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Business Highlights

Tuesday - 4/2/2013, 7:10pm  ET

The Associated Press

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As Facebook matures, is it losing its edge?

NEW YORK (AP) -- To see what Facebook has become, look no further than the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer.

Sometime last year, people began sharing tongue-in-cheek online reviews of the banana-shaped piece of yellow plastic with their Facebook friends. Then those friends shared with their friends. Soon, after Amazon paid to promote it, posts featuring the $3.49 utensil were appearing in even more Facebook feeds.

At some point, though, the joke got old. But there it was, again and again -- the banana slicer had become a Facebook version of that old knock-knock joke your weird uncle has been telling for years.

The Hutzler 571 phenomenon is a regular occurrence on the world's biggest online social network. So the question is: Has Facebook become less fun?

That's something many users -- especially those in their teens and early 20s -- are asking themselves as they wade through endless posts, photos "liked" by people they barely know and spur-of-the moment friend requests. Has it all become too much of a chore? Are the important life events of your closest loved ones drowning in a sea of banana slicer jokes?

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No let up for auto sales in March; pickups star

DETROIT (AP) -- America is getting back to work, and it needs pickup trucks.

Strong truck demand in March drove U.S. auto sales to their highest monthly total since August 2007, as everyone from oil and gas producers to local home builders raced to replace the aging trucks they held onto during the recession. Overall auto sales rose 3.4 percent from March of last year.

March is typically a good month for the auto industry. Many car buyers put their tax refund checks toward a down payment. And Japanese automakers, whose fiscal year ends in March, often juice sales with big incentives to end the year on a high note.

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Fannie's record profit a symbol of housing rebound

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Home prices are up. Foreclosures are down. Construction is up. And now comes the latest sign of the U.S. home market's revival: Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant that nearly collapsed five years ago, has earned its biggest yearly profit ever.

Fannie Mae earned $17.2 billion last year and said Tuesday that it expects to stay profitable for "the foreseeable future." It also paid $11.6 billion in dividends to the U.S. Treasury in 2012.

And last year was Fannie's first since its takeover by the government in 2008 that it asked for no federal aid. As recently as 2011, Fannie lost nearly $17 billion and requested and received nearly $26 billion in aid.

The speed of Fannie's resurgence is a testament to a much healthier U.S. mortgage market.

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Obama health care credits could trigger surprise tax bills

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Millions of people who take advantage of government subsidies to help buy health insurance next year could get stung by surprise tax bills if they don't accurately project their income.

President Barack Obama's new health care law will offer subsidies to help people buy private health insurance on state-based exchanges, if they don't already get coverage through their employers. The subsidies are based on income. The lower your income, the bigger the subsidy.

But the government doesn't know how much money you're going to make next year. And when you apply for the subsidy, this fall, it won't even know how much you're making this year. So, unless you tell the government otherwise, it will rely on the best information it has: your 2012 tax return, filed this spring.

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In India, dodging taxes is part of the game

NEW DELHI (AP) -- In a country long defined by its poverty, it's easy now to find India's rich.

They're at New Delhi's Emporio mall, where herds of chauffeur-driven Jaguars and Audis disgorge shoppers heading to the Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin stores. They're shopping for Lamborghinis in Mumbai. They're putting elevators in their homes and showing off collections of jewel-encrusted watches in Indian luxury magazines. They're buying real estate in comfortable but unpretentious neighborhoods -- neighborhoods thought of as simply upper-middle-class just a couple years ago -- where apartments now regularly sell for millions of dollars.

They're just about everywhere. Unless it's income tax time. Then, suddenly, they barely exist.

The reality is simple: "There are very few people who are paying taxes," said Sonu Iyer, a tax expert at Ernst & Young in New Delhi. And tax dodging is everywhere. "It's rampant -- rampant."

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