Smiley Face for a Troubled Economy: Why Housing Helps Build The Case

ap housing report jc 140828 16x9 608 Home Sales Bouncing Back When Economy Needs It Most

  (Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo)

from my abcnews,com money blog

Happy days are here again for housing … sort of.

After more than a decade of boom and bust, a vital part of the U.S. economy may be finally returning to normal. That could be very good news for growth. Signs of stability include slower price rises and fewer sales of distressed properties.

“Home prices look roughly in line with their long-term norms and, very importantly, far fewer people are falling behind on their payments,” Jed Kolko, chief Economist at Trulia, the online real estate firm, says. “More and more the housing recovery depends on what happens in the jobs market.”

Foreclosures dropped sharply in July, falling more than 21% in the past year, says data firm CoreLogic. On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures were down by 8.5%.

“The stock of distressed debt continues to rapidly decline, especially in western states,” economist Sam Khater said.

True, the housing bust resulted in years of misery and broken dreams for millions of people.  But others are starting to see their recent investment pay off.

“Based on current trends, the overall foreclosure inventory could trend down to as low as 500,000 homes by year-end, which is very positive news for the housing market,” Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, said.

After a slow climb back from the financial crisis of 2008-9, growth may be revving up.

After a bleak start to the year,  the Commerce Department increased its previous estimate of U.S. output in the April-June quarter. The economy grew at a brisk annual rate of 4.2%, , slightly faster than expected. f

The upward revision supported expectations that the second half of 2014 will prove far stronger than the first half.

And there’s a little good news for motorists. Labor Day will be the cheapest holiday travel weekend in four years: “Mildly cheaper than last year, quite a bit cheaper than in 2012,” Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at GasBuddy.com, told me.

Despite unrest in the Middle East, “We are producing about 3.1 million barrels a day more domestic crude in the United States than when the first Arab Spring took place,” he said.

U.S. gasoline demand has also been reduced by more fuel-efficient vehicles.

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Burger King’s Northern Exposure: Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire?

gty burger king 2010 kb 140826 16x9 608 Controversy Erupts Over Burger Kings (BKW) Move

(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

This blog is adapted from my ABCNews.com daily business blog

Burger King is facing a grilling from critics of U.S. companies that move overseas to cut their tax bills.

“I’ve eaten my last Whopper,” is among the many angry comments on Burger King’s Facebook page. That one received more than 1,000 “likes” at the company’s social media site.

BK announced on Tuesday that it would buy the popular Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons for more than $11 billion, and move the corporate headquarters of the combined firm to Canada, where corporate tax rates are lower than in the U.S.

Liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, wants U.S. consumers to spend their burger dollars elsewhere .

Other Senate Democrats are calling for legislation to limit tax inversions by American companies that takeover foreign firms largely for fiscal reasons.

But the CEO of Burger King insists the deal is not about taxes. And there appear to be strong competitive reasons for this move.

While the fast-food giant is much better known and has many more franchises, Tim Hortons is the most profitable of the two. The merger could also heat up the company’s share of the fast-growing breakfast market and create the world’s third largest fast-food chain.

And besides, say BK boosters, why shouldn’t a firm look after the best interests of shareholders by lowering its tax burden?

Perhaps the move will also re-start the stalled debate over complex U.S. corporate taxes.

This is not merely about high American rates, with loopholes and write-offs for some businesses but not others. The controversy also involves global taxes.

“The U.S., unlike most developed-world governments, insists on taxing the global income of its citizens and corporations that have U.S. headquarters,” writes Megan McArdle of Bloomberg Businessweek. “Because the U.S. has some of the highest tax rates in the world, especially on corporate income, this amounts to demanding that everyone who got their start here owes us taxes, forever, on anything they earn abroad.”

Critics of these rules say the system is to blame for billions of dollars being parked off-shore by subsidiaries of U.S. firms.

The argument, they insist, is about more than businesses paying their fair share. It also involves Congress and whether it will act to reform the corporate tax code.

Will this Wearable Video Camera Help Police-Community Relations After Ferguson?

 

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(credit: taser.com)

There is no video of the police shooting of 18 year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

This stark fact could  lead to changes soon at many police departments across the country.

Deprived of the facts about exactly what happened,  raw emotions play a heightened role in the debate.  People have very different of who was to blame.

Could technology help change minds and alter the tenor of the debate?

“Everybody wishes right now there was a video record of what happened” Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst at the ACLU told Businessweek.   Studies revealed that wearable video cameras would have a positive impact on police-community relations.

Wall Street is  betting that the uproar over over what happened in Ferguson will have a direct impact on sales of body cameras like the one pictured above.

Shares in the firm that makes it, stun gun manufacturer Taser International (TASR), jumped more than 9% today on the stock market, and have rallied in recent days.

“The era of on-officer video has arrived. The technology is poised to help keep officers safer and more accountable on the job, while protecting law enforcement agencies from nuisance lawsuits,” says policemag.com.