Money Minute: Nation's Power Grid at Risk; Microsoft to 'Unsupport' XP


Saboteurs could knock out the electric grid from coast to coast.

This sounds like a movie plot, but it could be real. The Wall Street Journal reports a government analysis finds that if terrorists disabled just nine key electric transmission substations on a very hot summer day, it could force the country's entire power network to collapse. And if that happened it wouldn't be a quick fix. It could take weeks, even months, to restore power. And most of the nation's 55,000 substations aren't well protected.

Compounding the problem, Microsoft (MSFT) will soon stop supporting its 13-year old Windows XP system, which is widely used by utility companies. Without that support, their computer networks could become vulnerable to hackers.

On a more cheerful note, J.C. Penney (JCP) relaunches its home goods department. It promises to offer affordable, no-frills brands -- a move considered critical to the company's turnaround effort.

The Obama Administration says health insurance premiums are likely to continue rising next year. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%But Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the pace of increase will be lower than we've seen in the past few years, and significantly lower than it was before Obamacare was passed in 2010.

Here on Wall Street Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 11 points, but the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 16 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) edged slightly higher.

Google (GOOG) offers super-high speed Internet connections in Kansas City and Austin, Texas, with plans to expand to more than 30 other cities. Now it has competition. Bright House Networks is building a similar fiber connected network in Tampa, Fla. Some people could have access to it by this summer. The one-gigabyte speed is about double what the fastest cable network can provide.

Finally, a little math quiz for you. How can the S&P 500 have 501 stocks? Well, Google plans to split into two different classes of stock and both will be included in the closely watched index, giving it 501 stocks -- but still only 500 companies.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

Originally published