Money in a Minute: Headlines for March 29, 2011

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In today's news: More bad auto news from Japan, Americans don't like either party's budget plans, Wal-Mart faces the biggest class-action lawsuit ever, consumer spending creeps up, and more homes are under contract.

JAPAN: As Japan shutdowns drag on, auto crisis worsens

Last week’s news about an auto crisis after the Japan earthquake has grown even worse this week. “In the weeks ahead, car buyers will have difficulty finding the model they want in certain colors, thousands of auto plant workers will likely be told to stay home, and companies such as Toyota, Honda and others will lose billions of dollars in revenue,” the Associated Press reports.

GOVERNMENT: CNN Poll: Neither Democrats or GOP have edge in budget battle

When it comes to the federal budget, a majority of Americans prefer…neither party’s plans. “46 percent of Americans say they prefer President Barack Obama’s approach on budget negotiations, with 45 percent saying they prefer congressional Republicans’ approach,” CNN reports. Even worse: “More than six in 10 Americans think that things are going badly in the country today.”

WORKPLACE: Wal-Mart sex-bias case could have wide impact

Wal-Mart is going to the Supreme Court. Attorneys for female employees who claim gender discrimination want their case declared “class action,” which would include “some 1.5 million female employees, current and former, dating to 1998,” MSNB reports. “At issue is whether this large group of women should be allowed to proceed with a suit en masse.” If so, it would become the biggest class-action lawsuit ever.

ECONOMY: Consumer spending and incomes rose in February

Americans earned more and spent more last month, but much of that extra money went to cover the high cost of gasoline. “Consumer spending jumped 0.7 percent last month and personal incomes rose 0.3 percent,” the Associated Press reported. “Both gains reflected a Social Security tax cut, which boosted take-home pay.”

HOUSING: More people signed contracts to buy homes in February

On the heels of last week’s news that previously owned home sales fell to the lowest level in 13 years: “More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in February,” USA Today reports. “But sales were uneven across the country and not enough to signal a rebound in the housing market.”

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