Business digest: 'Shop-o-Meter' indicates holiday season underway

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Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 12:00 am

If you're thinking the holiday shopping season has crept up sooner in the year than usual, you might be right.

The buying and selling “is off to an earlier start than any other holiday season I can remember,” said Marshal Cohen, who follows retail as chief industry analyst for the NPD Group.

Because most big national retailers already have announced their Black Friday (and Thanksgiving) hours and specials, shoppers have started mapping out strategies and others have headed for the stores, Cohen said.

NPD's “Holiday Shop-o-Meter,” a new tool powered by CivicScience, indicates that consumers have finished 8 percent of their shopping, and 2 percent of consumers have finished 80 percent to all of their shopping.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who played a central role in the government's response to the financial crisis of 2008-09, is joining private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC.

The firm said Geithner will serve as its president and managing director starting March 1. Geithner led the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for more than five years before being becoming Treasury secretary in 2009.

The Washington Post Co. is changing its name to Graham Holdings to reflect the sale of its namesake newspaper.

The switch will become official Nov. 29, and its New York Stock Exchange ticker symbol will change to “GHC” from “WPO.”

The company closed the sale of most of its newspaper business to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Oct. 1. Its remaining holdings include the Kaplan education business; several television stations and Phoenix-based Cable One; and Slate and Foreign policy magazines.

LOS ANGELES — More than six in 10 older Americans have become the “family bank,” giving financial support to relatives even if it means delaying their own retirements, according to a new survey.

Among people age 50 and older, 62 percent gave monetary assistance to a family member in the last five years, either one-time help or ongoing support, according to the study by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and research firm Age Wave.

The average amount of assistance is $14,900.

The report, titled “Are You the Family Bank? Can You Afford to Be?,” underscores the myriad financial pressures facing the 50-plus crowd. Rather than stowing away money for their own rapidly approaching and often underfunded retirements, many people are writing checks to adult children or aging parents.

“The role of the family bank is often assigned to those who saved and invested responsibly,” the report says. “In fact, the more financially responsible you are, the more likely other family members will consider you to be the family bank.”

Among parents with adult children, 68 percent have given them assistance, according to the survey.

The study also underscores the friction in some families.

Said one unidentified poll respondent: “I thought I would be supplementing my grandchildren's college funds. It turns out I was the college fund.” — The Los Angeles Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Yahoo is expanding its efforts to protect its users' online activities from prying eyes by encrypting all the communications and other information flowing into the Internet company's data centers around the world.

The commitment announced Monday by Yahoo Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer follows a recent Washington Post report that the National Security Agency has been hacking into the communications lines of the data centers run by Yahoo and Google Inc. to intercept information about what people do and say online.

Yahoo had previously promised to encrypt its email service by early January. Now, the Sunnyvale, Calif., company plans to have all data encrypted by the end of March to make it more difficult for unauthorized parties to decipher the information. — AP

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court is ordering a lower court to reconsider Apple’s attempt to block eight Samsung phones from the U.S. market because the products violate patents held by Apple.

The appeals court says the lower court should reconsider Apple’s request for a permanent injunction on the grounds that Samsung’s products infringe three utility patents. It says the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California was right to deny Apple the injunction based on three design patents and the general appearance of the products.

Apple sued Samsung in April 2011, and last year a jury awarded Apple more than $1 billion. The award was reduced and a new trial was ordered.

Apple wants $380 million, and Samsung says it should have to pay only $52 million. — AP

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