A week's worth

• No tricks, no treats: Barring a major scare from the markets, the US economy looks set to enjoy a Halloween week that's as mellow as pumpkin pie. By most estimates, the Federal Reserve won't fiddle with interest rates when it meets this week. And economists conclude the economy is still expanding. But weak earnings reports and Conference Board figures deflated investor enthusiasm last week. The board's index of leading indicators notched a 0.2 percent dip. For the week, the major stock indexes slid more than 1 percent. Only gold mutual funds posted solid gains.

• Speaking of gains: Tuition at four-year colleges and universities now costs 40 percent more than a decade ago, says the College Board, which owns the SAT. Throw in room and board and the average four-year private school will set you back $26,854 a year.

• Holiday green: Fortunately, shoppers retain their festive spirit. The National Retail Federation says the average consumer plans to spend $671.89 this holiday season. That's up from 2002 when consumers spent an average of $648.85 and would represent the biggest jump since 1999. What to buy? For the first time, online auctioneer eBay is offering gift certificates. They come in various denominations from $5 up to $200 - perfect for that must-have collection of 1970s moon rocks.

• A tip for savers: If you like US savings bonds, there's still time to buy them with one of those credit cards that offer airline miles or cash back. You get guaranteed income from Uncle Sam plus that credit-card bonus. But hurry. The federal government ends its direct-buy program for good on Dec. 30.

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