- - Sunday, August 14, 2011

MARKETS

Economic uncertainty fuels eBay gold sales

SAN FRANCISCO — For gold sellers on eBay, the recent stock market turmoil has been a boon for business.

Gold and silver sales on eBay had already been rising steadily over the past several years — so much so that eBay created a special area in May to make it easier for buyers to find sellers.

“When people are coming down to the question, ‘Do they want to have cash in the bank or gold in their hands?’ the answer is they’d rather have gold or silver,” said Jacob Chandler, CEO of Great Southern Coins, the largest seller of precious metals on eBay.

According to the most recent data available from eBay, sales of 1-ounce gold American Eagle coins and 1-ounce gold Pamp Suisse bars rose steadily from Aug. 5 to Wednesday, before dipping slightly Thursday.

On Aug. 5, when Standard & Poor’s lowered the nation’s credit rating, American Eagle coins were selling for an average of $1,800 among eBay’s featured sellers. The average price of the coins, produced by the U.S. Mint, rose more than 8 percent to $1,952 on Wednesday, before dropping to $1,915 on Thursday.

ECONOMIC STATS

Retail sales rise 0.5 percent in July

Consumers spent more on autos, furniture, clothing and gas in July, pushing up retail sales by the largest amount in four months. The gain signaled that Americans are a little more confident in the economy and could helped dispel fears that the country is headed for another recession.

Retail sales rose 0.5 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the best showing since March. The government also revised sales higher in the previous two months.

Even after excluding sales at gas stations, which were influenced by an increase in gas prices, sales rose 0.3 percent last month.

ECONOMIC STATS

Consumer confidence hits three-decade low

U.S. consumer confidence plunged to the lowest level in more than three decades in early August, according to data published Friday by Reuters and the University of Michigan.

Their index of consumer sentiment tumbled to 54.9, its lowest reading since May 1980, when the index sank to 51.7.

The decline was much sharper than expected, and followed an equally sharp fall in July, to 63.7 from 71.5 in June. The average analyst forecast for the August number had been 62.5.

The survey was taken during a period of high volatility in markets and when lawmakers were battling over the country’s debt and deficit-paring plan.

GREECE

Tax-evasion tips quadrupled in 2010

ATHENS — Tax fraud tipoffs increased fourfold when the financial crisis hit Greece last year, the Kathimerini daily reported Sunday.

According to the newspaper, Greece’s financial crimes squad received 18,500 reports in 2010, up from 4,500 the previous year. The squad’s chairman told Kathimerini that most of the cheats reported to his unit owned “shops that do not provide receipts, or were doctors and lawyers.”

Under intense pressure from its creditors, debt-laden Greece has committed to a draconian austerity plan, which includes a long-overdue crackdown on tax fraud. Despite the surge in whistleblowers, experts have warned that a tax hike decided in June could lead to mass evasion.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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