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Biz tidbits from and about magazines

The dollar may gain a bit against other currencies in 2008, Bloomberg Markets reports, but its long-term prospects are bleak. The days when the dollar was strong - in terms of buying power and prestige - may be past. "Economists say the currency, which has declined in five of the past six years against the euro, is caught in a downdraft as investors pour into Asia, prompting a tectonic shift in economic power from the U.S.," James Neuger and Simon Kennedy wrote. In the short term, the dollar may gain, though. "Deutsche Bank AG, the world's largest currency trader, predicts the dollar will rise at least 5 percent in 2008 versus the euro," the authors wrote, but they quickly added that "longer term, the slowing U.S. economy - hurt by a banking and consumer credit meltdown that's only getting worse - will weigh heavily on the dollar." Economists and academics quoted in the article raise the possibility that someday soon the dollar will no longer be the world's dominant currency.

Plastic adds to pain of international travel

The weak dollar makes overseas travel more expensive. And the fact that many credit card companies charge for converting purchases made in foreign currencies into American dollars makes purchases on international travel pinch even more. Get ready for more pain. Some Australian businesses have started passing along the service fees that credit card companies charge them for processing a transaction, National Geographic Traveler reports. And the practice may spread. New European Union banking policies, David Swanson wrote, "will permit all European states to create their own individual policies on surcharging."

Look overseas for better dividends

In turbulent financial times, investors who want to stay in equities frequently start buying high-yielding stocks. And today, Smart Money reports, many of the companies paying the most in dividends can be found outside the United States. They may become "one of the best plays in the booming overseas markets," Reshma Kapadia and Anojja Shah wrote. The average yield of the Standard & Poor's 500 is 1.8 percent. Stocks based in the Asia-Pacific region are yielding 2.5 percent and those in Europe offer a 3 percent yield, the reporters said. Not only are the yields higher, they added, but they have been rising faster. The magazine looked at foreign firms that trade as American depositary receipts, had a yield at least 50 percent higher than the S&P average and had "plenty of cash flow." It recommended five: AXA, a French financial company; CPFL Energia, a Brazilian utility; Magyar Telekom, a Hungarian phone company; Taiwan Semiconductor; and Total, the French oil and gas company.