A native Bulgarian always complains that "Americans are too optimistic!" I try to explain that some of that is part of the DNA here, while he likes to attribute the rosy outlook to a lack of struggle. To prove the point, he cites an old joke from his former country, which I like to call "The Bulgarian Optimist".
The Bulgarian Pessimist meets the Bulgarian Optimist on the street. The Pessimist says, "Things CAN'T get worse!", to which the Optimist says, "No, things CAN get worse!"
The Food Network's prime-time numbers have more than doubled since 2004, and the recent season finale of "The Next Food Network Star" was the channel's most-watched show ever. The second season start of "Man v. Food," a Travel Channel show that involves watching host Adam Richman eat (and eat…), was watched by 1.25 million households.
These programs, and many others, don't look anything like typical cooking shows. They've successfully borrowed ingredients from reality TV, like exotic locations and judged competitions. In fact, as the real estate market continues to fumble, food shows are happily replacing home makeovers as the newest spectator sport. Within the last year, TLC has dropped "Trading Spaces" and "Flip that House" and added another cooking show, "Ultimate Cake Off."
Credit card reform was needed, but it's not likely to help Americans kick their credit card habit just yet.
The credit card phenomenon has always felt eerily similar to a drinking problem. In moderation, it works for most of us. But once there's a habit of overindulgence, things go south quickly. And with credit cards, the drinker doesn't even have to pay up front for his martini.
The company began selling the $599 pass last week. It allowed for unlimited travel to the carrier's 56 U.S. and international destinations from Sept. 8 through Oct. 8. All open seats were included with no blackout dates, though tickets were based on availability and had to be booked at least three days in advance.
"We wanted to ensure those who bought the pass could get the flights they want, so we capped the number of passes we would sell," JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin told Reuters. "And we reached that number yesterday."
According to the report, "by many accounts, the agency is outmatched by the traders and market venues with technology that is remaking the trading world."
With no traders of their own on staff with "knowledge about cutting-edge strategies and how the markets operate," the SEC faces its fair share of doubters, especially after the near collapse of the investment banking industry and the failure to detect Bernard Madoff's massive fraud.
Of course we all want to know what's going to happen next, but you can drive yourself crazy reading predictions from even the best and brightest out there. Today on MoneyWatch.com, we have a great example of three incredibly bright people who all draw from the same information and come to different conclusions.
James Paulsen argues for the bulls, citing the improvement in economic data and a better-than-expected second quarter earnings season. David Winters represents a more dour view of where both the economy and markets are presently, noting that there has yet to be any really good news. We also have Diane Swonk, the cautious optimist, who splits the difference between Paulsen and Winters.
Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece that while he supports the government stimulus plan, the country must be on guard against "greenback emissions" – the residual effects of increasing debt that could plague the nation down the road.
Buffett writes that "enormous dosages of monetary medicine continue to be administered and, before long, we will need to deal with their side effects. For now, most of those effects are invisible and could indeed remain latent for a long time. Still, their threat may be as ominous as that posed by the financial crisis itself."
What can be lost in all of this is the big picture: why is Wall Street so sure that things are honky-dory, while Main Street is plagued by anxiety? My guess is that Main Street has started to accept the reality of the past twenty years and has started to change behavior, while Wall Street is content to think it was all a bad dream.
After discussing this at length with people at various financial institutions, it seems that while there was lots of talk of change from last September through March, very little has occurred. Of sure, there are some new regulators and less leverage, but the sad fact is that Wall Street's pain was not sufficient for the self-anointed "best and brightest" to make substantive changes in the way they conduct business. And of course when you are Goldman Sachs, you need not concern yourself with negative press.
The car rental company will be employing high-resolution digital cameras to snap before and after shots of their vehicles to more efficiently scan for dents, according to a Bloomberg report Tuesday. The move is aimed at saving time and, of course, boosting customers' damage payments.
The company says it loses $170 million a year under the current system, which involves an employee doing a visual check on the car and requires the customer to sign off on the report.
The new system, aside from saving time, would theoretically eliminate those nasty squabbles over dings and dents. Customers would sign a waiver acknowledging the process and would be billed for any damages.
After one of the most awful years in the history of the mutual fund industry, when the average U.S. stock fund and international fund fell by 39 percent and 46 percent respectively, you might expect fund companies would give investors a break and lower their fees. But just the opposite is true.
An exclusive analysis for MoneyWatch.com by investment research firm Morningstar shows that over the past year, . For stock funds, the fees shot up by roughly 5 percent. (Putnam and Schwab have made hay about lowering some of their fees recently; more on that later.)
The Kansas City Star reported Saturday that Enterprise "deleted" side-curtain air bags from the roughly 66,000 Impalas it sold after renting them out. The company also admitted to selling 745 Impalas without the airbags that were bought though online advertisements saying the cars included the safety feature.
"There's definitely a glitch in the system," Enterprise's vice president for corporate communications told The Star after the paper asked about the Web postings. "We'll make it right with our customers. … None of this is intentional."
Several giant food producers sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warning that the U.S. might "virtually run out of sugar" of the country didn't reduce import restrictions on the increasingly expensive commodity, according to a Wall Street Journal report $ Thursday.
The firms – including Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Hershey Co. and Mars Inc. – indicated that if they couldn't tap supply markets like Brazil, they'd run out of sugar to make candy bars, cookies, cereal and a host of other products.
Witness an interview on Yahoo's Tech Ticker site, where former stock guru Henry Blodget interviews former Gov. (and former New York Attorney General) Eliot Spitzer, the man whose investigation ultimately led to Blodget being fined millions and barred from working in the securities industry.
Blodget, who now works as a news anchor for Tech Ticker, was one of the most influential men on Wall Street in the years leading up to 2003. When Blodget famously predicted that little-known Amazon.com would rise to $400 a share, the stock did just that, mainly on Blodget's recommendation.
U.S. banks will likely collect $38.5 billion from their customers in overdraft fees by the end of the year, according to a report in Monday's Financial Times. Many banks reacted to the financial crisis by increasing the fees for overdrafts and credit cards to keep profits up.
"Banks are returning to a fee-driven model and overdraft fees are the mother lode," Mike Moebs, founder of research company Moebs Services, told the FT.
In yet another sign of the recession's toll on the U.S. economy, eight of the 12 states that allow commercial gambling, including Nevada, experienced declines in revenue, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In 2008, states' take from casinos was down 2.2 percent to $5.7 billion, according to the American Gaming Association, and casinos as a whole earned roughly $33 billion, down 5 percent from the previous year's total.