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Consumer Confidence Declines, More Losses on Wall Street


JaysonPhotography/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tuesday marked another day of losses for Wall Street, as all three major indices closed lower for the second day in a row.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 28.32 to 17,042.90.

The Nasdaq slipped 12.46 to 4,493.39, while the S&P 500 closed at 1,972.29, down 5.51.

The Conference Board said on Tuesday that consumer confidence, which increased in August, slipped back downwards in September. August's mark had been the highest level in about seven years. The Conference Board noted that "a less positive assessment of the current job market" played a role in the decline.

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What to Expect from Microsoft Windows 10


Microsoft(NEW YORK) -- It's not coming out until 2015, but Microsoft offered a peek at what users can expect from the latest generation of the company's operating system called Windows 10.

Many keen Microsoft observers will note that the company skipped over the number nine in naming the latest iteration of the software. It's something a company spokesman said signals how the operating system has evolved.

"Windows 10 carries Windows forward into a new way of doing things. It is not an incremental change, but a new Windows that will empower the next billion users," the spokesperson said.

Here's a look at some upgrades Microsoft has made to Windows 10:

Working Is a Snap

There's nothing more annoying than having to toggle between two windows you're trying to work out of at the same time. No more!

Users will be able to snap four apps to the same screen, meaning work just got that much easier.

Mobile-First, Cloud-First World

When apps from the Windows store are opened, they'll run the same way as desktop apps -- in a Window. They can easily be minimized, maximized, moved around and closed with just one click.

Multiple Desktops

Working on a slew of different projects? Create a desktop for each one.

Not only do we see this feature making it easier to focus on getting work done, but the best part: your working doesn't have to be staring you down all the time. Let it live in its own desktop.

Task View

When you want to pull up that big project, it's easy to do so.

A new button called "Task View" allows users to quickly switch between open files and new desktops they have created, making working in the operating system incredibly efficient.

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California Enacts Statewide Ban on Plastic Shopping Bags


iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- California has become the first state in the country to make it illegal for grocery stores to give out plastic grocery bags.

While many cities had already banned the bags, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday banning them up and down California.

“This bill is a step in the right direction -- it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown said in a statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

Under the legislation, grocery stores and pharmacies are banned from distributing the bags after July 2015. Convenience and liquor stores will be subject to the change the following year.

The bill will also provide up to $2 million in competitive loans for businesses to transition to reusable bags.

Lawmakers are touting it as a win for the environment, but critics say it won't help.

Bag makers are already trying for a voter referendum to repeal the new law.

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Will Chocolate Be Next Casualty of Ebola Outbreak?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Fears that the Ebola virus may spread to more countries in West Africa could also affect one of the region's major exports, cocoa, which has been steadily increasing in price over the last year.

About 70 percent of the world's cocoa supply comes from West African nations, with Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana accounting for over 55 percent of global cocoa supply, according to IBISWorld chocolate analyst Amal Ahmad. But the recent surge in cocoa prices is not the result of the Ebola outbreak, Ahmad told ABC News.

The price per ton of cocoa has increased steadily since May 2013, according to the International Cocoa Organization. The price of coca was $3,330 per ton Tuesday morning, compared to $3,252 on Aug. 29. Last month, cocoa prices reached highs not seen since January 2011.

Ahmad said rising cocoa prices have so far had more to do with basic economic trends -- strong global demand outstripping limited global supply -- than with Ebola. The epidemic will raise cocoa prices significantly only if it affects workers in cocoa fields, limiting global supply further, Ahmad said.

The current outbreak is the worst since the Ebola virus was first identified in 1976, with more than 6,000 reported cases, about half of them fatal, according to the World Health Organization.

The big players will be affected more than smaller artisan producers, who do not lean as heavily on West African beans and instead favor cocoa from Central and South America or the East Indies, said Michael Laiskonis, creative director at the Institute of Culinary Education.

ADM, one of the world's largest food manufacturers, has cocoa bean facilities in Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, plus cocoa processing operations in the latter two countries. None of those countries have reported cases of Ebola, according to the WHO.

Jackie Anderson, a spokeswoman for ADM, which bills itself as the world's premier cocoa and chocolate manufacturer, said that cocoa operations have not been impacted in West Africa. However, the company is monitoring the situation closely, Anderson said.

As the primary October harvest approaches, all eyes are on the ongoing spread of the virus, the restricted mobility of the migrant workforce, and the transport of the commodity itself throughout and out of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, Laiskonis said.

"Though the Ebola outbreaks presents an unprecedented crisis, the general political and social conditions in many cocoa-growing regions has occasionally been cause for caution amid the global trade," Laiskonis said.

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Under New Leadership, PayPal to Split from eBay


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- PayPal and eBay are separating to become two independent, publicly-traded companies. An eBay announcement Tuesday said the breakup, to be completed in the second half of 2015, is the "best path for growth and shareholder value creation for each business."

Dan Schulman, a former executive at American Express, will take over the new, independent PayPal as CEO, effective immediately.

"Dan’s impressive track record of growing consumer brands and his experience in payments and mobile technology make him a natural fit for PayPal today,” eBay President and CEO John Donahoe said Tuesday in a statement. “He brings both dynamic leadership and vision as the company accelerates into the future.”

EBay shares jumped more than 10 percent in pre-market trading Tuesday as news of the split became public.

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Ford Cuts Profits Outlook for 2014


Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Will Ford’s profit warning be the first of many?

The share price of the second-largest U.S. auto company plunged more than 7 percent as the firm cut its full-year profits outlook.

At a conference call for investors Monday, Ford CEO Mark Fields said he expects a pretax profit of around $6 billion this year, down from the $7 billion to $8 billion the firm previously forecast.

The decline is mainly attributed to weak sales in Russia, which has been slapped with economic sanctions that have impacted the country's growth.

Ford’s European operations are likely to declare a loss of well over $1 billion this year. The region’s economic troubles and slower growth in South America are a worry for many large multi-national corporations.

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Say 'Ello' to the Guy Who Invented an Alternative to Facebook


Ello(NEW YORK) -- Say "Ello" to Paul Budnitz.

Budnitz, 47, owns a luxury bicycle shop in Burlington, Vermont, that bears his last name. He's also an author, photographer, filmmaker and the owner of Kidrobot, a company that creates toys, apparel and accessories.

He can now add social network co-founder and CEO of Ello to his already eclectic resume.

"My grandfather was a small-town doctor and he used to say that I was missing a gene that told me that some giant risk I am about to take with my life is both stupid and dangerous," Budnitz says on his website. "I'm grateful for this. Everything beautiful that we create in life requires a leap of faith."

His latest leap is Ello, a social network that has generated buzz by positioning itself as the anti-Facebook. The site is advertising free and Ello says it will never sell data about its users to third parties.

Budnitz thinks it's Ello's promise that is wooing tens of thousands of people to the site every hour to request an invitation.

"A social network is a place to be in contact with each other and talk to friends. If it becomes full of ads, it becomes clunky and cluttered and a little violating," Butnitz told Bloomberg Businessweek. "That’s what people are responding to and why they are coming over to Ello."

Budnitz, who splits his time between Burlington, where Ello is based, and New York City, knows the social network will have to find a way to monetize itself when it's out of beta mode.

His solution is another departure from the norm: Budnitz plans to introduce an app-store model to Ello, where users can add on new features to their profile. If they like a feature, users can add it and chip in "a very small amount of money."

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Facebook Names the Top Honeymoon Destinations in US, World


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The fact that Hawaii is a top honeymoon destination isn't exactly a shocker. Gorgeous beaches, history, luxury hotels -- all without a passport. It's pretty much a no-brainer.

According to Facebook check ins, Hawaii's islands account for five of the top 10 honeymoon destinations. But it's not number one.

Las Vegas, according to Facebook, is actually the most popular place in the U.S. to take that all-important post-wedding getaway. And if that doesn't surprise you, the number eight destination -- the one that didn't top Hawaii but did beat out both New York City and Lake Buena Vista (home to theme parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios) most surely will -- because its Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Facebook measured the top destinations based on couples on Facebook who both posted a marriage event in 2014 and checked into a location within two weeks of their marriage date. Check-ins within 20 miles of their home location were excluded.

Located in the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg markets itself as a romantic getaway. And this small city of fewer than 4,000, according to the 2010 census, is poised to give the great state of Hawaii a run for its honeymoon money. Golfing? Check. Hiking? 600 miles of trails. Add in ziplining, snowboarding and tubing, biking, and horseback riding and you've got the making of action-packed vacation.

There's a few hotels classified as "luxury" in Gatlinburg, according to TripAdvisor, but none of the luxury chains (think Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and the like) that dot the Hawaii coast.

Call Gatlinburg a lovers' hideaway, at least for the time being.

Top honeymoon destinations in the U.S. for all (international U.S.) couples:

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
  2. Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
  3. Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawaii
  4. Lihue, Kaua'i, Hawaii
  5. Key West, Florida
  6. Poipu, Kaua'i, Hawaii
  7. Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
  8. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
  9. New York City
  10. Lake Buena Vista, Florida

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Do a Little Studying Before Applying for Seasonal Work


Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Looking for temporary work as retailers start hiring for the holiday season?

Although most stores and other businesses are predicted to boost their seasonal employees from last year, getting a job may not be as easy as answering a few simple questions, such as, "Can you work weekends?"

According to a survey of big retailers by the consulting firm Hay Group, 18 percent said they want temporary workers who align with their brand culture.

That basically means some retailers want hires, even if they're only seasonal, who are familiar with the store, its products and the kinds of customers it attracts.

Last year, just four percent in the Hay Group survey looked for the same things from its seasonal workers.

Without mentioning names, Craig Rowley, the global leader of Hay Group’s retail practice, said that some stores have prepared a custom test that prospective employees will have to take before they even get to the interview process.

Such is the new paradigm in the increasingly competitive world of retail sales, particularly during the busiest shopping time of the year.

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Microsoft to Open Flagship Store in New York City


LornaWu/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Microsoft announced on Monday that it would open its first flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

According to a blog post written by David Porter, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Retail Stores for Microsoft, the New York City store will "serve as the centerpiece of our Microsoft Stores experience." It will contain retail space in addition to experiential space to allow for further engagement with customers and partners.

While the flagship store is under construction, the company also plans to open up other stores. The blog post notes that 10 new locations -- not including the Fifth Avenue store -- will open in time for the holiday season.

The flagship store, which Porter says is "five years in the making," will be "worth the wait."

Furthermore, Porter says, "we could not be more excited to join one of the most visited streets in America."

Microsoft currently has 104 retail stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and online stores in 189 countries.

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ATM, Overdraft Fees Hit Record Highs, Survey Shows


Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you're in a bind to get cash from an ATM, make sure the machine is in your banking network. Otherwise, you might have to fork over a fee of $4.35, which is the average cost of going outside your ATM network, according to Bankrate.com.

That average transaction fee is a new high in Bankrate.com's eighth consecutive annual analysis of banking fees.

The average fee for using an out-of-network ATM increased 5 percent over the last year; it increased 23 percent over the past five years, according to Bankrate.com's report released Monday about checking account and ATM fees.

Bankrate surveyed the 10 largest banks in 25 of the nation's biggest markets from July 10 to Aug. 6.

The average overdraft fee -- if you take out more money than you have in your checking account -- set a new record high for the 16th consecutive year: $32.74.

Bankrate.com said the percentage of non-interest checking accounts that are completely free has decreased to 38 percent. Five years ago, that percentage was 76 percent.

But there's good news for bank customers, said Greg McBride, Bankrate's chief financial analyst.

"Regardless how high the fees go, they are completely avoidable," McBride told ABC News.

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Markets Post Losses Despite Rally, Positive Consumer Spending Reports


tarabird/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An afternoon rally on Monday, buoyed in part by positive consumer spending figures, made sure that a down day on Wall Street wasn't even worse.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 41.93 to a Monday close of 17,071.22.

The Nasdaq finished at 4,505.85, slipping 6.34 from its opening value, while the S&P 500 dipped 5.05 to end the day at 1,977.80.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported on Monday that consumer spending rose by 0.5 percent in August, significantly more than the disappointing increase of under 0.1 percent in July.

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The Rich Get Even Richer on "Forbes" 400 List


Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Bill Gates is the wealthiest person in America for the 21st straight year, says Forbes magazine. He is worth $81 billion, up $9 billion from 2013.

Coming in behind Gates in this year's Forbes 400 list is Warren Buffett with $67 billion, up $8.5 billion from 2013. Larry Ellison rounds up the top three with a net worth $50 billion, an increase of $9 billion.

According to the magazine's latest rankings, the average net worth of each member on the list is $5.7 billion, the highest amount to date. Last year, the average was $5 billion.

When combined, the wealth of the Forbes 400 is $2.29 trillion, up from $2.02 trillion in 2013 and the highest figure to date. The record amount is partly due to the strength of the U.S. stock market.

To find out who else made the list this year, click here.

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Deaths Linked to GM's Faulty Ignition Switches Rises to 23


General Motors(NEW YORK) -- More deaths have been linked to General Motors' faulty ignition switches.

Ken Feinberg's latest report shows 23 deaths are now eligible for a claim. Last week, Feinberg, the independent administrator of GM's compensation program, reported 21 deaths.

GM intially estimated that at least 13 deaths resulted from its defective ignition switches.

The automaker hired Feinberg to pour through death claims from families whose loved ones died in accidents they believe were caused by the problem. Compensation for each confirmed death claim will be at least a million dollars.

The overall compensation program, which launched on Aug. 5, is open for submission until Dec. 31 through GMIgnitionCompensation.com.

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Consumer Spending Jumps 0.5% in August


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Consumer spending rose by 0.5 percent last month after falling flat in July, the Commerce Department reported Monday. The increase was greatly driven by car sales.

August's boost marked the best figure since June when spending also rose 0.5 percent.

"The trends are pretty good. Consumers aren't spending with great gusto, they're not borrowing aggressively, but they are spending their income and adding to economic growth," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics.

He said the bump in August is a good sign for the third quarter.

"The economy in the current quarter is doing pretty well. Growth is going to be over 3 percent, which is not too bad. And it's laying a pretty good foundation for growth going into the end of the year and as we approach the key Christmas buying season," Zandi said.

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