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    How mouse allergens found in schools may worsen children's asthma symptoms

    Researchers say that schools should focus on reduction strategies to improve health outcomes

    If you’re someone who has struggled with asthma for most of your life, then you might remember what it was like having it as a child. Whether it was performing physical activities in gym class or participating in athletic sports, the condition was likely one that slowed you down if it wasn’t managed constantly.

    However, a recent study suggests that certain allergens found in schools may make asthma symptoms even worse. Researchers from Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School have found that air-borne allergens in schools, such as those that come from mice, may worsen asthma symptoms. They say that inner city children who are exposed to mouse allergens at school have worse overall medical outcomes connected with their asthma.

    “In our study of inner-city school-aged children with asthma, exposure to higher levels of school mouse allergen was associated with a higher number of days with asthma symptoms and decreased lung function, independent of home environmental exposure,” the researchers said.

    Worsened symptoms

    The researchers analyzed the home and school environments of 284 students between the ages of 4 and 13 that were enrolled in inner-city schools in the northeastern United States. They found that schools with higher concentrations of mouse allergen yielded children with worse asthma symptoms and lower lung function.

    While other allergens were found both at home and at school, the researchers say that negative health trends were most noticeable in children exposed to mouse allergens at school. They recommend that schools find ways to reduce the amount of these contaminants so that asthmatic children do not suffer as much from their condition.

    “This [negative health trend] was seen in all children with asthma studied, regardless of whether they were sensitized to mouse allergen, and further underscores the public health relevance of school-associated allergen exposure as an important contributor to asthma morbidity in children,” they said.

    “These findings suggest that exposure reduction strategies in the school setting may effectively and efficiently benefit all children with asthma. Future school-based environmental intervention studies may be warranted.”

    The full study has been published in JAMA Pediatrics.

    If you’re someone who has struggled with asthma for most of your life, then you might remember what it was like having it as a child. Whether it was perfor...
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    New skin patch analyzes sweat to reveal important health information

    Researchers say the device could one day be used for disease diagnosis

    What does your sweat say about your health? Wearing a new skin patch during exercise may help you find out. Scientists say they have developed a quarter-sized device that sticks to your skin and analyzes your sweat.

    Sweat is worth analyzing, experts say. The beads of sweat we manufacture and quickly brush away while we're engaged in physical activity can offer important insights into our overall health.

    John Rogers, lead author of a study reporting development of the new skin patch, says sweat is “a rich, chemical broth containing a number of important chemical compounds with physiological health information.”

    The new skin patch may help people find out if they should be drinking more water or if they need to replenish their electrolyte levels. When tested on cyclists, the device was found to give an accurate measurement of the acidity of sweat and concentrations of glucose, chloride, and lactate.

    Results sent to smartphone

    The thin, disposable patches are worn on the forearm or back. Those who wear the device can see how their body is responding to exercise by accessing the results of the analysis on their smartphone.

    But the wearable can do more than nudge users to hydrate. In addition to measuring a person's sweat rate and total sweat loss, the patch can detect the presence of a biomarker for cystic fibrosis. In the future, researchers say it could even be used as a tool for disease diagnosis.

    "The intimate skin interface created by this wearable, skin-like ... system enables new measurement capabilities not possible with the kinds of absorbent pads and sponges currently used in sweat collection," Rogers said in a release.

    Findings from the test of the device on two groups of cyclists were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

    What does your sweat say about your health? Wearing a new skin patch during exercise may help you find out. Scientists say they have developed a quarter-si...
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      Beware of promises of 'easy money' loans

      They're really just repackaged payday loans

      To hear all the commercials and spam telephone calls, you would think lenders couldn't wait to make loans to just about anyone, regardless of their credit. But that's hardly the case. In fact, lending standards in recent years have gotten tighter, not looser.

      So what's with all the pitches for “easy money” loans? The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities says most of these pitches are coming from payday lenders operating in other states.

      They might be called payday loans, or car title loans, or sometimes just “quick money loans.” Whatever they're called, Pennsylvania banking officials say they carry the same issues as your garden variety payday loans – the term is for just two weeks, meaning you almost certainly have to take out another loan to pay back the first. And when the fees are added up, it can amount to an annual interest rate of between 300% to 1,000%.

      "The Internet contains a lot of 'guarantees' of easy, fast ways to get cash that too often lead to long-term financial problems," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann. "Too many people who take out 'easy money' loans end up paying shockingly high amounts of interest on these loans, losing their cars or motorcycles, or being hounded illegally by debt collectors."

      Robocallers go to work

      And now, the purveyors of these loans are using spam robocalls to push their products. Honolulu TV station KHON reports many consumers have received their calls, which originate outside the U.S., and thus outside the control of U.S. authorities. The recorded pitch says the consumer receiving the call has already been approved for a loan, even though they haven't applied for one.

      “The robocall tells you that no credit check will be required when you go to the website to look it up it says no credit check is required then when you look at the fine print it says oh, a third-party will do a credit check on you,” Gregory Dunn, CEO of the Hawaii Better Business Bureau told the station.

      Robocalls, which are illegal in nearly all instances, are increasingly used to market dubious products and services. It gives the telemarketer a lot more power.

      Screening the first set of victims

      “A robocall, as a technology, is used to screen out the first set of victims,” Jan Volzke, a vice president at Hiya, told ConsumerAffairs back in July.

      Hiya is a free call-blocking app, available for the iPhone and Android platforms. It was recently spun off as an independent company by Whitepages.

      As has been pointed out repeatedly by consumer advocates, consumers in need of quick money should not fall for a scam or resort to a payday loan. Wiessmann suggests looking into other alternatives, which include asking if your bank offers short-term loans. Also, check into short-term loans offered by credit unions.

      If you need cash to pay an overdue bill, Wiessmann suggests asking your boss for an advance or negotiating with the creditor for more time. If all else fails, Wiessman says you'll be better off paying the late fees on the bill, which in the long run will be a lot less than the fees associated with one of those “easy money” loans.

      To hear all the commercials and spam telephone calls, you would think lenders couldn't wait to make loans to just about anyone, regardless of their credit....
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      Wells Fargo seeking to use arbitration clause to block lawsuits

      The bank claims customers gave up their right to sue when they opened accounts

      Wells Fargo faces dozens of lawsuits from angry customers over its fake accounts scandal, but it is reportedly seeking to push those disputes into arbitration.

      Bloomberg News reports the bank has filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City to keep one particular lawsuit from getting to court. In the motion, Wells Fargo says customers agreed to resolve disputes out of court when they opened their accounts.

      The lawsuits are the result of Wells Fargo's actions, opening millions of bank and credit card accounts in customers' names without their knowledge or permission. At the time, the bank was engaged in a sales strategy known as “cross-marketing,” where customers with one type of account were encouraged to open another type, increasing the amount of fees flowing to the bank.

      Went beyond convincing

      The bank offered incentives to employees who were able to convince customers with bank accounts to open credit card accounts, and vice-versa. Federal regulators charged Wells Fargo went beyond trying to convince customers to open new accounts and simply opened the accounts for them without their knowledge. The bank fired 5,300 employees and paid $185 million in fines. It's CEO, John Stumpf, after being raked over the coals by Congressional committees, took early retirement.

      Bloomberg reports the motion, filed in the lawsuit brought by 80 Wells Fargo customers, points out that the arbitration clause has already been validated in another lawsuit brought in California.

      Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution favored by large corporations with lots of customers. It keeps disputes out of court and, while saving in legal fees, often results in more favorable rulings. Besides banks, telecommunications companies usually require their customers to agree to arbitration.

      Considering a ban

      A year ago, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said it was considering proposed rules that would ban consumer financial companies from using “free pass” arbitration clauses.

      With this free pass, CFPB said companies can sidestep the legal system, avoid big refunds, and continue to pursue profitable practices that may violate the law and harm countless consumers.

      “Consumers should not be asked to sign away their legal rights when they open a bank account or credit card,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said at the time.

      Cordray said corporations are using the arbitration clause as a free pass to sidestep the courts and his agency would consider banning arbitration clauses that block group lawsuits.

      Wells Fargo faces dozens of lawsuits from angry customers over its fake accounts scandal, but it is reportedly seeking to push those disputes into arbitrat...
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      Online sales power Black Friday

      Overall sales surged, while in-store sales declined

      Early indications suggest 2016's holiday sales will outpace initial projections by a wide margin. Sales got off to a red hot pace over the extended Black Friday shopping weekend, with more purchases moving to online channels.

      One of the first sales reports comes from Adobe, which tracked $5.2 billion in spending over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a 17.7% increase over last year. At the same time time, brick-and-mortar sales were down from last year.

      Black Friday sales alone smashed the old record, logging $3.34 billion, beating last year's mark by 21.6%. Adobe reports Lego Creator Sets, electric scooters from Razor, Nerf Guns, DJI Phantom Drones, and Barbie Dreamhouses made up the five biggest sellers in the toy department on Black Friday. Apple iPads, Samsung 4k TVs, Apple MacBooks Air, LG TVs, and Microsoft Xboxes were the top sellers in the electronics department.

      More mobile purchases

      Adobe reported mobile platforms drove the majority of visits to retail websites on Black Friday and accounted for 35% of sales. It found large retailers experienced twice the growth in online sales as small retailers since the start of the holiday shopping season.

      Rakuten Marketing reported similar findings. It said its data shows mobile sites got 56% of the traffic on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Black Friday's online spending beat last year by 41%.

      “Shoppers hit the buy button at unprecedented levels as conversion rates were up nearly a full percent across all devices in the evening hours on Black Friday,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director, Adobe Digital Insights. “With the full day total coming in at $3.34 billion, Black Friday may have just dethroned Cyber Monday's position as the largest online shopping day of the year.”

      How big will Cyber Monday be?

      Of course, that remains to be seen. Holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday.com reported that many ecommerce sites started their Cyber Monday specials on Sunday evening, suggesting the sales total could surpass projections. It notes that Apple, Dell, Best Buy, and Target are offering free shipping with no minimum order size, which could spur sales.

      Among the hottest Cyber Monday promotions, it has identified Target's 15% off nearly everything in-store and online during the day, as worthy of consumers' attention. It also calls attention to Walmart's over 50% discount on Samsung HDTVs.

      Assuming Cyber Monday smashes estimates, the nation's retailers could be on pace for a record holiday sales period.

      Early indications suggest 2016's holiday sales will outpace initial projections by a wide margin. Sales got off to a red hot pace over the extended Black F...
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      Hale and Hearty Soups recalls ready-to-eat chicken chili soup

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Hale and Hearty Soups of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling approximately 455 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken chili soup product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      The following item, produced and packaged on November 9, 2016, is being recalled:

      • 6.9-lb. bags containing “CHICKEN CHILI SOUP” with an “Expires:12/09” date.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-34800” inside the USDA mark of inspection, as shipped to food service distributors in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions regarding this recall may contact Paul Schwartz at (212) 255-2400 Ext. 2025.

      Hale and Hearty Soups of Brooklyn, N.Y., is recalling approximately 455 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken chili soup product that may be adulterated with List...
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      Model year 2016 Titan Diesel XDs recalled

      The fuel tank may not have the proper ventilation

      Nissan North America is recalling 12,112 model year 2016 Titan Diesel XDs manufactured August 7, 2015, to September 1, 2016.

      The vehicles may not have had the temporary fuel tank breather tube cap removed during the vehicle's assembly and the fuel tank breather tube may not have been connected to the bed rail. As a result, the fuel tank may not have the proper ventilation, possibly causing the fuel gauge and the distance to empty meter to both display inaccurately.

      If the fuel gauge reads incorrectly, the vehicle can run out of fuel without the driver being aware, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the fuel tank breather tube, replacing the fuel tank, fuel sending unit, and/or fuel tank breather tube, as necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261.

      Nissan North America is recalling 12,112 model year 2016 Titan Diesel XDs manufactured August 7, 2015, to September 1, 2016.The vehicles may not have h...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2017 Jeep Wranglers

      The fuel tank may have a cracked or broken control valve

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 359 model year 2017 Jeep Wranglers manufactured November 1, 2016, to November 3, 2016.

      The vehicles may have a fuel tank that has a cracked or broken control valve, possibly resulting in a fuel leak in a rollover event, debris in the fuel tank and/or the potential of over fueling the vehicle.

      A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and Jeep dealers will inspect the fuel tank and replace fuel tank and sending unit, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 2, 2017.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is S90.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 359 model year 2017 Jeep Wranglers manufactured November 1, 2016, to November 3, 2016.The vehicles may have a fuel t...
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      Exxon's investors sue energy giant for downplaying climate concerns

      After Exxon revealed that it would have to write off some oil reserves, investors are suing

      Documents unveiled by the InsideClimateNews site last year revealed that ExxonMobil executives and scientists were aware of the risks that oil and gas drilling posed to the planet even as they publicly denied the link between fossil fuels and climate change.

      The revelation attracted unwanted scrutiny from some lawmakers, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who compared ExxonMobil’s expensive, longtime campaign attempting to discredit climate scientists to the campaign waged by the tobacco industry. The company poured an estimated $31 million into think tanks that cast doubt on global warming.

      But it’s not just existential concerns about the warming planet that have gotten Exxon in trouble. Shareholders have a more practical reason to be angry at the company -- they say that Exxon’s failure to disclose the risks of global warming hurt their bottom line.

      Shareholder sues

      A lawsuit filed on behalf of shareholders this month against ExxonMobil in a Dallas federal court accuses the energy giant of artificially inflating the prices of its oil reserves and its stock by not publicly accounting for climate change. The suit comes as the company is experiencing a major slump. On October 28, Exxon's stocks fell more than $2 a share, "erasing billions of dollars in market capitalization," the lawsuit contends.

      To be sure, the oil refinery business as a whole is facing financial setbacks. Oil prices and natural gas prices both fell to record lows this year. One potential reason for that, financial experts say, is the worry that more people and government agencies will turn to clean energy, lowering the demand for fossil fuels. But in the midst of the slump, Exxon has been the only oil company not to write off its assets.

      That changed late last month, when Exxon announced that it would have to write down over $3.6 billion worth of crude oil it had previously listed as assets. A company document blames dropping oil prices this year for the change:  "If the average prices seen during the first nine months of 2016 persist for the remainder of the year, under the SEC definition of proved reserves, certain quantities of oil, such as those associated with the Kearl oil sands operations in Canada, will not qualify as proved reserves at year-end 2016." Last April, Standard and Poor downgraded the corporation's credit rating for the first time since the Great Depression.

      "Material misstatements"

      The new lawsuit, filed by stockholder Pedro Ramirez Jr., points to the now-public documents revealing that Exxon knew but concealed the dangers of climate change. He similarly argues that Exxon knew but failed to disclose that it "would not be able to extract the existing hydrocarbon reserves," given concerns about the climate and its effect on the company. "Exxon’s material misstatements and omissions not only artificially inflated the price of Exxon publicly traded securities, but also influenced the rating agencies to issue strong ratings on Exxon’s $20 billion of outstanding debt,” the suit says.

      Exxon, which did not return an interview request, remains one of the world's largest publicly traded companies, even as it faces some public scrutiny. The Massachusetts and New York state attorney generals and the Securities Exchange Commission have all launched investigations into Exxon’s denial of climate change and its accounting practices in the past year.

      Exxon no longer denies that man-made climate change is real, as it did for decades. In 2014, Exxon publicly acknowledged the risks of climate change for the first time in company history. But, according to news reports from the time, Exxon also assured investors that climate concerns would not affect business. "We are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become 'stranded,'" a company report from the time said.

      Documents unveiled by the InsideClimateNews site last year revealed that ExxonMobil executives and scientists were aware of the risks that oil and gas dril...
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      Consumers appear to give Black Friday a strong start

      Stores are crowded and online sales surge

      It appears that predictions consumers would pass on Black Friday were somewhat exaggerated. Consumers are not only crowding stores looking for bargains, they took advantage of the stores that opened on Thanksgiving. Millions more shopped online.

      Macy's said there were more than 16,000 shoppers lined up outside its New York flagship store in Harold Square as the doors opened Thanksgiving night. It reports that early sales receipts suggest a lot of people will be finding sweaters and other clothing under the tree this year.

      Target also reports a strong start to the big shopping weekend. Not only were stores jammed with shoppers last night, the company says Target.com had it's biggest single sales day ever.

      “Shopping at Target has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition for millions of our guests, and we’re thrilled at the response we’ve seen this year,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell. “Based on early results, it’s clear that our deals are cutting through. We expect this momentum to continue throughout the weekend and into next week.”

      Target says TV sets were among the most popular items, with consumers buying more than 3,200 sets every minute during the first hour that stores were open. Early indications also point to strong sales of Apple products, including the Apple Watch Series 1.

      Hoverboards sold out in minutes

      Among toys, Target says LEGO, NERF, and Our Generation were popular items. The Jetson V6 Hoverboard sold out within minutes, the company said.

      Amazon, meanwhile, has already jumped ahead to Cyber Monday. The company has unveiled 75,000 deals it plans to offer next week.

      The deals include the Amazon Echo for $139.99, a 50 inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV for $249.99, and 30% off on select clothing, shoes, jewelry, and watches for women, men, kids, and infants.

      Last Cyber Monday, Amazon says customers ordered more than 54 million items worldwide, which set a record. It says based on early sales data, it expects that record to be shattered next week.

      Did the large number of retailers who took a stand against opening on Thanksgiving miss the boat? Maybe not. CNBC reports the Mall of America, which this year remained closed on the holidays, had even bigger crowds lining up for its Black Friday opening than it did last year.

      It appears that predictions consumers would pass on Black Friday were somewhat exaggerated. Consumers are not only crowding stores looking for bargains, th...
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      Dads who are confident and enthusiastic in their role may rear happier pre-teens

      Kids with an emotionally involved father are less likely to develop behavioral problems later, study finds

      It’s no secret that fathers play an important role in their children’s lives, but a new study finds that a father’s attitude is everything when it comes to reducing the likelihood that children will suffer from behavioral problems as pre-teens.

      Researchers from Oxford University found that children raised by fathers who were confident and “enthusiastic” in their paternal role were less likely to develop behavioral problems by age 9 or 11.

      Writing in the journal BMJ Open, the authors concluded that the findings suggest that a father’s emotional involvement has a greater impact on children’s behavior than time spent performing practical childcare duties.

      “The findings of this research study suggest that it is psychological and emotional aspects of paternal involvement in a child's infancy that are most powerful in influencing later child behaviour and not the amount of time that fathers are engaged in childcare or domestic tasks in the household.”

      Strong bond in early years

      The researchers from Oxford's National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit found that a close paternal bond can have a lasting impact if it's developed during children’s early years.

      “How new fathers see themselves as parents, how they value their role as a parent and how they adjust to this new role, rather than the amount of direct involvement in childcare in this period, appears to be associated with positive behavioural outcomes in children.”

      Findings from the observational study, which involved more than 10,000 children and their parents, showed that dads who formed a strong bond with their child and embraced their role as a father were more likely to have a better-behaved pre-teen.

      The factors most strongly associated with lower odds of behavioral problems at age 9 and 11 were a father's enthusiasm and confidence in his role. Dads who showed these markers of involvement were 28% likely to later have pre-teens with behavioral problems. 

      "A high quality of involvement with children, right from their infancy and continuing through childhood, helps establish a solid foundation for good outcomes later on in life," said lead researcher Charles Opondo. 

      "For fathers, positive involvement goes beyond child-care activities; feeling good about being a dad, making an emotional connection to children, and establishing a secure parenting relationship with mothers are perhaps even more important."

      The study was published online in the journal BMJ Open.
      It’s no secret that fathers play an important role in their children’s lives, but a new study finds that a father’s attitude is everything when it comes to...
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      Tests on promising Alzheimer's drug end in disappointment

      Ely Lilly will not seek FDA approval for solanezumab

      There have been many promising breakthroughs in the field of Alzheimer's disease research, giving hope to millions at risk of the devastating disease.

      The flip side of that, of course, is when these hopeful promises just don't pan out. So it was with great disappointment that pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced that its promising new drug solanezumab “did not meet the primary endpoint” in it's final, phase 3 testing. The company said it would not seek Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the drug.

      Lilly said patients in the trial who were treated with solanezumab did not experience a statistically significant slowing in cognitive decline compared to patients treated with placebo. It dashed the hope raised by previous research.

      Solanezumab is a mono-clonal antibody targeting excess amyloid in the brain. It was designed for patients considered to be at risk of Alzheimer's but who had not displayed symptoms of the disease.

      Slowing memory loss by 10 years

      Researchers were hopeful that doctors might eventually use positron emission tomography (PET scans) to locate beta amyloid as it begins to form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease 10 to 20 years before they show any symptoms of the disease.

      The drug would then be administered, removing the harmful protein from the brain before it could begin to build up. Researchers were hopeful it might slow memory loss by at least 10 years.

      "The results of the solanezumab EXPEDITION3 trial were not what we had hoped for and we are disappointed for the millions of people waiting for a potential disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer's disease," said John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D., chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly, in a written statement. "We will evaluate the impact of these results on the development plans for solanezumab and our other Alzheimer's pipeline assets."

      Lechleiter also issued a statement to the Alzheimer's community in the video below, vowing his company would continue pursuing effective treatments.

      Lilly said it would present further findings from the study at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer's Disease meeting in early December.

      There have been many promising breakthroughs in the field of Alzheimer's disease research, giving hope to millions at risk of the devastating disease.T...
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      Thanksgiving motorists to find falling gas prices

      But prices are still slightly higher than last year

      According to AAA, more than 43 million Americans will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday. When they stop to fuel up, they'll find relatively cheap prices at the pump, and the prices could be even cheaper on the return trip.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price at $2.13 a gallon, nearly a dime cheaper than a month ago, but six cents more than last Thanksgiving weekend. The price of diesel fuel is actually down from last year.

      Gas prices are higher than last year because oil prices rose in September and October on the expectation that OPEC would agree to curtail production when it meets next week. That expectation has grown weaker in recent weeks, so the price of oil has slipped lower on huge supplies and declining demand.

      Oklahoma has the cheapest gasoline prices in the nation. The statewide average there is $1.88 a gallon. It's $1.89 in Missouri and $1.91 in Kansas and Texas.

      The most expensive gasoline is found in Hawaii, at $2.85 a gallon, followed by California at $2.68, and Washington and Alaska at $2.61.

      Trend moving in the right direction

      For motorists, the trend is moving in the right direction. The average price of fuel has fallen steadily since November 6 and drivers in 45 states and the District of Columbia are now paying less than they were last week.

      The price should continue to fall throughout the holidays, with AAA predicting a national average price of $2 by the end of the year. Even now, the average price is below the $2 threshold in 12 states.

      For Thanksgiving travelers, the Central Plains states will be the most economical region to drive. The Western states remain the most expensive. The Southeastern states have seen prices rise slightly in recent weeks but remain a bargain, with five states – Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee – among the ten lowest-priced states in the U.S.

      According to AAA, more than 43 million Americans will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday. When they stop to fuel up, they'll find relatively cheap pric...
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      Why this Black Friday will be different from all others

      There are a lot more deals and more time to buy them

      The year was 2008. The financial markets had just crashed. The consumer zeal to find a limited Black Friday bargain was at its peak.

      At a Walmart store on Long Island, a huge, restive crowd had gathered outside in the chilly, early morning hours waiting for the doors to open. As an employee began to unlock the doors, the New York Daily News reported that the crowd wouldn't wait any longer, took the doors off their hinges, and trampled the 34-year old man to death while injuring four shoppers, including a pregnant woman.

      The incident caused a lot of people to step back and reassess the absurd craziness that characterized the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season. While there will undoubtedly be isolated, and widely reported, cases of consumer incivility toward one another in pursuit of a bargain on Friday, hopefully there will be no fatalities.

      Money and bargains were scarce

      After all, there is no need for that. In 2008, not only was money scarce, so were the bargains. Retailers promoted doorbuster deals to draw a crowd but only had a limited number of items at that price. So if you showed up at 4:00 a.m. to get the latest video game console for $99, the people who got in line at 3:00 a.m. got the five units that were available at that price.

      In recent years, retailers stocked a lot more of their Black Friday bargains and they began spreading out the times at which they were available. Stores started opening on Thanksgiving, though this year a large number have reversed that policy.

      Stores have also made more of their Black Friday deals available online. Instead of spending time driving to the mall and going from store to store, shoppers can look for deals online from the comfort of their homes.

      The deals have already started

      It's no longer necessary to wait until Black Friday to find bargains, either online or in stores. In fact, Amazon is currently offering numerous sale prices during its Black Friday Deals Week. Walmart has also gotten started with its Pre-Black Friday Deals promotion.

      Consumers also have a lot more information about deals than ever before. Retailers have leaked their Black Friday newspaper ads well in advance, which have been collected online at sites like BestBlackFriday.com, making it easier for consumers to find what they want, and at the price they are willing to pay, well ahead of time.

      After Black Friday, consumers know they will still be able to find plenty of deals. There's Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, both with non-stop deals.

      So in a way, Black Friday is becoming just another busy holiday shopping day. Consumers jamming the aisles are not quite as desperate to latch onto that doorbuster bargain because they know they can probably find it somewhere else.

      And that's probably a good thing. Safer, at least.

      The year was 2008. The financial markets had just crashed. The consumer zeal to find a limited Black Friday bargain was at its peak.At a Walmart store...
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      An October dip in new home sales

      Sales prices were mixed while inventories rose

      Single-family sales slipped last month after rebounding in September from their August decline.

      The Commerce Department reports sales were down 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 563,000. Even with that decline, sales were 17.8% ahead of the October 2015 pace of 478,000.

      Robert Denk, a senior economist at the National Association of Home Builders told ConsumerAffairs that despite the volatility this is a good report, which continues a “solidly upward trend” in new home sales.

      Inventory and pricing

      More homes were available for sale at the end of the month. The seasonally adjusted estimate came in at 246,000, representing a supply of 5.2 months at the current sales rate. In September, there were 235,000 homes available, which translates to a supply of 4.8 months.

      The median sales price of new houses sold in October was $304,500 up $5,800. The median is the point at which half the house sold for more and half for less. The average sales price was down $12,000 to $354,900.

      The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      Single-family sales slipped last month after rebounding in September from their August decline.The Commerce Department reports sales were down 1.9% to...
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      House prices modest gain in third quarter

      Jobless claims were on the rise last week

      The price of houses across the U.S. continued to gain in value during the third quarter.

      The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports its House Price Index (HPI) was up 1.5% in the July-August quarter and 6.1% percent from the third quarter of 2015 following an advance of 1.2% in the second quarter.

      On a month-over-month basis, the HPI rose 0.6% in September from August.

      “Our data indicate that the deceleration in home price growth that we observed in late spring proved to be short-lived,” said FHFA Supervisory Economist Andrew Leventis. “While price growth in select markets has cooled somewhat for the U.S. as a whole, the third quarter showed no evidence of a widespread slowdown.”

      While the HPI rose 6.1% during last year's third quarter, prices of other goods and services were nearly unchanged. The inflation-adjusted price of homes rose approximately 6.0% over the last year.

      The HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

      Report highlights

      • Home prices rose in 49 states between the third quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2016; Delaware and the District of Columbia were the only areas not to see price increases. The top five states in annual appreciation were: 1) Florida 10.7%; 2) Oregon 10.4%; 3) Washington 10.4%; 4) Colorado 10.0%; and 5) Utah 9.5%.
      • Among the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., annual price increases were greatest in Tacoma-Lakewood, Wash. (MSAD), where prices increased by 12.9%. Prices were weakest in New Haven-Milford, Conn., where they fell 1.7%.
      • Of the nine census divisions, the South Atlantic division experienced the strongest increase in the third quarter, posting a 1.8% quarterly increase and a 7.1% increase since the third quarter of last year. House price appreciation was weakest in the New England division, where prices rose 0.8% from the previous quarter.

      The full report may be found on the FHFA website.

      Jobless claims

      First-time applications for state unemployment benefits blipped higher in the week preceding Thanksgiving.

      The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims rose 18,000 in the week ending November 19 to a seasonally adjusted 251,000.

      Even with that increase, initial claims have been below 300,000 for 90 consecutive weeks, the longest streak since 1970.

      The four-week moving average, which many economists believe is a more accurate gauge of the economy because of its lack of volatility, came in at 251,000 -- down 2,000 from the previous week.

      The complete report is available on the DOL website.

      The price of houses across the U.S. continued to gain in value during the third quarter.The Federal Housing Finance Age...
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