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CNN New York
We’ve all been there – a vacation that’s supposed to be relaxing, but the stresses of the job intrude. President-Elect Obama, on vacation with his family in Hawaii, has a lot to think about with less than a month to go before inauguration. Obama this weekend expanded the goal of his economic recovery plan, which will now aim to create 3 million jobs, up from 2.5 million in the original version. That news comes as this weekend Vice President-Elect Joe Biden took to the airwaves and pressed the need for a recovery plan, saying the U.S. economy is in danger of “absolutely tanking.”
The malls were humming with holiday shoppers this weekend, but discounts were steep and profits likely thin, as retailers struggle with one of their toughest seasons in memory. We’ll find out how Americans are feeling about things Tuesday morning with the University of Michigan’s preliminary report on consumer sentiment. It’s among the slew of reports crammed into the first three days of this holiday week. The trading week is a short one on Wall Street, with a 1p closing bell on Wednesday, no trading for Christmas Day of course, and then a full day on Friday. In the early doing this morning, the Dow is near the break even mark (down 4 as of this writing).
If you think the problems in the auto industry are isolated to Detroit’s big three, think again. The world’s biggest auto maker, Toyota, stunned the markets with news that it will report its first ever operating loss this fiscal year (ending in March 2009). The company expects to lose almost $1.7 billion, as the global recession wallops vehicle sales, especially in the last month. The news raises new fear that GM and Chrysler achieving “viability” with their government loan may be difficult.
Back in the U.S., companies are cutting costs every way they can, including the painful step of eliminating company matches to 401(k) plans. Human resources research group Watson Wyatt Worldwide says 7% of companies are considering cuts to contributions, up from 4% two months earlier. Among those companies suspending matches are FedEx, Eastman Kodak, General Motors, Ford Motor, and Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.
The Wall Street banks that have tapped into half the $700 billion bailout (aka the TARP or Troubled Assets Relief Program) will not say what they’ve done with the money. The Associated Press asked 21 banks how much has been spent, what was it spent on, how much is being saved, and what’s the plan for what’s left over. The banks did not provide specific answers to any those questions. The AP also calculated that executives from companies receiving bailout money from the TARP in 2008 were awarded nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and perks in 2007.
Some good news finally – gas prices are down a half cent to $1.663 for a gallon of regular unleaded according to AAA, and the bi-weekly report from Lundberg also measured the average at $1.66, down nine cents from its previous report (that was a four year low...whereas the daily AAA figure was only the lowest since last week). Oilman T. Boone Pickens appeared on American Morning this morning, saying he believes that we will see $100 a barrel oil again, and gas will go back to the $2.50-$3 gallon range. Pickens continues to push his plan to move to alternative energy sources – it’s certainly an uphill battle when gas is cheap and many people are focused on simply getting by in the short term.
And finally, are you looking to hit the dance floor and be energy efficient at the same time? Now you can! Across the country, and around the world, green nightclubs are the latest trend. At London’s Club Surya, a special dance floor actually helps power the club.
In New York City, 'Greenhouse' says it uses 40% – 60% less energy than a standard club, thanks to high-efficiency heating and cooling and LED lights. It also has two waterless urinals that save 15,000 gallons of water a year.
Is all of this just a gimmick to get people in the door... or will club-goers really choose to spend their money at a green nightclub over one that isn’t?
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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