Business News You Need Today: Aug. 26, 2010


Here's news from the business world and other money matters to watch out for Thursday (last updated at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time):

Americans Owe Less Credit-Card Debt: Skittish consumers reduced their credit-card indebtedness sharply in the second quarter, credit-rating company TransUnion reported Wednesday. With jobs scarce, Americans continued to pay down their card debt, reducing the average balance to $4,951, down 13.4%, in the quarter ending June. Delinquencies also fell sharply, TransUnion said.

Stocks Inch Higher On Downbeat Data: U.S. stocks Wednesday shrugged off fresh economic data that showed the nation's nascent economic recovery has lost momentum. Major stock indexes posted slight gains following news that new-home sales fell 12.4% to 276,000 in July, the lowest level since the Commerce Department began compiling data 47 years ago. The report comes on the heels of a report Tuesday that showed existing-home sales fell to their lowest levels in more than a decade. Separately, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that orders for durable goods rose a scant 0.3% in July, much less than analysts expected. Further, excluding the transportation sector, orders for items made to last at least three years or more fell 3.8%.

Cable Companies Have Fewer Subscribers: In further evidence that Americans are cutting back on discretionary spending, pay-TV subscriptions fell for the first time ever during the second quarter, CNET reports. Cable providers took the biggest hit as consumers increasingly turned to the Internet to watch video online. In total, cable companies lost more than 700,000 subscribers, according to research-firm SNL Kagan. But satellite-providers Dish Network (DISH) and DirectTV (DTV) and phone companies, such as Verizon Communications (VZ) and AT&T (T), added subscribers. Analysts at SNL Kagan cautioned that the drop in cable-TV subscribers had more to do with actions taken by consumers during an ailing economy more than any trend toward Internet viewership.

Wal-Mart Asks High Court To Review Lawsuit
: Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to review the largest employment discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history. Filed nine years ago, the suit involves more than a million current and former female employees at Walmart and Sam's Club stores. The nation's highest court will consider whether the workers claiming employment discrimination can bring the massive class-action suit or if the plaintiffs should instead be required to file claims individually or in smaller groups.

Skilled-Worker Shortage Could Worsen
: Manpower (MAN) is warning of a growing shortage of workers in skilled trades that could negatively affect future economic growth unless governments and trade associations act. Worldwide, skilled-trades positions are the hardest to fill, according to the temp agency's recent global Talent Shortage Survey of 35,000 employers. Among Manpower's recommendations is to implement effective immigration policies to create a mobile workforce to plug the gap of skilled blue-collar workers, such as plumbers, electricians and others.

Trend In Back-To-School Sales Unclear: Many shoppers have gotten a head start on back-to-school shopping this season as they take advantage of a steady stream of discounts at retailers. Despite the early bump, some data suggest the spending on back-to-school needs is down this year, while other numbers show a rise in sales. DailyFinance's Bruce Kennedy explains what's causing the discrepancy.

Apple Bobs For TV-Show Rentals: Apple (AAPL) reportedly is in talks with News Corp. (NWS) and possibly other networks to let iTunes users rent TV shows for 99 cents. The move is an effort by the computing giant to give its popular iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices more appeal by providing consumers content they want to watch. As DailyFinance tech reporter Dawn Kawamoto writes, the move could transform Apple's underperforming Apple TV service into a potentially viable source of revenue, using the Silicon Valley company's ubiquitous iTunes application as a gateway.

Expect Busier Roads This Labor Day: AAA expects more Americans to hit the nation's highways on the Labor Day holiday weekend despite the sagging economy. The auto club expects 34.4 million people to travel at least 50 miles from home between Sept. 2 and Sept. 6. That's up nearly 10% from last year, when AAA recorded the lowest Labor Day volume in memory.

BP Declines To Bid For Greenland License: Embattled oil giant BP (BP) won't bid for a drilling license near Greenland, the company said Thursday. BP wouldn't say if the decision was made in response to the recent disastrous Gulf oil spill. Though the company was mum on its reasons for not bidding, it didn't rule out bidding for future licenses anywhere in the world.

Flat Screen Wall Mounts Recalled: Two models of flat screen TV wall mounts manufactured by a Chinese company are being recalled for ill-fitting components that can fall apart, WalletPop reports. Models include the Sanus Vision LF228, which sold for about $450, and the Simplicity LF228-B1, sold by Costco for about about $200. Both wall mounts were sold between June 2009 and July 2010.

Bush's Brother Selling Virginia Home
: Former President George W. Bush's brother, Marvin, is pulling up stakes and selling his Virginia home. Luxist notes that the younger Bush and his wife, Margaret, have listed their exquisite four-bedroom Colonial home in Alexandria for $2.9 million. Along with many other Americans, the Bush's are downsizing -- to a condo.

Home Prices Cheaper Than Cars: In certain housing markets across the country, prices have fallen so low that consumers can now buy a home for less than the price of a new car, reports Money Talks News. For example, in Las Vegas, a one-bedroom, one-bath condo can be had for $29,000 -- about the same price for a new, loaded GMC Sierra pickup truck at a nearby dealership. Yet despite low prices and record-low interest rates, bargain hunters still aren't biting. The National Association of Realtors reported last week that demand for mortgages fell to near 13-year lows.