Must Read Money Stories, Monday, Dec. 22

by December 22, 2014

MRMSHitting the roads with cheap gas. AAA’s winter holiday travel season officially starts Tuesday, and motorists are hitting the road with the gift of cheap gasoline. GasBuddy says 24 states now have stations where gasoline is selling for less than $2 a gallon, according to NPR. The average national price for a gallon of unleaded is still $2.43, but $1.99 gas is becoming easy to find except in states with high gasoline taxes. AAA predicts that 98.6 million people will travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 4, up 4 percent from 2013-2014. About 98 percent of those trips will take place by car. And actually, air travel won’t rise that much this holiday. AAA only expects a 1 percent increase in plane trips with about 5.7 million people flying during the winter holiday period.

The olive oil supply is drizzling. We told you recently that pasta producers in Italy are facing headaches. Now, it seems the supply of olive oil is in jeopardy. According to The Splendid Table, the world’s olive oil output will drop 20 percent in 2014.  The Italian newspaper La Repubblica is calling it “The Black Year of Italian Olive Oil.” There are a series of reasons, but the most notable are a series of storms in Italy and Spain, and fruit flies. These invade olives, hatch inside, and come flying out when it’s time to press the olives. Producers don’t want to start a panic, so some are importing oil from elsewhere, but press it locally. So, shop carefully in 2015 when restocking your pantry.

Is another subprime collapse coming? Back to the other kind of oil: some analysts in London are beginning to wonder whether falling oil prices are going to cause another meltdown in the subprime lending market, according to MoneyWeek. Here’s the rationale. As fracking grew around the U.S. and other parts of the world, extensive lines of credit were made available to energy companies, especially small and medium sized ones. The bet was that consumers would need as much oil as the industry could produce. Well, driving is down in many places, and as you know, prices are falling. That’s leading to fears these energy developers could default.

Wooing a coach with McConaughey. There’s a lot of buzz that San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is being wooed for the head coaching job at the University of Michigan, including reports that Michigan may pay him $48 million for a six year contract. One zealous fan has put together a video using the Matthew McConaughey voice over from the ads he made for Lincoln, hoping to convince Harbaugh to take the money and come home to Ann Arbor. It has gotten nearly 200,000 views on YouTube, and you can watch it here.