Money in a Minute: Headlines for March 25, 2011

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In today's news: Oil prices surge to 30-month high, new home sales hit an all-time low, medical marijuana is a smokin' business, a drought in Texas could rain on food prices, and the average American family lost more than 20 percent of their net worth between 2007 and 2009.

OIL: Oil – near $106 and rising

Crude oil prices rose above $106 a gallon as Mideast protests spooked investors – and those prices could go even higher. “If all oil production ceased in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, oil prices could rise to $125 a barrel,” CNN Money reports. “Libya is just the start of the worries. A bomb exploded on a Jerusalem bus Wednesday, and escalating violence between Syrian security forces and anti-government protesters left 15 dead.”

HOUSING: U.S. new-home sales unexpectedly fall to lowest on record

While the economy is showing signs of life, the new-home market is deader than ever. “Purchases of new U.S. homes unexpectedly declined in February to the slowest pace on record and prices dropped to the lowest level since December 2003,” Bloomberg reports. And it’s not much better for existing home sales – those dropped 9.6 percent last month.

DRUGS: Medical marijuana becoming blockbuster drug

“Medical marijuana is now a $1.7 billion market,” MSNBC reports. By comparison, Viagra rakes in just a little more: 1.9 billion per year. And Viagra is available everywhere, while medical marijuana is only being sold in 15 states. “If another 20 states pass medical marijuana laws,” MSNBC says, “the market could grow to $8.9 billion in 2016.”

FOOD: Worst Texas drought in 44 years eroding U.S. wheat, beef supply

What’s bad for Texas is bad for the rest of us. “The worst Texas drought in 44 years is damaging the state’s wheat crop and forcing ranchers to reduce cattle herds,” Bloomberg reports, “as rising demand for U.S. food sends grain and meat prices higher.”

ECONOMY:Household wealth down 23 percent in 2 years

The recession has taken its toll on everyone. “The average American family’s household net worth declined 23 percent between 2007 and 2009,” CNN Money reports. “Families that owned stock saw their portfolios drop by more than a third to $12,000 from $18,500, on average. The value of primary real estate holdings decreased by an average of $18,700.”

Stacy Johnson

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