Card company results show waning credit card use

Shoppers still reach for plastic at the checkout, but the card they grab most often these days is a debit card, not a credit card.

That was spelled out Thursday in MasterCard Inc.’s fourth-quarter results. The payment processor posted a 23-percent profit leap, but its shares were beaten down as the numbers revealed further evidence of the fading use of credit cards, whether by choice or necessity.

“People have been utilizing credit, obviously, to a much less extent,” MasterCard Chief Financial Officer Martina Hund-Mejean said in an interview.

Meanwhile, rival Visa Inc.’s results not only showed a huge profit gain, but also its dominance of debit, which consumers use more often to buy necessities like food and gasoline. That shielded the San Francisco company’s stock from the session’s widespread declines. [Read the full article]

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Pulling suitcases and hefting heavy bags on their shoulders, millions of Chinese workers are boarding trains to head home for the Lunar New Year — a holiday that triggers the world’s biggest annual migration of people.

This year some may not come back from the holiday, which begins Feb. 14, a growing worry for factory owners facing labor shortages but also a sign of improving opportunities for workers throughout China, not just in the coastal regions that have long been its manufacturing base.

“During the holiday, I’ll check to see if I can get a decent job around my hometown,” Li Beiyong said, standing by her big purple polka-dotted suitcase this week in the crowded station in Guangzhou. “The pay might be lower, but the cost of living isn’t as high. [Read the full article]

State regulators are having a hearing next week on a proposal to raise some southeast Kansas residents’ electric rates by 40 percent.

The proposal is from Joplin, Mo.-based Empire District Electric Co., which serves about 10,000 customers in southeast Kansas.

The utility wants to raise an additional $5.2 million a year. The new revenues would cover rising operating expenses and costs associated with three new power plants and upgrades to pollution controls at existing plants.

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The KCC says residential customers would see an average increase of $25 in their monthly electric bills. [Read the full article]

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Corporate Expectations Barometer rose to 7.0 in December from 6.3 in May of last year.

The index shows business sentiment gradually improving, in line with GDP growth and rebounding stock markets. Respondents say prospects appear to be improving for their individual companies and for the global economy as a whole.

Overall, respondents have raised their 2010 global GDP growth forecast to an average of 1.8% in December, up from 0.2% in May. Twenty-nine percent of the executives queried expect their work force to grow. Only 19% expect it to shrink.

A report says small stores and restaurants saw a drop from a year earlier in credit and debit card sales in the holiday-influenced fourth quarter.

However, the report by financial services provider Capital Access Network says the fall in credit card spending wasn’t as sharp for smaller brick-and-mortar retailers as it was in the third quarter of 2009. [Read the full article]

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