- Created on 27 August 2013
If you're worried you won't have enough cash saved up before the imminent release of the iPhone 5S, you're in luck. Apple is reportedly introducing a trade-in program ahead of the next iPhone's release, which would get your old iPhone off your hands and take a few bucks off the new one.
The trade-in program is already being tested out in some Apple stores, TechCrunch reports. You'll likely be able to get $120 to $200 for 16GB iPhone 4 and 4S models, and around $250 for a 16GB iPho
- Created on 27 August 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans' confidence in the economy inched closer to a 5 1/2-year high on growing optimism that hiring and wages could pick up in coming months.
The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 81.5 in August. That's up from a revised reading of 81 in July. And it's just below the 82.1 reading in June, which was the highest since January 2008.
Consumers' income expectations, which fell earlier this year after a January tax hike, rebounded to the highest level in 2 1/2 years, said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's economic indicators.
Although consumers were more confident about the future, their assessment of the current economy dipped slightly in August.
"Consumer sentiment is holding steady, supported by advances in stocks, solid job creation, and a broad-based recovery in the housing market," Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors, wrote in a research note.
Consumers' confidence in the economy is watched closely because their spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
After hitting bottom at 25.3 at the depths of the Great Recession in February 2009, the index has bounced back. But it has yet to get back to the 90 reading that signals a healthy economy.
Americans' confidence jumped in June on hopes that the job market was starting to turn around. The economy has created an average of 192,000 jobs a month this year, slightly ahead of last year's pace. And the unemployment rate fell last month to a 4 1/2-year low of 7.4 percent.
Still, unemployment remains painfully high four years after the recession officially ended. And employers added just 162,000 jobs in July, the fewest in four months. That raised worries that the sluggish economy could slow any progress made earlier in the job market.
The U.S. economic recovery has been held back this year by tax hikes, federal spending cuts and weaker global growth. The economy expanded at just a 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter. Most economists expect that figure will revised up to a 2.2 percent annual rate, mostly because of a jump in June exports.
The government issues its second estimate for second-quarter growth on Thursday. Most analysts predict growth may pick up to about a 2.5 percent annual rate in the second half of the year.
Still, recent data suggest the July-September quarter is off to a weak start, leading some economists to trim their third-quarter forecasts.
On Monday the government said orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods fell sharply in July, in part because businesses cut back sharply on big purchases that signal investment plans.
And U.S. sales of newly built homes dropped 13.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 394,000. That's the lowest level in nine months, raising worries that higher mortgage rates could slow the housing recovery.
Mortgage rates have risen sharply since May when Chairman Ben Bernanke first signaled the Federal Reserve could reduce its bond purchases later this year, if the economy strengthens. The bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates low, making home-buying, auto loans and other consumer loans cheap.
- Created on 26 August 2013
UPDATE: 4:14 p.m. ET-- In a Monday letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said latest estimates show the U.S. hitting the debt limit by the middle of October.
"Protecting the full faith and credit of the United States is the responsibility of Congress because only Congress can extend the nation's borrowing authority," Lewwrites. "Failure to meet that responsibility would cause irreparable harm to the American economy."
The mid-October timeframe is sooner than many on Capitol Hill had anticipated. The government hit the borrowing limit several months ago, but Treasury has used emergency measures—such as suspending certain pension contributions—to buy more time for Congress to act. Some believed that the government's improving fiscal condition—bolstered by rising tax revenue and money coming in from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—could give Treasury even more time, potentially until sometime in December.
- Created on 23 August 2013
(CNN) -- While President Obama has reignited a national conversation over rising college costs with his new proposals, those suggestions are unlikely to dramatically lower costs soon. And the president has not given many specific suggestions how to cut these costs that have been rising dramatically faster than people's income. Tuition fees are roughly double the share of income then they were in the 1960s.
Let me offer five suggestions on how to lower post-secondary educational costs. This list is not comprehensive, but full implementation of even some of them could reduce the burden that colleges impose on students, parents and taxpayers.
First, adopt the three-year bachelor's degree as in Europe. Students at prestigious schools like Oxford and Cambridge receive their degrees in three years, and they still get first-class jobs. Diminishing returns sets into collegiate study like anything else, and much of the material in the last two years of college is of marginal importance, with the possible exception of some demanding majors such as engineering and architecture. The feds could simply say undergraduate student eligibility for financial assistance ends after 90 semester hours of study. This approach should reduce the cost of a B.A. degree by something on the order of 25%.
A less cost-saving variant of the three-year plan would keep the degree at its traditional 120 semester hour length, but have students go to school year-round for three years. We really don't need the summer off to plant crops as people did hundreds of years ago.
Facilities would get greater utilization, lowering capital costs. College graduates would gain an extra year working full-time. Faculty usually will teach additional courses for far less than the average pay per course taught regularly. Maintenance costs of facilities per student would also fall.
Second, make it possible for students to use MOOCs (massively open online courses) and other low-cost, online options, allowing for lower cost "blended" degrees combining perhaps two years of traditional classroom experience with an equal amount of online training. This would cut the cost of quality degrees perhaps 40%. Without any governmental involvement, teachers and entrepreneurs have brought hundreds of high-quality but free or low-cost courses to the internet --Udacity, Coursera, EdX, StraighterLine, Saylor Foundation, Khan Academy and Twenty Million Minds Foundation are examples of a few providers or facilitators of quality instruction. Yet students seldom get credit for these courses. The barriers are not technological, but legal or involve overcoming special interest obstruction.
Students need to be examined on the online material, with safeguards assuring the registered student is actually being tested. Obstacles to accrediting these innovative approaches need to be overcome. The federal government, which accredits the accreditation agencies, could tell these agencies they must allow accredited schools to accept as much as 60% of coursework from MOOC or related providers. The federal government can't deliver the mail or run a national medical care system efficiently, so they should not be the prime mover here. Where is the Gates Foundation or Warren Buffet when we need them?
Third, offer a traditional residential degree for 40% less by dramatically reducing labor and capital costs. The typical university employs twice as many "professional non-instructional personnel" (administrators) per 100 students as it did 40 years ago. Why not create new universities with staffing near the 1970 norms -- a university without sustainability and diversity coordinators or an army of public relations specialists, where faculty teach extensively rather than do trivial research that no one reads, and where there are no expensive intercollegiate athletic programs for the amusement of non-students.
Specifically, ask the faculty to teach four classes per semester instead of two or three. Build few buildings but utilize them extensively, including on Fridays, weekends and summer months. Have a least two faculty members for each administrator (the ratio now is often one to one). Prohibit faculty from teaching trivial courses in their specialty. Do we really need courses on "Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame" taught to students who are clueless about Beethoven, Shakespeare and van Gogh? Limit the pay of all employees to no more than that of the president of the United States or less. Could existing universities do this? They haven't, so state governments might have to create new institutions from the ground up.
Fourth, create a National College Equivalence Test similar to the high school GED. A good national test of basic reading, writing, mathematical and general knowledge about our institutions and society could be administered by, say, the Scholastic Testing Service, or ACT. High scores on the test would lead to a "college equivalence certificate." Most students want a diploma as a ticket to a good job. Employers could use scores on the equivalency test as an alternative certification device, and individuals could take the test anytime --even home schooled kids with little formal education.
Fifth, get the federal government out of the student financial aid business. There is good evidence the 11.7% annual growth in federal student financial aid over the past decade (and similar growth earlier) has encouraged colleges to raise tuition fees and finance a costly academic arms race. Lower income Americans are a smaller proportion of recent college graduates than in 1970, before Pell Grants began. If we implement the first four reforms, the need for student financial assistance will dramatically decline.
The current system breeds high dropout rates, rewards poor performance (students lingering in school get more aid than those graduating promptly) and encourages kids to enter college who would be better off entering trade schools or apprentice programs. Ending these inefficient federal programs would save tens of billions annually.
In short, there are lots of thing we can do to make colleges more affordable beyond the president's idea of providing good consumer information by rating colleges.