A Week's Worth

A drop in inflation, steady consumer prices, impressive earnings by blue-chippers such as General Electric, and news of a possible Continental Airlines-United Airlines merger helped to propel the Dow Jones Industrial Average to the highest close in its history last week. The index gained 1.1 percent as of Friday's close.

Given the option, most online investors will plow their year-end gains back into their portfolios, Scottrade reports. The online brokerage surveyed 400 clients in October and says 63 percent viewed the fattening of their portfolios as wiser than using profits to buy real estate. Only 14 percent said buying property would be their choice. That's a departure from recent years, according to Scottrade founder Rodger Riney.

The creeping placement of branded products in public schools as well as targeted advertising are stoking the desires of children for the latest and best in consumer items – from computers to cosmetics, a new study has found. Researchers from the universities of Illinois and Minnesota discovered that materialism increased between the ages of 8 and 13, but then declined by ages 16 to 18. Another finding: The lower a child's self-esteem, the more value he or she placed in possessions.

All those pennies you've tossed into a dresser drawer are worth more melted down than if they were stuffed into folders and traded for bills at the bank. Ditto for nickels. That's according to the US Mint, which is implementing new rules to keep "a few individuals" tempted by rising prices for metals from taking needed coinage out of circulation. A conviction for melting pennies and/or nickels will carry maximum penalties of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The Mint also is capping the value of coins shipped out of the US at $100, even if they're going to legitimate collectors.

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