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Graphic: High-Yield Bonds


Pasta lovers, pass up the Parmigiano Reggiano, please. Instead, if you haven't done so already, you might want to try some Grana Padano, an Italian hard cheese that's similar in taste and appearance to Parmigiano but not as well-known in the U.S.

The cheese comes from five regions of northern Italy along the Po River. (Grana derives from the word for "grainy," and Padano refers to the Po River Valley.) One reason we're seeing more of it in the U.S.: Producers have undergone a decade-long modernization effort that has allowed them to increase their output while staying true to the cheese-making techniques originated by 12th century Italian monks.

Compared with Parmigiano, Grana Padano is aged for less time (typically 12 to 18 months, vs. 24 months or more) and costs about $10 a pound (vs. $12 and up). It is also made from partially skim milk, so it is lower in fat.

When banks get fancy with plain-vanilla products, you know something's up -- and right now that something is interest rates. To combat consumer fears about being locked into a low rate, banks are promoting "liquid" and "bump up" certificates of deposit that offer penalty-free withdrawals or the ability to exploit a rise in rates.

Products such as Bank of America's (BAC) 30-month, $10,000 minimum "Opt-Up" CD let savers hike their rate one or two times over the CD's term (its annual percentage yield, or APY, is 3.3%). "Liquid" CDs like Washington Mutual's five-month CD let depositors with a $5,000 balance withdraw penalty-free, within limits. The trade-off is often a lower APY. The yield on WaMu's traditional five-month CD, for instance, ranges from 1.5% to 2.45%, vs. 1.29% to 2.37% for a liquid CD. Look for promotions -- WaMu recently paid 2.3% for new money going into liquid CDs in some markets.

Is the flexibility worth it? Many people probably don't use the options, says Bankrate.com's (RATE) Greg McBride. He suggests buying regular 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-month CDs. If rates rise, reinvest your shortest CD at a higher rate.

Bicycle riding in the winter typically involves cramming a hat between head and helmet. The combination rarely fits well or feels warm enough. Bell Sports solves the problem with accessories that attach to its $70 Metro helmet. The $25 Metro Winter Kit includes a set of insulated earflaps and vent plugs to block cold air from flowing through the holes in the helmet (bellbikehelmets.com).


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