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A Week's Worth

Holiday cheer: Consumer confidence rose significantly last month, according to the University of Michigan consumer-sentiment index. It registered 95.7 (93.2 was forecast), which suggests strong Christmas spending. Also, oil prices fell below $41 a barrel for the first time in nearly five months.

Musical shares: A Westport, Conn., firm is organizing a $100 million fund to invest in rare stringed musical instruments. Eventually, the public will be able to buy shares in the venture, which plans to buy and sell violins, violas, and cellos. The fund will also allow musicians to play them at no charge. Stringed musical instruments maintain their value over time better than currency or gold, says the Austrian Central Bank, which also invests in them.

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Mutual disdain: Activists brought 11 global-warming resolutions to a shareholder vote this year. So how did the largest 100 mutual funds vote? Only three of the 28 firms controlling those funds - American Century, Columbia Funds, and Janus Funds - supported any of the proposals. Even they voted down or abstained from most of them, says Ceres, a coalition of environmental, investor, and advocacy groups.

Barbie's blunder: Mattel created the year's biggest brand fiasco when it had the world-famous doll dump Ken two days before Valentine's Day, says Kelly O'Keefe, an Atlanta-based brand consultant. Companies take years to build up brands but bad publicity can destroy them overnight. Third-quarter Barbie sales were off by 13 percent.


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