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    Dec. 22, 2010 - Modesto, California, U.S. - DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com - Finn Johnston, 4, of Modesto donates to the Salvation
    Darryl Bush, Modesto Bee/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy
    By Brian O'Connell

    Jim Wang and his family like to carve off some of the family holiday season budget for a great cause -- giving to the needy.

    So far, his creative way of doing so has helped changed his view of the holidays from receiving to giving.

    "A few years ago, we started a charitable giving fund during a year we expected to be taxed heavily," says Wang, a Pittsburgh resident who writes about personal finance for Wallethacks.com. "We contribute to it on a regular basis, so it's part of our monthly budget. Then, at the end of each year, we recommend where a portion of those funds are donated. It never busts our budget because we make regular contributions and we can support our favorite organizations."

    The practice allows Wang and his family to give during the holidays on their own terms. "A good side benefit is that it gives us a good reason not to contribute to certain causes when friends and family ask us -- we don't have the available funds in our charitable giving fund but we'll allocate it for next year," he says.

    That would make Wang a prime candidate for the newest theme day on the holiday map -- "Giving Tuesday."

    Giving Tuesday, which occurs right after Cyber Monday, was founded in 2012 as a way to recognize the more than 1.5 million charities in the U.S. and kick-off giving season, during the last five weeks of the year when at least 24 percent of all charitable donations are made (which amounted to about $358 billion total in 2014).

    U.S. companies are already climbing aboard the Giving Tuesday bandwagon. PayPal (PYPL), for example, is attempting a Guinness World Record for Giving Tuesday this year by going after the most money raised online for charity in 24 hours. Last year PayPal enabled a record amount of giving around the world by helping charities raise $5.7 billion through its charitable giving platform, company officials tell MainStreet.

    The key for U.S. adults looking to cut a check or two on Giving Tuesday is obviously to help the less fortunate. Past that, you'll want to give "in a smart and strategic way, maximizing every donation and doing so within your budget," says Eileen Heisman, CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust and #GivingTuesday ambassador.

    Actual charities love the idea. "Giving Tuesday reminds us to be selfless and share a bit of our own good fortune with those in need," says Cristy Balcell, executive director at MitoAction, an organization dedicated to helping children and families who suffer from the rare disorder mitochondrial disease. "I know we appreciate Giving Tuesday's national effort to join together."

    So flex your charitable giving muscles by participating on Giving Tuesday.

    Start by using the website CharityNavigator.org to find the best and most legitimate charities. The site's unbiased, objective, numbers-based ratings system to assess 8,000 of America's charities.

    CharityNavigator provides rating based on charity's financial health, transparency and accountability, and it tracks how efficiently the charity will use your donation and how well has it sustained its programs and services over time.

    Gift cards are also a great way to give to charities during the holidays. "There are two types of charitable gift cards," states Shelley Hunter, a content manager at GiftCards.com. "The first is when a percentage of sale is given to charity. In this type, the recipient gets the full value of the gift card to spend. The charity gets a small portion. The second type of card results in the nearly the entire sale going to charity. The recipient simply designates where the money should go. This is a great way to do your holiday shopping and give back at the same time."

    Hunter offers a great list of charity-driven gift cards.

    It's also OK to get something in return when you donate to charity. "Look for a charity that offers something in return for your contribution, but be aware of where your dollars will go for that gift," says Suzanne Kwok, executive director of Give To Cure, a charitable group that leverages crowd funding to raise funds to treat diseases. "For example, we have partnered with world famous street artist and activist Shepard Fairey to create fashionable merchandise and actual gifts that people can buy. Any money spent on those items goes directly to supporting clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease. This way, you get to do a good deed, and your loved one still gets something cool to unwrap and love all year."

    Get your kids involved in donation experiences, too. "Teach your children to give what they can," says April Masini, a relationship and self-help expert. "A week of their allowance donated is a great teaching moment at this time of year when 'gimme gimme' is the mantra in many homes where retail is the religion of choice."

    Of course, keeping a close eye on scams and fraud should be a priority for donors on Giving Tuesday, too. "Scams are abundant during the holiday and scammers prey on the generous holiday spirit of consumers to 'give extra' to charities," says Kiry Peng, president of the Business Consumer Alliance in Colton, California. "Our best tip is to avoid sending cash donations and never wire money. Donating by check made payable to the charity or by credit card is safer and consumers can use those receipts as tax deductions."

    Giving Tuesday is yet another theme-based date on the holiday character, much like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But unlike those commercially driven mini-holidays, Giving Tuesday offers Americans a chance to do well by doing good, and that's much closer to the spirit and meaning of Christmas and the holidays.

     

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    FILE - In this May 4, 2014, file photo, the Pfizer logo is displayed on the exterior of a former Pfizer factory in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Pfizer and Allergan have reached a $160 billion deal that creates the world�s largest drugmaker by sales, the companies announced Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
    Mark Lennihan/AP
    By LINDA A. JOHNSON and TOM MURPHY

    A $160 billion deal announced Monday to merge Pfizer and Allergan and create the world's biggest drug company renewed the outcry in Washington over "inversions," in which U.S. corporations combine with companies overseas to lower their tax bill.

    The combination -- the second-largest merger in history -- could have ramifications around the globe, pushing up drug prices and spurring more such deals in the fast-consolidating health care sector and other fields.

    It is also increasing the election-year backlash from U.S. politicians who have been criticizing drugmakers recently over medicine prices that sometimes exceed $100,000 a year.

    In what would be the biggest inversion ever, Pfizer could save hundreds of millions in U.S. taxes because it would move its tax headquarters from America to Ireland, where Allergan (AGN) is based. Pfizer (PFE), which currently operates out of New York, would slash its tax rate from around 25 percent this year to about 18 percent.

    Inversions have long been attacked by some politicians as a tax dodge, and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the leading Democratic presidential contenders, criticized the deal.

    Clinton said it will leave "U.S. taxpayers holding the bag," while Sanders said it will be a "disaster" for Americans already paying high prescription drug costs.

    Asked if the deal was designed to avoid taxes, Pfizer CEO Ian Read said only that company executives' obligation is to shareholders and patients.

    The merger is subject to approval from regulators in the U.S., European Union and elsewhere. It also needs the go-ahead from shareholders of both countries.

    Pfizer makes such drugs as Viagra, cholesterol-lowering Lipitor and the clot-preventer Eliquis. Allergan produces the wrinkle treatment Botox and Restasis for dry eyes, and also has a superior pipeline of medicines in development.

    If it goes through, the merger will return Pfizer to the top spot in the pharmaceutical industry, after years in which competition from cheaper generics cut into its revenue from some of its blockbuster drugs.

    Lower Taxes

    The combination will essentially be Pfizer "but with a lower tax rate," wrote Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson.

    Despite attempts by Congress and the Treasury Department to thwart the practice, about 50 U.S. companies have inverted in the past decade, and more are considering it, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. Treasury said it had no comment Monday.

    The health care sector has been the hottest in U.S. mergers this year and last, with deals worth $451 billion, according to Dealogic.

    Drugmakers, insurers and pharmacy chains are combining to boost revenue, cut costs and increase their clout in negotiating prices and contracts. Each new deal puts pressure on smaller rivals to bulk up.

    John Colley, a professor at Warwick Business School in Britain, predicted even bigger deals as "industry players become concerned about being left behind in the race for scale."

    For consumers, however, such combinations could lead to higher drug prices, as well as higher taxes to cover the lost tax revenue, said Jerry Reisman, a New York merger expert.

    "We're all going to feel this," he said.

    The deal will enable the combined company to pour around $9 billion a year into research on new treatments, Read said in an interview. That includes work on cures for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, cancer and other difficult-to-treat illnesses. It costs upwards of $1.5 billion to get a new drug approved.

    Lingering Effects

    "The impact for patients is great, both short term and long term," said Read, who will be chairman and CEO of the combined company, to be called Pfizer Plc.

    Executives wouldn't discuss any layoffs, but they are considered inevitable, given that they're predicting annual savings of about $2 billion within three years of closing the deal. Pfizer has about 95,000 employees, Allergan 15,000.

    Currently No. 2 among drugmakers globally, Pfizer posted revenue of $49.6 billion in 2014, when Allergan reported $13.1 billion. Switzerland's Novartis (NVS), the No. 1 drugmaker for the last few years, reported $58 billion in 2014 revenue.

    Several U.S. drugmakers have performed inversions through acquisitions in the past several years, including generic drugmaker Mylan (MYL). Allergan itself is the product of an inversion.

    Last year, the Treasury Department issued new regulations to curb the financial benefits of inversions. Amid political backlash over the looming Pfizer-Allergan announcement, Treasury rushed out new rules Thursday, but they focus on deals in which the overseas company's shareholders end up with 20 to 40 percent of the combined corporation.

    Under the agreement announced Monday, Allergan's shareholders will own 44 percent of the stock, and Pfizer's 56 percent.

     

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    New Car Sales
    David Zalubowski/AP
    DETROIT -- Ford is recalling nearly 452,000 midsize cars because the gas tanks potentially can leak fuel.

    The recall covers certain 2010 to 2011 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans built in Mexico from July 21, 2008 through March 4, 2011.

    Ford says a valve on a gasoline vapor recovery canister can get stuck, causing repeated air pressure changes in the gas tank. That can eventually cause a crack on top of the tank and a possible fuel leak. The company says it has no reports of fires or injuries from the problem.

    Dealers will inspect the valve and fuel tank for leaks and replace them if needed. They'll also update the powertrain control module software.

    About 411,000 of the cars are in the U.S., with nearly 34,000 in Canada and just over 7,000 in Mexico.

     

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    Shutterstock
    Plenty of stocks go up and down in any given week. The gainers inspire us to keep investing. The decliners keep greed in check while reminding us about the risks of the equity markets.

    Let's go over some of last week's best and worst performers.

    Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) -- Up 22 percent last week

    Sometimes even a meandering specialty retailer gets a chance to shine. Abercrombie & Fitch moved higher after posting blowout quarterly results. Adjusted earnings clocked in at 48 cents a share. That may be just slightly ahead of the 42 cents a share it posted a year earlier, but analysts were holding out for net income of just 22 cents a share. Sales slipped 4 percent since the prior year to $878.6 million, but that was also enough to exceed the $863.4 million that Wall Street was forecasting.

    Things obviously aren't perfect at Abercrombie & Fitch. Comparable-store sales continue to run negative at its namesake stores, though a gain at its Hollister concept and positive results overseas helped keep the top line presentable. This is just the kind of positive momentum that a retailer likes to have as it heads into the critical holiday shopping season.

    Nuance Communications (NUAN) -- Up 21 percent last week

    Nuance may not be a household name, but odds are good that you are familiar with its handiwork. It's the leading provider of the speech-recognition software used by companies to provide customer support on automated calls. That may not be a very popular support solution, but it's good business for Nuance.

    Shares of Nuance hit a 52-week high after posting better-than-expected quarterly earnings. Deutsche Bank's analyst followed the report with a bullish note, raising his price target on the stock to $30 from $25.

    Netflix (NFLX) -- Up 19 percent last week

    The leading premium video streaming service had a strong week. It was already the top gainer for 2015 among the S&P 500 (^GSPC) companies, and it padded its lead after it debuted a new Marvel show and a report came out that shows Netflix's deep penetration in Australia.

    RBC Capital Markets also put out a favorable report after surveying 1,000 Internet users to find that more than half of them use Netflix and the vast majority indicate that they aren't likely to cancel. Given Netflix's growing digital catalog and its reasonable subscription price, that probably isn't a surprise.

    Nimble Storage (NMBL) -- Down 52 percent last week

    At least nine analysts downgraded Nimble after it reported a much wider quarterly loss than analysts were projecting. That's one way to lose more than half of your value in a single week. The provider of flash-based data storage solutions also offered up guidance for the current quarter that was well below where the pros were perched.

    Stage Stores (SSI) -- Down 26 percent last week

    It was an exit for Stage investors after the parent company of several retailers including Bealls, Goody's and its namesake chain posted disappointing financial results. Stage Stores saw its quarterly deficit double from a year earlier.

    Liquidity Services (LQDT) -- Down 19 percent last week

    Finally, we have shares of Liquidity Services losing nearly a fifth of their value after the company offered up a weak outlook for the year ahead. The provider of online surplus auction services actually has posted year-over-year declines in revenue for three straight quarters now. The market doesn't like when a company's top line is going the wrong way.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix and Nuance Communications. The Motley Fool recommends Liquidity Services. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    Existing U.S. Home Sales Rise to Second-Highest Since 2007
    Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- Home resales fell in October as a persistent shortage of properties limited choice for potential buyers and pushed up prices, suggesting some softening in the pace of the housing market recovery after strong gains early this year.

    Still, housing remains on solid footing, with sales for the full year on track to be the best in eight years. That should see housing take up some of the slack from a chronically weak manufacturing sector.

    The housing market is in decent shape but could be a lot better if people decided they were ready to move and listed their homes.

    "The housing market is in decent shape but could be a lot better if people decided they were ready to move and listed their homes," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.

    The National Association of Realtors said Monday existing home sales declined 3.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.36 million units. September's sales pace was unrevised at 5.55 million units and was the second highest since 2007.

    The drop in sales was expected after contracts to purchase previously owned homes fell for two straight months. But with a tightening labor market, marked by a 5 percent unemployment rate, housing fundamentals are fairly healthy.

    In addition, the government has taken steps to ease lending standards for young adults. However, an anticipated interest rate hike next month by the Federal Reserve could make housing a bit expensive, especially if there is no significant pick-up in wage growth.

    "There is every reason to expect that the demand for homes will grind higher in the coming months. While interest rates are set to rise, so are incomes, and that will keep housing affordability historically favorable," said Matthew Pointon, property economist at Capital Economics in New York.

    The weak sales come on the heels of reports last week showing a drop in housing starts in October and a decline in confidence among homebuilders. Economists had forecast sales falling to a rate of 5.4 million units last month.

    The dollar rose to an eight-month high against a basket of currencies, while prices for U.S. government debt were up marginally. The housing index rose 0.3 percent as the shortage of houses for sale was seen boosting homebuilders such as D.R. Horton (DRI) and Lennar (LEN).

    A separate report showed Markit's Purchasing Managers Index hit a 25-month low in early November, highlighting continued weakness in the factory sector. The decline, however, brought the PMI in line with the Institute for Supply Management survey, which has a longer history of tracking the manufacturing sector.

    Pain in the West

    October home sales were up 3.9 percent from a year ago and held above their average for the year. Sales dropped 8.7 percent in the West from the prior month and fell 3.2 percent in the South. These two regions, which are experiencing strong population growth, have seen large price increases due to tight inventory.

    The supply squeeze is mostly hurting the lower end of the market, where sales have dropped sharply from a year ago.

    Last month, the number of unsold homes on the market fell 2.3 percent from September to 2.14 million units. Supply was down 4.5 percent from a year ago, a worrying sign as housing heads into a quiet season, the NAR said.

    At October's sales pace, it would take 4.8 months to clear the stock of houses on the market, up from 4.7 months in September. A six-months supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

    With inventories tight, the median house price increased 5.8 percent from a year ago to $219,600. October's price increase marked the 44th straight month of year-on-year gains.

    Although higher prices could sideline potential buyers, especially those wanting to purchase a home for the first time, they are boosting equity for homeowners, which could encourage them to put their homes on the market.

    Realtors and economists say insufficient equity has contributed to the tight housing inventories. Last month, the share of first-time buyers crept up from September to almost a third. But the share was still the second lowest since 1981 on an annual basis.

    "First-time home buyers continue to be crowded out by competition from investor sales. Price pressures from low inventory present another headwind to first-time buyers," said Derek Lindsey, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York.

     

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    FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2015, file photo, a forklift operator moves a pallet of goods at an Amazon.com fulfillment center in DuPont, Wash. This year, Amazon has been making an aggressive push to offer same-day delivery to its $99 annual Prime loyalty club members. Their service is now available in 750 cities and towns in 16 metro areas. And where Amazon goes, other retailers must follow. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
    Ted. S. Warren/APA forklift operator moves a pallet of goods at an Amazon.com fulfillment center in DuPont, Wash.
    By MAE ANDERSON

    NEW YORK -- Everyone likes the idea of same-day delivery. But who wants to pay for it?

    That's the problem merchants face as the busy holiday shopping season approaches. They want to offer customers the near-instant gratification that usually only comes with shopping in stores or via apps like Uber and Seamless (GRUB). But the logistics and costs of same-day delivery -- the fuel, labor, infrastructure and other costs -- have been difficult challenges to surmount.

    This year, Amazon (AMZN) has been making an aggressive push to offer same-day delivery to people who've paid its $99 fee for Prime loyalty club membership. That service is now available in 23 metro areas. And where Amazon goes, other retailers must follow.

    "Over the past 18 to 24 months Amazon has been pushing the bar" for fast and cheap delivery, said Daphne Carmeli, CEO of Deliv, a startup that works with retailers to provide same-day delivery. "If you're in retail, you have to step up to the new bar."

    Retailers trying to compete with Amazon on the road Amazon created will always be at a disadvantage.

    Amazon, of course, doesn't have to pay for the cost of store upkeep, not counting its new bookstore in Seattle. And it makes money from other non-retail areas, such as its cloud computing arm, so it can afford to offer delivery services others can't.

    "Retailers trying to compete with Amazon on the road Amazon created will always be at a disadvantage," said shipping industry expert Satish Jindel. "There's only so long they can absorb the cost, it's a huge challenge for retailers."

    Providing hassle-free, same-day delivery has been a quixotic quest for retailers for more than a decade. During the first Internet boom, startups like Kozmo.com became ubiquitous in New York as employees with purple messenger bags fanned out to deliver snacks and household goods. But it didn't make money, went bust and became a cautionary tale for the future.

    "I remember using Kozmo.com a decade ago," said C.J. Dugan, 37, a TV producer in Chicago. "One night we ordered a tub of ice cream and the movie 'Pitch Black.' They showed up in about 30 minutes. It was before its time, I guess."

    Fifteen years later, things are definitely different. Driver routes are easier to track with smartphone GPS technology, more brick-and-mortar retailers are speeding delivery by using their stores as de facto warehouses, and more people are willing to work in an "on-demand" fashion popularized by Uber and service apps like Taskrabbit.

    So more retailers are taking on the challenge of same day. Start-up delivery service Deliv is working with Macy's (M), Kohl's (KSS), Express (EXPR), Williams-Sonoma (WSM) and other brick-and-mortar retailers to expand same-day delivery options. Macy's offers same-day delivery in 17 cities; Kohl's this month expanded same day deliveries from six to nine cities.

    Craft-selling site Etsy (ETSY) is working with Postmates for a holiday season pilot that will let some shoppers in New York City have items delivered to their door within hours for a flat fee of $20. Apple is also working with Postmates on same-day deliveries in New York and San Francisco.

    Uber is jumping into the same-day delivery game, too. In October it launched an UberRush service in New York, San Francisco and Chicago that lets small businesses offer same-day delivery. Any small business within a certain geographic range in those areas can sign up for free and offer their online customers same-day delivery for a fee. In New York, UberRush will cost users $3 to start, then $2.5 a mile with a minimum of $5. Rates vary slightly in Chicago and San Francisco.

    The holiday season will be a test for the new services. Not all businesses have found it's what their customers want.

    Last July, eBay (EBAY) shut down its eBay Now service, which it started in San Francisco in 2013 and expanded to four cities. The company said it's now testing options that are "more relevant" to its sellers.

    Rob Howard, who runs same-day delivery provider Grand Junction Inc., said eBay Now's business model, which paid drivers to enter retail stores, buy an item and deliver it, was "very high cost and unsustainable." Deliv, by contrast, works with retailers to have packages ready to go for drivers when they arrive.

    And the cost remains a sticking point. Amazon offers some same-day deliveries for free, subsidized by revenue streams elsewhere. But others charge $5 to $20, a cost that deters some users.

    "It's nice to have, if you can get it for free," said Forrester (FORR) analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, who tracks the e-commerce industry, describing the mindset for many.

    Speedy delivery could help drive customer loyalty in some cases. Dugan, the former Kozmo.com user, doesn't use one-day delivery a lot. But he recently ordered a mat for his standing work desk from Amazon Prime Now.

    "From the time I placed the order to when it arrived at our reception was just over an hour -- it was pretty awesome," he said. "I can't say I'll use the service all the time, but this was about the perfect experience when I really, really needed something."

     

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    US Markets Open For Shortened Thanksgiving Holiday Week
    Spencer Platt/Getty Images
    By Sinead Carew

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stock indexes closed slightly lower in quiet trading Monday on Wall Street after last week's strong gains, while a big health care deal failed to impress investors.

    Pfizer's (PFE) announcement of what is expected to be the biggest-ever health care deal pushed its shares down 2.6 percent making it one of the biggest drags on the S&P. Target company Allergan (AGN) closed 3.4 percent lower after the $160 billion deal announcement.

    Today was a dull day unless you're involved in Pfizer or Allergan. Away from that, it's kind of aimless.

    "Today was a dull day unless you're involved in Pfizer or Allergan. Away from that, it's kind of aimless," said Brian Fenske, head of sales trading at ITG in New York. "Nobody was panicking when the market was going lower. It wasn't really on heavy volume."

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 31.13 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,792.68, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 2.58 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,086.59 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 2.44 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 5,102.48.

    Disappointment in the Pfizer-Allergan deal was driven by weaker-than-hoped-for projected savings from the complex deal, antitrust issues, along with a possible delay in Pfizer's plan to split into two companies, according to analysts.

    A few days ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, when markets are closed and traders take time off, about 6.18 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 7.2 billion average for the 20 sessions, according to Reuters data.

    Unimpressive Data

    After a week when the S&P 500 had its best performance of the year, investors were unimpressed by Monday's economic data and some were concerned that economic growth may be slower than expected, said Stephen Massocca, Chief Investment Officer of Wedbush Equity Management in San Francisco.

    "We had a very large rally last week and it's not surprising to see the market correct after that," said Massocca.

    Sales of existing homes fell in October as a persistent shortage of properties limited choice for potential buyers and pushed up prices, suggesting some softening in the housing market recovery after strong gains early this year.

    A separate report showed Markit's Purchasing Managers Index hit a 25-month low in early November, highlighting continued weakness in the factory sector.

    S&P utilities were the worst performer with a 1 percent decline, followed by telecommunications services. Those sectors tend to be affected by expectations for a U.S. Federal Reserve hike in interest rates.

    The staples was the strongest, led by a 10.2 percent increase in shares of Tyson Foods (TSN) to $48.09 after its quarterly sales beat estimates.

    The energy sector rose 0.7 percent, as crude prices were volatile after Saudi Arabia agreed to cooperate with other oil producers to stabilize prices but traders worried about a global supply glut and signs of rising U.S. stockpiles.

    Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 1,581 to 1,466, for a 1.08-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,566 issues rose and 1,236 fell, a 1.27-to-1 ratio favoring advancers. The S&P 500 posted 25 new 52-week highs and 4 lows; the Nasdaq recorded 77 new highs and 77 lows.

    -Abhiram Nandakumar contributed reporting from Bangalore, India.

    What to watch Tuesday:
    • The Commerce Department releases its second estimate for the third-quarter gross domestic product at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
    • Standard & Poor's releases S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for September and the third quarter at 9 a.m.
    • The Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for November at 10 a.m.
    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results.
    • Burlington Stores (BURL)
    • Campbell Soup Co. (CPB)
    • Cracker Barrel (CBRL)
    • Dollar Tree (DLTR)
    • Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)
    • Hormel Foods (HRL)
    • HP Inc. (HPQ)
    • Signet Jewelers (SIG)
    • Tiffany & Co. (TIF)
    • Valspar (VAL)

     

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    Man Sitting With Laptop And Credit Card Shopping Online
    Getty Images
    When used properly, credit cards are extremely valuable personal finance tools. Credit cards can offer four big benefits:

    1. Responsible usage of a credit card is the easiest way to build a good credit score. Despite widespread myths, you don't need to go into debt to have a good credit score. If you use less than 10 percent of your available credit and make your payment on time and in full every month, you will build an excellent credit score over time without paying a dime of interest. Having a good score can help you get the best mortgage and auto insurance rates. In addition, credit scores are used by auto insurance companies in most states to determine your rate.

    2. Using a credit card for purchases provides you with much better fraud protection than a debit card. According to Peter Dean, the CEO of Optimizing Risk, the Fair Credit Billing Act only limits your liability to $50 if you report unauthorized use within two days. After two days, your liability increases to $600. After 60 days, you have unlimited liability. With credit cards, the liability is always capped to $50, and most credit card issuers waive that for marketing purposes.

    3. Credit card companies offer a grace period. That means you will never pay interest if you pay your statement balance on time and in full. You are effectively able to borrow money at zero percent every month.

    4. You can earn rewards or airline miles with a credit card. It is easy to find a cash back credit card that pays 2 percent unlimited cash back. But you can even find cards with better earn rates. A study by MagnifyMoney has found cards paying 3 percent or more in certain categories.

    Despite all of these benefits, credit cards can become incredibly expensive when not used properly. Here are the five biggest credit card traps to avoid.

    1. You spend more than you should. Credit card companies typically issue limits that are multiples of your monthly gross income. If you make $3,000 a month before taxes, you should not be surprised to receive a credit limit of $6,000 or more. Credit card companies just need to ensure that you can afford to pay the minimum due every month, which is typically 2 percent of the balance. With big limits, it is easy to spend more than you should. Countless studies have shown that people spend more when they use plastic instead of cash. If you don't have the self-discipline to spend only what you can afford to pay in full every month, you can end up in debt very quickly.

    2. You pay a much higher interest rate than you should. Interest rates on credit cards are not low. The average interest rate on credit cards is 14 percent, and for people with lower credit scores the rate can be much higher. Personal loans typically have much lower rates than credit cards. You can find some of the best personal loan providers at MagnifyMoney.com, and rates start as low as 4.05 percent.

    3. You use your credit card for a cash advance. A cash advance can be very expensive on a credit card. You will typically be charged a fee for the cash advance, which is usually around 5 percent (or a minimum of $10). So, if you take out $500 you would be charged $25 right away. In addition, you wouldn't earn rewards and interest accrues immediately. There is no grace period. Finally, there is a separate cash advance rate that is much higher than a purchase rate.

    4. You use your credit card for overdraft protection. Mistakes can happen, and having overdraft protection can be a useful insurance policy. However, linking your credit card can make it a very expensive insurance policy. Most banks would charge you twice. First, the checking account would charge an overdraft transfer fee of $10 to $12. Second, the credit card would charge a cash advance fee, because the overdraft would be treated as a cash advance on the credit card. That means interest would accrue, at a higher interest rate, immediately. It is far better to link a savings account for overdraft protection. Even more importantly, you should just make sure you build a buffer in your checking account. With savings account interest rates so low, you would likely be better off keeping that money in your checking account to avoid an overdraft fee, rather than earning 0.01 percent in your bank's savings account.

    5. You pay late. Late fees on credit cards can be shockingly high, typically $30 or more. And you only need to be a day late for most credit card companies to charge you the fee. The good news is that your credit score will likely not be impacted, because most credit card companies only report delinquencies after you are 30 days late. However, you will be wasting a lot of money. Just automate your monthly payment to avoid the fees. If you do become 60 days or more late, your interest rate can increase to a punitive rate, which is usually around 30 percent.

    If you are responsible, and have self-discipline, a credit card is a wonderful tool that makes it easy and safe to pay all over the world. But if you can't control your spending, a credit card can become dangerously expensive quickly. Make sure you have an honest assessment of yourself before you decide whether to swipe or carry cash.

    ​Nick Clements is co-founder of MagnifyMoney.com, a price comparison website. Previously, he was a managing director at Barclays.

     

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    Family Toasting at Thanksgiving
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    By Lou Carlozo

    For most of us, entertaining on Turkey Day means one (difficult) thing: juggling. Trying to balance the wave of relatives and friends, all while keeping a budget and loading up the sleeping bag for the Black Friday campout, is a tricky endeavor. So what can you do?

    Here, we offer our best tips for how to save on hosting the Thanksgiving meal this year, and ways to entertain without getting drained.

    Save Money (and Time) With a Potluck

    This idea depends entirely on what kind of friends and such you have: the adventurous, fun kind or those who will bang on the table like gorillas until you serve the big bird. If it's the former, put out some feelers to see how the idea of a potluck strikes them. You can make it easier for them by taking on the turkey task by yourself while others chip in on the trimmings, dessert, etc. Aside from being thrifty, this can prove incredibly festive if you and your crew would otherwise spend Thanksgiving alone, or in small pockets of two or three.

    "Potluck Thanksgiving also serves as a time-saver and allows guests to enjoy a variety of cooking styles," says Rick Castellano, a spokesman with Upromise. It's especially smart if you're a college or graduate student adult doing the hosting.

    Share the Love by Sharing Leftovers

    If you're the kind who refuses to skimp on a Thanksgiving meal, we're right there with you. But if you're also the kind who gets stuck eating turkey-topped pizza and turkey smoothies for the next three weeks, then you could certainly benefit here. "Be realistic about what you will eat at dinner and what you can consume in leftovers," says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations with Freedom Financial Network. "Send some leftovers home with guests, and freeze some to enjoy later." Adds Castellano, "As tempting as it is to live off Thanksgiving leftovers for two weeks, consider giving to your local food bank."

    Focus on Food Instead of Decor

    We're not trying to yank the stuffing plate away -- just the impulse to go overboard with decorating your home for your guests. "Keep the focus on the food instead of the decorations," Gallegos advises. Here's an easy way to go cheap and classy: "Gather attractive houseplants in a large basket, bowl, or even a box decorated with fabric or paper for a centerpiece." Want to go classier still on a budget? "Small plants chosen for the occasion could be given to guests as favors when they leave."

    Fast-Forward to December Fun by Trimming the Tree

    Entertaining guests poses a challenge of extremes: Throwing the Big Game on the big screen doesn't work for those who couldn't care less about football, and hiring a string quartet is excessive, even for Donald Trump. Since most people rush by Thanksgiving to get to the December holidays anyway, give some thought to breaking out the ornaments and having everyone trim the tree (assuming you can put one up this early). It's a novel twist on a holiday pastime and much in the spirit of our next tip.

    Revive a Lost Tradition: Ye Olde Song Circle

    Think back to a time before smartwatches ... smartphones ... flat-screen TVs. Can't think back past yesterday's breakfast, eh? Well, in the days before radio, families gathered in the living room after a celebratory meal to sing holiday songs, accompanied by piano, reed organ, or the aptly named parlor guitar. Why not revive a lost custom this year?

    Tell your friends and family to bring song lyric printouts, instruments and the like. Have kazoos or something else fun on hand for those who claim a lack of musical talent. This activity is way cheap, way fun, and gets your guests to interact instead of crawling into the stale cocoon known as cable TV. How many reruns of "Seinfeld" can your posse watch anyway?

    Ditch the Paper Plates and Don't Be Afraid to Borrow

    We all want to save on time and labor on Thanksgiving, so there's the possibility of going with paper plates and cups or having food catered. One obvious savings point is to cook the meal yourself, or with help: Look for those close to you who love to help in the kitchen.

    But what if you could take what you spend on paper plates and keep it as paper cash? "If you are short on place settings, borrow -- neighbors, family, and guests usually are happy to share," Gallegos says. "Or look on Craigslist, eBay or at thrift stores for extras you can reuse throughout the year."

    Avoid Leaving Stuff to the Last Minute

    Next to cooking too much, the next greatest risk in entertaining comes when you leave everything until the last minute. As Gallegos sums it up, "If you are just days away from Thanksgiving with nothing planned, human nature says that you will be more likely to run to the store and load up on somewhat random items for your meal and day." And by not planning in advance, you make it more likely you will spend too much.

    Readers, how do you save money while hosting for big family meals like Thanksgiving? Share your tips for budgeting, and staying sane, in the comments below.

     

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    Holiday Shopping Black Friday
    J Pat Carter/AP
    Every year, savvy shoppers find deep discounts online and in stores on Black Friday. Whether they're looking for the newest, most advanced tech device or the perfect outfit for New Year's Eve, buyers know retailers will offer some of their best deals during this time.

    But are all the deals great? Do you have to shop online to find them? And do Black Friday sales even have to begin on Black Friday? We've addressed these questions, and quite a few more, in our list of the biggest myths about Black Friday. Brush up on some shopping knowledge now, so you're well prepared for the upcoming deal season.

    1. Black Friday Sales Begin on Black Friday

    Much like Christmas itself, Black Friday is now a full season. Sure, Black Friday proper is the main attraction, but stores have increasingly started to release deals in waves. Bargains can be found early in the week of Thanksgiving and run all the way through the weekend. (In fact, some of Amazon's deals have been available all week.) The bottom line is, if you're doing all your deal-hunting exclusively on Black Friday, then you're missing out.

    2. You're Missing Out if You Only Shop Online

    Companies advertise doorbusters in order to attract customers to their brick-and-mortar stores. But in recent years, as competition has escalated among rival retailers, those eye-catching deals have steadily moved online as well. In fact this year, we saw our first mobile app-only deals and perks.

    The reason is simple. Traditional retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy know that online retailers such as Amazon will match their best prices on in-store deals. Thus it only makes sense to offer the same deals online, to remain competitive. The goal is to beat Amazon, but the real winners are deal-hunters.

    3. Black Friday Shopping is Dangerous

    We've all seen the footage. Hordes of crazed holiday shoppers stampede into a store at four in the morning, trampling anyone and everyone in the way. It makes for a morbidly fascinating spectacle, a case study for shoppers as social Darwinists, played out on live TV.

    But the truth is that those sorts of incidents are actually extremely rare. We just happen to see the worst on the news because it translates into great TV. While you should be aware of the potential for chaos during your in-store shopping, know that it's unlikely to reach aggressive proportions.

    4. All Black Friday Deals Are Amazing

    This is shopping 101. Remember, retailers are in business to make a buck, and they can't do that if they lose money -- or even make too small a profit -- on every deal.

    Some deals are great, but others are filler. The great ones are there to lure you into buying more stuff, ideally at a healthy markup. So do your research and uncover the truth about those "rock bottom" prices before you buy.

    5. All Black Friday Deals Appear in Ads

    Nope. For one thing, websites like Amazon don't even run traditional ads. So you won't be able to scope out their deals beforehand on TV or in the newspaper. Plus, because most of the big stores want to out-do each other, there's a certain amount of responsive pricing that comes after the ads debut.

    If Walmart, for example, is offering a crazy discount on a TV, and it's getting a lot of attention for that price, then there's a good chance that its competitors will consider doing the same at the last minute.

    6. Apple's Black Friday Sale is a Must-Shop Event for Apple Fans

    Apple Stores across the country will be packed on Black Friday, but they won't be offering great deals. Last year, the tech giant offered gift cards with its full-price devices, which was pretty disappointing for shoppers hoping for a discount. If you want a real deal, you'd be better off checking out what third-party retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy and MacMall can do.

    Apple doesn't want to be known as a brand for discounts, but in the past few years, these resellers have been a lot more liberal with their Apple promos. In fact, last Black Friday, Target offered huge gift cards with every iPad model, while the MacBook Air fell to all-time low prices. Check out our roundup of the best advertised Apple device prices for more details on where to shop this year.

    7. You Have to Stay Glued to Your Computer All Day to Get Deals

    Sure, Black Friday can be stressful. With deals popping up throughout the day, you might feel like you have to keep your eyes on the computer monitor.

    But that's simply not the case. DealNews has you covered. Before you spend 24 hours staring at a pixelated screen, set up an alert with us to receive notifications when your favorite deals are posted. (Keep in mind though that once your deal of choice goes live, you will have to buy quickly.)

    8. Once You Hit "Purchase," It's Yours

    Every year, plenty of shoppers have online orders canceled for various reasons. The price listed on the website might be incorrect (it happened infamously with Best Buy in 2011), or the item might have sold out so fast that the company couldn't process all the orders before you pressed "purchase."

    On the other hand, check the fine print. If you want to back out of a buy, you might be able to cancel the order. But you might also be stuck if the merchandise is listed as "final sale."

    Just remember, with all the money changing hands, businesses tend to tighten their return policies during the holiday season. Buy wisely, and make sure to ask for gift receipts when necessary.

    9. Online Shopping is Always Easier

    As anyone who's lived through Black Friday knows, the online experience isn't always stress-free. Technology isn't perfect. Websites can crash or even fail. And when everything works properly, some deals will simply sell out before you can place your order. The latter is a common complaint for flash sales from Amazon, for example. But at least you're still shopping from home!

    10. Luxury Goods Don't Go on Sale for Black Friday

    It's true that Black Friday emphasizes lower-end electronics, however, in recent years, several luxury retailers have begun offering sales and promotions through their outlets. Stores like Last Call by Neiman Marcus, Barney's Warehouse and Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th are a few outlets you can expect to participate in Black Friday sales. Plus, even Apple products go on sale now! (Check out our Black Friday clothing guide for more info on luxury items.)

    11. Cyber Monday Sales Are Full of Leftovers From Black Friday

    Black Friday may get all the attention, but last year Cyber Monday managed to trump Black Friday in terms of overall Editors' Choice deals (our designation for the best sales of the year, with prices we've rarely seen before). So Cyber Monday isn't a slouch, and it certainly doesn't just recirculate Black Friday castoffs. Cyber Monday is no longer a holiday you can afford to skip!

    12. Doorbusters Are Always Crappy Quality

    Bargain bin devices have a reputation for being bottom-of-the-barrel items that nobody wants, and you have to be careful for retailers trying to pass off questionable devices as "special edition." But over the past few years, the doobuster selections have been showing more flair than usual to entice customers. For example, we've seen rock-bottom prices on laptops with better-than-average specs, as well as eye-popping TV deals from brands you've actually heard of before.

    13. Black Friday is Overrated

    Sure, it's bloated. Yes, there's plenty of nonsense. And in all the chaos, some shoppers can forget that they're members of the human race. We get it. Black Friday can be crazy. But if you do your research and stick with DealNews, you can find some amazing prices out there, many of which will be the best of the year. When you know what to look for and expect, then you're less likely to get burned by Black Friday.

    14. You Should Feel Bad if You Miss Black Friday

    But, despite all the good deals we'll see during Black Friday, don't beat yourself up if you can't partake in the savings this year. The Black Friday season is special because it contains such a high level of amazing discounts in a short period of time, but we'll frequently see these promos again. They might require more patience and hawk-eyed attention throughout the year, but you can find many Black Friday prices again later if you miss out. It's just a matter of when.

    What have you learned from your experiences with Black Friday shopping? Let us know your biggest Black Friday myths in the comments.
    Holiday Shopping Tips

     

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    Multicolored lottery or bingo balls
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    By Mikey Rox

    A retirement or savings plan based on winning the lottery isn't actually a plan -- it's a wish. There are much smarter things to do with your hard earned cash. We all know this. Yet many of us still buy numbers and scratchers, for the thrill, for the dream. If you just can't resist, take a moment to slightly improve your odds. Just promise that if you win with any of these lottery hacks, you'll share your winnings with me. It's only fair.

    1. Pick your own numbers. Richard Lustig, seven-time lottery winner whose total earnings amount to more than $1 million, claims that one foolproof way to increase your chances of cashing in is to pick your own numbers rather than allowing the system do a quick pick for you. In an interview with CBS News a couple years ago, he said, "The lazy way out is to buy quick-picks. The computer picks out the numbers. Don't play quick-picks. Quick-picks are the worst thing you can do, you are playing with the worst odds."

    Instead, choose your numbers, research them to make sure they're a good set of numbers, and stick with them. But how do you know if they're 'good' numbers? By buying his book, "Learn How to Increase Your Chance of Winning the Lottery," of course. On second thought ...

    2. Stick to a regular set of numbers. Once you've found a set of 'good' numbers as determined by your research, stick to them -- and then play consistently.

    "Obviously playing regularly will boost your chances. There is no worse feeling than seeing your winning numbers on the week you forgot to buy your ticket!" suggests MSN Money.

    3. Buy more tickets, even if you have to split it. Sometimes increasing the number of tickets you purchase is cost prohibitive. In those cases, especially when massive jackpots are at stake, it may make sense to go in on a large number of tickets with a group of people, like friends, family or co-workers. Office lottery pools are quite common when lotteries reach their peak jackpots, and it's not unusual to hear about a group of coworkers winning the jackpot and thus splitting the windfall.

    4. Check your numbers religiously. How's this for a sobering statistic: About $2 billion in lottery prizes go unclaimed every year, according to CNN Money. This could be for several reasons, like players have lost their winning tickets, but most of the unclaimed money is a result of winners not checking their tickets or realizing they have a winning ticket. To avoid becoming a statistic, keep your tickets in a safe place and take them to your local lottery scanner regularly.

    5. Use the Singleton Method to win more scratch-offs. According to WikiHow, a quirk in the production of scratch-off tickets can double your chances of winning, if exploited correctly. The Singleton Method, in short, is an exercise in probability by finding sets of single numbers that only appear once on a scratch card, particularly in "match style" or" tic-tac-toe" games, in which you need three numbers in row to win. By studying this method, you can essentially eliminate those that don't fall under the winning category of the Singleton Method, and increase your chances of winning 60 to 90 percent.

    6. Use your math skills to increase your chances at powerball games. WikiHow also details how to increase your odds of winning Powerball games, but you'll need to tap into your math skills (or at least a calculator) to make a go of it. Steps include finding the expected value of the game, determining the probability of each possible "win," multiplying that probability by the payout for that win, buying tickets that increase the expected value, and looking for progressive jackpots. There's also a mention of considering the tax implications of a Powerball win, which, incidentally, can be applied to all lottery wins above $10,000.

    Do you have other tips on how to increase your chances of winning the lottery? Let me know in the comments below.

     

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    Senior woman looking horrified at computer monitor
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    By Robert McGarvey

    Three letters may spell trouble for you in the frantic shopping season that is about to explode: CNP, which stands for Card Not Present. That -- obviously -- is how online merchants process payments (unlike, say, a local pizzeria, they never see or touch the plastic). And at least some experts are predicting an explosion in CNP over the holidays.

    CNP fraud is going up three times faster than card present fraud, said Julie Conroy, a banking expert at consulting firm Aite Group.

    That was expected, kind of -- but the fast velocity of growth is much brisker than had been anticipated. And, said Conroy, expect to see still more: "We see steady growth for CNP fraud."

    The trigger event happened Oct. 1 when both merchants and card issuers were supposed to -- by edict of MasterCard (MA) and Visa (V) -- be ready for so-called EMV cards, aka chip cards. The plus of a chip card is that it dramatically cuts down on card counterfeiting. With mag stripe cards, card printers were plentiful and cheap, as was card stock. Anybody with a stolen credit card number could print out a new card and be in business thieving at a local merchant. Not so with EMV, where the chip technology introduces complexities that, so far, seem beyond the ability of crooks, certainly of run-of-the-mill criminals, to manufacture counterfeits.

    So they turn to online shopping where the chip plays no role, because -- again -- the online merchant never sees or touches the plastic.

    Just about very fraud expert had predicted a spurt in CNP fraud post Oct. 1, but Conroy is saying CNP started exploding before Oct. 1, and the theft has just kept on surging.

    She's not alone. ACI Worldwide, a global provider of electronic payment and banking solutions, has said its data show a 28 percent spike in card not present fraud, which ACI attributes to the deployment of EMV.

    Branden Williams, a vice president at large credit card processor First Data (FDC), said there's worse to come. According to him, First Data expects the real explosion of CNP fraud to happen next holiday season, not this one. That's because for now criminals have plenty of retailers that aren't yet EMV compliant (he estimated that maybe 80 percent of terminals aren't).

    Even so, Alisdair Faulkner, chief product officer at security company ThreatMetrix, predicted: "We expect to see a dramatic spike in CNP over the holiday season. For many retailers a large amount of profits come in a short period. Businesses find it hard to scale fraud detection systems."

    The crook's hope: his stolen credit card will escape notice in an avalanche of credit cards used, say, on Black Friday.

    Multiple experts also said they believed the top online retailers -- think Amazon (AMZN) -- are well prepared for the surge in CNP fraud attempts. But small- and mid-sized online retailers, not so much. Crooks may find the going easy with the smaller fry.

    Understand: this puts you in the crosshairs. Thieves have at their disposal hundreds of millions of stolen credit card numbers -- from Target (TGT), HomeDepot (HD) and other breaches -- and they are putting those numbers to use making Card Not Present purchases online. Yes, you are protected against loss, especially with credit cards (protections are weaker for debit cards), but you have to notice a fraudulent transaction and report it. This is no time to get negligent about reading credit and debit card statements. Double down on that chore, because the criminals are doubling down on their thieving.

    Is there more you can do? Said Chris Strand, an EMV expert with security firm Bit9+Carbon Black: "It's up to us to be proactive. The bank may or may not be. We can take control."

    How? Jim Wang, who blogs at WalletHacks, offered a clever tactic. He gets instant notification from a credit card whenever a CNP transaction occurs. He said American Express (AXP) offers that. "For other cards that don't offer CNP alerts, I turn on security alerts via email for transactions over $10," Wang added. "It might sound like a lot of notifications but the emails arrive shortly after the transaction, so I always remember the purchase that triggered it."

    Isn't that a lot of work? It is. But know this: trying to clean up credit trashed by identify theft criminals is a lot more work. More advice -- a labor-saving tip from multiple experts -- is save time in the holiday season by using just one credit card for the bulk of our purchases. That makes it all the easier to stay on top of what's happening inside your credit.

    This article is commentary by an independent contributor.

     

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    FILE - In this June 6, 2015, file photo, a customer, bottom, pays for goods while shopping at the Atlanta Farmers Market in Atlanta. The Commerce Department issues the first of three estimates of how the U.S. economy performed in the July-September quarter on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
    David Goldman/AP
    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy grew at a healthier clip in the third quarter than initially thought, but strong inventory accumulation by businesses could temper expectations of an acceleration in growth in the final three months of the year.

    The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the nation's gross domestic product grew at a 2.1 percent annual pace, not the 1.5 percent rate it reported last month, as businesses reduced an inventory bloat less aggressively than previously believed.

    The pace of economic growth, which was also boosted by upward revisions to business spending on equipment, suggests a resilience that could help give the Federal Reserve confidence to raise interest rates next month.

    With growth like this, the Fed has the data it needs to light the candle finally and lift off on Dec. 16.

    While consumer spending was revised down a bit, its pace remained brisk, suggesting consumers were cash-flush.

    "The economy continues to move along at a good clip relative to its potential. With growth like this, the Fed has the data it needs to light the candle finally and lift off on Dec. 16," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York.

    When measured from the income side, the economy grew at a sturdy 3.1 percent clip, the fastest in a year and an acceleration from the second quarter's upwardly 2.2 percent pace. Wages and salaries increased $109.3 billion, $61.6 billion more than initially estimated.

    The third-quarter's respectable expansion should set up the economy to achieve at least 2 percent growth in the second half of the year, around its long-run potential. In the wake of robust job growth in October and strong domestic demand, the Fed is expected to raise rates at its Dec. 15-16 policy meeting.

    Other data released Tuesday showed consumer confidence fell further in November, hitting a 14-month low, as sentiment towards the labor market surprisingly soured. Economists suspected the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris and rising tensions in the Middle East had weighed on consumer confidence.

    Despite the drop, more consumers say they plan to buy homes, automobiles and other big-ticket items over the next six months.

    "The bigger picture suggests that domestic demand is still firm, spending plans are evolving positively and the housing market continues to post gains," said Robert Kavcic, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto.

    A third report showed house prices rose solidly in August.

    U.S. financial markers were little moved by the data as investors worried about global security after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane.

    Large Inventory Accumulation

    In the third quarter, businesses accumulated $90.2 billion worth of inventories, instead of the $56.8 billion reported last month. That followed more than $100 billion worth of inventories accumulated in each of the prior two quarters.

    As a result, the change in inventories chopped off only 0.59 percentage point from third-quarter GDP growth, rather than the 1.44 percentage points the government reported in October.

    That, however, suggests inventories could be a drag on fourth-quarter growth.

    "The bigger inventory overhang helps explain why manufacturing sentiment remains cautious early in the fourth quarter, and does present downside risk to our 2.5 percent estimate for current-quarter GDP growth," said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

    Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, grew at a still strong 3 percent rate in the third quarter, down from the 3.2 percent rate estimated last month. The downward revisions mostly reflected weak outlays on communication services and utilities.

    A measure of private domestic demand, which excludes trade, inventories and government spending, was revised down to a still sturdy 3.1 percent pace from the previously 3.2 percent rate.

    Though there are signs consumer spending slowed early in the fourth quarter, it should continue to be supported by strong income gains. Income at the disposal of households after adjusting for inflation rose at a robust 3.9 percent pace in the third quarter.

    A trade deficit that was larger than previously estimated subtracted 0.22 percentage point from GDP growth in the third quarter. Data released Tuesday showing a smaller goods trade deficit suggested trade would contribute to fourth-quarter growth.

    Deep spending cuts by energy firms following a collapse in oil prices continued to weigh on growth. Spending on mining exploration, wells and shafts tumbled at a 47.1 percent rate, rather than the 46.9 percent pace reported last month.

    However, business spending on equipment was revised up to a 9.5 percent rate from a 5.3 percent pace.

    The Commerce Department also reported that corporate profits after tax fell at a 1.6 percent rate in the third quarter after rising at a 2.6 percent pace in the second quarter. Profits, which have been undercut by the dollar's strength and lower oil prices, were down 8.1 percent from a year ago, the biggest decline since the fourth quarter of 2008.

     

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    Shoppers Inside A Target Corp. Store Ahead Of Black Friday Sales
    Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesTarget shoppers on Black Friday, November 2014
    By Kylie Gumpert and Nandita Bose

    NEW YORK and CHICAGO -- Target's (TGT) 10 percent discount on a $30.49 pair of embroidered curtains wasn't nearly enough to entice Valerie Jenkins, shopping in Chicago the weekend before Thanksgiving.

    She expects the 60 to 70 percent off she got during the last holidays. "There were some very good deals this time last year," she said.

    Jenkins represents a problem for retailers going into what traditionally has been the peak shopping day of the holiday season, Black Friday. Big retailers are keeping discounts for the weekend following Thanksgiving at around the same level as last year, according to data supplied to Reuters by MarketTrak.

    But polls by Reuters/Ipsos and some others show shoppers, who got even bigger discounts closer to Christmas last year, are cautious with their spending and willing to wait for deals.

    The Reuters/Ipsos survey found more people planned to cut holiday spending than increase in every category surveyed: clothing, jewelry, electronics, food and toys, and that 46 percent felt they could wait longer in the season to buy because of faster shipping.

    Black Friday shopping will help set the tone for the rest of the holiday season, signaling to retailers whether they need to drop prices or change promotions. While Black Friday isn't always a strong forecaster of holiday spending, last year reports of poor Black Friday spending were followed by deeper discounting and a rush of buying in the week before Christmas.

    J.C. Penney (JCP) offered an average 58 percent off in Black Friday ads this year, down from 59 percent last year, according to MarketTrak, which looks at circulars from top retailers. Kohl's (KSS) is offering 54 percent off, up from 51 percent in 2014, and discounts from Staples (SPLS) and Office Depot (ODP) are both a touch less than last year, at 45 and 50 percent, respectively.

    Appliances, entertainment items, infant products and hardware showed narrowing discounts, MarketTrak reported, while promotions for apparel, toys and electronics were getting bigger.

    Kurt Jetta, head of retail industry researcher TABS Group, found the discounts underwhelming.

    "The fact that retail has been so weak coming in to the season would suggest they may need to ramp up efforts to make up for this later," Jetta said.

    Consumers were cautious going into the holidays, with sales at Macy's, Nordstrom Inc and Best Buy missing expectations in recent quarterly results. Target's online sales fell due to a drop in demand for electronics.

    Looking for Discounts

    The Reuters/Ipsos survey of 4,639 adults from Nov. 12-23 found 28 percent of consumers expected discounts of 50 percent or more on most items, 36 percent hoped to see promotions of at least 33 percent while 49 percent expect a minimum discount of 20 percent on most products.

    A survey for Boston Consulting Group found 70 percent of consumers would spend the same or less as last year, describing the consumer outlook as "tepid."

    Still, spending intentions are difficult to gauge and Gallup reported Americans plan to spend $830 on gifts this season, up from $720 a year ago at this time.

    The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to rise 3.7 percent, slower than last year's 4.1 percent growth rate, due to stagnant wages and sluggish job creation.

    Many retailers including Macy's (M) came into the season with high winter clothing inventory after warm weather in September and October, which also will increase discounting pressure.

    "Consumers have been trained to know that they can wait, and they will wait and that will force the retailers to continue to be promotional," said Joel Bines, managing director at AlixPartners.

    -Nathan Layne in Chicago and Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore, India, contributed reporting.

     

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    Engagement ring and cash
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    Marriage is amazing.

    That is, if all goes well. And many times, it doesn't.

    There are many issues married couples must deal with that singles don't experience -- and they aren't simple issues to solve, either.

    Think about it. When you want to buy that new car you've been eyeing since the fourth grade, you remember and think to yourself, "Oh yeah, I'm married. I just can't go out and buy a car!" At least, if you're an experienced married person, you won't make the mistake of purchasing something big without talking with your spouse first. And that, can be complicated. Convincing your spouse isn't always the easiest thing to do.

    When you slip that ring onto their finger, it's no longer all about "me," it's all about "we." Unfortunately, many newlyweds aren't truly ready for that level of commitment. So they learn as they go.

    Whether you're learning as you go, you're doing well or you're preparing for marriage, make sure you avoid these financial blunders in marriage.

    1. Not creating and sticking to a budget. If you hear the word "budget" and cringe, don't worry, you're not alone. In fact, I hate budgeting. Why do I hate budgeting? It's usually pretty boring.

    Still, if you're married, it's absolutely necessary to budget in order to keep fights down to a minimum and to maintain one's sanity. Seriously.

    When your wife buys $500 worth of clothing in one day because you don't work a budget together, and you get mad at her, how do you think she's going to feel? After all, if that's how she has always spent money, why should she do anything different?

    OK, OK, perhaps she should have had the wisdom to ask you first before making such a large purchase. But it may not have even crossed her mind that $500 is a lot of money to spend on clothing in one day -- at least, she had no clue that it was a lot of money to you.

    Maybe your husband has been eyeing that new truck and decides to give it a test spin. The salesperson is good and your husband buys the truck because you aren't working a budget with him. Similar scenario, but much more costly. Yikes.

    You see, budgets keep both spouses on the same page regarding what should be spent and what should not be spent (and on what money should be spent on). Perhaps, for example, you and your spouse can agree to only spend $200 a month on clothing. Maybe you decide to only spend $600 a month on groceries. It could be that you decide to have some discretionary fun money that can be spent on whatever you each individually want.

    As you start to budget together, you'll find that many times having a budget frees you to spend money freely without hesitation -- because it's in the budget. This is very liberating -- which is pretty profound as many people feel budgets restrict people instead of free them.

    Learn how to make a budget that works and get to it. You'll be glad you did.

    2. Not communicating regularly about financial goals. Now, budgeting in a marriage lends itself to having a higher degree of communication about money, but it doesn't necessarily help all the way.

    That's where communicating regularly about financial goals comes into play. In fact, when you're creating your budget, you should also be budgeting for large purchases you may want to make (including a down payment on a home, saving for retirement or saving for your children's college education).

    If you're not communicating with your spouse about what you want your lives to look like in 10, 20 or 30 years, what you're really doing is leaving your future completely up to chance or up to whoever has the strongest will. Instead, talk about the future regularly and dream together about your goals and ambitions. By doing so, you'll be able to build those goals into your finances and make them much more likely to be accomplished.

    3. Maintaining debt because of a lack of contentment. There are a number of circumstances when incurring debt might be a reasonable option. There also might be circumstances when keeping debt around temporarily is reasonable as well. However, if you're increasing your debt as a couple because of your lack of contentment (when you really should be content with what you have), there's a problem.

    This financial blunder can have devastating effects on a marriage. Why strain your marriage over debt when you don't have to have debt? Do you really think that getting that fancy new car you can't afford to gambling with your credit card is going to make you happy over the long-term? Forget about it.

    Instead, find contentment. Don't become materialistic.

    4. Keeping separate bank accounts. This financial blunder should be a no-brainer -- avoid it.

    If you're going to be working a budget together as you should, why keep your bank accounts separate? There should be no secrets in marriage. If you're married, you should definitely have joint bank accounts. This will also put more pressure on both of you to work together toward your shared goals.

    I realize that some people have separate bank accounts because perhaps one account is for the bills and another account is for one-time purchases. Why can't both of these accounts be joint accounts?

    Really, the way I see it, there's no reason to have separate bank accounts. In marriage you're one, and so should be your access to bank accounts.

    5. Not having an emergency fund. Emergency funds play a critical role in financial plans. Should something happen to you, your spouse, your children, or your property, your emergency fund should help offset the financial losses.

    Why is having an emergency fund particularly important in marriage? Some married people feel pretty comfortable not having much money in the bank. They simply trust that money will somehow always be around or that emergencies won't happen to them. But here's the thing: spouses of these people don't always feel the same way.

    Being on the brink of not being able to pay one's bills sends some people's stress levels into orbit. They can't fathom being comfortable with $1,000 or $2,000 in the bank -- they want more just in case.

    And you know what? They're right: a couple thousand dollars in an emergency fund isn't nearly enough over the long-term.

    Imagine getting into an accident where you hit a telephone pole and you don't have collision coverage. Oops. Now you need a new car and you both figure you need to spend more than two grand for reliable transportation.

    The big oops? You didn't save enough money in your emergency fund. If you're the spouse who felt comfortable with just a couple grand in the bank, imagine the look on your spouse's face when they discover that there's not enough money to pay for your accident.

    6. Keeping important business decisions private. Your spouse should be involved in all aspects of your life -- not just your personal life. If you're planning on taking out a loan for your business, for example, you should definitely talk with your spouse first.

    When I was thinking about signing up for a pricey business coaching program, I first asked my wife. Sure, she didn't jump for joy and approve right away -- but eventually she agreed and it proved beneficial to my business. Now, can you imagine if I would have just dropped over $7,000 on a coaching program without talking with her first? She wouldn't have been happy, to say the least.

    Talk with your spouse about your important business decisions before you make them.

    7. Not forgiving financial mistakes. Yes, this, too, is a financial blunder.

    When you first get on a budget together, do you really think you're both going to abide by it with perfection? Hardly. It's going to take some time to adjust to the new rules.

    So when your spouse makes a mistake, don't make the mistake of not forgiving their error. Don't hold these things against them. Intentional deviation deserves a serious conversation (still with forgiveness), but unintentional mistakes deserve a try-harder-next-time-and-no-worries sentiment (along with forgiveness).

    If you can't forgive your spouse and you harbor anger, do you really think they are going to willingly work the budget with you or communicate about finances? Probably not. They'll most likely want to hide. And that can be financially damaging, too.

    Avoid these financial blunders in marriage, and you'll be on a road not many travel -- but boy will it be worth the effort.

     

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    Janet Yellen Speaks At Monetary Policy Implementation Conference
    Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen
    By Lindsay Dunsmuir

    WASHINGTON -- The number of regional Federal Reserve banks pushing for a hike in what commercial banks are charged for emergency loans rose to nine in October, a sign the U.S. central bank may be close to tightening monetary policy, minutes from its discount rate meeting showed Tuesday.

    Eight Fed banks had voted to raise the discount rate at the prior meeting in September, a jump from five in July and August.

    Ahead of the central bank's Oct. 27-28 policy meeting, directors of the Boston Fed joined their counterparts in St. Louis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Cleveland, Dallas, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Richmond in asking the Fed's board to increase the discount rate to 1 percent from 0.75 percent, according to the minutes.

    The nine regional banks that requested a hike want to normalize the spread between the discount rate governing Fed lending to banks and the overnight federal funds rate, which is the central bank's primary economic lever.

    U.S. interest rate futures Tuesday suggested that traders saw a 74 percent chance of the central bank raising its benchmark interest rate next month for the first time in almost a decade, according to CME Group's FedWatch.

    The Fed board opted to hold the discount rate steady last month, a decision that was backed by two other regional Fed banks. The Minneapolis Fed again voted to cut the rate to 0.5 percent.

    Minutes from the October meeting showed that some directors reported reduced labor slack, with recruiting difficulties and signs of wage pressures in some sectors and parts of the country.

    Those that wanted to raise the discount rate saw it as "as appropriate in light of the improvements in labor market conditions this year and their expectations for inflation to rise gradually toward the Federal Reserve's 2 percent objective," the minutes said.

    Some directors favored an increase as they thought an earlier start to policy normalization "could allow for a more gradual pace of adjustment," the minutes added.

     

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    APTOPIX Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Sinead Carew

    NEW YORK -- U.S. shares closed higher Tuesday as energy stocks rose along with oil prices after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border.

    The three major U.S. indexes recovered from a morning sell-off that was triggered by the overseas news despite some strong U.S. economic data.

    You came in this morning and everybody was talking about this potential escalation of violence between Turkey and Russia.

    Oil prices were up more than 2 percent after a spike in Middle East tensions.

    "You came in this morning and everybody was talking about this potential escalation of violence between Turkey and Russia," said Andrew Frankel, co-president of Stuart Frankel & Co. in New York. He added that investors settled down after it appeared that Russia's response wouldn't be as confrontational as they initially feared.

    Relatively light trading appeared to exaggerate swings in the market, according to Frankel, as many market participants were away ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Markets will be closed all day Thursday and close early Friday.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 19.51 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,812.19, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 2.55 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,089.14 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 0.33 points -- basically flat -- to 5,102.81.

    Investors steered clear of many of Nasdaq's higher-valuation stocks like Netflix (NFLX) and instead took safety in cheaper stocks due to geopolitical concerns, according to J.J. Feldman, portfolio manager at Los Angeles-based Miracle Mile Advisors.

    "When you get that kind of thing people say they're going to get out of the high-flyer expensive P/E stocks and into the flight-to-quality value stocks that have been beaten down," he said.

    Travel Stocks Hit

    Travel-related stocks fell after the State Department issued a global travel alert for Americans. The Dow Jones Airlines index ended down 2.7 percent, led by a 5-percent decline in Allegiant Travel (ALGT). United Continental (UAL), Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Spirit Airlines (SAVE) all fell around 3 percent.

    Six of the 10 major S&P sectors rose and energy led with a 2.4-percent increase, followed by a 0.8 percent increase in materials.

    Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) shares fell 3.4 percent in extended trading after the close when it reported a revenue decline for the fifth straight quarter, its last before it split into two companies.

    The U.S. economy grew at a 2.1 percent pace in the third-quarter, compared with an earlier estimate of 1.5 percent, data showed, but consumer sentiment in November was the weakest since September 2014 ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season.

    Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,893 to 1,162, for a 1.63-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,659 issues rose and 1,121 fell for a 1.48-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

    The S&P 500 posted 9 new 52-week highs and 8 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 63 new highs and 74 new lows.

    About 6.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges below the 7.2 billion average for the last 20 sessions, according to Reuters data.

    -Abhiram Nandakumar contributed reporting from Bangalore, India.

    What to watch Wednesday:
    • At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims and the Commerce Department releases durable goods for October, and personal income and spending for October.
    • At 10 a.m. Eastern time, the Commerce Department releases new home sales for October; the University of Michigan reports Consumer Sentiment for November; and Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.
    • Deere & Co. (DE) releases quarterly financial results before markets open in New York.

     

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    Tips to Stay Within Your Holiday Gift Budget
    The holidays are almost here, and that means gift-giving season is right right around the corner. Unfortunately, that also means buying expensive presents for friends and loved ones. Luckily, there are ways to buy that perfect gift without unraveling your savings.

    First, when it comes to buying gifts, figure out how much you can afford. Financial advisers suggest spending no more than 1.5% of your annual take-home income during the holiday season. For example, if your annual take-home income is $50,000, just multiply $50,000 by 0.015 and you'll see that your holiday budget should be $750.

    Now that you have a budget, think about who to spend that money on. One effective way to determine who to focus your finances on is by using a three-tiered system. The first tier is for family. If it's within your budget, exchange bigger ticket gifts with each person in your immediate family. The second tier is for friends. Try doing a single-family gift for your friends, like movie tickets or a fun board game. And finally, the third tier is for neighbors and co-workers. For a nice touch that doesn't cost too much, bake them homemade goods or give them handmade cards.

    Lastly, to make sure you don't overspend, start shopping before you feel festive. The best time to do your holiday shopping is from October 1 to December 1. The closer people get to the holidays, the more they spend on gifts.

    Before you start your holiday shopping, remember these tips. By creating a smart budget, you can spread the holiday cheer without being a Scrooge.

    View Poll

     

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    Nurse talking to patient in doctor's office
    Getty Images
    By Kimberly Lankford

    Q. How much will I have to pay each month for Medicare Part B in 2016? Will there be a huge jump in premiums, as originally predicted?

    A. Medicare beneficiaries who have Part B premiums withheld from their Social Security checks -- about 70 percent of beneficiaries -- will continue to pay $104.90 a month for Part B. If you aren't collecting Social Security yet or will enroll in Medicare in 2016, you will have to pay $121.80 a month in 2016. The $121.80 monthly premium also applies to people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and have their premiums paid for by their state. And if your income exceeds certain limits, you'll pay more -- from $170.50 to $389.80 a month (see the table below).

    The premiums aren't as high as they were expected to be. Because Medicare Part B premiums are designed to cover 25 percent of total Part B costs each year, the monthly premium would have been $120.70 across the board in 2016 if everyone were on the hook for the increase, according to the Medicare trustees' report. But most Medicare beneficiaries are protected by the "hold-harmless provision," a law that prohibits Social Security benefits from being reduced because of an increase in Medicare premiums. In most years, Medicare cost increases are covered by the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. But there will be no Social Security COLA for 2016 because of low inflation, which means that the monthly premiums will be capped at $104.90 for Medicare beneficiaries who have their premiums withheld from their Social Security benefits.

    Under the rules, the remaining 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries must cover the rest of the cost of Part B, which would have boosted their premiums to $159.30 a month in 2016. But under pressure from retiree advocacy groups, the budget deal signed by President Obama on Nov. 2 reduced the increase for 2016. Anyone not protected by the hold-harmless provision will have Part B premiums capped at $121.80 a month.

    To help pay for the shortfall, a $3 surcharge, which is included in the $121.80 premium, will be added to monthly Part B premiums for the next few years. Those protected by the hold-harmless provision won't pay the extra $3 this year, but $3 may be added to their premiums in 2017 if there is a Social Security COLA next year.

    Single filers with modified adjusted gross income of more than $85,000, or more than $170,000 if married filing jointly, have been subject to a high-income surcharge since 2007. In 2016, these people will have to pay the $121.80 base amount plus a high-income surcharge of $48.70 to $268 a month, depending on their income. "Modified adjusted gross income" includes all taxable income, whether from a job, interest, dividends, capital gains or a pension, plus it adds in tax-exempt interest.

    Your income is usually based on your last tax return on file, which would be your 2014 return, for 2016 premiums. But you may be able to get the high-income surcharge reduced or eliminated if your income has decreased since then because of certain life-changing events, such as the death of a spouse, divorce, retirement or reduced work hours. In that case, you can ask Social Security to use your more recent income instead. Contact the Social Security Administration, estimate your 2015 income, and provide evidence of the change, such as a marriage or death certificate, a signed statement of retirement from your employer, or pay stubs showing your reduced income. See Medicare Premiums: Rules for Higher-Income Beneficiaries for more information.

    How Much You'll Pay for Medicare Part B in 2016
    Single Filer Income Joint Filer Income 2016 Monthly Premium
    Up to $85,000 Up to $170,000 $121.80 or $104.90*
    85,001 - $107,000 $170,001 - $214,000 $170.50
    $107,001 - $160,000 $214,001 - $320,000 $243.60
    $160,001 - $214,000 $320,001 - $428,000 $316.70
    More than $214,000 More than $428,000 $389.90
    * If protected by the hold-harmless provision

     

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    How to Get the Best Black Friday Deals

    By Donna Doyle

    Almost every major retailer has unveiled their Black Friday ad by now, and even a week out, some of our predictions have been blown out of the water by lower prices. Many will definitely qualify for the coveted coveted Editors' Choice nod. And with price matching driving down prices next week, more will likely follow.

    We tallied up the spoils that debuted Nov. 21 to 29 last year and selected the top five stores that had the most Editors' Choice deals. These vendors offered the best prices on the most popular items and we're already seeing them attempt to repeat this year.

    Now, all that's left to do is allocate your cash wisely, prepare some comfortable running garb and get your Black Friday game face on.

    Top 5 Stores With the Best Black Friday Week Deals

    Amazon: 259 Editors' Choice Deals


    Best For: People who like to shop for all sorts of cheap things and don't mind the stress of fast-selling "Lightning Deals."

    Few stores ever come close to touching Amazon during the shopping season, and this year is no different; for the fifth year running, the megastore has topped our list of the best Black Friday stores. Last year, we listed a whopping 259 Editors' Choice deals from the store -- that was 23 percent of the total number of all Editors' Choice deals during that time.

    After a massively disappointing Prime Day, the mother of all online stores has a lot to live up to come Black Friday. As is now customary, Amazon will keep our editors busy by matching and undercutting prices at Walmart and Best Buy throughout the season. Just keep in mind that a lot of these deals will sell out quickly, so you'll need to have your fingers at the ready to buy.

    Hottest Deals: Last year, Amazon offered 40 popular Android game, office and music apps for free, which became one of the store's most popular deals. Also on sale was a selection of NHL jerseys and apparel, which dropped as low as $8. Those looking for even cheaper thrills scored a host of Editors' Choice-worthy Blu-ray movies, which had been discounted to just $4, beating its previous year's price by another buck. Informed 2015 shoppers should thus look to the store for some free apps, as well as super cheap movie deals.

    Oh, and did we mention, many of Amazon's 2015 Black Friday deals are available right now? For more, check out our Amazon Black Friday ad analysis and our complete list of Amazon's advertised Black Friday prices.

    Newegg: 113 Editors' Choice Deals

    Best For: PC and tech lovers who don't mind redeeming a mail-in rebate in order to nab a great deal.

    For the second year running, Newegg pipped Best Buy and Walmart to the post, earning second place on our coveted list. Although last year's Black Friday didn't see quite as many Editors' Choice deals from Newegg as the year before, more than 100 of the electronics store's deals still earned the honor.

    It's worth noting that, although Amazon remains our go-to store for overall Black Friday deals, it will be easier for most shoppers to get their hands on Newegg deals since the stock at Amazon can be famously low on Black Friday.

    Hottest Deals: Whether you're on the hunt for a low-cost laptop, HDTV or some in-house security items, Newegg is the place to (virtually) be this Black Friday week. The most popular of the store's Editors' Choice deals last year was an Acer Aspire 15.6-inch laptop that fell to an impressive all-time price low. (It remains the second-best offer we've seen for this build to date.) It seems that consumers were also keen to protect their big buys too, since a LaView DVR Surveillance System was among the most popular deals of the season, at $140 off.

    We're currently processing Newegg's Black Friday ad and will post our top picks from it soon.

    Best Buy: 75 Editors' Choice Deals

    Best For: Studious shoppers who prefer to prepare extensively with pre-released ads containing buzz-worthy doorbusters.

    Of the many Best Buy deals listed by our crew last year, a pretty impressive 75 were marked Editors' Choice. It's worth noting that the majority of these deals came on Thanksgiving and not on Black Friday itself.

    Hottest Deals: Similarly to Newegg, tech items will be the most impressive during Best Buy's Black Friday sale. Last year, it was the tablet deals that drew particular praise from our picky editors. The Apple iPad mini 3 dropped to a $74 price low in all three sizes, beating every other store we saw. Android lovers were also kept happy when the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro dropped an extra $50 in price from the week before, to an all-time low.

    We also saw great savings on a selection of cheap and cheerful laptops and smartphones (mostly for those that didn't mind signing up for a 2-year contract).

    For more, check out or Best Buy Black Friday ad analysis and our complete list of Best Buy's advertised Black Friday prices.

    Walmart: 60 Editors' Choice Deals

    Best For: Savers who want to get their purchases in early, but who don't mind a trip in-store to collect their spoils afterwards.

    Despite posting 13 fewer Editors' Choice deals than the year before, Walmart remains in fourth place in our list of best Black Friday stores. Like Best Buy, the store also listed most of these top deals on Thanksgiving Day -- 28 percent of them to be precise.

    Hottest Deals: Whether you're getting an early start on your holiday gift list or looking for some household essentials on the cheap, Walmart is likely to offer big discounts on a wide range of goods across the store. Looking at last year's best and brightest, we can expect some big price drops on a selection of video games; we saw many just-released titles fall to around $20 less than any other store, including FIFA 15 and Madden NFL 15. We also saw the best ever price for a new 40-inch 1080p LED LCD TV in the run up to Black Friday, as an Element model fell to just $115.

    For more, check out our Walmart Black Friday ad analysis and our complete list of Walmart's advertised Black Friday prices.

    Target: 55 Editors' Choice Deals

    Best For: Shoppers who are looking to stock up on discounted gifts ahead of the holidays or nab some tech items bundled with high-value gift cards.

    Knocking TigerDirect out of the fifth and final spot on our honored list this year is Target. We listed 55 Editors' Choice offers from the department store through the shopping season.

    Hottest Deals: The very best of the store's tech offers came with the then recently released Apple iPad Air 2, which was bundled with a massive $140 Target gift card. We're likely to see a myriad of popular Blu-ray and DVD movies fall to impressive prices, too, including even contemporary titles. Those shopping for smaller kids can also expect to nab some discounted toys from the store, especially if you're willing to opt for in-store pickup on cheaper items from Fisher-Price and Lego.

    For more, check out our Target Black Friday Ad Analysis and our complete list of Target's advertised Black Friday prices.

    Honorable Mention

    EBay: 69 Editors' Choice Deals

    It might not be fair to include eBay in our ranking, since the deals are actually offered by a multitude of third-party sellers, but we'd be remiss if we didn't give the store an honorable mention once again. We saw a number of unlocked iPhone models fall to all-time low prices, including refurbished units of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5c.

    The Best Black Friday Deals Breakdown

    How, exactly, does the DealNews team determine if something is to be honored with the Editors' Choice accolade, you might wonder? Throughout the year, our sale-savvy staff will pick only the best deals to honor with the label, which means that the item is at or close to an all-time low price, or is receiving a notable or rare discount.

    So, when Black Friday and its mill of doorbusters hit the site, you can rest assured that those earning the nod are only the finest deals available. As such, this list focuses not on the stores that listed the most deals, but on those that spit out the best deals.

    Whatever these stores have to offer, the deals are sure to be plentiful. So be selective with your time and money, arm yourself with the knowledge in our daily DealNews Select Newsletter, and brace yourself. Black Friday is coming.

     

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