Money Minute: U.S. Whiskey-Maker Turns Japanese; Pork Prices Plump

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Bringin' home the bacon may get more costly.

Hogs are in short supply sending pork prices sharply higher in the future pits, and that could lead to higher consumer prices, too. The Wall Street Journal reports a virus that kills young pigs has spread to farms in 22 states. The virus doesn't threaten food safety, but it could send pork prices to record levels.

We recently reported that beef prices are also on the rise due to cattle shortages. The problem there is the severe drought in Texas and other big cattle states that has thinned the herds.

Liquor-maker Beam (BEAM) has agreed to be acquired by Suntory Holdings of Japan for $16 billion. In addition to its Jim Beam bourbon, the company also makes Canadian Club, Maker's Mark, Courvoisier Cognac and Cruzan Rum.

Here on Wall Street, trading last week held within a pretty narrow range, but we could see more action this week, as earnings season heats up. Most major banks report --
including JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC) -- as well as General Electric (GE) and Intel (INTC). We'll also get some key economic reports, including retail sales for the all-important month of December.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) edged lower last week, but the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) and posted modest gains.

Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN) is planning a big push west. The coffee and doughnut chain has most of its stores in the Northeast, but sees growth potential in California, Texas and other Western states. It tried that strategy once before but had distribution chain problems.

And we'll continue to track Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT), which had one of the biggest rallies in recent memory last week. The stock soared 530 percent on Thursday and Friday after the little-known biotech company stopped a clinical trial of its liver therapy earlier than planned because of its success. But now the National Institutes of Health says the drug did lead to some abnormal spikes in cholesterol.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.


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