Money in a Minute: Headlines for Feb. 23, 2011

In today’s headlines: Many housing markets hit record lows, credit card rate hikes and fees fall, stockholders in HP and Barnes & Noble lose big, and the government’s investigating Toyota again.

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HOMES: Home prices hit post-bust lows in most big cities

The housing market may or may not be hitting bottom, but it’s definitely reached record lows in many areas, including Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, and New York. AP reports “the only market to see a gain was Washington, D.C.”

CARS: U.S. opens investigation into Toyota hybrid SUVs

The government will investigate claims of engines stalling in more than 40,000 Toyota Highlander hybrids starting this week. The claims include vehicles “stalling at speeds of 40 miles per hour or more,” MSNBC reports, but fortunately “there have been no crashes or injuries reported.”

BOOKS: Barnes & Noble shares tank on earnings, dividend news

America’s largest bookseller may not be declaring bankruptcy like its rival, Borders, but it’s not doing great either. The company decided to “suspend its annual dividend payment of $1 per share in order to invest in its digital products,” CNN reports. But that made stockholders upset, and shares “tanked more than 14% Tuesday.”

TECH: HP forecast misses estimates as consumers hold back spending; shares fall

Computer-making giant Hewlett-Packard missed its mark too – by about one billion dollars – after a slump in consumer spending. Despite posting a higher profit last quarter, that means shares gave back most of what they gained so far this year, according to Bloomberg: “The shares, which had climbed 15 percent this year, closed at $48.23 at 4 p.m.” That’s a 12 percent drop.

CREDIT: Credit card rules 1 year later: Hits and misses

The latest financial regulations have had some impact: The total consumers spent on late fees was “more than halved” in less than a year, USA Today reports, from $901 million in January 2010 to $427 million last November. Rate hikes are also way down. The downside? New accounts are “more likely to come with annual fees and higher interest rates,” and there’s “greatly reduced available credit for riskier customers.”

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