Business briefly 01-02 |

Business briefly 01-02

Attorney general warns of property tax scam

(AP) – Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is warning homeowners of a scam claiming to be able to lower property taxes.

Masto says official looking letters from a group calling itself Homeowners Property Tax Review claims it can save a homeowner hundreds of dollars on their property taxes – for a fee of $179.

The letter also says recipients must sign and return the form within two weeks.

Masto says the letter is similar to a phony notice sent out in August by a group calling itself the Property Tax Review Board.

20 million-plus collect unemployment checks in ’09

WASHINGTON (AP) – A record 20 million-plus people collected unemployment benefits at some point in 2009, a year that ended with the jobless rate at 10 percent.

As the pace of layoffs slows, the number of new applicants visiting unemployment offices has been on the decline in recent months. But limited hiring means the ranks of the long-term unemployed continues to grow, with more than 5.8 million people out of work for more than six months.

The number of new claims for jobless benefits dropped last week to 432,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, down sharply from its late March peak of 674,000. The decline signals that the economy could begin adding a small number of jobs in January, several economists said.

Wells Fargo executives denied cash bonuses in 2009

BOSTON (AP) – Wells Fargo & Co.’s four top executives won’t get cash bonuses for 2009, but are receiving performance-based stock awards currently worth a combined $25 million that are designed to keep them from being lured away by rival banks.

Wells Fargo announced the compensation moves on Thursday a week after saying it had repaid $25 billion it received under a government financial rescue program that imposes restrictions on executive pay.

Mortgage rates end the year above 5 percent

McLEAN, Va. (AP) – Mortgage rates rose for the fourth straight week, ending the year above 5 percent.

The average fixed rate on a 30-year mortgage was 5.14 percent this week, up from 5.05 percent last week, Freddie Mac said Thursday.

Mortgage rates are closely tied to yields on long-term government debt. The average fixed rate on 30-year mortgages has steadily risen since hitting a record low of 4.71 percent the week of Dec. 3.

The Federal Reserve is pouring $1.25 trillion into mortgage-backed securities to keep rates low this year. The program, aimed at making home buying more affordable, is set to end next spring. Still, qualifying for a loan is hard because lenders have severely tightened requirements. The best rates are available to those with good credit and a 20 percent down payment.

Few called market turn, fewer predict it will last

NEW YORK (AP) – Few analysts forecast this year’s remarkable stock market rebound as major indexes were plunging to 12-year lows last March. Now, with most experts predicting the pace of stocks’ gains will slow in 2010, there’s reason to believe they will be proven correct.

Stocks began the dramatic turnaround in March after Citigroup Inc. and other big banks said they were making money again, and then climbed at a fairly steady pace as signs of an economic recovery from the Great Recession became more pronounced.

Investor fears about a potential financial system collapse played a big role in the early year slump in stocks. Once it was clear that wasn’t going to happen, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index roared back 64.8 percent from its early March low, the biggest move since the Depression. For the full year, the index rose 23.5 percent, it’s best showing since 2003.