Pop Culture Drinks Surge in Popularity

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Like a particularly enjoyable form of Inception, you can now drink your Game of Thrones beer while you watch…Game of Thrones. Or, sip on 50 Shades of Grey wine while you read the book (or watch the movie trailer, for that matter), or Downton Abbey wine while you binge on the British series. The list goes on.

In recent months, instances of branded drinks have skyrocketed, and people are drinking them up.

Ommegang Brewery was approached by HBO — the network behind Game of Thrones — to produce a branded beer.

“The show exploded as you know. The first beer came out in March 2013, and I just had a meeting with HBO two days ago and our contact had a bottle up on his shelf and he was like, ‘Man, that was so hard to find; you remember that?’ because it just flew off the shelves,” Ommegang marketing director Bill Wetmore told ABC News. “It did so well and it exceeded our expectations so well that we quickly brewed as much as we could and rushed a second batch out there before that season ended.”

Besides the obvious increase in sales, the advantages for Ommegang were immediate. HBO broadcasts the partnership to its over 10 million Facebook fans, there have been over 200 million traditional media impressions on the project and they’ve increased sales of their other beers as a result.

“It’s just obviously exponential exposure for us. We work with a retail partner and say, ‘Okay I know you want 10 cases of Game of Thrones to feature and display in your account. You have an audience here that’s demonstrating an appreciation for good beer, an appreciation for our beer, so can we get you to feature five cases of our witte or our rare vos alongside?’” Wetmore said. “And so we get very good visibility and displays of our core products. We bring new drinkers in that way, and our core beers go up 25 to 45 percent when our Game of Thrones beers are out there. It’s really having an impact on growing our core business as well.”

But unlike what Wetmore calls “vanity” projects — other drinks just slapping a branded label on a drink that has nothing to do with the brand itself — Ommegang works closely with HBO to create flavors that make sense, something Wines That Rock does as well with their 50 Shades of Grey and Downton Abbey vintages.

“In almost every Downton Abbey, whether it’s Carson downstairs picking out the wine or they’re dining and celebrating upstairs, wine is all over the show. The one thing we believed and reason NBC Universal [who owns Downton Abbey] got excited about working with us is we wanted to be very transparent and authentic to the show and that period of England,” Wines That Rock partner and co-founder Ron Roy told ABC News. “They drank Bordeaux, and while our vineyard was in California, we ended up partnering with a winery in the Bordeaux region of France so these were authentic to the show. Even down to the packaging we were able to use the Downton Abbey brand and the castle and stay very pure to the experience.”

Author E.L. James herself was involved in the making of the 50 Shades of Grey wines, traveling to California and working with the winemakers to create the perfect blends.

It’s a gamble that has paid off for both companies, demonstrated through sales. The first run of 50 Shades of Grey wine sold out in four weeks and has consistently rated in the top 25 wines for sales on Amazon.com, while the Downton Abbey wine sold three times more than Wines That Rock anticipated and was among the top 10 selling wines on Wine.com after the winter holidays.

As for Game of Thrones, Ommegang plans to make four times as much product for the release of their next GoT branded beer, Valar Morghulis, in October than they did with the first beer only 18 months ago in March 2013.

“It just feels like a sweet spot of connectivity,” Wetmore said of the partnership. “It really seemed to strike a chord with the fans of the show and the fans of our beer.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Pop Culture Drinks Surge in Popularity

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Like a particularly enjoyable form of Inception, you can now drink your Game of Thrones beer while you watch…Game of Thrones. Or, sip on 50 Shades of Grey wine while you read the book (or watch the movie trailer, for that matter), or Downton Abbey wine while you binge on the British series. The list goes on.

In recent months, instances of branded drinks have skyrocketed, and people are drinking them up.

Ommegang Brewery was approached by HBO — the network behind Game of Thrones — to produce a branded beer.

“The show exploded as you know. The first beer came out in March 2013, and I just had a meeting with HBO two days ago and our contact had a bottle up on his shelf and he was like, ‘Man, that was so hard to find; you remember that?’ because it just flew off the shelves,” Ommegang marketing director Bill Wetmore told ABC News. “It did so well and it exceeded our expectations so well that we quickly brewed as much as we could and rushed a second batch out there before that season ended.”

Besides the obvious increase in sales, the advantages for Ommegang were immediate. HBO broadcasts the partnership to its over 10 million Facebook fans, there have been over 200 million traditional media impressions on the project and they’ve increased sales of their other beers as a result.

“It’s just obviously exponential exposure for us. We work with a retail partner and say, ‘Okay I know you want 10 cases of Game of Thrones to feature and display in your account. You have an audience here that’s demonstrating an appreciation for good beer, an appreciation for our beer, so can we get you to feature five cases of our witte or our rare vos alongside?’” Wetmore said. “And so we get very good visibility and displays of our core products. We bring new drinkers in that way, and our core beers go up 25 to 45 percent when our Game of Thrones beers are out there. It’s really having an impact on growing our core business as well.”

But unlike what Wetmore calls “vanity” projects — other drinks just slapping a branded label on a drink that has nothing to do with the brand itself — Ommegang works closely with HBO to create flavors that make sense, something Wines That Rock does as well with their 50 Shades of Grey and Downton Abbey vintages.

“In almost every Downton Abbey, whether it’s Carson downstairs picking out the wine or they’re dining and celebrating upstairs, wine is all over the show. The one thing we believed and reason NBC Universal [who owns Downton Abbey] got excited about working with us is we wanted to be very transparent and authentic to the show and that period of England,” Wines That Rock partner and co-founder Ron Roy told ABC News. “They drank Bordeaux, and while our vineyard was in California, we ended up partnering with a winery in the Bordeaux region of France so these were authentic to the show. Even down to the packaging we were able to use the Downton Abbey brand and the castle and stay very pure to the experience.”

Author E.L. James herself was involved in the making of the 50 Shades of Grey wines, traveling to California and working with the winemakers to create the perfect blends.

It’s a gamble that has paid off for both companies, demonstrated through sales. The first run of 50 Shades of Grey wine sold out in four weeks and has consistently rated in the top 25 wines for sales on Amazon.com, while the Downton Abbey wine sold three times more than Wines That Rock anticipated and was among the top 10 selling wines on Wine.com after the winter holidays.

As for Game of Thrones, Ommegang plans to make four times as much product for the release of their next GoT branded beer, Valar Morghulis, in October than they did with the first beer only 18 months ago in March 2013.

“It just feels like a sweet spot of connectivity,” Wetmore said of the partnership. “It really seemed to strike a chord with the fans of the show and the fans of our beer.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Pittsburgh Restaurant Serves Food of Countries in Conflict with US

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) — There are things you don’t talk about at the dinner table, and politics is one of them. But political conversation is encouraged at one restaurant in Pennsylvania. Indeed, it inspires the cuisine.

Welcome to Conflict Kitchen, a takeout spot in Pittsburgh that only serves food from countries in conflict with the United States.

Created by Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski, Conflict Kitchen features a rotating menu of food native to countries like Cuba, North Korea (Manduguk, or vegetable dumpling soup) and Iran (Khoresht-e Kadoo, or Persian lamb stew with zucchini and tomatoes on steamed rice).

The idea began as an interactive art project that has since become a full-fledged business.

“It was an experiment that was based on what many people thought was an incredibly bad business model to sell food to people in the city, from countries that have no cuisine on our local landscape,” Rubin, an associate professor in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University, said. “There’s never been an Afghan restaurant or an Iranian restaurant or a Cuban restaurant in [Pittsburgh].”

Rubin, 51, and Weleski have experience in the restaurant industry, but their emphasis with Conflict Kitchen was less about turning tables over and more about food being a medium for political dialogue and cultural exploration.

“In some ways, [it] was a response to what I felt wasn’t in this city, which was a lot of cultural and ethnic diversity, and also a sense of being part of an international, global conversation,” he added.

Run as a nonprofit, the restaurant project is hosted by a research center at Carnegie Mellon and receives some grant funding, Rubin said.

Menus are researched and tested in advance, and they change every few months, along with the restaurant’s entire decor. Conflict Kitchen is now serving Venezuelan fare such as Pabellon criollo (shredded beef) and Chivo al coco con mofongo (slow-cooked coconut goat), and plans to introduce Palestinian food this fall.

The takeout fare is packaged in custom-designed wrappers printed with interviews of locals from various countries and those who have immigrated to the United States.

The restaurant encourages customers’ questions and conversations, but its popularity has made it somewhat challenging for lengthy discussions. “Since we’ve become so popular, people aren’t able to take the time to stand at the takeout window and talk with our staff, who have been trained to have these discussions, to basically be good listeners and conversationalists about the politics and culture,” Weleski said.

To that end, the restaurant hosts regular roundtable discussions and events. In one example, customers were able to have lunch in real-time with a local in Iran, while an employee wearing a headset served as a live avatar, sitting at the table and relaying the Iranian’s responses to customer’s questions.

As for whether the answer to world peace lies in breaking bread with strangers, “Conflict Kitchen isn’t about solving these problems or creating peace,” Weleski said, “but it’s about creating a public space where people feel comfortable enough to have that discussion.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

How ‘the Cloud’ Works, Why So Many People Are Perplexed by It

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — You’re probably using “the cloud” already and just don’t know it.

While most people have heard of the mysterious “cloud,” only 29 percent say they use it, according to a report from nScreenMedia.

However, the report finds that 90 percent of broadband users in the U.S. are aware of cloud services.

The disparity between the number of people who use cloud storage and the number of people who say they have heard of it suggests that more people are likely using it without fully realizing it.

It doesn’t end there — even Hollywood screenwriters seem to misunderstand “the cloud.”

The new movie Sex Tape, starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, follows the tech trials of a couple who accidentally upload their personal video to the cloud — along with old iPads they gave to friends and family that are still synced to the devices.

The scenario wouldn’t happen in real life, however, because videos are only backed up to the cloud. You can’t connect to another iPad to access media — meaning the couple’s dirty video was safe all along.

If you’re still confused, read on:

What Is the Cloud?

Remember when your data used to be stored on floppy discs, CDs and memory sticks? We no longer need those physical storage devices.

The cloud refers to an application that is hosted on or run on Internet servers. All the companies that have these services — Google, Facebook and Apple, to name a few — have servers or server farms. That’s where the media is actually stored.

If you’re looking at a photo on Facebook or watching a movie on Netflix, congratulations, you just experienced the cloud.

Why Is the Cloud So Great?

It’s convenient. You can pull up important documents on demand and check email from any computer.

Ever experience the pain of having your hard drive crash and losing everything?

The cloud safeguards your documents, photos and songs, allowing you to have a backup of your files instantaneously by simply logging on to another computer.

What Are Some Examples of Cloud Storage Services?

Apple’s iCloud, Google’s Drive and Dropbox are some of the most commonly used cloud storage services.

Surely There’s a Downside?

It’s perfectly safe and acceptable to have your life stored in the cloud in 2014, but as always, make sure you use a strong password to safeguard what’s in your cloud.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

These Companies Reward You for Being Yourself

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Your mother may have encouraged you to be yourself, but the advice has never meant quite as much as it does day. A growing number of apps now promise users real-life rewards on the basis of their virtual profiles.

Launched earlier this year, Hotelied is a booking site that prompts users to build profiles that add up to a “travel persona” — social followings, professional credentials and hotel-loyalty programs are all accounted for. By leveraging that data to participating hotels, the platform is able to offer travelers special rates and enviable perks.

“Our tagline says, ‘It Pays to Be You,’” explained Hotelied co-founder Zeev Sharon.

While such traditional sites as Expedia and Booking.com deliver a long list of options, “their pricing is completely static,” said Sharon. “It doesn’t matter who you are. You’re going to get the exact same offer as anyone else. The reality is that not every traveler is the same.”

Sharon cited the “one-size-fits-all” status quo as the inspiration for Hotelied. He said his model as a matchmaking program that “introduces” luxury properties to the kind of influential guests they’d like to see in their rooms.

Hotels are not given direct access to any of the information that users supply, but they can, for example, make certain benefits — think room upgrades or nightly discounts — available to “Hotelies” who work in influential industries or command a significant online presence.

Co-founder Nick Colletti put a populist point on it: “We feel very strongly about creating a product that allows users to capitalize on the information that they already have out there.”

As it stands, big companies monetize social data in ways that a single person cannot.

Like Hotelied, Haggle aims to change that.

Co-founder Rajiv Salimath said he developed Haggle to empower individuals to translate their online personas into benefits. The scrappy start-up was designed to help users slash prices at their favorite restaurants.

Those who download Haggle are asked to provide information on their social followings, which allows the app to compute a kind of score for each user. The composite number synthesizes such metrics as the frequency with which a diner eats out, the loyalty he demonstrates to preferred restaurants, the influence he wields on social media, and a factor that Salimath has euphemistically termed “bankroll.”

If a restaurant deems a patron’s score worthy, the management can propose a discount. Enterprising users can either accept that rate or haggle for a better one.

The app has partnered with 60 restaurants already and plans to add 120 additional spots by the end of August. Salimath told ABC News that he hopes to extend the technology into other categories like the retail space that behemoth Shopkick currently dominates.

Founded in 2009, Shopkick is considered a veteran of the industry. The app rewards customers for their everyday behavior, focused on delivering benefits, called “kicks,” for such quotidian activities as walking into stores and browsing clothing racks. The start-up has partnered with Macy’s, Target, and Best Buy, among other major retailers.

For CEO Cyriac Roeding, the conviction that inspired Shopkick is simple: Stores depend on foot traffic, but do not reward it. Roeding maintains that shoppers should be compensated “just for showing up.”

The sentiment is one that Salimath shares: “Our goal is once you know how valuable you are to any business, you should be able to leverage that.”

Still, Salimath insisted that the process is only as public as users would like it to be. Neither Haggle nor Hotelied requires that users advertise their savings.

Sharon and Colletti confirmed that those who book their accommodations through Hotelied are not obliged to tweet or post about their stays.

Ultimately, Colletti characterized the app as “a marketplace where individuals can receive something for who they are.” No strings attached.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Yes, That Lay’s Bag Has Fewer Chips, PepsiCo Says

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

 

 

GTY lays potato chips sk 140725 16x9 608 Yes, That Lays Bag Has Fewer Chips, PepsiCo Says

                        (Photo Credit: Andrew Burton/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Morning Money Memo:

ABC News’ John Kapetaneas reports:

I knew my snack bag felt lighter! PepsiCo’s signature flavored potato chips are packing “an ounce or two” fewer pieces than the regular Lay’s chips, company CEO Hugh Johnston told The Associated Press. That might not seem like much to the average consumer, but it could mean an extra $50 million a year in savings for Pepsi. The company reported increased earnings Tuesday morning, and beat analysts’ estimates for the second quarter quarter.

The battle at the box office begins this weekend, as Dwayne Johnson’s “Hercules” goes head-to-head with Scarlett Johansson’s “Lucy.” “The Rock” has consistently been a hero at the box office, with films grossing $1.3 billion in 2013. The demi-god flick is expected to pull in between $20 million and $30 million this weekend, which would  take second to Johansson’s expected $40 million debut.

Markets are facing the weekend on a lower note, as much of Europe and markets in India traded negatively throughout the day. Asian markets ended the day in the green, however, as trading in Japan and Hong Kong finished up 1 percent and pushed the Asia Dow into the positive for the day. U.S. futures are down this morning, but may change in early trading as U.S. durable goods orders for June increased 0.7 percent to $239.9 billion, beating estimates.

In earnings news, fewer companies are reporting this final trading day of the week. Here are some of the highlights from pre-market reports:

-Hardware giant Stanley Black & Decker posted a 16 percent rise in second quarter profits, and reported higher sales amid the slowly recovering U.S. housing market.

-Xerox reported a 2 percent drop in profits and missed analysts’ earnings estimates, as the company continues to transition beyond its core print and copy business.

-Swiss security company Tyco met analysts’ expectations this quarter, reporting $1.45 billion in earnings from $135 million in the same quarter last year. Revenue also rose 4.9 percent  to $2.66 billion.

-Credit rating service Moody’s beat analysts’ estimates, reporting increased revenue by 16 percent.

-Air France, Europe’s third-largest airline, said early this morning that operating profits had tripled in the second quarter, up to 238 million euro (about $319 million) in the same quarter last year.

 

Twitter Has Growing Influence on Movie-Going Habits

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Editorial/ Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Twitter is putting more butts in movie seats.

Although attendance at the movies is not as robust as in recent summers, a new Nielsen survey suggests that if Hollywood wants to boost sales, it should latch on to the growing social media site.

According to the survey, some 87 percent of Twitter users claim that their decision to go to a current movie was influenced by reading others’ tweets.

Meanwhile, 88 percent of Twitter users say that tweets about movies have an impact on other activities, including watching a movie trailer, sending their own tweets or retweeting about a movie, and searching for showtimes and tickets.

About two-thirds added that they will follow a film-related Twitter account that lists specific titles, theaters and actors.

Nielsen says that movies studios should use these findings to mold their marketing practices toward what Twitter users want, such as delivering information one month or even several months ahead of a film’s opening.

What Twitter users want for studios, in order, are more trailers, tweets from the cast and behind-the-scenes videos and photos.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Don’t Bet Your Bottom Dollar When Making a Purchase

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) — Everyone’s heard of “buyer’s remorse.” However, researchers from three colleges may have come up with a different way of explaining why we sometimes kick ourselves after making a purchase.

The researchers from University of Arkansas, University of Texas at Austin and University of South Carolina say it may be derived from something they call the “bottom dollar effect” — that is, our purchases are less pleasurable when we’re down to our last dollar as opposed to when there’s plenty of money in our wallets.

To demonstrate this, they conducted six studies, and in each case, people felt much better about what they bought if, say, there was a sudden windfall to pay for their purchase. Those who were stressed about having enough funds to make payments were not as happy with what they bought.

Although people often can’t control when the money comes in, the researchers say that businesses can help them out by running sales during times when they might be flush with cash, such as the first and the 15th of the month.

As for the buyer, the studies’ authors recommend that people hold off a day or two after receiving their paycheck so they won’t be worried about “making a really important purchase.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Guess Which Men Do Better in Business Negotiations

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) — Men, do you really want to be the owner of a wide face?

Before you answer, researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s School of Business Administration say guys with wider faces have an advantage when it comes to negotiating for more money or closing a business deal.

In one of a series of simulated exercises, wider-faced men got signing bonuses that were $2,200 more than their narrow-faced counterparts.

When attempting to sell a chemical plant to a prospective buyer — hypothetically, of course — the men with wider faces also got a higher sale price.

But for some reason, the same magic didn’t work when wider-faced men were paired off. In that case, they were less successful in closing a real estate transaction.

Although the researchers couldn’t readily explain why having a wide face is “both a blessing and a curse,” it’s speculated that men with these features appear to be more focused about their own self-interest than skinnier-faced gents.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

American Airlines Reports Record Quarterly Profit

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(FORTH WORTH, Texas) — American Airlines reported record quarterly earnings Thursday, detailing a net profit of $1.5 billion — a record for any quarter in company history, according to airline representatives.

The American Airlines Group announced a record GAAP net profit of $864  million, compared to $220 million in the second quarter of 2013, which was prior to its merger with US Airways.

 “We are very pleased to report the highest quarterly profit in the history of American Airlines,” said Chairman and CEO Doug Parker. “Our merger is off to a great start and our 100,000 team members are doing a wonderful job working together to take care of our customers.”

The company also publicized a capital deployment program aimed at reducing its debt and providing additional pension contributions, as well as returning capital to shareholders.

“The fact that we are able to implement this program while still funding our significant product improvements, fleet renewal program and integration costs is further evidence of the success of our merger,” Parker added. “We have much hard work ahead, but we are extremely encouraged by the great work being done by our team members.”

Other airlines also shared in the wealth, as United Airlines announced a nearly $800 million profit for its second quarter. Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest also reported strong gains.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Stocks Mixed Following Jobless Claims, Home Sale Figures

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Stock prices ended the day mixed on Wall Street Thursday, following good news on jobless claims and mixed quarterly earnings results from several companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost three points, finishing at 17083.80, the Nasdaq Composite fell two points at 4472.11, and the S&P 500 gained one to end at 1987.98.

Investors received positive news regarding jobs, with the Labor Department reporting that weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped to their lowest level in eight years. Details on home sales, however, weren’t as promising, with home builder stocks dropping after news that sales of newly built homes fell eight percent last month.

Facebook shares jumped six percent to $75.41 after the company reported a profit that beat analysts expectations, while Caterpillar slid after reporting revenue figures that fell short of predictions. One day after news of yet another recall, automaker General Motors posted an 80 percent drop in second-quarter earnings compared to the same period last year, and reported net earnings of $278 million.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Walmart US Names Greg Foran Next President, CEO

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Walmart(NEW YORK) — Retail giant Walmart announced a new president and chief executive officer for U.S. operations Thursday, naming Greg Foran as the successor to Bill Simon.

Simon, who has held the role since June 2010, is expected to “transition” out of the company and assume consulting responsibilities for the next six months, according to a statement from Walmart.

Foran, 53, takes over on Aug. 9 and will report to Walmart President and CEO, Doug McMillon.

“Greg is one of the most talented retailers I’ve ever met. His depth of knowledge and global experience will bring a fresh perspective to our business,” McMillon said. “His passion for fresh food, experience in general merchandise and commitment to e-commerce will help us serve our customers even more effectively for years to come.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

New Home Sales Plummet 8.1% in June

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The number of Americans purchasing new homes took a big plunge last month.

The Commerce Department reported on Thursday that sales of newly built homes dropped by more than 8 percent in June to 406,000.

“The numbers are definitely a little disappointing. I think it’s important to keep it in perspective. Part of the drop is from an abnormally high May figure,” said Robert Denk, a senior economist with the National Association of Home Builders.

In another bit of bad news, May’s figure was also revised downward by about 12 percent.

“The decline in June is not necessarily unexpected. It’s not a disaster. The June number sort of puts us back on trend and we expect these numbers to definitely firm up in the second half of the year,” Denk said.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Why Recalls Haven’t Dented GM’s Sales

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — GM’s 29 million recalled cars since January is costing the car company more than $1 billion, but the company’s varying fleet of vehicles have prompted a steady sales growth, according to the company’s quarterly earnings.

Despite huge falling profits at the company largely due to the recall and legal expenses, customers are still buying lots of GM cars, according to the car manufacturer’s report Thursday.

“GM would have had an outstanding quarter had it not been for the recall expenses,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for AutoTrader.com.

Here are some of the cars that are boosting the embattled American car company.

1. Chevy Silverado

Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, called the Silverado a “tried and true favorite.”

In GM’s second quarter, there were 132,922 Silverado sales, an increase of 5.5 percent compared to the same period in 2013. In June, Silverado sales were up 1 percent compared to June 2013. It’s not a huge sales bump, but the Silverado is still GM’s best-selling model in its overall lineup and the most profitable by a fairly wide margin, Gutierrez said.

He said full-size pickup trucks provide car companies with anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 in profit, depending on the model. Meanwhile, cars may yield manufacturers less than $1,000.

“That says while Silverado sales are not knocking anyone’s socks off, it’s an absolutely critical vehicle for GM,” he said.

2. Buick Encore

GM’s Buick brand had its best June since 2006, the company reported, and that surge was driven by an 82 percent increase in Encore sales, compared to June 2013.

The Encore is within the crossover utility vehicle category, a segment between cars and SUVs. That segment has been growing faster than any other in the car industry, Gutierrez said.

The category is so new that Ford doesn’t yet have a vehicle in this category.

“I think that’s why GM is doubling down on that platform,” Gutierrez said, pointing to the “fuel-efficient” and “really small” Encore that skews toward a younger demographic.

Jessica Caldwell, an Edmunds.com senior analyst, said this subcompact SUV segment is only going to grow in popularity in the next five to 10 years.

3. Chevrolet Suburban

Caldwell said trucks and SUVs like the Suburban, Tahoe and Silverado “have been doing very well for GM as the auto market has embraced them in a big way.”

Sales of Chevrolet Tahoe increased 93 percent in June, while Suburban sales are up 73 percent, compared to June 2013.

Caldwell calls this the new “heyday for SUVs.” For the past 10 months, light trucks have outsold cars. That’s the longest streak since 2005, when a 31-month streak lasted from February 2003 through August 2005, she notes.

4. GMC Yukon

Gutierrez said SUVs, such as the Yukon, have seen sales, and thereby GM profitability, “growing at a pretty big clip.”

GM’s GMC brand had its best June since 2006, the company reported earlier this month, with sales up 11 percent compared to June 2013, driven by the redesigned Yukon, up a whopping 120 percent from June 2013.

5. Chevrolet Sonic

Caldwell said the Sonic is on the complete opposite side on the size spectrum, as one of GM’s smallest products.

Sales of Sonic increased 36 percent in June 2014 compared to June 2013, GM reported earlier this month.

Gutierrez said the Sonic is an example of GM trying to diversify its fleet of cars.

While the subcompact category of cars hasn’t been gaining in the industry, the Sonic is gaining traction and Sonic is only behind Nissan’s Versa in that segment, Gutierrez said.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Christian Louboutin Debuts $50 Nail Polish

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Christian Louboutin(NEW YORK) — Christian Louboutin is best known for his signature red-soled stilettos. But the most recent creation from the French designer delivers a different kind of lift.

Earlier this week, Louboutin revealed his first foray into the beauty industry. The craftsman announced a range of nail polishes in the pages of Women’s Wear Daily.

Each bottle of Rouge Louboutin contains less than half an ounce of the luxury lacquer and will retail for $50.

But what the collection lacks in volume, it makes up for in height. Modeled after the heel of the impossibly arched ballerina shoe that Louboutin designed in 2007, the packaging that holds his standout scarlet hue measures eight inches tall.

Like his fashionable footwear, these formulations make a statement. Louboutin insisted that just two coats of his new polish are equal in intensity to 20 layers of more inferior — and affordable — brands.

The varnishes are now available at the flagship Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and will launch at select retailers nationwide on Aug. 6.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Profits Plunge at General Motors

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(DETROIT) — The troubles continue for General Motors, as the automaker on Thursday reported an 80 percent drop in second quarter profits from this time last year.

GM had previously announced it will pay $400 million to the victims of its defective ignition switches after a wave of lawsuits and $1.5 billion paid out in fines.

The company is now facing some immediate financial repercussions of the more than 29 million cars it has recalled since January. However, overall sales of its vehicles have not been greatly hampered as total revenues increased to $39.6 billion from $39.1 billion last year.

“Our underlying business performance in the first half of the year was strong as we grew our revenue on improved pricing and solid new vehicle launches,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “We remain focused on keeping our customers at the center of all we do, and executing our plan to operate profitably in every region of the world.”

GM stock was down more than 2 percent in pre-market trading.

Meanwhile, in other earnings news, Ford Motor beat analysts’ expectations, posting a $2.6 billion profit in the second quarter — up 6 percent from last year and setting a record for operating profit in North America.

American Airlines also had a record-breaking second quarter, reporting a profit of $864 million versus $220 million last year — its highest quarterly profit in company history. The carrier’s total revenue for the quarter also rose by 76 percent to $11.36 billion.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Jobless Claims Down to Lowest Level in Eight Years

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims fell last week, decreasing by 19,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending July 19, the number of people filing for benefits dropped to 284,000 — the lowest level for initial claims since February 18, 2006. The previous week, claims stood at a revised level of 303,000.

The Labor Department said there were no “special factors” impacting this week’s figures.

The four-week moving average fell to its lowest level in nearly seven years, decreasing by 17,000 to 2,542,250.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Nostalgia Turns People into Bigger Spenders

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. So powerful that it can make us spend more money than if we didn’t feel sentimental.

Researchers from the U.S., Britain and France wanted to learn just why we are suddenly more apt to part with money when we feel nostalgic, so they conducted a number of experiments to prove their thesis.

In one case, they found that consumers who were told to think about pleasant events from the past seem to have no problem paying extra for the same set of products than others who did not dredge up old memories.

Pertaining to charities, those who wrote about a previous experience from the past were later inclined to give more money to others than the control group.

The researchers contend this information is especially valuable to corporations looking to boost promotions and products lines, as well as charities that are interested in filling their coffers.

Meanwhile, the use of nostalgia might also come in handy during periods of recession when people are less inclined to spend, the researchers surmised.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

No Wonder You Feel Weak at the End of the Workweek

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — The 9-to-5, 40-hour workweek. What a quaint concept.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a full-time job, you know that actually working 40 hours has gone the way of maps, landlines and movie rental stores.

Atlanta-based Premiere Global Services Inc. received more than 600 responses to its survey last month, and the most shocking — yet least shocking — finding was that 88 percent claimed to work more than 40 hours.

Another sign of the times: just over seven in 10 have to take work home at least once a week.

Want to feel more depressed? Two-thirds eat lunch at their desk, 60 percent commute more than 30 minutes each, with a quarter traveling over an hour, and 71 percent say they work more than they really want to.

Since the survey was called “Take Back 60,” two-thirds said they would either exercise or spend more time with their family if they could work 60 minutes less per week.
Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

General Motors Announces Six Recalls for Safety Issues

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

General Motors(DETROIT) — Automaker General Motors announced another round of recalls Wednesday for more than 700,000 vehicles in the United States.

Newer models of Chevrolets and Buicks are affected, with the company citing them for safety issues. Many concerns include loose nuts and bolts, or welding on the seats.

“These recalls signify how we’ve enhanced our approach to safety,” said Jeff Boyer, vice president of Global Vehicle Safety. “We are bringing greater rigor and discipline to our analysis and decision making. If we identify an issue – large or small – that might affect the safety of our customers, we will act decisively.”

The recent addition of recalls comes on the heels of criticism over faulty ignition switches in numerous cars from the company — defects blamed for dozens of deaths. The automaker reportedly knew about the defects for years before they acted upon them. In light of this, the spotlight remains on GM, said Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell, prompting them to recall vehicles over the smallest of issues.

“I think it just shows that GM is really looking at everything with a fine tooth comb and if there’s any issue whatsoever, they’re going to recall it,” Caldwell added. “So they’re looking just really closely at anything that could go wrong, because they’re really not in a position to be flippant about anything.”

The list of affected models can be found on the GM website.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Officials: More than 1,600 StubHub Users Affected in International Cybercrime Scheme

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Six people have been indicted for their roles in an international crime ring involving online ticket-reseller StubHub, officials announced Wednesday.

In a scheme spanning from Russia to New York, cyber thieves allegedly stole StubHub login credentials for more than 1,600 accounts by hacking into other websites or using malware.

The individiauls accessed credit card information to log into the website and stole more than $1 million in tickets, including those to Justin Timberlake and Jay Z concerts, Broadway shows, and sports events. Victims’ data were used to make fraudulent e-ticket purchases, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and the proceeds were transferred through a “global network of accomplices” in the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, and Canada.

“Cybercriminals know no boundaries – they do not respect international borders or laws,” Vance said in a statement. “…Regardless of where the case originates, nearly every cybercrime case begins with similar breaches: a stolen password, unauthorized use of a credit card, or unaccountable charges on a personal statement, for example. In this case, StubHub discovered evidence of fraud and immediately reported it to law enforcement.”

While StubHub reported the incident and implemented security measures, hackers were still able to work around such protocols. An investigation tracked the exchanges to IP addresses, PayPal accounts, and bank accounts used by the indicted individuals.

The six defendants face charges of money laundering, grand larceny, and identity theft, among others.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Stocks Boosted by Corporate Earnings

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Wall Street stocks ended mostly higher Wednesday, following corporate earnings reports that provided a boost for investors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 27 points to finish the day at 17086.63, the Nasdaq Composite gained 18 points at 4473.70, and the S&P 500 added 4 points, ending at 1987.01.

Aircraft maker Boeing reported numbers that fell short of expectations before the opening bell, while social networking giant Facebook released its second quarter earnings after the close, with numbers better than anticipated.

General Motors announced another round of recalls, citing 700,000 vehicles for a number of safety issues. German-based Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler had better news, announcing an increase of 12 percent in second quarter profits.

“Our strategy is paying off,” Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche said on a conference call. “We’re growing and, what’s more, we’re growing profitably.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

GM to Add Jobs, Invest $800M in Michigan

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

General Motors(DETROIT) — General Motors is planning to add up to 1,750 jobs and invest $800 million in Michigan over the next several years, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“GM’s prospects are bright, and we want Michigan to play an important part in the company’s growth,” the automaker said in a statement. “We are pleased with the state of Michigan’s action which makes a strong business case for potential future jobs and investment at GM facilities across Michigan.”

It’s unclear where the jobs will be made available but GM said it planned to add locations throughout the state. Most of the jobs are expected to be offered at its technical center in Warren.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

What to Expect from Amazon’s Fire Phone

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Amazon.com, Inc.(NEW YORK) — Amazon’s Fire phone has ignited interest and imaginations since it was announced last month — and starting later this week, consumers will be able to get their hands on the 3-D devices.

The Fire phone is available to customers in the United States through AT&T and starts at around $200 with a contract.

Customers who purchase the phone can also take advantage of a limited time introductory offer, snagging them one free year of Prime, Amazon’s subscription service that gives members free two-day shipping on music, movies and TV shows, among other perks.

Firefly

While the smartphone boasts plenty of features that make it stand out from products from Apple and Samsung, there’s nothing more telling about Amazon’s hopes for the phone than a button that CEO Jeff Bezos introduced as “Firefly.”

The new feature, which is similar to Google Glass, will allow users to identify almost any product — from a book to a game or a container of kosher salt. The Fire phone will then be able to direct users to Amazon to make purchases, making impulse buys even easier.

In a nutshell: Amazon has created a pocket shopping machine that happens to also operate as a phone.

Dynamic Perspective

The Fire phone is also different from its competitors because it offers “dynamic perspective,” a sensor system that recognizes where a user’s head is relative to the Fire phone. This allows the person using the phone to auto-scroll through a book or long webpage without ever having to touch the screen or to take on a character’s viewpoint in a game, creating what Amazon describes as an immersive experience.

Apps and Games

Developers have been creating apps and games at a frenetic pace for the phone since it was announced in June. Submissions have more than doubled since the Fire phone was unveiled, according to Amazon.

For the Fandango app, users can look up movie times, but can easily tilt their phones to scope out movie reviews.

Gamers may like the phone because they can also use their gestures to play. In Magmic’s Rubik’s Cube, players can tilt their device to rotate the Rubik’s Cube and use their head to peek at other sides of the cube.

Photography

Photography fanatics will also be interested in the Fire phone’s high-end camera specs, which include optical image stabilization and tiny motors that can adjust for natural hand tremors as a way to decrease the blurriness of photos.

The Fire phone also boasts front- and rear-facing cameras that can record 1080p high-definition videos.

The phone’s shutter also excels at low-light photography. When Bezos showed off the phone last month, he noted that the lens stays open four times longer to capture more light.

Bezos also described how the team at Amazon “obsessed over outdoor viewing” and created a device that can easily be read, even in bright outdoor light.

Durability

The Fire phone is built with Gorilla Glass 3, aluminum buttons and has a rubberized grip area to bolster its durability.

Previous Amazon device customers may recognize some of the other features it will come equipped with, such as a Mayday button for tech support, X-Ray, which allows users to get more from their media, and ASAP, which predicts what movies and television shows a person will want to watch before they even hit play.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

StubHub Latest Victim of Cyberthieves

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Morning Money Memo:

ABC News’ John Kapetaneas reports:

You may want to check that ticket again. Nearly 1,000 customers of the online ticket exchange StubHub are the latest victims of cyberthieves. The San Francisco-based, eBay-owned company Tuesday said that while the thieves did not hack the online marketplace’s security, they did compromise account holder information and passwords from other Web-traffic areas. While this latest security breach may be cause for concern among online shoppers, it pales in comparison to the May breach that affected 150 million eBay users, and the late-winter breach that hit 40 million Target customers.

It’s Apple’s world, and we’re all consuming every minute of it. Tech giant Apple was granted a patent  Tuesday for a concept of what could become the “iWatch.” The electronic wristband concept is not formally in development, although widespread rumors seem to indicate otherwise. Apple Tuesday reported earnings growth at its highest rate in two years, spurred on by growing iPhone sales.

It’s another big round in the earnings ring, with companies reporting a mixed bag of results. Here are this morning’s highlights:

-Boeing beat analyst’s estimates this quarter, posting second quarter earnings of $2.24 (vs $1.67 last year) on revenue of $22.05 billion. The company also raised its guidance for the year.

-Delta Airlines also beat estimates, posting a 17 percent increase in 2Q earnings.

-PepsiCo announced a slight drop in second-quarter earnings, with profits of $1.98 billion falling below last year’s $2.01 billion, while revenue rose 0.5 percent to $16.89 billion, exceeding analyst expectations. The soda maker also reported a 1 percent rise in snack volumes.

-Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is seeing its shares drop this morning after reporting a 4 percent drop in earnings.

-Defense contractor General Dynamics saw its profits drop, and revenue fell 4.6 percent for the quarter.  Northrop Grumman reported a 4.7 percent bump in profits, amid the company’s cost-cutting endeavors.

-German automaker Daimler AG reported a 12 percent rise in second-quarter earnings on strong sales of the Mercedes-Benz. Daimler’s stock is up over 1 percent today.

-Dow Chemical  reported a 60 percent drop in earnings despite a 2.3 percent increase in revenue.

Also reporting after the close today: AT&T, Facebook, Equifax, and Qualcomm.

Markets worldwide are having a strong day. European markets are in the green across the board, while Asian markets largely finished on a high note as well. Dow futures are up for the morning, as investors may be looking at a positive open on Wall Street. Gold climbed $3 to $1,311 an ounce. Crude oil is unchanged.

Hold the fruit, please. A California company is recalling three dozen various fruit-based products sold to national wholesalers, including Costco, Trader Joe’s and Walmart, over concerns of the food-borne contamination listeria. Federal agencies have cautioned consumers of various Sweet 2 Eat brand products with purchase dates between June 1 and July 20 to throw away or return their product. A list of recalled items can be found HERE and a response from Wawona Packing Co. HERE.

Why OJ Is Getting Squeezed From Breakfast Tables

Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

GTY orange juice jt 140722 16x9 608 Why OJ Is Getting Squeezed From Breakfast Tables

Getty Images

For generations, orange juice has been the staple of a nutritious breakfast but these days, it’s feeling the squeeze.

In June, Americans bought less orange juice than they ever have since the Florida Department of Citrus started keeping track in 2002.

Orange juice consumption in the US is down 38 percent over the last decade. It’s also facing competition from supermarket aisles of exotic juices.

At the same time, orange juice is nearly $6.50 a gallon, a record high this month and up nearly 4 percent for the year. Frozen reserves are also down 17 percent year over year.

Farmers placed the blame largely on a devastating bacteria that has been killing Florida’s citrus crops and said with less fruit, they could not make as much fruit juice.

And while advertisements from the 1970s said natural orange juice was rich in vitamin C, new studies have shown that it’s also rich in calories and sugar — nearly the same amount as in cola drinks.

But the Florida Department of Citrus is trying to win back consumers with a new ad campaign launched in June.

It’s also getting help from Marvel Comics to redesign Captain Citrus.

Why Apple CEO Tim Cook Is ‘Incredibly Excited’ About Apple’s Earnings

Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Apple Press(NEW YORK) — Apple announced record third quarter earnings Monday that included an upbeat message from an “incredibly excited” CEO Tim Cook.

“Our record June quarter revenue was fueled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and the continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem, driving our highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters,” he said. “We are incredibly excited about the upcoming releases of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, as well as other new products and services that we can’t wait to introduce.”

The company reported higher iPhone sales this June quarter compared to the same period last year, despite customers who may be holding out for the anticipated iPhone 6.

In a conference call, Cook said he was “excited” about recent developments, including the acquisition of Beats.

Cook also repeated that there is an “incredible pipeline of products and services that we can’t wait to show you” — although he did not go into any detail.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Chipotle Stock Reaches Record High

Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Chipotle shares hit an all time high on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, with prices closing up more than 12%.

The Mexican fast-food chain reported robust second quarter earnings after the close Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61 points on Tuesday, ending the day at 17,113.54, and the Nasdaq climbed more than 31 points, closing at 4,456.02.

The S&P 500 closed at a record high, up almost 10 points at 1,983.53.

Sales of previously owned homes were up again in June, to the highest level in 8 months. The National Association of Realtors says it was the first time they topped the 5 million mark since October.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Existing Home Sales Jump 2.6% in June

Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Sales of existing U.S. homes rose for a third straight month in June, a new report out Tuesday shows.

The National Association of Realtors says sales climbed 2.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million.

“I think its a good month. We’re certainly headed in the right direction. We pulled up after a pretty weak spring market and we’re anticipating a stronger second half of the year,” says Ken Fears, a senior economist at the National Association of Realtors.

In another good sign, sales are at the highest pace in eight months. But, as Fears points out, they are still down from June 2013.

“We’re still down about 2.3 percent from last year, but that year over year gap continues to contract,” he says.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

What Apple Likely Won’t Talk About After Tuesday’s Close

Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Apple CEO Tim Cook is likely Tuesday afternoon to again promise that exciting new products are on the way. But that’s probably all he’ll say about the topic when he speaks after the company releases its earnings.

Here are the things Apple fans really want to know but probably won’t hear about in the earnings announcement:

1. Bigger, Badder iPhone 6?

In Tuesday’s conference call with analysts, Apple’s CEO and CFO may get pelted with questions about reportedly large manufacturing volume ahead of a potential iPhone 6. The company reportedly asked suppliers to manufacture 70 million to 80 million units of two large-screen iPhones, the Wall Street Journal noted Tuesday, according to unnamed sources. The next iPhones may have a larger screen of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches diagonally, the newspaper said, as opposed to the latest iPhone 5S and cheaper 5C that measure 4 inches. Apple did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

2. The Unicorn: iWatch

Apple has never used the word iWatch, but reports have consistently referred to this mystical gadget. The only thing media and analysts have been told is that multiple product categories will be announced this year.

3. The Stepsister: iPhone 5C Success/Failure

While Apple announces how many iPhones the company sells, the company does not provide details of which iPhone models were the most popular. The company won’t reveal how many iPhone 5C models were sold, as opposed to the 5S. The general number of iPhones sold, however, typically gives clues about whether customers may be waiting for the “next” model.

4. Cheaper Macs Paying Off?

In April, the company introduced an updated Macbook Air starting at $899 for an 11-inch model and $999 for a 13-inch one — $100 cheaper than the previous prices. The company will announce how many Mac computers it sold, but it won’t provide specific numbers on the Macbook Air or iMac. Last month, the company introduced a cheaper version of the all-in-one iMac desktop at $1,099.

5. iPad: Is Smaller Better?

Apple iPad sales have been relatively slow over the past year, so any signs of growth will be encouraging. But we may not necessarily hear if the iPad mini is beating the larger model, or vice versa. In March, Apple replaced the entry-level $399 iPad 2 with a 9.7-inch Retina display. Back in November, the 7.9-inch iPad mini with Retina display was introduced.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio