A Week's Worth

In one of the year's shortest trading weeks – markets were closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and Friday's session ended three hours early, at 1 p.m. – the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.51 percent. Analysts said trading was light because many investors wanted to wait for results from the retail sector on the kickoff of the Christmas shopping season.

If you have an aging parent, results of a new study suggest that you may fall into a category of growing concern: the almost 7 million Americans who've reached their 40s and whose dependents include not just their own children but Mom or Dad (or both) as well. Average monthly outlay for the latter purpose: $240. One-quarter of these people have told Putnam Investments that they foresee this generosity eroding their savings and postponing their retirement.

What a surprise! Money changes people's motivations, according to a new report in the journal Science. Researchers from Florida State and the universities of Minnesota and British Columbia found through a series of experiments that a single-minded dedication to self-sufficiency also tends to breed a less-than-considerate attitude toward others. Such people preferred to work and play alone, to put a certain physical distance between themselves and acquaintances, and to become more "socially insensitive."

With the sand in the 2006 hourglass fast spilling out, 1 in 4 working people still has taken no time off, the management solutions provider Hudson North America reports. What's more, another 14 percent have taken no downtime longer than a three-day weekend. Based on its research, Hudson also has determined that 72 percent of employees check in with "the office" almost every day, even when they're supposed to be unwinding. For managers, that proportion climbs to a whopping 87 percent. For its survey on the subject, Hudson's interviewers sampled 1,914 people earlier this month.

Started your holiday gift-buying yet? If shopping means enduring a long checkout line, Visa USA (the credit card issuer) says 42 percent of the customers it polled would gladly trade the experience for the opportunity to stay home and clean their bathrooms. Twelve percent thought it would be more pleasant to be trapped in an elevator. As for the easiest way to pass the time while waiting their turns at the register, 45 percent said they people-watch. But almost one-quarter dropped out of line and went back into the aisles to add more items to their purchases.

Car-rental companies are pleasing more customers, according to a recent survey from J.D. Power and Associates. Its customer satisfaction index has increased by 3 percent from 2005. All eight rental-car companies in the study recorded year-over-year improvements. And despite higher gas prices, the study also found that customers are increasingly renting full-size and sport utility vehicles.

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