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Economy Briefs: NABE quarterly survey predicts slow growth

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ECONOMISTS

CHICAGO — Economists foresee only tepid growth for the coming year, with unemployment back above 8 percent for the first half of 2013.

The good news: The housing market is recovering faster than expected and the economy likely won't fall off a "fiscal cliff."

The quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economists released Monday predicts growth will be weak overall but should slowly accelerate through 2013.

The 44 economists surveyed now see gross domestic product -- the value of all goods and services produced in the United States -- rising just 1.9 percent in 2012 before reaching a 3 percent pace by the fourth quarter of next year.

Employment growth is forecast to weaken. The panel predicts that the unemployment rate will rise to 8.1 percent by the end of the year. The economy should add an average of 125,000 jobs per month during the fourth quarter, down from the economists' May forecast of 190,000 jobs.

BUSINESS LAW

Retailers object to deal on price-fix case between banks, credit-card companies

NEW YORK — A group of retailers and trade groups has launched a last-ditch effort to stop a settlement worth at least $6 billion that has Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc. and major banks agreeing to pay retailers for alleged fee fixing.

Ten out of the 19 retailers and trade groups that are plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit against the credit card companies say they're trying to block the deal because they believe it would allow the credit card industry to continue to take advantage of merchants and their customers while stopping competition.

The proposed settlement, which was disclosed in July, is expected to be submitted to the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn by Friday. Merchants objecting to the deal will then have 30 days to submit arguments urging the court to reject the proposal.

Under the settlement, stores will be allowed to charge customers more if they pay with a credit card. The settlement covers only U.S. transactions. But the plaintiffs says that the settlement will not stop swipe fees from continuing to rise, which will hurt both retailers and shoppers, and that it will prevent any future legal challenges.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

CNBC report: Japanese mobile-phone firm to buy lion's share of Sprint Nextel

NEW YORK — Japanese mobile phone company Softbank is agreeing to buy 70 percent of Sprint Nextel Corp. for $20 billion, according to a news report.

The deal is expected to be announced Monday, according to CNBC's website, which cited anonymous sources "close to the situation."

The transaction could make Sprint, the third-largest U.S. mobile phone company, a tougher competitor against its bigger rivals, Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Sprint has 56 million subscribers, about half the amount of Verizon Wireless, the leading provider.

Softbank will buy $8 billion in shares from Sprint and another $12 billion from current Sprint shareholders, the CNBC report said.

BANKS

Profits soar at Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, America's two largest mortgage lenders

NEW YORK — Is the mortgage market really back?

The country's two biggest mortgage lenders, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, reported Friday that a surge in home lending pushed them to record profits.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon declared that the housing market "has turned the corner." Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said that "every quarter, we have more confidence."

Wells said it issued $139 billion in mortgages from July through September, compared with $89 billion in the same period last year. JPMorgan wrote $47 billion in mortgages, compared with $37 billion last year.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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