seen gains. Lakeland Industries (LAKE) said in September that it was boosting production of the protective suits in response to growing demand. It's stock has surged 76% in the last four weeks.

lakeland stock

Alpha Pro Tech (APT) also makes protective equipment for healthcare workers. Its stock jumped 5% on Friday alone.

Some investors believe the airline industry is also vulnerable to the outbreak. Concerns about air travel rose this month after a Dallas nurse, who treated an Ebola patient, flew round trip between Dallas and Cleveland before being diagnosed with the virus.

Though airline stocks were hurt earlier in the month, they are now near all-time highs after reporting record setting profits.

united american stocks

Cruise ship operators have also been in focus after a healthcare worker who handled Ebola test samples was quarantined on a cruise ship earlier this month. Shares of both Carnival (CCL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) have been under pressure recently.

carnival royal caribbean stock

Hotel chains could also be at risk if worries about Ebola cause people to curtail their vacation plans.

Hilton Worldwide (HLT) and Starwood Hotels (HOT) are on Lutz's list...

hilton starwood stock

...as are amusement park operator Six Flags (SIX) and movie theater company Regal Entertainment (RGC).

six flags regal stock

First Published: October 24, 2014: 4:39 PM ET


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NYC tabloids keep a straight face on Ebola

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

In the hours before Spencer was diagnosed he had gone bowling, rode the A train and stopped by a meatball shop. But there was not a single pun to be found on New York City newsstands Friday morning. No hysteria and no sensationalism.

Instead newspapers like AM New York went with just the facts. The free daily's front page simply said "Ebola in NYC" and showed a picture of Spencer in a hazmat suit while caring for victims in West Africa:

"We didn't want to be alarmists," said Pete Catapano, executive editor of AM New York. "Obviously it's a scary subject... We wanted to be very direct, very straight-forward."

Related: Syracuse University disinvites journalist over Ebola fears

ebola am new york

The Daily News also took a tempered approach with its front page:

ebola daily news

The New York Post (which is infamous for its outrageous covers) was a little more brash with its "Ebola Here!" headline, but did stick to just the facts:

ebola new york post

"A subject like this... people make jokes about it. That's not our place to do that," Catapano said. "We just wanted to be very respectful, and let the story speak for itself."

Related: EU pledges 1 billion euros to fight Ebola

First Published: October 24, 2014: 5:39 PM ET


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The best time to book your holiday flight is...

holiday airfare

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

A new survey shows the lowest prices for domestic airfares are found eight weeks before the departure date, around 19% below the average fare of $496, according to the Airlines Reporting Corporation, a travel industry research group owned by the airlines.

The report, which was based on ticket sales between January 2013 through July 2014, also found Sunday is the cheapest day to buy plane tickets. This Sunday marks nine weeks until Christmas week, so the clock is ticking.

"It's about time we stop believing in the airfare voodoo that Tuesday is the best day to get good ticket prices," said George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.com. The average domestic fare paid on a Sunday is $71 cheaper than on a Monday, the most expensive day, the report showed.

Getting a deal on holiday travel is always hard, but maybe even more so this year, according to Keith Nowak from Travelocity. He said supply and demand is in full effect, giving airlines the pricing power.

Passengers are flying more this year than in the recent past, but airlines aren't adding more seats, he said. "You've got passenger loads growing faster than seats being added. It's clear given the current load factors, holiday planes are going to be full."

Related: Hottest places to travel this winter

The most recent data from the Department of Transportation showed the number of domestic fliers in July was the highest since the end of the recession. U.S. airlines carried 385 million passengers, up 2.1% from 2013.

Here are four expert tips to snag the best deals this holiday season:

Book early. Booking early doesn't always mean better prices, but you're more likely to get the flight and seat you want, especially given the expected high demand.

It's all about value, said Hobica. "You can get a good deal on an ugly, ill-fitting cashmere sweater, or you can pay a little more and get what you want. Flying out at the crack of dawn, jammed in a middle seat is the ugly sweater."

Related: How much should you really tip housekeeping? A travel tipping guide

Be flexible with dates, airports. Put in multiple nearby airports and try different arrival and departure dates when searching for flights.

"You want to open up as many fare options as possible to increase your chances of finding the best deal," said Nowak.

And it's not just about the ticket price. "Smaller airports might have significantly lower parking prices. If you're gone for a week, that can be a lot of savings," he said.

Be persistent. Travelers can hold seats for up to 24 hours without purchasing them with most airlines now, said Hobica, which can make a plane appear fuller than it is and discourage potential fliers.

"People hold seats and then release them. Keep checking the flight, you never know when something might open up."

Travel on the holiday. Flying on the actual holiday tends to bring lower prices. "If you fly late Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day or on January 1, those are always the cheapest days and times to fly," said Hobica.

Related: $134,700 one-of-a-kind trip for fashionistas

Consider Europe. If visiting grandma in the states isn't a requirement, travelers can find cheap affair to Europe right now, said Hobica.

"And if you are in the mood to splurge, business class seats are 50-60% cheaper to Europe during the holidays."

First Published: October 24, 2014: 3:01 PM ET


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The Ebola stocks: Effect of an outbreak

Written By limadu on Sabtu, 25 Oktober 2014 | 14.44

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Some people have considered canceling visits to big theme parks and have aired worries about whether airports and public areas are safe zones.

It's no wonder that investors are assessing Ebola's impact on the economy. Stocks of companies that make drugs that treat the virus have had a wild ride.

It's no small issue. Ebola has killed nearly 5,000 people, mostly in West Africa. The deadly virus has killed one person in the United States and on Friday, a doctor in New York City became the fourth person to have tested positive for Ebola in the country.

One trader, Dave Lutz of Jones Trading, has compiled a list of stocks that are either directly impacted or could be affected by the spread of Ebola.

tekmira stock

Canadian biotech firm Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (TKMR)' stock surged in September after the FDA authorized the company's drug for patients with Ebola in the United States. Shares have since pulled back. The company has started limited production of its drug, TKM-Ebola, which will be available in early December.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX) is another small biotech company working on a drug that could be used to treat Ebola. Its stock has been on a roller coaster ride lately.

biocryst stock

NewLink Genetics (NLNK) is working with the World Health Organization and other agencies on an Ebola vaccine. Its shares have surged 57% in the past month.

newlink stock

Companies that make protective equipment for healthcare workers or provide services to governments have also seen gains. Lakeland Industries (LAKE) said in September that it was boosting production of the protective suits in response to growing demand. It's stock has surged 76% in the last four weeks.

lakeland stock

Alpha Pro Tech (APT) also makes protective equipment for healthcare workers. Its stock jumped 5% on Friday alone.

Some investors believe the airline industry is also vulnerable to the outbreak. Concerns about air travel rose this month after a Dallas nurse, who treated an Ebola patient, flew round trip between Dallas and Cleveland before being diagnosed with the virus.

Though airline stocks were hurt earlier in the month, they are now near all-time highs after reporting record setting profits.

united american stocks

Cruise ship operators have also been in focus after a healthcare worker who handled Ebola test samples was quarantined on a cruise ship earlier this month. Shares of both Carnival (CCL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) have been under pressure recently.

carnival royal caribbean stock

Hotel chains could also be at risk if worries about Ebola cause people to curtail their vacation plans.

Hilton Worldwide (HLT) and Starwood Hotels (HOT) are on Lutz's list...

hilton starwood stock

...as are amusement park operator Six Flags (SIX) and movie theater company Regal Entertainment (RGC).

six flags regal stock

First Published: October 24, 2014: 4:39 PM ET


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