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Doing the numbers for 2011

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L. Marie
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Retail and Wall Street numbers are up, but jobs are down - and reliance on credit is up.

So long 2010, hello 2011!

The Buffalo News has a post-mortem on the post-Christmas shopping spree that many western New Yorkers undertook. The paper reports that the season has been pretty jolly for retailers so far:

The National Retail Federation predicts spending from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 will reach $451.5 billion, up 3.3 percent over last year. That forecast was upgraded earlier this month based on a robust November. That would be the biggest increase since 2006, and the largest total since a record $452.8 billion in 2007. Strong after-Christmas sales could make this year the biggest holiday sales period of all time. MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which monitors all transactions, including cash, was to release figures through Dec. 24 late Monday.

The News also reports that the buying and selling frenzy continues on Wall Street, with advisors projecting double-digit gains in 2011:

"I think next year will be an exceptional year for the market," said David Hartzell, the president of Cornell Capital Management, a Clarence money management firm, and one of the most bullish local advisers. Hartzell predicts a fast start for stocks in 2011 that could see the Dow Jones industrial average top its record high of 14,165 before falling back a bit in the second half. "There are a lot of positives for the market and not many negatives," said Hartzell, who is predicting a 13 percent jump by the Dow and an 17 percent surge by the Nasdaq.

It's not all good news though: the Democrat and Chronicle reports that credit card debt still accounts for 98 percent of "revolving" debt in the nation, and that the grim cycle of spending and racking up interest continues in the down economy:

During this year's holiday shopping season, surveys found that shoppers were using cashmore often than they had in the past. Yet online sales were up as much as 13 percent over 2009. Clearly Santa and credit have not parted ways. The debt tunnel can be long and dark for people who don't have the resources or will to whittle it down significantly. Indeed, some of the reduced card use this season may be related to the $13 billion in card debt American consumers are still paying off from the 2009 season.

And AP reports in the Press & Sun-Bulletin that much of the hiring that's happening these days is happening overseas:

More than half of the 15,000 people that Caterpillar Inc. has hired this year were outside the U.S. UPS is also hiring at a faster clip overseas. For both companies, sales in international markets are growing at least twice as fast as domestically. The trend helps explain why unemployment remains high in the United States, edging up to 9.8 percent last month, even though companies are performing well: All but 4 percent of the top 500 U.S. corporations reported profits this year, and the stock market is close to its highest point since the 2008 financial meltdown.

Cuomo administration

The Times Union reports that incoming governor Andrew Cuomo can hit the ground running if he uses executive orders to kick-start his agenda. Several items, like automating voter registration, and ending the practice of "sweeping" funds out of one budget for use in another.

Toxic WNY

The EPA has released its Toxics Release Inventory, a list of the biggest polluters in the nation, and seven of them are locate in western New York, reports the Buffalo News. Highest on the list is CWM Chemical Services, which runs a landfill.

You can read more about the WNY polluters at the Buffalo News, or see the entire list at the EPA's website.

Pension hesitation

A state program designed to take some of the sting out of paying pensions has been little used, reports Gannett' Albany bureau. Municipalities are worried that putting off the costs by borrowing will only push the pain into the future - and they're not too happy about the interest rate:

The state Comptroller's Office said that just 1.2 percent of local governments who paid their pension bills as of Dec. 15 filed paperwork to enter the amortization program. That translates to 31 governments out of 2,685 who had to pay pension costs by Dec. 15. "Early on, there doesn't appear to be overwhelming interest in this program," said Stephen Acquario, executive director of the state Association of Counties. "But yet this looming payment issue remains and is likely to remain with us for years."

Waiting for PAETEC

The will-they-or-won't they anticipation around PAETEC Communications building an HQ in downtown Rochester could hit its peak today. The firm gave the city until the end of the year to resolve some longstanding issues and now the mayor (soon to be lieutenant governor) is holding a press conference at 11a.m. today. Not exactly a showdown at high noon, but close enough.

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