Billions’ Worth of Merchandise Stranded at Sea

The collapse of one of the world’s largest ocean carriers has marooned more than half a million cargo containers in international waters. As much as $14 billion worth of cargo is stuck in limbo awaiting the fate of bankrupt Hanjin Shipping, with dozens of vessels anchored offshore filled with toys, shoes, computers, couches, dishwashers, etc. Port operators and cargo handlers refuse to unload the ships until they are paid.

Hanjin’s global creditors have impounded at least eight vessels, and about 80 are still at sea until captains are assured ships and cargo won’t be seized. It isn’t clear whether Hanjin’s parent company will be able to secure the $90 million it pledged to ease the carrier’s financial woes, or whether that will be enough to dent Hanjin’s $5.5-billion debt. The company has resorted to selling off ships from its 149-vessel fleet, after signs that the South Korean government won’t bail out its largest ocean carrier.

Continue reading “Billions’ Worth of Merchandise Stranded at Sea”

Computer intelligence: more ‘humanlike,’ ‘trustworthy’? Plus other tech updates

This week, an update on artificial intelligence software, the outlook for tech and telecom costs, an interview with the CEO of a drone start-up, bargain tech stocks with solid dividends and more.

Federal and state governments will step up the use of artificial intelligence tools in coming years. Recent breakthroughs by commercial companies such as Facebook and Alphabet, along with other promising commercial success stories, are gaining the attention of government officials. Helping to pave the way: Computer intelligence that is more humanlike and trustworthy, qualities that make it easier to spur adoption. Chicago-based Narrative Science, for instance, uses software to turn unwieldy data in massive spreadsheets into plain English. The result is well-written news stories, financial reports and more. “The machine will actually be a device that can explain itself,” says Kris Hammond, chief scientist of the company.

Continue reading “Computer intelligence: more ‘humanlike,’ ‘trustworthy’? Plus other tech updates”

Webinar-On-Demand Series

Four times a year, Kiplinger Alerts members will be invited to participate in interactive business forecasting webinars. Business and financial experts will share the latest Kiplinger outlooks, in-depth analysis and practical advice, and answer your personal questions about the issues at hand. Each event will be saved as an audio-video file, viewable at your convenience in your member area online.

Continue reading “Webinar-On-Demand Series”

Will oil exporting countries curb production?

Here we go again? New speculation that major oil exporting countries will agree on a deal to curb production is once again giving oil traders a reason to buy. But is this latest bout of bullish optimism justified or just a rumor that’s destined to fade?

The Production Freeze: Groundhog Day for Oil Markets?

The recurring talk of a move by OPEC to reduce oil exports might remind fans of Bill Murray’s role in the 1993 film Groundhog Day, in which a disgruntled TV weatherman finds himself stuck in Punxsutawney, Pa., covering the annual ritual of learning whether the resident groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2. Murray’s character finds himself trapped in a surreal loop of reliving the day over and over until he finally overcomes his curmudgeonly cynicism and becomes a stand-up guy.

Continue reading “Will oil exporting countries curb production?”

IRS Audit Red Flags

16 Reasons You Might Get Audited

Ever wonder why some tax returns are eyeballed by the Internal Revenue Service while most are ignored? Short on personnel and funding, the IRS audited only 0.84% of all individual tax returns in 2015. So the odds are pretty low that your return will be picked for review. And, of course, the only reason filers should worry about an audit is if they are fudging on their taxes.

That said, your chances of being audited or otherwise hearing from the IRS escalate depending upon various factors, including your income level, the types of deductions or losses claimed, the business in which you’re engaged and whether you own foreign assets. Math errors may draw IRS inquiry, but they’ll rarely lead to a full-blown exam. Although there’s no sure way to avoid an IRS audit, these 16 red flags could increase your chances of drawing unwanted attention from the IRS.

Continue reading “IRS Audit Red Flags”

Is superfast internet coming your way?

The internet is about to shift into higher gear. Drones taking off in droves. State-of-the-art speech recognition technology. A fix for a security flaw on iPhones. A game plan for managing identity theft.

Faster Web Service

Superfast wireless home internet service for homes and businesses is on the way. Verizon plans to roll out high-speed wireless internet to some of its customers in 2017 as part of a trial run. The service hits fiberlike speeds by tapping a largely unused section of airwaves, known as millimeter waves, to send data from a cell antenna to a rooftop- or window-mounted antenna. The second antenna then feeds into a regular home or business modem and Wi-Fi router. This technology will usher in more broadband competition in coming years as it becomes faster and easier to bring high-speed networks to more homes and businesses. Plus, it will give many customers access to far faster speeds then they’d be able to purchase today.

Continue reading “Is superfast internet coming your way?”

Will an autumn cool snap hike energy prices?

With much of the United States baking from a hotter-than-normal summer, odds are that not many people are worrying about what the coming winter holds. But the beginning of autumn is less than a month away, and an early cool snap across the northern tier of the country could be just around the corner. So now seems like a good time to check in on stockpiles of heating oil, propane and natural gas, and to hazard an educated guess about prices.

The Supply Picture

Here’s one forecast you can count on: There will be plenty of heating fuel to go around this winter. Stocks of heating oil, propane and natural gas are all higher than average, in part because last winter ended up milder than normal and left storage facilities well stocked when spring arrived.

Continue reading “Will an autumn cool snap hike energy prices?”

These cool new technologies will disrupt the smartphone market … again

This week, we’ll take a deep dive into the coming transformation of smartphones.

Smartphone innovation is far from over. A slew of amazing new features will be unveiled over the next five years. Packed with new chips, sensors and software, smartphones will take on new tasks and unleash a wave of money-making opportunities. The phones will do everything from serving as walkie-talkies to running advanced artificial intelligence apps.

Continue reading “These cool new technologies will disrupt the smartphone market … again”

Trade Deficit Increases in Listless World Economy

Widening 4% in ’16, after a 6.2% increase in ’15

Weak global growth combined with a relatively strong U.S. dollar will drive the U.S. trade deficit up 4% this year, as American exporters struggle to stay competitive in key trading nations. The drag on exports is likely to continue into next year. Continue reading “Trade Deficit Increases in Listless World Economy”

Consumers Rev Up Spending

4% growth in ’16, compared with 4.8% in ’15 (excluding gas)

Feeling more confident about the economy, the job market and their own financial stability, shoppers dialed up spending in June. The third consecutive month of gains marks a strong end to the second quarter of 2016, though challenges remain as retailers grapple with changing industry trends—more online shopping, free shipping demands, etc. Continue reading “Consumers Rev Up Spending”