Money Minute: Home Heating Costs Climb; Solar Panel Sales Rise


As temperatures go down, heating bills are set to soar.

Man adjusting thermostat
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Temperatures are unseasonably cold in many areas of the country, and the cost of heating your home this winter could rise sharply from last year -- especially if you use natural gas. The Energy Department estimates it will cost 17 percent more if you live in the Northeast. For residents in the South, the cost goes up more than 12 percent, and by nearly that much in the Midwest. The increase in the West is expected to be about 7 percent higher. Electricity costs are likely to rise by 2 to 5 percent across the country.

That may have you thinking about alternatives. You could join the move to solar panels. Installations rose by about 20 percent this year and an industry trade group expects even faster expansion in 2014. Solar stocks have done even better. SolarCity (SCTY) and SunPower (SPWR) both up more than 300 percent this year.

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 129 points Wednesday, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) lost 20 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 57 points.

Standard & Poor's has friended Facebook (FB). It was only a matter of time until the social media giant joined the closely watched S&P 500 index. That takes effect at the close of trading next Friday. Facebook's market value now tops $120 billion.

The world's largest hotel chain goes public this morning. Hilton Worldwide raised $2.3 billion with its IPO, pricing its stock at $20 a share. That values the company at nearly $20 billion. Eventually, some of the money could be used to spruce up rooms and facilities. Private-equity firm Blackstone Group (BX) bought Hilton in 2007. It will trade under the same ticker symbol it had back then -- HLT.

And Vera Bradley (VRA), the maker of women's accessories, is out of style with today's investors. It posted solid earnings, but issued a disappointing outlook for the current quarter and next year.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

Originally published