7 tax moves to make by year-end
The holidays are bearing down, but to make sure you don't overpay the IRS when you file your 2009 return next year, you need to make time for some year-end tax tasks. Some of the tax breaks will expire Dec. 31, so this could be your last chance to use them. Others will be around awhile longer, but it might make sense to claim this year. And some have been helping folks cut their IRS bills for ages and likely will be around for many tax years to come.
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Economists expect stronger recovery
ahead in '10
Despite rising fears of the U.S. falling into another recession, a survey of top economists found them more optimistic about growth in the fourth quarter of this year and throughout 2010. But job seekers will have to wait a little longer for employers to start hiring again.
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6 ways to boost your income in a big
Budgets and penny-pinching are all well and good, but if you're looking to give your income a serious lift, there is no substitute for entrepreneurial grit. Many turn talent and expertise into a second source of income, providing consulting services on the side, for example, while maintaining their full-time jobs. Others put more skin in the game, making major investments to start local franchise operations or purchase rental property in pursuit of passive income. But all who call themselves successful share similar character traits: a rock-solid work ethic and a willingness to roll up their sleeves. If you count yourself among them, the following money-making opportunities might help give you the raise you deserve.
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IRS Issues Guidance on 2009
Required Minimum Distribution Waiver
The Internal Revenue Service today provided guidance for retirement plan administrators, plan participants and retirees regarding recent legislation affecting required minimum distributions. The Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 waives required minimum distributions for 2009 from certain retirement plans.
Generally, a required minimum distribution is the smallest annual amount that must be withdrawn from an IRA or an employer's plan beginning with the year the account owner reaches age 70 1/2. The 2008 law waives required minimum distributions for 2009 for IRAs and defined contribution plans (such as 401(k)s) and allows certain amounts distributed as 2009 required minimum distributions to be rolled over into an IRA or another retirement plan.
Notice 2009-82 (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-09-82.pdf) provides relief for people who have already received a 2009 required minimum distribution this year. Individuals generally have until the later of Nov. 30, 2009, or 60 days after the date the distribution was received, to roll over the distribution.
The notice also provides guidance for retirement plan sponsors. It contains two sample plan amendments that plan sponsors may adopt or use to amend their plans to either stop or continue 2009 required minimum distributions. Both sample amendments provide that participants and beneficiaries can choose to receive or not to receive 2009 required minimum distributions. Also, both sample amendments allow the employer to offer direct rollover options of certain 2009 required minimum distributions.
Plan sponsors may need to tailor the sample amendment to their plan's particular terms and administration procedures and must adopt the amendment no later than the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2011 (Jan. 1, 2012 for governmental plans).
Changes to IRA conversion
rules create new complexities
Tax Talk Question: For some time, I have wanted to convert my regular IRAs to Roth IRAs, however, my income is too high. Is there any relief in sight on this issue?
Answer: Next year will be a pivotal one for retirement planning, as it will be the first year in which taxpayers will be able to convert funds in regular IRAs (as well as qualified plan funds) to Roth IRAs regardless of their income level. This new conversion option poses significant tax planning challenges and opportunities for 2009, 2010 and 2011.
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7 retirement investing
Everyone knows the secret to investment success is to buy low and sell high. The problem is most of us lack clairvoyance. We weigh in on some of the most common mistakes investors make, and while it's easy to see that chasing hot stocks -- the most frequently cited mistake -- would be an exercise in futility, there are other pitfalls to watch out for on the road to retirement. There are never any guarantees when investing, but avoiding these seven missteps will better your chances of success.
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What It's Telling Us
|Consumer Confidence||Outlook improves to 2-year high||Jan 26|
|Retail sales||Surprise jump of 1.3%||Jan 14|
|Leading Economic Indicators||Uptrend continues||Jan 21|
|Manufacturing Activity (ISM)||Growth for third month||Jan 4|
|Industrial Production||Return to growth, up 0.8%||Jan 15|
|Job Growth||Fewer cuts and decline in unemployment rate||Jan 8|
|Inflation (CPI)||Running at 1.8%||Jan 15|
You can also see the current US Treasury Monthly Economic Data report
Weekly unemployment claims drop 22,000 to 432,000
- 12/31/09 MarketWatch
The number of people filing initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 432,000 in the week ended Dec. 26, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected initial claims to decrease to 455,000. The four-week average of initial claims dropped 5,500 to 460,250. Meanwhile, the number of continuing claims in the week ended Dec. 19 declined 57,000 to 4.98 million. The four-week average of continuing claims fell 122,500 to 5.1 million. The gradual decline in continuing claims over the past few months suggest companies are no longer getting rid of workers, and may even be hiring. Yet year-end data tends to be especially volatile because of holidays, bad weather and other one-time factors, economists say. Consumer confidence picks up, but home prices flatten out - 12/30/09 Washington Post Consumers are feeling a little better about the economy but home prices are flattening out after an unexpected rebound in the spring and summer, according to two closely watched reports released on Tuesday. A monthly survey by the Conference Board, a private research group, found that consumer confidence picked up slightly in December after rising in November, but still remains at a weak level. The results largely capture consumer attitudes about the labor market. Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index, which tracks sales in 20 major metropolitan areas, showed that prices of single-family homes were largely flat in October compared with September.
Initial jobless claims fall 28,000 to 452,000
- 12/24/09 MarketWatch
First-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell a seasonally adjusted 28,000 to 452,000 in the week ended Dec. 19, hitting the lowest level since September 2008, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch were looking for an initial claims level of 470,000. The four-week average of new claims fell 2,750 to 465,250, which also the lowest level since September 2008. In the week ended Dec. 12, the number of people who continued to collect benefits fell 127,000 to 5.08 million, the lowest level since February. The four-week average of continuing claims fell 90,000 to 5.23 million, the lowest level since March. The insured unemployment rate remained at 3.9%.
Consumer spending and income rise, but new-home
sales drop - 12/24/09 Washington
Americans' incomes and spending levels rose in November, while new-home sales dropped, according to data released Wednesday that suggest the economy has continued a steady but unspectacular expansion as the end of the year approaches. Personal income rose 0.4 percent, the fifth straight month of increase, and consumer spending rose 0.5 percent, the Commerce Department said. Those numbers were lower than expected, but nonetheless suggest that Americans were becoming more confident about spending money as the holiday season began. However, when adjusted for inflation, the gains are less impressive, and economists said that at those levels of growth, the nation will likely emerge from its deep downturn slowly.
U.S. wage growth accelerates in November
- 12/23/09 MarketWatch
Compensation earned by U.S. workers rose 0.3% in November, another signal that labor markets are slowly improving, the Commerce Department estimated Wednesday. The increase in wages and salaries was the best since April, and helped to push up total personal incomes by 0.4% in November, the biggest gain since May and in line with expectations of economists. After inflation, after-tax disposable incomes rose 0.2% for the third straight month. Inflation-adjusted real spending increased 0.2% in November after a 0.4% gain in October. The personal savings rate was steady at 4.7%.
U.S. GDP revised down to 2.2% annual rate
- 12/22/09 Marketwatch
The U.S. economy grew at the fastest pace in two years during the third quarter, but the revised annual growth rate of 2.2% was much slower than initially reported, the Commerce Department estimated Tuesday. U.S. real gross domestic product increased for the first time since the spring of 2008, boosted by higher consumer spending, a rebound in investments in homes, a slower pace of inventory reduction, more exports, and robust government spending. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch were expecting only a minor revision to 2.7% in the third estimate. The revisions to third-quarter GDP were in three major areas: Business investment, consumer spending, and inventories.
U.S. Nov. existing home sales rise 7.4%
- 12/22/09 MarketWatch
Home buyers rushed to qualify for an expiring federal tax credit, boosting resales of U.S. homes by 7.4% to a 6.54 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday. The sales pace was the highest since February 2007 and was the third straight large increase. Sales are up 28% since August. Buyers were rushing in November to finalize sales ahead of the Nov. 30 expiration for the tax credit, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the real estate lobbying group. The tax credit was subsequently extended and expanded to include repeat buyers. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch were expecting existing home sales to rise to a 6.28 million annual pace in November.
Leading Economic Indicators rise 0.9% in November
- 12/17/09 MarketWatch
The index of leading economic indicators rose for the eight straight month, pointing to an improved economy in 2010, the private Conference Board said Thursday. The index increased 0.9% in November after a 0.3% gain in October, the research group said. Six of the 10 leading indicators were positive. For the first time since December 2007, employment did not make a negative contribution to the index, potentially a good sign for future job growth, the board said.
U.S. jobless claims rise in latest week
- 12/17/09 MarketWatch
First-time claims for state unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly in the latest week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The number of initial claims in the week ending Dec. 12 rose 7,000 to 480,000. The consensus forecast of Wall Street economists was for claims to fall to 465,000. Claims in the prior week were revised to 473,000 from the intial estimate of 474,000. The four-week average fell for the 15th straight week.
US Consumer Prices Rise - 12/16/09
U.S. consumer prices rose in line with expectations in November on a surge in energy costs, but prices were flat, excluding food and energy, a government report showed on Wednesday. The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index leaped 0.4% on a seasonally adjusted basis after an unrevised 0.3% gain in October. A 4.1% burst in the energy index led the rise, as gasoline, electricity, fuel oil and natural gas prices rose.
Producer prices rise 1.8% in Nov on energy
prices - 12/15/09 MarketWatch
Wholesale prices rose a larger-than-expected 1.8% in November after seasonable adjustments, with energy prices accounting for about three-fourths of the increase, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. The producer price index has risen 2.4% in the past year, the government said. This is the first rise since November 2008. The core PPI - which excludes food and energy prices - rose 0.5% in November, more than expected. Leading the advance were higher truck and cigarette prices. Core prices are up 1.2% in the past year. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected a 1.0% rise in the November headline PPI and a 0.3% gain in the core rate. The PPI had risen 0.3% in October, while the core rate was down 0.6%.
Nov retail sales up for third month in last
four - 12/11/09 MarketWatch
U.S. retail sales rose a better-than-expected 1.3% in November for third monthly increase in the past four months, the Commerce Department estimated Friday. The sales gains were widespread across most kinds of retail outlets, including autos, gasoline, department stores and hardware stores. Only clothing- and furniture-store sales declined. The consensus forecast of Wall Street economists was for retail sales to rise 0.5%. Excluding autos, sales rose 1.2%, the biggest gain since January. Wall Street had expected a increase of 0.4%. Excluding gasoline and autos, sales increased 0.6
Consumer sentiment soars in early Dec -
Consumer sentiment improved markedly in early December, according to media reports on Friday of the Reuters/University of Michigan index. The consumer sentiment index rose to 73.4 in early December from 67.4 in November. The increase was larger than expected. The consensus forecast of Wall Street economists was for sentiment to rise to 69.0. This is the highest level of consumer sentiment since September. The strong stock market and last week's better-than-expected job report were seen boosting consumer moods.
Initial jobless claims rise 17,000 to 474,000
- 12/10/09 MarketWatch
The number of people filing claims for state unemployment benefits rose by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 474,000 in the week ending Dec. 5, while the total number of people claiming benefits of any kind topped 10 million, a sign of very sluggish hiring, the Labor Department reported Thursday. First-time claims -- which measure new layoffs -- rose for the first time in six weeks in the week after Thanksgiving. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected initial claims to fall to about 450,000.
Finally, Some Very Good Jobs News - 12/4/09
Today's jobs report is by far the best one since 2007. The economy lost only 11,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department reported. That's down from 111,000 last month and a peak of 741,000 in January. The report was much better than expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch, who were looking for 100,000 fewer jobs and a steady 10.2% unemployment rate. The government also significantly revised its September and October job loss estimates. September's data was adjusted to show a loss of 139,000 jobs instead of 219,000, and in October 111,000 jobs were lost, instead of 190,000. Even allowing for the November loss, the revisions added 148,000 people to the list of those employed in the United States in November. Another piece of good news was the growing number of hours worked by those who still had their jobs - to an average of 33.2 hours a week, from 33 hours. It was the biggest rise since 2003. The increase could be a sign that some employers are on the verge of doing more hiring.
U.S. Factory Orders in October Topped Forecasts
- 12/4/09 AP in the NY Times
Orders to American factories unexpectedly rose in October by 0.6 percent, the sixth gain in seven months. It was further evidence that the manufacturing sector is beginning to recover, which will help support the overall economy. A flat reading had been expected by economists. Orders for durable goods, items expected to last three years, rose 0.6 percent, unchanged from a preliminary estimate last week. Orders for nondurable goods rose 1.6 percent, propelled by gains in demand for petroleum, chemicals, plastics and food.
3rd-Quarter U.S. Productivity Revised Down
to 8.1% - 12/4/09 Reuters in the
Worker productivity in the United States was less robust than previously thought in the third quarter as workers earned more money and output rose at a slower pace, the government reported on Thursday. The Labor Department said that nonfarm productivity rose at an annual rate of 8.1 percent, still the quickest rate since the third quarter of 2003, rather than the 9.5 percent rate reported last month. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast that growth in third-quarter productivity would be revised down to 8.5 percent. Productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, grew at a 6.9 percent rate in the second quarter.
Service Sector contracts unexpectedly -
12/4/09 Reuters in the NY Times
The nation's services sector, meanwhile, unexpectedly contracted in November, with an index measuring activity falling to its lowest reading since July, according to an industry report released on Thursday. The Institute for Supply Management said its services index shrank to 48.7 in November from 50.6 in October. That was slightly below the 51.5 median forecast of 62 economists surveyed by Reuters. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.
Productivity revised down, still best in 6
years - 12/3/09 MarketWatch
U.S. nonfarm business productivity increased at an 8.1% annual rate in the third quarter, revised down from the 9.5% estimated a month ago, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch were looking for a revision down to 8.6%. Unit labor costs - a significant marker for inflationary pressures from wages - fell 2.5%, revised up from a 5.2% decline reported a month ago. In manufacturing, productivity increased at a record 13.4% annual rate. Unit labor costs fell 6.1% annualized in the sector.
Initial jobless claims fall 5,000 to 457,000
- 12/3/09 MarketWatch
In a sign of improving labor markets, new claims for state unemployment benefits dropped for a fifth straight week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. But a large increase in the number of people collecting checks indicates hiring remained sluggish. The number of Americans filing for state unemployment benefits fell by a seasonally adjusted 5,000 to 457,000 in the week ending Nov. 28. It's the fewest initial claims since September 2008. Claims in the previous week were revised lower by 4,000 to 462,000. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected initial claims to rise to about 480,000.
Economy improving modestly, Beige Book says
- 12/2/09 MarketWatch
The U.S. economy "improved modestly" in late October and November, with moderate gains in consumer spending, manufacturing and housing offsetting "dismal" conditions in commercial real estate, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday in its Beige Book report on the economy. Eight of 12 Fed regions reported the economy had picked up since mid-October, while conditions were little changed or mixed in the four bank regions stretching from Ohio and Pennsylvania to the south. Labor markets remained weak, "with further layoffs, sluggish hiring and high levels of unemployment." Business contacts told the Fed that there was little or no upward pressure on wages or consumer prices.
Job picture: Signs of improvement - 12/2/09
The pace of U.S. job losses slowed in November, according to two reports released Wednesday. Automatic Data Processing (ADP, Fortune 500), a payroll-processing firm, said private-sector employers cut 169,000 jobs in November. It was the eighth month in a row that the number of job cuts fell from the month before. The number of cuts in October was revised down to 195,000 from the previously reported 203,000. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a loss of 150,000 jobs last month.
ISM index surprise drop - 12/1/09
The November manufacturing index from the Institute for Supply Management fell to 53.6 from 55.7 in October, surprising economists who were looking for ISM to fall to 55. However, any reading over 50 implies expansion in the sector.
Pending-home sales index rises 3.7% in October
- 12/1/09 MarketWatch
Signed sales contracts on existing homes in the United States rose for the ninth straight month in October, a real estate industry group reported Tuesday. The pending home sales index rose a seasonally adjusted 3.7% in October from September, the National Association of Realtors reported. The index is up 31.8% compared with last October. The index rose 6% in September. The index tracks sales contracts on pre-owned homes. Typically, it takes a month or two after the contract is signed for the sale to close. At that point, the sale is booked in the NAR's existing-home sales report.