A Week's Worth

Patriotic driving: As this week's cover story points out, the average cost of car ownership can reach $240,000 or more over a lifetime. Buying a fuel-efficient vehicle is one of many ways to cut those expenses. Now, it's also patriotic. That's what 2 in 3 Americans surveyed said in a national poll, which found plenty of support for fuel- sipping cars that would make the United States less dependent on Middle East oil. The survey, sponsored by the nonpartisan Civil Society Institute, also found that half of those surveyed either had bought a more fuel-efficient vehicle (26 percent) or were considering it (24 percent).

Such purchases would come none too soon, since oil prices set a new high, $56.72 for light crude. Rising energy costs depressed the stock market. All three major indexes posted their second weekly loss in a row, with the Nasdaq hitting its lowest point since Nov. 3.

If workers like the company, chances are investors will too. Stocks of Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work for" provided better than 3 times the return of either the Russell 3000 Index or the S&P 500 from 1998 to 2004, according to a study released by Great Place to Work Institute and Russell Investment Group.

Gonna fly? JetBlue won top honors in customer satisfaction among major US airlines, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Northwest ranked last. The survey also found that passengers who check in at electronic kiosks average half the wait (7.2 minutes) that passengers using ticket counters do.

Dwindling foreclosures: The percentage of residential mortgages in the foreclosure process fell to 1.12 percent at the end of last quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association said. That's the lowest rate since the third quarter of 2000.

Clueless: More than two-thirds of taxpayers in a survey couldn't answer questions about relatively common tax issues. For example: Only 16 percent knew that you must live in your home two of the last five years in order to qualify for the capital-gains exclusion when you sell it. CCH Tax and Accounting commissioned the survey.

Shady dealings: Wal-Mart agreed to pay a record $11 million to settle charges that it used illegal immigrants to clean many of its stores. Separately, a federal judge ruled that one of Ford Motor's lending affiliates discriminated against black customers by charging them higher rates on vehicle loans. The two sides have 30 days to find a settlement for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in overcharges.

US cellphone users spent an average 6,095 minutes - a little over four days - talking on their mobile phones last year, according to CTIA, a trade group.

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