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Money in the Morning

Another key economic report has caught the "experts" by surprise. The Commerce Department reported today that retail sales in May rose by 1.0 percent, about double what economists were projecting and the biggest increase in six months. The reason for the increase: those economic stimulus payments were hitting bank accounts and recipients were doing what was intended -- spending the dough. About $55 billion in rebates, not to mention more than $200 billion in tax refunds, put consumers in motion. The most interesting items in the report was an increase of 1.2 percent in spending at general merchandise store, the biggest jump in 14 months.

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Qualcomm stock is getting a boost this morning after the company raised its financial guidance for the third quarter. "The fundamental drivers of our business remain strong, as based on the current business outlook we are raising our fiscal 2008 pro forma earnings per share guidance range to approximately $2.09-$2.13," said CEO Paul Jacobs.

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For millions of Social Security recipients, the check will no longer be in the mail. The Department of the Treasury said this week that as many as 4 million people receiving benefits but who do not have bank accounts will get their payments in the form of a prepaid debit card. The Direct Express program offers cardholders free access to their benefits. Cardholders can make purchases, pay bills and get cash at thousands of ATMs and retail locations. The program is being launched in 10 states and will go nationwide by this summer.

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We all know things are tough in the real estate market these days and some people trying to sell their homes are seeking some divine intervention. Nearly a third of adults surveyed -- about 23.5 million homeowners -- said they "absolutely want their agent" to bury a small statue of St. Joseph in their backyard. The story dates back hundreds of years to Spain, when land was needed to build a convent for nuns. Sister Teresa of Avila prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of the family and households. She buried a St. Joseph medal in the ground and evidently it did the job. An online company that sells the little statue, of course, thinks this is a great idea. "There is no harm in appealing to higher power for help," said Phil Cates.

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Chick-fil-A restaurants around San Diego County tonight are holding a special Military Appreciation Night. All active duty members of the military, veterans and their families will receive a free meal, courtesy of Chick-fil-A and Wells Fargo. Special events at different locations will be part of the celebration. A magician will be on hand at the Quarry Creek restaurant and in San Marcos there will be free raffles and a lemon-squeezing contest. Other stores in Eastlake Terraces and the Sports Arena are also participating. Members of the military and their families are required to show valid identification to participate.

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