Top 10 Key Business Trends Data Points for Today

Listed below are the top 10 business trends data points for today, culled from the most authoritative business news and data sources. Today's trend data points to IBM's Second Life, Yahoo/IBM Search for Enterprise Gold, iTunes slows,  broadband expands, Small cars, holiday sales and improvement in Federal deficit. 

IBM to open islands in virtual world AP 
IBM Corp. is launching an ambitious marketing campaign in the hip virtual world "Second Life." Second Life is a subscription-based 3-D fantasy world devoted to capitalism — a 21st century version of Monopoly that generates real money for successful players. More than 1.95 million people worldwide have Second Life characters, called avatars.

Apple's iTunes music sales collapses in H1: survey Reuters 
Sales at Apple's online music shop iTunes Music Store fell off a cliff in the first six months of 2006, according to a recent survey. Since January 2006 the number of monthly iTunes transactions has declined 58 percent, while the average size per purchase declined by 17 percent, leading to a 65-percent overall drop in monthly iTunes revenue, market research group Forrester said in a survey among North American consumers. Apple's iTunes Music Store is the most popular online music store in the world and Apple said it has sold over 1.5 billion music tracks and tens of millions of TV shows and movies.

IBM and Yahoo try to challenge Google AP
IBM Corp. and Yahoo Inc. are teaming up to offer a free data-search tool for businesses, a quirky move challenging Google Inc. and other corporate-search specialists in a blossoming market. IBM already sells a business-focused search product, OmniFind, that lets organizations comb through internal documents. 

Over Three-Fourths of U.S. Active Internet Users Connect via Broadband at Home in November, According to Nielsen//NetRatings - Market Wire 
Nielsen//NetRatings, a global leader in Internet media and market research, announced today that 78 percent of active home Web users connected via broadband during the month of November, up 13 percentage points from 65 percent of active Web users a year ago.

Economic Report: Mortgage applications rise to 1-year high - MarketWatch
The volume of applications for mortgages from major U.S. banks climbed to the highest level in more than a year last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday. Applications, encompassing both those for loans to purchase homes and for refinancings of existing mortgages, increased 11.4% last week to the highest level since October 2005. Total applications are up 22.2% compared with the same week a year ago. Application volumes had been down by double-digit percentages for most of the year.

Holiday Sales Watch WSJ
Economists estimate sales -- adjusted for seasonal swings -- rose by about 0.2% in November from October, and 0.3% excluding autos. That works out to year-over-year growth of a little more than 4% for both categories, which is pretty tepid. Strip out the volatile gas category, and retail sales look stronger.

Federal deficit shows improvement AP 
The U.S. federal budget deficit is showing a slight improvement through the first two months of the 2007 budget year, although the imbalance is still expected to exceed last year's figure. The Treasury Department  reported Tuesday that the deficit for November totaled $75.6 billion, down from a deficit in November 2005 of $83.1 billion. Through the first two months of the current budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $124.9 billion, down 4.2 percent from the $130.3 billion in red ink run up in the same period last year.

U.S. job activity little changed in October: Labor Reuters 
U.S. job openings, hires and job turnover rates were little changed in October, the Labor Department said on Tuesday. The 3% job openings rate was unchanged from the previous month and little changed since November 2005, the department said in its latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

Stocks dip on Fed interest rate decision AP
Wall Street pulled back Tuesday, finishing slightly lower as investors grappled with an economic assessment by the Federal Reserve that warned yet again of inflation risks and reported a substantial slowing of the housing sector. As widely expected, the Fed has left the interest rate unchanged at 5.25%. 

Can cars fly? Small ones can, right off the lot - at USATODAY.com 
Tiny cars continue to be big hits even though sky-high gas prices have eased. Pushed by Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa - small, front-wheel-drive, fuel-efficient subcompacts introduced this year - the low-price end of the small-car market is up 42.2% through November compared with a year ago.

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