Personal Finance

October 14, 2013

Netflix wants app on cable TV boxes

Americans accepting later retirements; Amtrak sets record
Netflix on your cable box?

Netflix Inc. is in talks to add its application to the set-top boxes of U.S. cable-television operators, letting customers search for Web-based movies and television shows alongside traditional programs, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Negotiations are furthest along with regional providers and smaller cable operators that use TiVo Inc. set-top boxes, including Suddenlink Communications, though the earliest announcements are weeks to months away, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Netflix, the largest video-streaming subscription service, also has held preliminary discussions with larger providers such as Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc., the people said.

The talks suggest cable operators increasingly see Netflix’s $7.99 monthly service as a tool to attract and retain customers, rather than a threat that will lead users to abandon their pay-TV subscriptions. Integration with cable service would let viewers find and watch shows without switching over to a different device, and it may help cable operators promote their own on-demand offerings, the people said.

Newer set-top boxes blend Internet-based programming with traditional pay television, a development that could fuel expansion for Netflix if it forges ties with cable providers. U.S. cable operators have had an “open offer” to add Netflix for two years, Netflix Chief Financial Officer David Wells told Bloomberg in late September.

Accepting later retirements

Stung by a recession that sapped investments and home values, but expressing widespread job satisfaction, older Americans appear to have accepted the reality of a retirement that comes later in life and no longer represents a complete exit from the workforce. Some 82 percent of working Americans over 50 say it is at least somewhat likely they will work for pay in retirement, according to a poll released Monday by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey found 47 percent of working survey respondents now expect to retire later than they previously thought and, on average, plan to call it quits at about 66, or nearly three years later than their estimate when they were 40. Men, racial minorities, parents of minor children, those earning less than $50,000 a year and those without health insurance were more likely to put off their plans.

“Many people had experienced a big downward movement in their 401(k) plans, so they’re trying to make up for that period of time when they lost money,” said Olivia Mitchell, a retirement expert who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

About three-quarters of working respondents said they have given their retirement years some or a great deal of thought. When considering factors that are very or extremely important in their retirement decisions, 78 percent cited financial needs, 75 percent said health, 68 percent their ability to do their job and 67 percent said their need for employer benefits such as health insurance.

Amtrak sets record

Railroad officials say Amtrak carried a record number of passengers in the year ending Sept. 30 despite Northeast service that was temporarily knocked out by Superstorm Sandy.

The nation’s passenger railroad network carried 31.6 million riders during the 2013 federal budget year. Amtrak’s long-distance routes recorded their best ridership in 20 years with 4.8 million passengers.

Ridership for all of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington reached 11.4 million passengers, the second-best year for the corridor. That was despite service interruptions when Superstorm Sandy slammed into New York, New Jersey and Connecticut last October, flooding tunnels and tracks.

Ticket revenues also increased to a record $2.1 billion. Amtrak relies on federal subsidies for a small share of its operating expenses.

Ikea records gain

Buoyed by increasing demand for its popular furniture and accessories, Ikea says sales grew more that 3 percent to 27.9 billion euros ($38 billion) in the latest fiscal year.

The world’s largest furniture retailer said Monday that market share grew in most regions, including Russia and China, and that “significant progress” was made in North America.

The Sweden-based company does not release quarterly figures. It gave no more details in a brief release on Monday, saying its full report for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31 will be published in January.

Ikea says that by 2016 it plans to replace its complete lighting range with eco-friendly LED lights to help households save on energy costs.

Ikea has 338 stores employing some 154,000 people in more than 40 countries.

Dollar in dumps again

Washington’s wrangling over a partial government shutdown and lifting the U.S.’s borrowing limit has strategists cutting their forecasts for the dollar for a third straight month, the longest stretch this year.

From Credit Suisse to Westpac Banking, firms have lowered the median estimate for the U.S. currency versus the euro, pound, Canadian dollar, Swiss franc and Japanese yen by an average 1.2 percent in October, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That follows a 1.7 percent reduction last month, which was the biggest this year, and a 1.2 percent cut in August.

With a lapse in U.S. borrowing authority now just three days away, a deal which averts a default and restores full government operations continues to elude politicians. That may encourage the Federal Reserve to keep printing dollars to inject cash into the financial system by buying bonds.

“The dollar should increasingly trade across the board on the back foot,” Richard Franulovich, the chief currency strategist for the northern hemisphere at Westpac in New York, said in an Oct. 9 phone interview. “If and when the situation is resolved, there will be a relief rally for the dollar, but I don’t expect that rally to have any legs.”

The Bloomberg U.S. Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against 10 counterparts including the euro, yen and pound, is down 4 percent from a three-year high in July amid speculation the Fed won’t reduce its bond purchases before year-end.

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