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Economy

Get ready for the next era in retail-one that will be characterized by far fewer shops and smaller stores.

Sears said this week that it will shutter its flagship store in downtown Chicago in April. It’s the latest of about 300 store closures in the U.S. that Sears has made since 2010. The news follows announcements earlier this month of multiple store closings from major department stores J.C. Penney and Macy’s.

Further signs of cuts in the industry came Jan. 22, when Target said it will eliminate 475 jobs worldwide, including some at its Minnesota headquarters, and not fill 700 empty positions.

Experts said these headlines are only the tip of the iceberg for the industry, which is set to undergo a multiyear period of shuttering stores and trimming square footage. read more »

 

Deutsche Telekom has recouped its investment in Bellevue-based T-Mobile US, with an increase of the unit’s value compensating for a 7.4 billion-euro ($10 billion) writedown in 2012, according to the German company’s CEO.

Timotheus Hoettges made the assessment as Deutsche Telekom once again studies selling its holding in the fourth-largest U.S. carrier.

Since a failed disposal of the business to AT&T in 2011 for $39 billion, Deutsche Telekom has made T-Mobile the country’s fastest-growing wireless provider by merging it with MetroPCS Communications, expanding its network and introducing cheaper and more flexible plans.

“We already have increased the value to what it was at the sale,” Hoettges said Jan. 19. “That means with 67 percent of a company that’s worth $42 billion, we’re already back at the value of the AT&T deal.” read more »

 

Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) recently released Collaboration, a video featuring Western Washington University and Olympic College, as the newest addition to KEDA’s Kitsap Connected series. The multi-media marketing campaign promotes economic development opportunities throughout Kitsap County and across the Greater Puget Sound Region.

The video celebrates the collaborative spirit that led to an expanded partnership between the two institutions and the creation of the Western Washington University Center at Olympic College in Poulsbo. The partnership enables OC and Western to provide undergraduate and graduate degree programs as part of a joint vision to serve the community and businesses on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas. read more »

 

WASHINGTON — Higher mortgage rates for 2014? Count on it. Could this be the year to check out hybrid mortgages, which haven’t been popular lately? Maybe.

You can count on interest rates going higher because:

  • The Federal Reserve intends to continue reducing its monthly purchases of mortgage bonds and Treasury securities, which will have the side effect of raising rates.
  • The economy finally appears to be picking up steam, based on the latest quarterly data. Higher growth rates in turn will increase demand for available credit and likely nudge rates higher.
  • New federal regulations for mortgage lenders, aimed at avoiding another bust, take effect Jan. 10. Not only will loan officers and underwriters scrutinize applicants’ income, debt ratios and credit extra carefully, they’ll likely charge more for borrowers whom they see as a higher risk. Some mortgage economists predict conventional 30-year fixed-rate loans could go to 5.5 percent before year-end.

So what does this mean if you’re thinking about buying a house or refinancing and you want to nail down the most favorable interest rate and terms? read more »

 

When the final figures for 2013 are tabulated, sales of battery-electric and plug-in vehicles in the United States are expected to nearly double 2012’s totals, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), a trade group based in Washington, D.C. Even so, that is fewer than 100,000 vehicles, in a year when the industry is on track to comfortably top 15 million sales.

There is no denying that cars with plugs are finding more buyers, a positive development in the eyes of environmentalists. Still, the high points of 2013 were sometimes offset by setbacks. For instance, tepid sales of several EV models, as well as the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, had automakers slashing prices by thousands of dollars. read more »

 

One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act was a tax credit for small employers that pay their employees’ health-insurance premiums. In 2010 through 2013, companies that have fewer than 25 employees and meet a few other criteria could receive up to 35 percent of the premiums back in tax credits. So far, more than $1 billion has been provided in credits, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2014, the ACA mandated those employers to buy their plans through the state or federal exchanges to receive the credit, which was increased to 50 percent maximum and made available for two years.

There was only one problem: In Washington state, the small business exchange program, called Small Business Health Options Program or SHOP, is only available in two counties, Cowlitz and Clark. read more »

 

The Kitsap Credit Union branch in Uptown Gig Harbor will remain open when KCU closes its other branch in north Gig Harbor and consolidates the two operations in early 2014. (Tim Kelly photo)The new year will bring some changes to Kitsap Credit Union, including closing two branches and outsourcing some of its residential mortgage services.

“We are plugging into a national network for home mortgage processing,” CEO Elliot Gregg told the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal.

KCU will close its Bainbridge Island branch and one of its two Gig Harbor branches, as well as reducing its presence in the building where it operates a branch in the Silverdale Village center between Bucklin Hill Road and Silverdale Way.

Leah Olson, vice president of marketing, said there will be fewer staff members there and KCU will occupy a smaller leased space read more »

 

Washington’s minimum wage increased to $9.32 per hour effective Jan. 1, as announced in September by the Department of Labor & Industries.

The 13-cents-per-hour increase, from $9.19 to $9.32 an hour, reflects a 1.455 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index between September 2012 and August 2013 for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

L&I uses this annual change in the federal CPI to calculate the state’s minimum wage each year, as required by Initiative 688, approved by Washington voters in 1998.

The CPI-W measures average price changes for goods and services purchased by urban wage earners and clerical workers. The goods and services it monitors include basic living costs such as food, clothing, shelter, fuels and services such as doctor visits. read more »

 

Retail sales in holiday-related categories such as apparel, electronics and jewelry rose a “decent” 2.3 percent, according to a report Dec. 26 from MasterCard SpendingPulse.

The so-so upswing from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 improved on the comparable period in 2012 and was in line with expectations, researchers said.

Overall sales from all categories rose 3.5 percent.

The growth remained modest due to six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and stormy weather during the final two weekends of the season — normally key consumption time for last-minute shoppers. read more »

 
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