The three-figure kitchen makeover and Stocks set for gains

Fortunately you can make your existing kitchen work better with products that aim to solve nagging problems like dim lighting, cramped space, and overflowing cabinets. Even better, most of these clever solutions cost no more than a few hundred dollars.

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If your kitchen is skimpy on counter-tops, create extra space for chopping, kneading, mixing, and assembling your family meals with a sturdy counter-height worktable (about $200 to $1,500 at johnboos.com, roomandboard.com, or ikea.com). Just leave yourself room to maneuver — at least 36 inches of floor space on each side of the table, 42 inches where there’s an appliance, says Mark Karas, manager of Adams Kitchens in Stoneham, Mass. Not enough square footage? Get a table with locking wheels (such as the $1,400 Quovis at dwr.com) and roll it against a wall when it’s not in use.

Another trick: Free up existing counter space by mounting small appliances under the cabinets. [Read the full article]

U.S. stocks were poised to extend gains Friday after a government report showed surprising strength in retail sales for February.

Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), Nasdaq 100 (COMP) and S&P 500 (SPX) futures were higher ahead of the opening bell. Futures had already been pointing to early gains but they moved even higher following the retail sales report.

Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and can offer an indication of how markets will open when trading begins in New York.

Stocks have managed narrow gains this week. As of Thursday’s close, the Dow has risen in eight of the last 10 sessions and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have risen in nine of the last 10 sessions. On Thursday, stocks seesawed through most of the session but closed with slim gains.

Ahead of the retail sales report, Canaccord Adams managing director David Rovelli said that report would drive near-term sentiment. [Read the full article]

Apple’s online store was temporarily closed Friday morning as the company got ready to start taking preorders for its highly anticipated iPad tablet computer.

We are busy updating the store for you and will be back shortly," said a message posted on the company’s main sales Web site. By 8:30 a.m. ET, however, the store resumed normal operation.

Apple is now accepting preorders for the iPad, which will be officially released in stores on April 3. The temporary shut down suggests that Apple may be bracing for a surge in orders.

The iPad has a 9.7-inch, full-color, high-resolution, LED-backlit screen. Two options will be available: One with Wi-Fi capabilities and another with Wi-Fi and an ability to connect to AT&T’s 3G network.

Customers can pre-order any iPad, for a starting price of $499, from Apple’s online store, and an iBooks application for the iPad will be available as a free download on April 3, the company said last week. [Read the full article]

A couple of other buddies and I are thinking of pooling some cash and giving it to our friend, just to tide him and his family over until he gets another job. But he is a proud person and would probably be insulted by what he would see as charity. Should we make the offer anyway? Any thoughts from you and your readers on what else we can do to help? — Bystanders

Dear Bystanders: You are doubtless not the only one wondering. As of February, 6.1 million Americans had been unemployed for longer than six months, just below January’s 6.3 million record high, which was the worst tally since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began counting in 1948.

Almost everyone, these days, knows someone who has been jobless for a painfully long time — and, like you, many of us are at a loss as to how to help. Even if it doesn’t involve money. [Read the full article]

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