3.31.2012

Card processors and U.S. banks hit by security breach

Global Payments Inc discovered its systems were compromised by
unauthorized access. This data-security breach affects card-payment
processors and large U.S. banks that issue debit and credit cards.
Global Payments helps card companies processes electronic transactions
for merchants and determined that an unauthorized entity had accessed
its systems and possible customer card data in early March. .

Customers would not be held liable for any fraudulent charges that may
occur, banks and processors promised. Any financial losses from the
data breach would be shouldered by merchants, card issuers and Global
Payments rather than Visa or Mastercard, which operate payment
networks.

MasterCard announced earlier Friday that it was investigating whether
cardholder account data was improperly accessed. The payments company
has alerted law enforcement authorities and notified card issuers
about the potential breach of cardholders' account information.

Visa said in a statement Friday that it was "aware of a potential data
compromise incident at a third-party entity affecting card account
information from all major card brands." The company emphasized that
there had been no breach of any Visa system, "including its core
processing network VisaNet."

U.S. law enforcement authorities including the Secret Service are investigating.

Citigroup Inc has been notified by processors of the breach, while
Wells Fargo & Co said it was too early to comment on the impact. No
comment issued by Bank of America Corp. JPMorgan Chase & Co, as well
as American Express and Discover, which issue their own cards, said
they are monitoring customers' accounts and would issue new cards to
anyone whose information may have been compromised.

3.29.2012

The friendliest tax burden states for retirees

The states are listed in order of tax friendliness from an overall tax
burden point of view, as measured by the Tax Foundation.

Alaska: Alaska might not seem like a retirement haven based on the
usual factors considered such as, say, weather. But it might be the
perfect place for one's golden years if taxes are a big concern.
Alaska doesn't tax personal income, including Social Security benefits
and pension income. And, there's no state-imposed sales tax. This is
not to say that you won't pay any taxes in Alaska. Instead, it means
that you'll pay other types of taxes, such as property taxes.

Nevada: Many retirees rely on income from several sources to make ends
meet these days. If you fall into that camp, Nevada might be the place
for you. This state doesn't tax income, Social Security benefits or
pension income. And its property taxes are reasonable, too. Its sales
tax, however, is higher than the national average.

South Dakota: It might not be the first or even the second state that
you think of when contemplating where to live in retirement. But South
Dakota is nothing if not a tax friendly state. The state doesn't tax
individual income, Social Security benefits or pension income. And the
overall tax burden is among the lowest in the nation.

Wyoming: There's no individual income tax on Social Security benefits
or pension income in Wyoming, according to CCH. But that's not to say
you won't have to pay any taxes in Wyoming. Property taxes and sales
taxes tend to be higher than the national average.

Texas: In Texas, there's no individual income tax. But property and
sales taxes tend to be higher than the rest of the nation.

Florida: There are plenty of reasons why people choose to retire to
the Sunshine state, the low tax burden being among those reasons.
There's no individual income tax on Social Security benefits or
pension income. There are pipers to pay, however, in the forms of
property and sales taxes.

Washington: Another state not generally viewed as a traditional
retirement haven is, however, income tax friendly for retirees.
There's no individual income tax on Social Security benefits or
pension income. But if you plan on spending lots money while in
retirement, Washington might not be your first choice. It has a
relatively high sales tax.

3.27.2012

U.S. consumer confidence declined in March

A gauge of U.S. consumer confidence declined in March due to lower
employment expectations, while views on the present situation rose to
the highest level since 2008, the Conference Board reported Tuesday.
The consumer-confidence gauge fell to 70.2 in March from a February
reading of 71.6.

"The moderate decline was due solely to a less favorable short-term
outlook," and data suggest "consumers feel the economy is not losing
momentum," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's
consumer research center.

Generally when the economy is growing at a good pace, confidence
readings are at least 90.

3.15.2012

U.S. stock climbed: S&P 500 above 1,400

U.S. stocks climbed Thursday, with the S&P 500 finishing above 1,400
for the first time in nearly four years after another round of strong
economic reports on jobless claims and manufacturing.

Economic news is good today. Weekly claims were the best they've been
in four years, and indicate the strength we've seen in the last six
months is going to continue.

Extending a winning run into a seventh session, the Dow Jones
Industrial Average rose 58.66 points, or 0.4%, to 13,252.76.

The S&P 500 Index added 8.32 points, or 0.6%, to 1,402.60, its first
finish above the 1,400 level since June 5, 2008.

The Nasdaq Composite gained 15.64 points, or 0.5%, to 3,056.37.

3.11.2012

U.S. unemployment unchanged at 8.3 percent in February

U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs in February to complete three of the
best months of hiring since the recession began. The unemployment rate
was unchanged, largely because more people streamed into the work
force.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate stayed at
8.3 percent last month, the lowest in three years.

And hiring in January and December was better than first thought. The
government revised those figures to show 61,000 an additional jobs.