The number of home foreclosures has dropped dramatically.
The number of foreclosure filings fell by 26 percent last year to the lowest level since 2007 -- just before the housing boom went bust. RealtyTrac says 1 in 96 homes were in foreclosure last year. That's just over one percent of all homes, and close to the historic average. Still, banks repossessed 463,000 homes last year, so the crisis is far from over. More than 9 million properties are considered to be "deeply underwater" -- meaning the mortgage debt is a lot more than value of the home.
A federal complaint has been filed against Walmart Stores (WMT) for allegedly violating workers' right to protest. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The complaint by the National Labor Relations Board covers more than 60 workers in 14 states. The NLRB says 19 of those workers were fired in retaliation for participating in protests in November 2012.
Apple (AAPL) has agreed to refund at least $32 million to customers to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. The agency charged that Apple didn't adequately monitor the purchase of games and other mobile apps made by kids, without the consent of their parents. Apple also says it will change its billing practices to make sure the problem doesn't recur. You'll be able to apply for a refund if your kid made these kinds of purchases.
Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 108 points Wednesday, their second straight triple-digit gain. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 32 points and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 9, topping the record high set at the very end of last year.
Shares of Best Buy (BBY) are set to tumble after reporting a key measure of holiday sales fell from a year ago.
And the United Auto Workers Union is looking to raise its membership dues for the first time in nearly 50 years. The union is proposing that workers pay 2½ hours worth of work each month to the union instead of the 2 hours they now contribute. The UAW wants to rebuild its once mighty strike fund as it heads into contract talks with the Detroit Three automakers next year.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.
17 Tricks Stores Use to Make You Spend More Money
Money Minute: Apple to Refund Kids' App Buys; Foreclosures Drop Dramatically
In supermarkets, high margin departments like floral and fresh baked goods are placed near the front door, so you encounter them when your cart is empty and your spirits are high.
Flowers and baked goods also sit near the front of stores because their appealing smell activates your salivary glands, making you more likely to purchase on impulse.
Supermarkets like to hide dairy products and other essentials on the back wall, forcing you to go through the whole store to reach them.
Once customers start walking through a store's maze of aisles, they are conditioned to walk up and down each one without deviating.
Most stores move customers from right to left. This, combined with the fact that America drives on the right, makes people more likely to purchase items on the right-hand side of the aisle.
Anything a store really wants customers to buy is placed at eye level. Particularly favored items are highlighted at the ends of aisles.
There's also kid eye level. This is where stores place toys, games, sugary cereal, candy, and other items a kid will see and beg his parents to buy.
Sample stations and other displays slow you down while exposing you to new products.
Stores also want items to be in easy reach. Research shows that touching items increases the chance of a purchase.
Color affects shoppers, too. People are drawn into stores by warm hues like reds, oranges, and yellows, but once inside cool colors like blues and greens encourage them to spend more.
Hear that music? Studies show that slow music makes people shop leisurely and spend more. Loud music hurries them through the store and doesn't affect sales. Classical music encourages more expensive purchases.
Store size matters, too. In crowded places, people spend less time shopping, make fewer purchases (planned and impulsive), and feel less comfortable .
Stores not only entice you with sales, they also use limited-time offers to increase your sense of urgency in making a purchase.
The most profitable area of the store is the checkout line. Stores bank on customers succumbing to the candy and magazine racks while they wait.
Finally, there is the ubiquitous "valued shopper" card. This card gives you an occasional deal in exchange for your customer loyalty and valuable personal data.