Morning Business Memo:
If you delay paying even one of your credit card bills, you could blow a big hole in your credit report. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is urging consumers to take control of their credit history. "If they are not responsible with that one card, it could end up costing them a lot more down the line when they go to take out a mortgage," bureau Director Richard Cordray says. Most Americans take a hands-off approach, and that could harm them when they need a loan. "Only about 44 million consumers, just one in five people with a credit history, actually check their report in a given year," Cordray says. "This is a shame because the most effective way for individual consumers to identify errors in their reports is to obtain copies of them and review them." The bureau's study finds lenders often check up on your financial habits. Each year approximately 36 billion updates are made to consumer credit files, according to the agency.
The bitter partisan divide in Washington on the "fiscal cliff" is already putting the brakes on the economy. Higher unemployment could be the result. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke warns that the lack of progress on avoiding across-the-board tax hikes come Jan. 1 is "already affecting business investment and hiring decisions by creating uncertainty or creating pessimism." Brian Hamilton, CEO of the financial information firm Sageworks, says partisan bickering makes it harder for businesses to plan. "The political environment in Washington is so poisonous right now that people really don't know what public policy is going to be. They don't know what tax policy is going to be," Hamilton told ABC News Radio. Some hiring decisions are already on hold, he says. "It's very difficult to make investment and hiring decisions," he said.
The Federal Reserve put a number on it: tying interest rates to the unemployment rate. The Fed says it will keep spending $85 billion a month to drive long-term interest rates down as much as possible and boost borrowing and investing. Short term rates are to be kept near zero until unemployment hits 6.5 percent. It's now at 7.7 percent. Gold and silver prices tumbled overnight in response to the statement. Stock averages broke a five-day winning streak Wednesday with a fractional drop for the S&P 500.
Florida is America's foreclosure capital. The latest monthly report from RealtyTrac Inc. says Florida has a higher number of foreclosures than any other state, and twice the national rate. U.S. home repossessions rose to a nine-month high in November, but the number of homes heading into the foreclosure process fell to the lowest level in six years. Bank repossessions are on pace to exceed 650,000 this year, down from 800,000 last year.
Good news if you're counting on that holiday bonus. Michael Erwin of CareerBuilder says "companies have more means to give back to their employees this holiday season." Nearly half the firms surveyed plan to give employees a holiday bonus, up from 40 percent last year. "Employees should expect to see more parties, bigger bonuses and more gifts," Erwin said.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc