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Financial 411: Airline Prices on the Rise

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Former GM Board Member Charged with Insider Trading

Federal regulators have charged Rajat Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs board member, with insider trading. The SEC said he gave confidential information to Raj Rajaratnam. Followers of the 411 know that Rajarantnam is the founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund, and is a key figure in the on-going, widespread investigation into insider trading.

In this instance, Gupta supposedly told Rajarantnam that investing guru Warren Buffett was going to invest $5 billion in Goldman Sachs before the news was publicly announced. That deal happened at the height of the financial crisis and generated big headlines. Gupta's attorney told the Associated Press that the allegations are "totally baseless."

GM Posts Big Sales Gains

General Motors, another company that took center stage during the financial crisis, is reporting a big jump in sales. It sold 49 percent more cars and trucks last month compared to a year ago. But it wasn't just confident consumers taking out their checkbooks. GM also offered them sweeter financing and leases in order to close the deal.

Foreign automakers like Nissan, Hyundai and Honda all posted sales gains of 32 percent, 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

Bernanke Cautiously Optimistic About Economy

Ben Bernanke is sounding a note of cautious optimism about the U.S. economy. The chairman of the Federal Reserve Board told a Senate Committee Tuesday that he sees the job market improving, as new jobless claims decline and firms plan for new hiring. But there's one big but — commodities could throw everything out of whack.

"Sustained rises in the prices of oil or other commodities would represent a threat both to economic growth and to overall price stability, particularly if they were to cause inflation expectations to become less well anchored," he said.

Translation: If oil spikes because of unrest in the Middle East, the price of all kinds of goods could go up.

Markets

There were steep losses on the stock market today, as fears over rising oil prices took hold. The Dow declined 168 points — more than one percent — to close at 12,058. The Nasdaq ended the day down 45 points, at 2,737. The S&P 500 lost 21 points, to end the day at 1,306.

Rising Airline Fees

If you've booked a plane trip in recent weeks, you might have noticed prices are a bit high. In fact, according to FareCompare.com, the major airlines have already tried to raise prices five times in the first two months of this year.  

This weekend, the big carriers — United, Continental, Delta and American — added $20 to roundtrip flights. That was pared back after low cost airlines raised fares by only $10.

Rick Seaney, the CEO of FareCompare.com, talks about the combination of factors leading to higher airline prices, including the rising cost of jet fuel. He also suggests some strategies to avoid higher fares.

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