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Minimum wage increase takes effect Sunday

OLYMPIA – Washington state’s minimum wage increases by 37 cents to $9.04 an hour starting on New Year’s Day.

While the state’s current rate of $8.67 an hour is already the highest state minimum wage in the nation, a few cities, like San Francisco, have their own laws and have higher rates. San Francisco’s current rate of $9.92 jumps to $10.24 on Sunday, making it the first city in the nation to top a $10 minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Idaho’s minimum wage matches the federal wage, although employees who earn tips can be paid a wage as little as $3.35 per hour in Idaho.

Washington is among a handful of states where the minimum wage will increase Sunday.

Washington’s minimum wage is adjusted each year for inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for the past 12 months, which is up more than 4 percent. The yearly recalculation is required by Initiative 688, which was approved by Washington voters in 1998.

Associated Press

Consumer confidence tracks overall outlook

NEW YORK – Americans are gaining faith that the economy is on the upswing.

An improving job outlook helped the Consumer Confidence Index soar to the highest level since April and near a post-recession peak, according to a monthly survey by The Conference Board.

It marked the second straight monthly surge and coincided with what’s wrapping up to be decent spending for the holiday shopping season.

The rise in confidence jibes with a better outlook for the overall economy. According to an Associated Press poll of three dozen private, corporate and academic economists, the U.S. economy will grow faster in 2012 – if it isn’t derailed by upheavals in Europe.

“This is encouraging. It’s good to be talking about improvement,” said Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo. “But there is still a lot of room for trouble.”

The New York-based Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose almost 10 points to 64.5 in December, up from a revised 55.2 in November. Analysts had expected 59. The level is close to the post-recession peak of 72, reached in February.

The surge in December builds on a big increase in November, when the index rose almost 15 points from October. That month’s reading was the lowest since March 2009, when the index was 26.9, having begun a fitful recovery from its all-time low the month before of 25.3.

Associated Press

Treasury says China isn’t manipulating yuan

WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department on Tuesday said China was not a currency manipulator, a move that allows the White House to avoid the escalation of a trade dispute with China.

In the long-delayed semiannual report to Congress on currencies, the Treasury Department cited the 7.5 percent appreciation in the yuan vs. the dollar since June 2010, the decline in China’s current-account surplus, as well as China’s official commitments at global gatherings to move more rapidly toward exchange-rate flexibility.

Factoring in the higher rate of domestic inflation in China compared with the United States, the yuan has gained nearly 12 percent on the greenback in real terms since June 2010, when China took steps to allowing increased flexibility in its currency.

Foreign-reserve accumulation slowed in the fourth quarter due to cooling capital inflows and uncertainty about the global economy.



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