Money Minute: Pfizer Seeks Merger with Reluctant AstraZeneca

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A huge merger may be brewing in the drug industry.

Pfizer (PFE) reportedly has approached British rival AstraZeneca (AZN) about a takeover. Britain's Sunday Times says the deal could be worth $100 billion. The report says AstraZeneca has resisted the idea, but it's often mentioned as a possible takeover target. The two companies have worked together on several projects in recent years. A number of AstraZeneca's key products will lose patent protection over the next few years, but it also has some interesting drugs in the pipeline.

Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC) and other tech giants are reportedly in talks to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that they colluded to hold down wages. More than 64,000 software engineers are seeking $3 billion in case that set to begin next month, if no out of court settlement is reached.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The Supreme Court hears a case this week that could have a huge impact on media companies and for those of us who enjoy watching TV. There's a small company called Aereo that grabs the broadcast signals from network TV and sells it to Internet subscribers. ABC (DIS), CBS (CBS), NBC (CMCSA) and Fox (FOX) claim that Aereo is stealing its copyrighted product with permission or without payment. Analysts say that if Aereo wins this case, the networks are likely to switch more of their programming -- especially sports -- onto cable only channels.

Here on Wall Street last week, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rallied 2.4 percent, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) jumped 2.7 percent. The S&P is now back within 26 points of the record high set at the beginning of this month.

Finally, New York and New Jersey could lose more than $1 billion in federal funding they had been counting on to help homeowners recover from Hurricane Sandy. The Wall Street Journal reports that money could be redistributed to other areas of the country that have suffered from natural disasters. Leaders from the two states say that's a misinterpretation of the law.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt
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Money Minute: Pfizer Seeks Merger with Reluctant AstraZeneca
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much? 
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.  
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back." 
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.    
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more. 
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt. 
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.
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