A Week's Worth: Quick takes on the world of work and money

Dow dives to 12800, some gift card advice, and get ready for California's real estate auction.

News that unemployment in the US rose to 5 percent, a two-year high, shook investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 2 percent Friday and more than 4 percent last week.

If you still haven't spent your holiday gift cards, Marshall Cohen, an analyst with the NPD Group Inc., a leading provider of consumer and retail information, has these pointers: Read the fine print on cards and mind the expiration dates, even if many cards have eased or dropped them. Use the cards before their value decreases and keep them out as a visible reminder, at home or in your car, rather than in your wallet, where they may get lost among a stack of credit cards.

In a sign of the times, possibly the largest auction of foreclosed homes in US history is scheduled to take place in San Diego, beginning Jan. 26. Real Estate Disposition Corp., a real estate marketing firm, will put more than 1,000 homes on the block in a series of five one-day auctions scattered around Southern California.

Toyota Motor Corp. overtook Ford as the No. 2 automaker in terms of US sales in 2007, and this year the Japanese company intends to displace General Motors as the world's No. 1 automotive producer. Its goal is to manufacture 9.42 million vehicles, a 4 percent increase, and move ahead of GM, which made 9.2 million vehicles in 2007 but has been forced to cut back production.

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