Money in a Minute: Headlines for Feb. 24, 2011

GOVERNMENT: Government shutdown: What’s at stake

What happens if Democrats and Republicans in Congress keep bickering over the budget? “If lawmakers don’t pass a funding extension by March 4,” CNN reports, “that could mean that government workers would stay home, national parks and museums would close and cleanup at toxic waste sites would stop.”

GAS: If Libyan unrest spreads, gas could reach $5

Right now, the worst of the revolts in Libya aren’t affecting the oil fields. Even so, “Oil prices soared to the highest level in more than two years as violence spread,” USA Today reports. And if it continues? “Gas prices could hit $5 a gallon by peak summer driving season.”

ECONOMY: US consumer confidence jumps to three-year high in February

Despite all the bad news chronicled above, Americans are increasingly optimistic about the future. “An index of US consumer confidence jumped to 70.4 in February, reaching the highest level in three years,” the New York Post reports. “Economists had expected a confidence reading of 66.”

INVESTING: Fidelity says average 401(K) account balance reached 10-year high in 2010

The average 401(K) balance rose to $71,500 last year – an 11 percent jump from 2009. “About two-thirds of the increase in account balances last year was driven by market performance,” Bloomberg reports, “while one-third was attributed to participant action such as contributions.”

CARS: Ford to recall F-150 pickups over air bags

Another week, another recall. “Under government pressure, Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it will recall nearly 150,000 F-150 pickup trucks to fix air bags that could deploy without warning,” MSNBC reports.

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