The week that was: Look, up in the sky

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I: Look, up in the sky ...

... it's the Dow! The Dow Jones industrial average surpassed its previous all-time high last week, thanks to positive corporate earnings and an improving housing market. On Tuesday, the Dow eclipsed its previous record close of 14,164, achieved Oct. 9, 2007. (The Dow average is an index of 30 of the nation's largest blue-chip companies.) Friday, the Dow closed the week at 14,397.07, another all-time high.

II: Look, up in the sky ...

... it's your gas prices! Yes, the Dow is surging -- which is great for investors and corporations. But what about those who don't plant their savings in the markets? "We may see a tale of two economies in the near term. The middle class is squeezed by the payroll tax hike and the increase in gasoline prices," said Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James, via ABC News.

III: Look, up in the sky ...

... it's your airfare to New York City! Once low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways dropped its Pittsburgh-to-New York route Feb. 27, other airlines -- US Airways, American and Delta -- took advantage by immediately jacking up prices. What had been reliably a $200-or-less round-trip can now cost four times that. The PG's Mark Belko found that booking a New York flight a week in advance would cost $728 round trip on US Airways and $837.80 on Delta (to LaGuardia), with Delta charging $847.80 for a trip to and from JFK. Booking weeks in advance brings the price down, but only to the low $600s, for quick-turnaround trips. (Longer, vacation-length stays can still be had for less than $200 per round trip.)

IV: Look, up in the sky ...

... it's snow! Well, not today, but last week, and through much of February. Lousy weather was one of the reasons cited for lousy sales numbers at the South Side-based American Eagle Outfitters. The sluggish start to 2013 resulted in the clothier's stock price sliding 10 percent Wednesday. On Friday, it closed at 21.07.

V: Look, up in the sky ...

... it's your blood pressure! Highmark Inc. and UPMC, dueling as always, are now engaged in a tussle over whether UPMC doctors and practices ought to see customers who are enrolled in Highmark's new, lower-cost Community Blue insurance plan if the patients want to go "out-of-network" or pay for an office visit in cash. Highmark says yes, UPMC says no, and City Paper's Chris Potter says "the mind-bending questions this raises about the lunacy of our health care system loom large."

VI: Look, up in the sky ...

"We're really looking for a Superman, or a Superwoman."

-- Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak on the city's highest-profile job opening: that of police chief. As for the rest of the job-seekers, the national unemployment rate ticked down slightly in February by two-tenths of 1 percentage point, from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent. The country added 236,000 new jobs.

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Bill Toland: btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.


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