U.S. consumers have gone deeper in debt as they ramped up investment in big ticket items like houses, automobiles and education.
According to the Federal Reserve, an increase in loans for cars and college pushed consumer credit to $3.19 trillion driving June's consumer debt to 7.4 percent higher than May on an annualized basis.
The Commerce Department revealed this week that wholesale inventories rose .5 of one percent in May – the weakest pace in five months.
A week after consumers paid the highest Fourth of July gas prices since 2008 the average cost of a gallon of fuel fell nearly 3 cents to $3.63.
And stocks edged mostly lower Friday as investors assessed corporate news and the European debt crisis suffered its biggest weekly loss since April.
This summer’s weather has been a story of extremes. Drought in the western U.S. is expected to deplete Lake Mead to levels not seen since the Hoover Dam was completed in 1937. Wildfires continue to burn out west where nearly 700,000 acres have been consumed this year. And record drought levels in California’s fertile Central Valley have increased by more than 50 percent in the last quarter.
However, much of the drought appears to be over in the Corn Belt where summer storms spent another week hammering the countryside.
Add 2014 to the list of years with major flooding along the Mississippi River.
The July 4th holiday weekend was washed out along the Davenport, Iowa riverfront.
This year’s crest was near 21 feet, six feet above flood stage, but two feet shy of the record set in 1993. Just south of the Quad Cities in Burlington, this year’s crest was the third-worst on record there and was the fourth-worst in Keokuk, Iowa.
Iowa experienced its fourth wettest June in 141 years.
Davenport is one the largest cities along the Mississippi River without permanent flood protection in place.
Downstream near Hannibal, Missouri, the Mississippi reached major flood levels.
The home of Mark Twain was inundated with water around landmarks, riverfront and businesses.
Two Mississippi River bridges were closed, one at Quincy, Illinois, the other at Louisiana, Missouri. The second closure resulted in a detour of roughly 70 miles to get over the waterway.
River traffic has ground to a halt between Muscatine, Iowa and Clarksville, Missouri, just north of St. Louis because of the high water.
The river has crested in many of these locations and is slowly headed back down, but the level will remain high for weeks to come, unless more storms worsen the situation.
Iowa also was the target of a large tornado outbreak this week. Four different twisters damaged to several farmsteads around the northeast town of Reinbeck. Other damage was sustained to the trees and buildings in a path almost seven miles long, but the twisters avoided populated areas.
No injuries were reported in the Hawkeye State, but the same could not be said in the Empire state.
Violent weather rolled through central New York this week. Four people died after the serious storms hit between the Syracuse and Utica areas in Smithfield.
At least four homes were destroyed and more than 55,000 were without power.
Allen Wiley, Smithfield, NY resident: "It was like a white wall of rain with huge winds and it sounded like the sound of the jet engine rumbling, at that point we took our two boys down to the lower part of the stairwell and as quick as it came it was over."
The fast-moving storms also did damage in Maryland, where a child at a summer camp was killed by a falling tree. Three small tornadoes touched down in Ohio and at least one other was sighted in Pennsylvania, where more than 300,000 lost power at the peak of the summer storm.
In a sign that winter is almost over, this is all that’s left of a snow pile in Austin, Minnesota. The parking lot in southern portion of the Land of 10,000 Lakes is home to the remnants of a season that seemed to linger far too long.
Earlier this week, the last snow mound left in Superior, Wisconsin melted, thus ending the local chamber of commerce’s “Snowpocalypse” contest.
Despite the inclement weather, the nation’s corn and soybean crops are striding towards a record year.
USDA’s latest crop condition report reveals 75 percent of the corn is in good-to-excellent condition. Corn silking is just shy of the 5-year average at 15 percent.
Soybeans are in a similar boat with 72 percent of the crop listed as good-to-excellent by USDA. And blooming is slightly ahead of the 5-year average at 24 percent.
The winter wheat harvest is still slightly behind the 5-year pace. As of this week, 57 percent of the crop is in the bin.