Money Minute: Beef Prices Seen Moving Higher; Mortgage Defaults Tumble


Beef prices are high and likely to go much higher.

That all-beef hamburger patty will sizzle on the grill, and cause a burn on your budget. New government figures show the price of beef rose about 5 percent last year, and could jump by even more than that this year and again next year. It's a matter of basic supply and demand. Cattle herds are the smallest they've been in decades, largely because of the drought that's ravaging Texas and other big cattle states.

But there's good news on the housing front. The number of homeowners behind on making mortgage payments dropped to 6.4 percent at the end of last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That's the lowest the delinquency rate has been since early 2008, when the recession was just starting to take hold.

The Obama administration is looking to crack down on companies that hold big hordes of cash overseas to protect their profits from U.S. taxes. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%This is potentially a very big deal, applying to billions of dollars of earnings, especially from big tech companies. The proposal reportedly will be part of the White House budget plan that's due out early next month. And here's a shocker: it's likely to face opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

At the same time, the White House is dropping a previous offer to reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients. An official says the change of heart is because Republicans haven't agreed to close any tax loopholes.

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 92 points Thursday, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 29, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 11.

For the first time since marijuana became legal in Colorado at the beginning of the year, pot vendors had to pay taxes Thursday. The state now expects to take in more than $100 million, far more than earlier estimates.

And if you've got a big case of the munchies, the candymaker Russell Stover is reportedly up for sale. MarketWatch says the family-owned company, best-known for its Whitman sampler boxes of chocolates, could fetch more than $1 billion.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.