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Biz bits

By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 23, 2003


-- Stock dividends are back in vogue with investors and corporate America, Smart Money says in its March issue. It says the percentage of corporate profits paid to investors by Standard and Poor's 500 companies rose in 2002 for the first time in three years. The current dividend yield -- a measure of dividend payout -- is a low 1.8 percent compared with 5.7 percent in 1980. But the magazine says the return to investors actually is higher now because of low inflation rates.

-- As paper wealth vanishes in this bear market, investors are searching for something more tangible than stocks. A growing number are putting their money into real estate, gold and even fine art. But speculating on art can be at least as risky as buying stocks, experts say. Liquidity is an issue, and there are other factors to consider, such as authenticity, appraisals, insurance and safety.

-- Know a tax cheat? The IRS may give you a tip for telling. Bankrate.com says if you provide sufficiently detailed information on a tax cheat to the Criminal Investigation unit of the IRS, you may receive up to 15 percent of the amount recovered in taxes and penalties. But it could take two years or more for the wheels of justice to turn, and even then the IRS is under no obligation to pay up.

-- At the end of 2002, American households owed an average balance of $8,940 on their credit cards. CardWeb.com, which monitors the credit card industry, says the amount is up 36 percent since 1997, and a whopping 173 percent in the past decade. Of the amount owed, Americans paid finance charges on an average balance of $7,286. This means for the average household, the cost of credit card debt is more than $1,000 a year.

-- The troubled U.S. economy is hitting Porsche in the pocketbook. The German luxury carmaker cut production of its 911 and Boxter models after sales slowed because of falling stocks and war worries. The United States is Porsche's biggest market.

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