Money Minute: Best Deals for Homebuyers; Amazon Free Streaming Service?

Some surprising names top a list of cities with the best deals for buying a home.

First time home-buyers have had trouble taking advantage of the housing market recovery, but says that could be about to change. Pittsburgh tops its list of the best cities for first-time homebuyers, with a median listing price of just $135,000. Next on the list is the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area in Florida, followed by the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, Fort Worth, Texas, and Orlando.

The real estate website says these areas all have an increasing inventory of homes for sale and an unemployment rate that's below the national average.

Netflix (NFLX) and Google's (GOOG) YouTube are about to get a major new competitor. (AMZN) reportedly plans to offer free TV and music streaming, with advertising, for members of its Prime service. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The Wall Street Journal says the new service will feature some original series and use its own video-streaming device. Amazon issued a vague denial of the report, but does have a major announcement scheduled for next week.

Walmart Stores (WMT) has filed a $5 billion lawsuit against Visa (V). It claims the credit card company charges unreasonably high fees every time a shopper swipes a Visa card. Walmart, Target (TGT) and other retailers have been fighting against so-called "swipe fees" for more than a decade. If Walmart wins, it could pass along the money to consumers with lower prices, or it could pocket the money for itself.

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 4 points Thursday, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) lost 22 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) edged 3 points lower. The S&P is now virtually flat so far this year.

Finally, if you haven't tried the Diet Coke Slurpee yet, you may have missed your chance. Despite good reviews, Coca-Cola (KO) and 7-Eleven have pulled the frozen concoction after just one month on the market. The companies say they were having quality control issues. Apparently the artificial sweeteners don't freeze as easily or consistently as sugar and corn syrup.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

7 Tax Tips for Investors
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Money Minute: Best Deals for Homebuyers; Amazon Free Streaming Service?
The 1099 forms you received from brokerages and other financial institutions might not be the last ones they send. It's common for them to issue corrected versions a little later. Consider getting your tax return ready to go, then waiting until close to April 15 before submitting it. That way, you can incorporate any last-minute changes and avoid having to file an amended return.
Pay attention to when you sell any holding, because the capital gains tax rates differ for long-term and short-term holdings. Short-term capital gains are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate, which could top 30 percent. Long-term gains (those held for more than a year) get preferential rates, which are zero percent for those in low-income brackets and 15 percent for most of us.
If you own underwater stocks, consider selling them for a loss. You can use those losses to offset gains from other sales, reducing your taxes owed. You can always buy back the asset later, if you still believe in it -- just be sure to wait for 31 days to pass, to observe the "wash sale rule."
If you're planning to sell one or more holdings that will give you a really big gain, submit an amended W-4 form to increase your withholding, or send the IRS an estimated tax payment. Underpaying your taxes significantly during the year can lead to a penalty at tax time. You may be protected by a "safe harbor" provision, though, which can save you from having to jump through those hoops.
If you're planning to buy shares of a mutual fund, determine when it will distribute its dividends. Many funds do so near the end of the year, and when that happens, the fund's share price will drop by the amount of the distribution -- which is taxable to shareholders. It's better to just wait until after that payout to buy in.
Mutual funds with high turnover ratios (reflecting a lot of buying and selling in a fund) have expenses for these trades. It's worth favoring funds with low turnover ratios, especially index funds and index-tracking ETFs, which simply hold onto the mix of securities in a given index, without a lot of trading activity. (Index funds generally outperform their higher-turnover counterparts, too.)
Boost the power of your Individual Retirement Accounts by making your annual contributions early in the year, giving the funds more time to grow. Over decades, it can make a significant difference.
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