Money in a Minute: Headlines for March 21, 2011

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In today's news: Will cars from Japan be radioactive? How high can gas prices climb? Why is Starbucks raising its prices?

MARKETS: Stocks Higher Despite Problems in Libya, Japan

Stocks were higher worldwide Monday despite higher oil, fighting in Libya and the continuing problems with Japan’s nuclear reactor.  As of 6:30 EST, U.S. stocks were also poised to open higher.

In early trading today, oil gushed higher by nearly $2 a barrel to $103 a barrel.  But virtually every European stock market is higher in early trading, and Asian markets ended Monday’s trading with solid gains. Japan’s market was closed for a holiday.

Why are stocks rising? Because events in Japan and the Middle East aren’t expected to derail the global economic recovery. According to the Associated Press, Citigroup Global Markets offered this explanation: “Equities have been hit by Middle Eastern turmoil … and now the Japanese earthquake. The bigger risk for the future is likely to be a further spike in oil prices. Overall, however, if these events leave the global economic recovery intact, as we expect, investors should look to buy.”

AUTO: Will Japanese cars track radiation back to the U.S.?

While Japan still copes with radiation leaks from damaged nuclear reactors, Nissan announced it was monitoring its plants “for any traces of radioactive material,” USA Today reports. No word yet on what Nissan has found.

FUEL: Gas prices climb nearly 7 cents a gallon

A gallon of regular is going for an average of $3.57 – 6.65 cents higher than it was only two weeks ago. That’s more than 75 cents higher than it was a year ago, CNN Money reports.

FOOD: Record beef price gains as corn cost slows feedlot cattle buying

Feedlot operators, who buy the cattle that eventually become our burgers, bought nearly 2 percent less last month. That will eventually mean even higher prices at the grocery store. “Rising demand helped send U.S. beef to a record $4.288 a pound on average at supermarkets in February, as corn prices reached a 31-month high and the pace of food inflation accelerated,” Bloomberg reports.

HEALTH: Genomic Health says gene test alters breast cancer therapy

A company that makes a gene test for breast cancer says its technology has reduced expensive and painful chemotherapy treatments 33 percent in Europe. No word yet when that technology come to the United States.

COFFEE: Starbucks raises prices for packaged coffee

If you buy Starbucks packaged coffee to save money, be warned: USA Today says the company “raised the price it suggests stores charge to $9.99 from $8.99 for a 12-ounce package of Starbucks coffee and to $7.99 from $6.99 for Seattle’s Best.” It’s the first hike since March 2008, and Starbucks officials say it’s to cover the higher price of beans.

Stacy Johnson

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