Market panic returns — sort of and Toyota trouble round-up: What to do now

Investors are starting to get nervous again. And who could blame them?

The labor market in the U.S. is still anemic, the deficit is rising and people are worried about the possibility of higher taxes on banks and other businesses. That could put hopes of a sharp recovery here in jeopardy.

Making matters worse, there are growing concerns about the financial health of many European nations. And if all that wasn’t enough to worry about, some fear that the breakneck growth in China could suddenly cool as people start using the dreaded B-word (bubble) to describe its stock market and economy.

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With all that in mind, a key measure of market volatility, the VIX (VIX), shot up more than 20% on Thursday. The VIX rose a tad in Friday afternoon trading. [Read the full article]

Problems with Toyota cars are cropping up faster than the automaker can deal with them. Following two different recalls for problems involving accelerator pedals on various models comes the revelation of braking problems in the iconic Prius.

Here’s a rundown of the problems, the cars involved and what to do if your car’s caught up in any of this.

What’s the problem? Under certain conditions, particularly at relatively low speeds when traveling over rough or potholed roads, drivers have complained of a brief, but significant, delay in brake performance.

Is it being blamed for crashes? Yes, at least four crashes in the U.S. have been reported, allegedly as a result of this problem.

What cars are involved? 2010 model year Toyota Priuses made before January, 2010. Toyota is also investigating whether the Lexus HS250h hybrid, which shares its mechanical parts with the Toyota Prius, might have a similar problem. [Read the full article]

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I thought, ‘How come people have to sit around waiting in a world where we’re connected by cell phone and where we can track a package online? Why has this problem never been solved? recalls Brisker.

The idea: With that question in mind, Brisker launched TOA Technologies two years later in Cleveland. TOA provides field services management software that allows companies to track and schedule their technicians more efficiently. Customers can go online to get updates on a technician’s arrival time, much like they can track a FedEx package. Or they can receive the information as a text message, an automated phone call or an e-mail.

The risk: TOA’s software has attracted such customers as Cox Communications, Bright House Networks and ONO, Spain’s largest cable TV provider. So why, after five years, are most consumers still waiting for the cable guy to show up?

Because telecom companies are slow-moving behemoths. [Read the full article]

The fate of a consumer financial protection agency was thrown in doubt Friday, as the Senate Banking Committee chief said he planned to push a bill forward without Republican support.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said on Friday that banking committee staff will draw up draft legislation on all regulatory reform to be voted on later this month — even though, "for now, we have reached an impasse" with the ranking Republican on that committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

The sticking point is the consumer financial protection agency, which has long been considered the signature piece of the legislation offered by the Obama administration for redoing the regulatory system after the financial collapse.

Shelby said he supports consumer financial protection, but he’s concerned about the financial health of companies. [Read the full article]

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