Debt control: Americans put $148 billion in purchases on their credit cards during the recent holiday season. Now credit counseling agencies and websites are scurrying to help families stressed by debt to get out from under it. The process can take years of discipline. John and Sheryl Martin of Hutchinson took four years and eight months to wipe out $35,000 in credit card balances.
Tough sell: The most affordable houses in Minnesota have taken the biggest hits in declining sale prices during the housing slump, according to a survey of transactions in 38 counties.
The University of St. Thomas survey found that the amount fetched by houses priced at $165,000 or less fell 9 percent in the third quarter of 2007, compared with the same period in 2006. Houses priced at $315,000 or more inched up in value by 0.4 percent in the same period.
The author of the study expects declines to level off by fall.
Missed payment: Eagan-based Buffets Inc. missed a key interest payment on $293 million in debt. The value of its outstanding notes and bonds fell to new lows in the wake of the news.
Executives at Buffets, best known for its Old Country Buffet restaurants, said they are working on restructuring the company's debts.
Buffets could be a bellwether. Credit watchers fret that an economic slowdown may hurt many more consumer-sensitive companies in the months ahead.
Job-numbers crunch: The job market sent a sorry message on the economy.
The U.S. unemployment rate in December rose to 5 percent, the highest level in more than two years and up from 4.7 percent in November. The government also reported meager job growth, with the economy adding only 18,000 jobs in December.
It was the slowest rate of increase in four years.