A Week's Worth

By , Work & Money editor

Food gets cheaper: Due to declines in beef and dairy prices, food costs fell 1.6 percent last month, the biggest one-month drop in more than two years. But that was offset by rising oil prices, which hit another high Friday. The surge in energy costs has pushed the US trade deficit to a new record: $55.8 billion in June. The Federal Reserve, which raised short-term interest rates a quarter point last week, still predicts that the recovery will strengthen. Wall Street is near its lows for the year.

Back-to-school spending - second only to Christmas holiday spending - is forecast to rise to nearly $40 billion this year, says the National Retail Federation. Families expect to spend an average $483 for children in grade school and high school.

Puzzled? Consumers rate five common documents most difficult to understand: mortgage applications, health-insurance benefits forms, federal income-tax returns, newspaper stock market listings, and investment-account statements, according to the Perplexity Poll by Siegel & Gale. Among documents rated easy to understand: payroll stubs and airplane safety instruction cards.

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All I want for Christmas is a credit card? Only 7 percent of teens have access to one, says a Coinstar survey. That keeps most of them from shopping the Internet. If teens could buy online, 68 percent say they would purchase clothing; 67 percent say music.

By the numbers: The average American pays nine bills a month and racks up $70.25 a year in late fees, according to a Quicken survey.

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