Money Minute: Americans' Wealth Soars; GM Sheds 'Government Motors'

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GM finally sheds its "Government Motors" label.

The federal government has sold its remaining stake in General Motors, acquired in the 2009 bailout of the auto industry. Taxpayers lost $10 billion of the nearly $50 billion invested in GM. Still, supporters say the TARP program did exactly what it was intended to do by saving more than a million jobs in the auto industry.

As for GM, it's now free of the stigma of the government investment and the restrictions imposed by TARP. Shares of the new GM (GM) are at their highest level since they began trading three years ago.

Woman putting coin into piggy bank
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Are you feeling a bit wealthier? The average net worth of U.S households rose to a record high in the third quarter. Most of the gain came from stock and mutual fund prices, and the rising value of homes. This could boost economic growth going forward. If consumers feel wealthier, they're more likely to borrow and spend.

But for people who don't own their own homes, rents are going up. The reason is that more people are renting -- 43 million in all. That's up about 4 million from 2007, just before the foreclosure crisis hit.

Prices for your morning glass of OJ could also be on the rise. Wholesale prices are up because the domestic orange crop is expected to be light, partly due to the early winter freeze. The Agriculture Department revises its crop forecast Tuesday, and it could be the smallest orange crop in more than 20 years.

A growing number of American companies are offering benefits to same sex couples. A gay rights advocacy group says more than 300 get perfect scores on "corporate equality" including giants such as General Electric (GE) and Procter & Gamble (PG). Two out of three companies in the Fortune 500 now offer health benefits for same sex couples.

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) added 5 points Monday, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 3 and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) gained 6 points.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.


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