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Updated: 4 years 5 months ago

Fight For Your Right to Parody: Beastie Boys, GoldieBlox and the Future of Commercials

Tue, 11/26/2013 - 8:06am
It was the kind of video you could tell would go viral the moment you watched it. A trio of young girls, bored watching TV shows about princesses, build an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine while rapping over the Beastie Boys’ ’80s single “Girls.” The original Beasties track is a jokey, juvenile (and blatantly misogynistic) song about finding girls to “do the dishes” and “clean the laundry.” Instead, the girls in the new version want “build a spaceship” or “code the new app.” The expectedly adorable video, an ad for startup toy company GoldieBlox, has gained more than 8 million views on YouTube in a week. But this typical Internet feel-good story took a surprising turn thanks to a phone call last week between representatives for the Beastie Boys, who did not authorize the video, and GoldieBlox. The exchange—a representative for the rap group says it was an “inquiry,” while GoldieBlox claims the call was threatening—led the toy company to file a preemptive lawsuit against the Beastie Boys, producer Rick Rubin and the group’s record label, Universal Music. GoldieBlox is claiming that their use of “Girls” does not constitute copyright infringement because of the fair use doctrine, which allows people to use copyrighted materials in new works for transformative purposes. Whether the Beastie Boys would have actually sued GoldieBlox is unclear, but the case will now be reviewed by the U.S. District Court in Northern California. The outcome could have big implications for the use of parodies in commercials, particularly in an age when remixing and redistributing media is easier than ever before. (MORE: Why Apple Hasn’t Managed to Kill Pandora Yet) The fair use doctrine has long been wielded to protect musical expression, perhaps most famously in the 1994 Supreme Court decision ruling that 2 Live Crew’s bawdy take on “Pretty Woman” was a legal parody of Roy Orbison’s original. But using a song in an explicitly commercial context, like the GoldieBlox ad, limits its protection from copyright infringement lawsuits. “Whether or not a work is used for a commercial purpose
Categories: Financial News

Ford To Recall Escapes Again For Oil, Fuel Leaks

Tue, 11/26/2013 - 7:41am
(DETROIT) — Ford is recalling the Escape small SUV to fix oil and fuel leaks that can cause fires. The hot-selling SUV has been recalled seven times since it was redesigned and went on sale in the spring of 2012. The first of two recalls announced Tuesday affects more than 161,000 Escapes worldwide from the 2013 model year with 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines. Ford says the cylinder heads can overheat and crack, causing oil leaks. Of those SUVs, fuel lines on about 12,000 may have been installed wrong. They could become chafed and leak gas. Many were repaired under a previous recall. Ford says the oil leaks caused 13 fires but no injuries. Dealers will fix cooling and control systems or inspect and replace fuel lines for free. The recalls start in January.
Categories: Financial News

U.S. Home Permits Rise at 5-Year High on Apartments

Tue, 11/26/2013 - 7:39am
(WASHINGTON) — U.S. homebuilders planned to build apartments in October at the fastest pace in five years, a sign they expect a jump in rentals in coming months. The Commerce Department says plans to build houses and apartments were approved at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.034 million. That’s 6.2 percent higher than the September rate of 974,000 and the fastest since June 2008, just before the peak of the financial crisis. Nearly all of the increase was for multi-family homes, a part of residential construction that can be volatile. Those permits rose 15.3 percent to a rate of 414,000. Permits for single-family houses rose 0.8 percent to a rate of 620,000. The government report did not include information on homes started. That was delayed again by last month’s government shutdown.
Categories: Financial News

Men’s Wearhouse Makes $1.54B Bid for Jos. A. Bank

Tue, 11/26/2013 - 7:31am
(NEW YORK) — Men’s Wearhouse is turning the tables on its recent pursuer, offering to buy Jos. A. Bank for approximately $1.54 billion. The offer comes less than two weeks after Jos. A. Bank withdrew its $2.3 billion bid for its rival. Men’s Wearhouse Inc. is offering $55 per share for Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. That’s a 9 percent premium to the company’s $50.32 Monday closing price. Men’s Wearhouse lead director Bill Sechrest said in a statement Tuesday that the company’s board reviewed its strategic options after Jos. A. Bank’s buyout bid went public. Sechrest says acquiring Jos. A. Bank has “strategic logic” and could benefit its shareholders, workers and customers. Men’s Wearhouse said it wouldn’t rebrand Jos. A. Bank if a deal goes through. Shares of both companies climbed in premarket trading.
Categories: Financial News

Black Friday and Bad Weather: Shoppers May Be Delayed, but Not Denied

Tue, 11/26/2013 - 4:45am
For the past few weeks, retailers have been blamed for ruining Thanksgiving by opening their doors to shoppers on what is traditionally a quiet family holiday. But now it looks like another force, dubbed Boreas, could ruin Turkey Day for many Americans. Boreas is the name of the winter storm that has been blamed for at least 14 deaths, as well as 650 flight cancellations this week in the Dallas–Fort Worth area alone. As the storm system pushes eastward, severe weather — including heavy rain and wind and more than a foot of snow in some parts of the Northeast — is in the forecast for the days around Thanksgiving, which are always expected to be big days for travel and shopping alike. Traffic on the roads, which is brutal on the East Coast around Thanksgiving, will surely be worse than usual in the days ahead. And what about traffic at the mall during this key time of year for retailers? By some accounts, mall crowds were already expected to be subdued (relatively speaking) on the day after Thanksgiving. A new Nielsen poll reported that only 13% of shoppers will visit brick-and-mortar stores to shop this Black Friday, down from 17% who planned to do so on Black Friday in 2012. The fall is “part of a four-year downward trend, where consumers report a declining interest in Black Friday shopping,” Nielsen researchers explain. (MORE: The Big Lie About Shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday) Added into the mix are the many ways that shoppers can find deals on par with Black Friday on days other than Black Friday. There have been holiday promotions starting in September, and door busters and Black Friday price-matching services offered by retailers starting the week before Black Friday, if not even earlier. Of course, there’s also the rise of retailers launching Black Friday deals in physical stores open on Thanksgiving Day, and a huge host of online sales and promotions before, during and after the Thanksgiving–Black Friday–Cyber Monday. In other words, even without the possibility of bad
Categories: Financial News

Europe is the Best at Producing, Attracting and Retaining Talent

Tue, 11/26/2013 - 4:09am
European countries dominate the first Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI), a ranking of the quality of talent nations are able to produce, attract and retain. Released on Tuesday, the report ranks Switzerland above the other 102 countries covered, based on information from UNESCO, the World Bank, World Intellectual Property Organization among other sources, Market Watch reports. “There is a widespread mismatch between what companies need in terms of skills and what local labor markets can offer,” commented Ilian Mihov, Dean of INSEAD, the international business school that created the index, together with the Human Capital Leadership Institute of Singapore and Adecco. “The provision of fact-based quantitative indicators such as the GTCI can help identify options and facilitate action.” GTCI Top Ten 2013: Switzerland Singapore Denmark Sweden Luxembourg The Netherlands United Kingdom Finland United States Iceland [Market Watch]
Categories: Financial News

China Looking for New Markets in Eastern Europe

Tue, 11/26/2013 - 3:41am
(BUCHAREST, Romania) — Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang says Chinese investment in infrastructure construction, renewable energy and agriculture in eastern Europe will bring greater prosperity and jobs in the region. Li said China’s economic interest in eastern and central Europe would bring “massive investments and will lead to a growth in trade.” He spoke at the opening of a meeting with leaders from 16 central and eastern European nations. Three hundred Chinese business people accompanied Li for the meeting. Analysts say that faced with rising labor costs and a strengthening currency at home China is attracted to eastern Europe due to its lower labor costs and looser restrictions on business, and see the region as a gateway to the EU. Bilateral commerce between China and Romania this year amounted to $3.27 billion.
Categories: Financial News

Working at Amazon Could Literally Make People Lose Their Minds

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 4:03pm
People often claim that their jobs make them crazy, but after looking at the results of  a BBC investigation into work conditions at a UK Amazon Warehouse, a stress expert said that working at the facility actually could cause “mental and physical illness.” Undercover reporter Adam Littler, 23, got a job as a “picker” in a Swansea warehouse. He recorded his night shifts during the holiday season, a time in which Amazon employs 15,000 extra staffers. Littler was given 33 seconds at a time (a countdown going off on a handset) to collect individual orders throughout the 800,000 square foot warehouse, walking nearly 11 miles a night. If he was too slow or made a mistake, the handset beeped and there was a risk of disciplinary action. “We are machines, we are robots, we plug our scanner in, we’re holding it, but we might as well be plugging it into ourselves,” he said. Amazon told the BBC that workers’ health is a top priority. [BBC]
Categories: Financial News

5 Things Zapping Your Company’s Productivity

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 2:39pm
Categories: Financial News

Shopping With Google? You May Be Getting Ripped Off

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 1:04pm
Many consumers begin their online holiday shopping with a simple Google search. But doing so can mean you end up paying far more than you should. An investigation by the Financial Times shows that the items featured in Google’s sponsored “product showcases” are routinely overpriced. As a result, shoppers who follow the leads provided by Google’s search service could be paying 34% more than necessary, on average. When a shopper does a Google search for a product, the results are often topped with a roundup of items, including photos of the goods and links to sites where they can be purchased. The word “Sponsored” is featured in small type at the top of this product showcase box, and when you click on the “i” (for information) to learn more, an explanation is given about how and why these items wound up in the results: “Based on your search query, we think you are trying to find a product. Clicking in this box will show you results from providers who can fulfill your request. Google may be compensated by some of these providers.” In other words, they’re ads, and Google is likely paid each time a user clicks on a sponsored link. What’s not mentioned in this information box, however, is that shoppers who choose the most expedient route and click on one of the links are likely to encounter prices that are much higher than they’d find elsewhere on the web. FT researchers found that five out of six items displayed in Google’s sponsored results cost more than the exact same items purchased via different merchants—ones that are not necessarily advertising with Google, but which generally can be found further down on the list of a Google search’s results. Consumers who click on Google’s showcase products and make a purchase will be paying an average premium of 34% compared to the lowest price available for online shoppers, the FT analysis found. (MORE: The Big Lie About Shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday) The FT study gives credence to the idea
Categories: Financial News

Everything You Need To Know About Black Friday

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 11:54am
Where did the phrase come from? How much money are Americans going to spend this weekend? And is it really the best time to get a deal?
Categories: Financial News

Stocks Up, Oil Prices Down After Iran Nuclear Deal

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 11:05am
Stocks rose and the price of oil dropped on Monday morning in the wake of a weekend deal between the Iran, the U.S. and other world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear program.   The price of benchmark U.S. crude dropped 76 cents, nearly 1 one percent, to $94.08 a barrel Monday morning, after world powers reached a deal that could reduce the risk of conflict in the oil-rich region and allow Iran to export its oil. Meanwhile stocks were mostly up on Monday morning, with the Dow Jones rising 38 points, or 0.2 percent, and Standard & Poor’s 500 index rising one point, or 0.1 percent.  
Categories: Financial News

Nielsen Buying Harris Interactive For About $117M

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 10:15am
Consumer research and TV ratings firm Nielsen is buying market research firm Harris Interactive for about $116.6 million. Harris Interactive says Nielsen agreed to pay $2 per share, but the price may change. The per-share amount is 4 percent below Harris Interactive Inc.’s $2.08 Friday closing price. Harris Interactive CEO Al Angrisani said in a statement on Monday that the company chose the Nielsen transaction after a review of its strategic options that started earlier this year. Harris Interactive’s board unanimously approved the deal. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter. Shares of Rochester, N.Y.-based Harris Interactive are off 4.8 percent to $1.98 in morning trading. Shares of Nielsen Holdings N.V., which is based in New York and the Netherlands, are up 2.7 percent to $42.24.
Categories: Financial News

Walmart Names New CEO, Shares Up

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 9:31am
Walmart said Monday that CEO Mike Duke will be replaced in February by the retail giant’s head of international business, as the company navigates hurdles to continued growth in the U.S. and abroad. Doug McMillon, 47, will take Duke’s spot at the helm as the fourth CEO since Walmart became a publicly traded company in 1970. Walmart has been expanding in international markets like China but has been boggled down by bribery allegations in Mexico and, at home, by challenges from Internet retailers like Amazon. The company’s stock price, which has seen sluggish growth relative to the surging market, had inched up 0.71 percent to $80.38 mid-morning on Monday after the announcement.
Categories: Financial News

Contracts To Buy U.S. Homes Falls For 5th Month

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 9:03am
(WASHINGTON) — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell in October for the fifth straight month. Higher mortgage rates, price increases and the 16-day partial government shutdown held back sales. The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dipped 0.6 percent to 102.1. That’s the lowest level since December. September’s reading was revised slightly higher to 102.7. There is generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale. The drop suggests final sales will remain weak in the coming months. The Realtors group said the shutdown prevented the IRS from verifying incomes, a critical part of the mortgage-approval process. The group said that 17 percent of Realtors reported delays.
Categories: Financial News

BlackBerry Shakeup Continues as COO, CFO Depart

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 8:20am
(NEW YORK) — The shakeup at Blackberry is continuing after the ouster of CEO Thorsten Heins earlier this month. Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear and Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben, both hired by Heins, will leave the struggling smartphone maker. And the company said Monday that Brian Bidulka is being replaced by James Yersh as chief financial officer. Yersh previously served as senior vice president and controller. Bidulka will remain with the company as an adviser for the remainder of the company’s fiscal year. Sybase CEO John Chen was brought in as the interim chief executive after negotiations to sell the Ontario company collapsed. Chen also serves as chairman of the board. Blackberry quickly lost dominance as the leading smartphone maker as the popularity of the iPhone surged.
Categories: Financial News

Fiat Says No Chrysler IPO in 2013

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 7:58am
(FLORENCE, Italy) — Italian automaker Fiat says it won’t launch an initial public offering for Chrysler before the end of this year. Fiat said Monday it is “not practicable” for Chrysler in 2013, and said it was working to launch the IPO in the first quarter of 2014. It did not elaborate on the reasons, but said the decision was made after consulting underwriters. Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said last month that Fiat was “bent on executing the IPO” and that he hoped it would be done by the end of the year. Fiat owns a controlling stake in Chrysler, but has been stymied in its efforts to buy out the minority shareholder in a disagreement over price. An IPO is an alternative way to monetize the stake.
Categories: Financial News

Wal-Mart Stores CEO Steps Down; McMillon Successor

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 7:56am
(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) — Wal-Mart Stores CEO and President Mike Duke is stepping down from those posts. The world’s biggest retailer named Doug McMillon as his successor. The 63-year-old Duke will stay on as chairman. The 47-year-old McMillon’s appointments are effective Feb. 1, 2014. He previously served as CEO of Walmart International. The announcement came just days before the kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Wal-Mart shares edged up in premarket trading. McMillon will also join Wal-Mart’s board. That appointment is effective immediately.
Categories: Financial News

Comcast + Time Warner Cable: One Broadband Giant to Rule Them All?

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 7:51am
Cable industry sharks are circling Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable TV company in the United States, which has become the subject of intense speculation that it might be purchased by one of its rivals. The latest scuttlebutt suggests that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, might pursue a joint bid for Time Warner Cable with Charter Communications, with plans to break it up. That news follows reports that Comcast is exploring the regulatory hurdles associated with buying Time Warner Cable outright, which sent the company’s shares soaring by 10% on Friday. Such a merger would be intensely scrutinized by the U.S. government, including the Justice Dept., which would address antitrust concerns, and the Federal Communications Commission, which would be charged with ensuring that the deal serves the public interest. Combining the number one and number two cable companies in the country would create a corporate behemoth with approximately 33 million customers. Comcast already owns NBCUniversal, one of the crown jewels of the media industry, after buying the company from industrial conglomerate General Electric in a highly controversial deal. “We expect a Comcast-TWC deal would draw intense antitrust/regulatory scrutiny and likely resistance, stoked by raw political pushback from cable critics and possibly rivals who would argue it’s simply a ‘bridge (deal) too far’ or ‘unthinkable,’” Stifel telecom analysts Christopher C. King and David Kaut wrote in a recent note to clients. “We believe government approval would be possible, but it would be costly, with serious risk. This would be a brawl.” Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a D.C.-based digital rights group, says that a Comcast merger with Time Warner Cable ought to be “unthinkable,” because it would result in the nation’s largest broadband and media company becoming even bigger. Comcast is already the dominant cable company in cities across the country, including Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, and Denver. “Comcast is already super huge in terms of its market power in every single area of telecommunications and media,” said Feld. “It would be very difficult to argue a public interest benefit.” (MORE: NFL,
Categories: Financial News

Oil Prices Take a Dive Following Iran Deal

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 3:49am
Oil prices tumbled and stocks rallied on Asia bourses on Monday following the signing of a historic agreement between Tehran and six world powers that will bridle Iran’s nuclear program. While Sunday’s deal in Geneva will ease some of the devastating sanctions levied against Iran, the fine print fell short of allowing the country to increase its sale of crude globally. Regardless, markets responded kindly to the agreement with Brent crude oil falling $2.89 to $108.16 a barrel, according to Reuters. “Right now we are taking some geopolitical risk out of the Brent market, that should be expected and we could see some loosening of Brent supplies going forward as a result of this interim deal,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of oil-trading advisory firm Ritterbusch & Associates, told the Wall Street Journal. [Reuters]
Categories: Financial News