NEW YORK - Stocks are pointed to early gains ahead of
reports on home prices and consumer confidence that could bring
further signs that the economy is improving.
The Conference Board is expected to announce that consumers are
feeling more confident about the economy for the third straight
month. Analysts expect the index to rise to 55.8 in December. That
would be an improvement over November, but still far below the
reading of 90 that indicates a healthy economy.
Also on Tuesday morning, Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller will
issue its 20-city monthly index of home prices for October.
Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures
are up 9 points, or 0.1 percent, to 11,524. S&P 500 futures are up
3, or 0.2 percent, to 1,256. Nasdaq composite futures are up 4, or
0.2 percent, to 2,234.
NEW YORK - Stocks are pointed to early gains ahead of
Giving gift cards for the holidays can be the perfect answer to finding a present for that hard-to-shop-for relative or friend. However, the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection wants consumers to be well informed so that the gift cards they give and receive are worth what the buyer intended.
First, beware of gift card scams. Con artists have been known to record gift card numbers and obtain PIN codes by removing the protective coating. Then they keep checking online to see if the card has funds on it. Once the card is purchased by the consumer, the card is activated and the scammer will be able to make an online purchase using the gift card funds. When the legitimate owner of the gift card subsequently tries to use the card, he will discover that there are little or no funds left on the card.
Another common scam is when someone resells a gift card, usually via an online auction or website, claiming it has a higher value than it actually does. Consumers should therefore avoid buying gift cards from online auctions or resellers because they could end up with a stolen card or one whose funds have been used up. Your safest bet is to buy the gift card from the store it's from. Even then, you should check to make sure that the PIN number has not been tampered with; if it has, ask for another card and explain why. You should also ask the salesperson to scan your gift card to make sure that the funds have been correctly loaded onto the card.
Save your receipt because if the card is ever lost or stolen some stores may be able to give you a replacement card.
Also, you should consider the reputation of the company whose gift card you are buying. If it is lesser known or on shaky financial ground, there is a possibility that the company could go out of business. If that happens, your gift card could end up being worthless.
That's an important consideration for gift card recipients as well. The best protection recipients have again a company going out of business is to use the card sooner rather than later. You may want to do that anyway since many people who don't use a gift card right away end up forgetting about it, which can lead to the card expiring or incurring inactivity fees.
Gift card recipients should also take note of the following new rules which offer greater protections for consumers:
-Money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the date the card was purchased, or from the last date any additional money was loaded onto the card. If the expiration date listed on the card is earlier than these dates, the money can be transferred to a replacement card at no cost.
-Inactivity fees can be charged only after a card hasn't been used for at least one year, and then only once per month. But fees may be charged to buy the card or to replace a lost or stolen card.
-The card must clearly disclose its expiration date, and the card or packaging must clearly disclose any fees. There is one exception: Some cards produced before April 1, 2010, that list a short expiation time or inactivity fees in the first year may be sold through January 31, 2011. However, no matter what a card says, consumers still are protected by the new rules.
SAO PAULO - Brazil's unemployment has hit a record low for
the fourth straight month.
The government's IBGE statistics bureau says November
unemployment dipped to 5.7 percent, the lowest since officials
began using the current methodology in 2002.
In the same month a year ago, unemployment stood at 7.4 percent.
And last month the jobless rate was 6.1 percent.
The government says Friday that increased activity in the auto,
fuel and services sectors all jumped from the same month a year
Brazil's economy remains robust despite the global downturn,
largely on the back of domestic consumption.
The government is expecting the economy to grow by 7.5 percent
WASHINGTON (AP) - Retail sales rose for a fifth straight month
in November, as the biggest jump in department store sales in two
years gave the holiday shopping season a strong start.
The Commerce Department says retail sales increased 0.8 percent
last month. That came after a 1.7 percent gain in October, which
was propelled by a huge increase in auto sales.
Auto sales retreated a bit in November. But excluding autos,
sales rose 1.2 percent - the best showing since last March.
Department store sales jumped 2.8 percent, the strongest advance
in two years.
LONDON - The Bank of England has held interest rates steady
at a record low of 0.5 percent - ending the year as it began - amid
concerns about Britain's economic recovery despite recent stronger
than expected data.
The British central bank also kept its 200 billion pound ($315
billion) asset-purchase program on hold in Thursday's announcement.
Economists say the nine-strong monetary policy committee is
likely waiting to see how the economy progresses in the New Year
when government spending cuts and a rise in sales tax are expected
to take a tighter grip.
The committee has been split three ways in recent months, with
one policymaker favoring a rate hike because of recent good
economic news, while another seeks an increase in asset purchases
to stave off any further downturn.