February 13, 2009 / 5:14 PM / 10 years ago

Signs of the Times: On Valentine's Day give a foreclosed home

(Reuters) - The global recession manifests itself in big and small ways, most gloomy, some quirky and often reflecting the inventive human spirit. Here is a look at some signs of the times.

A foreclosure sale sign sits in front of a house in Falls Church, Virginia, just outside Washington D.C. July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

* This Valentine’s Day, why not buy your loved one a foreclosed home? U.S. realty company RealtyTrac Inc’s latest publicity email tells clients: “With more than 1.5 million foreclosure properties on our website, you’re sure to find a sweet deal that won’t break your heart.” It adds romantically: “A sweet foreclosure deal beats a dozen roses or a box of chocolates any day.”

* In Amsterdam, the Animal Rescue Foundation is setting up a food bank for pets so that owners who fall on hard times can still feed their dogs and cats. Asked if there was a risk that owners themselves might eat the food, Animal Rescue’s Jack de Jongh told the newspaper Parool: “If they do, it won’t kill them.”

* U.S. sales of celebrity gossip magazines, which are largely dependent on impulse buys at supermarket checkouts, fell more than 10 percent in the last half of 2008, The New York Times reported. But unlike most celebrity romances, there’s a happy ending: “People” magazine saw its circulation edge up by 2 percent.

* Hard times are pressing on Brazil’s carnival festivities. Firms in Rio de Janeiro report sales are down for the elaborate costumes worn in the city’s annual parade and many people are hunting for bargains, said Helcio Correa, who has been selling costumes for almost four decades. Several mining towns in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, hit by a collapse in demand for iron ore, have canceled their Feb 21-25 festivities.

* Hopeful people lined up in chilly weather for several blocks around Chicago’s venerable Wrigley Field baseball stadium, home of the Chicago Cubs, but not for tickets — they were after jobs. The club held a job fair offering several hundred seasonal and part-time jobs.

* It’s a tough time to be a business school graduate. An international survey found that almost 75 percent of schools reported a fall in recruiting for jobs in financial services, banking and real estate. Kip Harrell, president of MBA Career Services Council which compiled the survey, said, “Every student needs to realize that they need to be perfect in every aspect of their search ... Failure to perform any career search step flawlessly will knock you out as a contender.”

* U.S. President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party is asking people to send stories about living through the economic crisis, with video and photos, to a website. “The story of this crisis is in homes across the country — homes where a family member has lost a job, where parents are struggling to pay a mortgage, and where college tuition has slipped out of reach,” the Democratic National Committee said. The stories will be made available to the public.

* Washington’s Kennedy Center performing arts center is sharing management and fundraising expertise with theaters hit by the recession. They can talk for free with the Center’s experts about shrinking income, budget-conscious audiences and other problems. “Every single day you read about one or more than one (arts group) that is cutting back their season or reducing the staff,” said Michael Kaiser, Kennedy Center president.

* Even McDonald’s is feeling the pinch of the economic downturn in China, where the world’s largest fast-food chain slashed some prices by more than a third. Popular items with the lower price include the Filet-O-Fish, Double Cheeseburger and chicken McNuggets. A growing number of Chinese restaurants and shops have reduced prices to try to lure customers.

* It’s not all gloom. Japanese women, who by tradition are the ones who give chocolates to loved ones on Valentine’s Day, are showing no sign of holding back because of the financial crisis. A survey of nearly 300 women who subscribe to the email magazine of the Printemps department store in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza shopping district showed 71 percent plan to give chocolate to their “true loves,” up from 66 percent last year.

Compiled by David Storey; Reporting by Lynn Adler in New York; Sara Ledwith in London; Alberto Alerigi and Reese Ewing in Sao Paolo; Linda Sieg in Tokyo; Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Diane Bartz, Patricia Zengerle, Doina Chiacu and Jackie Frank in Washington; Simon Gardner in Santiago

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