Business

real estate
3:32 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Austin Real Estate Hotter Than The Weather

July was a strong month for real estate
KUT News

The volume of home sales was up for the 14th straight month in July, according to figures released today by the Austin Board of Realtors.   The number of sales was up 20 percent over last year, to 2,344.

Not only are more homes selling; they’re also selling at higher prices, and they’re selling faster.  The median-priced home sold for $214,000 in July, up 9 percent.  That's the sixth straight month that the median price has risen.   And houses sold, on average, in only 63 days, down from 77 days in 2011.

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Economy
3:46 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Back-To-School Shoppers Open Wallets, But Carefully

Shoppers walk along Chicago's Michigan Avenue last month.
Sitthixay Ditthavong AP

Originally published on Tue August 14, 2012 4:29 pm

After months of sitting on their wallets, Americans went shopping in July. The uptick reported Tuesday is boosting economists' hopes for a reasonably strong back-to-school season. And retailers are looking for clues about how the holiday shopping season will turn out later in the year.

"This is a good report," Chris Christopher, an economist with IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, wrote in an assessment of the latest report. "It indicates that consumers came back after hunkering down" during the year's first half when sales were "dismal."

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Technology
11:51 am
Fri August 10, 2012

FTC Finalizes Privacy Settlement With Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about history of Facebook during the f/8 conference in San Francisco.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 11:20 am

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized a settlement with Facebook in which the social media leader agrees to get users' approval before making any privacy changes and agrees to periodic third-party audits for the next 20 years on how it handles user privacy.

We told you about this settlement back in November, but today, Reuters reports, after a period of public comment, the settlement has become official.

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Business
1:15 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

How's Facebook Really Doing? Investors Will Soon Find Out

Mobile devices are key to Facebook's growth potential. Can it deliver?
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 3:41 pm

Update at 4:33 p.m. ET. Right At Expectations:

Facebook reported slightly stronger than expected profits. For the second quarter, it reported a net loss of $157 million or 11 cents a share. But when it adjusted its earnings to remove stock compensation charges related to its IPO, Reuters reports, Facebook actually made 12 cents a share.

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Economy
3:53 pm
Wed July 25, 2012

Former Citigroup CEO Says Big Banks Should Be Split Up

Sandy Weill, former chairman of Citigroup, in 2006.
Louis Lanzano AP

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 3:44 pm

Sandy I. Weill, the former Citigroup CEO who helped usher in the era of super banks, said during an interview with CNBC today that big banks should be split up.

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Business
10:35 am
Tue July 24, 2012

Chuy’s Stock Offering Easy to Swallow

Stock in the Chuy's chain of restaurants begins trading on the NASDAQ today.
flickr.com/81924773@N00/3203555473

That’s a lot of Chimichangas: The parent company of Austin restaurant chain Chuy’s made its initial stock offering Monday, raising $75.8 million.

Chuy's Holdings Inc. will begin trading shares today on the NASDAQ exchange, under the trading symbol CHUY. It makes Chuy’s Austin's newest publicly-traded company.

The Austin-American Statesman reports that the company originally filed for an initial public offering in August of last year, amid a market downturn when few companies were making IPOs. But the market has since strengthened, and the IPO window has reopened. 

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Business
11:01 am
Thu July 19, 2012

Apple Buys Land for Austin Operations Center

Apple's current operations center in Austin.
flickr.com/beleaveme

Computing giant Apple has acquired land to house its Americas Operations Center.

The Austin Business Journal reports Apple purchased three plots of land in Northwest Austin late last month:

Records at the Travis County Clerk’s Office show that McShane Development Co. LLC, through its Riata Vista LP entity, sold three tracts of land to Apple on June 21. The exhibits indicate that the land is in the Milwood Section 20 subdivision near Parmer Lane and Delcour Drive.

Apple’s opening of an operations center in Texas was assisted by numerous grants and tax abatements: a $21 million grant from the state, via Governor Rick Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund; approximately $8.6 million in abatements from the City of Austin, and approximately  $6.4 million from the county.

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Business
9:49 am
Thu July 19, 2012

TABC Trying to Speed Up Alcohol Licensing

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Committee is trying to streamline the permit process for alcohol sales.
Caleb Miller for KUT News

The House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures met Wednesday to take a look at streamlining the alcoholic licensing and permitting process.

According to the Texas Tribune, interim Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) director Sherry Cooke told the committee that her agency wants to consolidate the processes for beer and liquor licenses.

The issue is that there are two separate processes for receiving a beer license and liquor licenses. Some of the applications for those permits can be processed through TABC, but others have to involve county courts.

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Business
5:30 am
Wed July 18, 2012

High Demand For Foreign Skilled Workers in Austin

Texas Tribune

Austin had the twelfth highest number of H-1B visa requests per capita in the last two years, according to a report issued this morning by the Brookings Institution, signaling a high demand for employees in technology and engineering. H-1B visas are temporary work permits, up to six years in length, issued to foreigners who work in specialized occupations.

Employers in Austin made 3,087 H-1B visa requests in 2010 and 2011, the report says, a rate of 3.9 applications per 1,000 workers. More than half of those requests were for computer related occupations. About 17 percent were for engineering jobs.

Most of the H-1B visa requests came from technology firms such as Dell, Advanced Micro Devices, Intel, and Freescale Semiconductor. The report did not examine how many of those permits were actually granted.

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Economy
4:47 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

Sales Tax Collections Leap in June

Texas sales tax saw a 15 percent boost in June over last year.

Almost two billion dollars in Texas sales taxes were collected in June – some 15 percent more than the state collected in June last year.

Austin's share of sales taxes comes to about $12.5 million in revenue, which is up more than 10 percent from the same time last year.

"Sales tax revenue has increased for 27 consecutive months in Texas,” Comptroller Susan Combs says in a statement. “Strong business spending in industries such as manufacturing and oil and natural gas boosted the latest sales tax collections. Revenue from consumer spending in the retail trade and restaurant sectors also did well."

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Business
11:50 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Austin DirecTV Customers May Lose Viacom Channels

DirecTV customers may lose some 17 Viacom channels tomorrow, unless the companies reach an agreement.
Photo courtesy of flickr.com/kevint via Creative Commons

Certain DirecTV channels may go off the air at midnight as the company’s contract with Viacom expires.

The current state of negotiations between the companies indicates those channels — which include Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV — will go black for DirecTV subscribers at that time.

In a blog post, Viacom says that talks "have reached an impasse" and that it deserves higher fees, while DirecTV says the company is looking for an increase of more than 30 percent.

Viacom says that DirecTV is offering to pay less than “any other distributor in the industry.”

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Economy
8:38 am
Fri July 6, 2012

Charts: How Unemployment Has Dragged On

Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

Originally published on Mon July 9, 2012 10:06 pm

Losing your job is rarely good. Not being able to find one for months can be disastrous for individuals, and bad for society as well. Yet during the recent recession and the current anemic recovery, more people in the U.S. have been unemployed for longer than at any time since 1948.

Of all Americans who were unemployed in June, almost half had been without a job for 27 weeks or longer. In other words, 5.4 million people have been jobless for more than half a year.

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Business
11:04 am
Thu July 5, 2012

Mid-Week Holiday Hurts Worker Productivity

Wednesday's Fourth of July holiday may cause the rest of the week to fizzle, productivity-wise.
flickr.com/rampant.gaffer

Firing up the grill? Don’t expect to be fired up at work.

With this year's Fourth of July holiday falling on a Wednesday, many workers are taking vacations in addition to the mid-week day off. Though summer vacations are commonplace, the quantity of workers taking off at the same time could spell trouble for some companies.

But John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told KUHF that not all companies will be hurt.

“For a busy company, there’s just the risk that they can’t produce the same amount worker-hours they need to provide a high quality service or product," he said. "For companies that are in a slowdown, it’s probably not a bad idea to get their vacations loaded up at the same time.”

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Business
9:53 am
Wed July 4, 2012

Free Trade Ruling Could Nix Country-of-Origin Labels on Meat

Do you know where your beef comes from?
JelleS Flickr.com

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 9:33 am

If you want to know where your meat came from, you won't be happy with the World Trade Organization right now. Late last week, the WTO announced that the United States' country-of-origin labels, which took effect in 2008, discriminate unfairly against foreign meat suppliers such as Mexico and Canada.

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Economy
3:30 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

Austin Area Home Prices Keep Rising

Home prices grew almost six percent in the Austin area over last year.
KUT News

Home prices have again increased in the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area.

Prices rose 5.7 percent since last May, and 2.3 percent since last month, according to a home prices index released by a real estate data company.

Amand Nallathambi is the president of CoreLogic, the company that released the report.  "The recent upward trend in U.S. home prices is an encouraging signal that we may be seeing a bottoming of the housing down cycle," he says in a press release. "Tighter inventory is contributing to broad, but modest, price gains nationwide and more significant gains in the harder-hit markets, like Phoenix."

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Business
1:58 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

It’s a Jungle: While Amazon Charges Sales Tax, Not All Sellers Are

Not all third-party sellers are charging sales tax on Amazon.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Online retail giant Amazon.com began charging Texas sales tax this weekend. But that doesn’t mean everything you buy through the site will be taxed.

While most products on Amazon are sold by, well, Amazon, Wikipedia notes that as of 2007, the site had over 1.3 million third-party sellers and associates. And Amazon says it’s up to those sellers to determine whether they need to charge the tax.

“Third party sellers that use our platform must determine their tax collection requirements based on their individual circumstances,” Amazon Corporate Communications spokesperson Scott Stanzel tells KUT News.

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Business
10:39 am
Mon July 2, 2012

Dell Buying Quest Software for $2.4 Billion

KUT News

Round Rock-based computing company Dell announced a deal to purchase Quest Software for $2.4 billion today.

Founded in 1987, Quest Software offers IT management solutions to corporate clients, including database management, data protection, performance monitoring and more.

The move comes as Dell seeks to expand beyond its original model of personal computer sales. 

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Business
4:43 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Amazon Sales Tax Charges Texas

Amazon will begin charging sales tax this Sunday.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

In less than 48 hours, online retailer Amazon.com will start charging Texas sales tax on products you buy from its site.

Texas will become only the sixth state to charge sales tax on Amazon purchases. The switch comes after an agreement was made between the Texas Comptroller’s office and the online retailer. In 2010, the comptroller’s office claimed Amazon owed the state $269 million in uncollected sales tax. Under the new agreement, Amazon will create at least 2,500 jobs  in the state and will also bring at least $200 million in capital investment. 

For many brick-and-mortar operations the move will level the playing field. Jason Brewer is with the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a national trade group.

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Business
4:37 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Franchisors Help Vets Get Down to Business

Steve Dixon, vice-president of Texas Children’s Lighthouse Learning Center, speaking this morning.
Chip Skambis

Austin military veterans and Texas-based entrepreneurs have launched an online portal to connect vets and their spouses to openings in franchise employment and ownership.

The initiative aims to help improve the high unemployment rate among veterans, which has reached 7.2% in Texas.

The Texas Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centerand The Dwyer Groupannounced their support and collaboration with the International Franchise Association in creating The Veterans Franchise (VetFran) Toolkit.

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Business
10:03 am
Tue June 19, 2012

Whole Foods Opens in South Austin

Employees literally broke bread at a Whole Foods opening this morning.
Mike Martinez, facebook.com/ElGalloMike

A new Whole Foods opened in South Austin this morning, the second location of the Austin-based chain to open within the region in as many months.

The original Whole Foods market opened in Austin in 1980 with a staff of only 19 employees.  Today its Austin locations number four, out of 310 locations internationally.

The store will reflect the “laid back, at home feel of the South Austin community” store team leader Steph Steele said in a statement. The store aims to provide “an intimate community grocery store experience,” Steele added – a seeming contrast to Whole Foods' bustling flagship location downtown (now complete with  self-driven shopping carts).

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