Mortgage pain spreads

The Bank of England is offering an emergency loan to British home lender Northern Rock—the first big U.K. victim of the U.S. credit crunch. (Reuters in Yahoo! Finance) The broader U.S. economy has felt a modest sting from the housing slump and subprime mortgage mess, but the pain could deepen as small businesses cut jobs and large numbers leave the labor market. (The New York Times, free registration required). In a 60 Minutes interview to be broadcast Sunday, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said he was aware of the explosion of loans to homebuyers with weak or subprime credit, but “had no notion of how significant they had become until very late.” (Los Angeles Times, free registration required)

Learning to love art

The art boom, the wealth explosion, and Baby Einstein–style parenting have conspired to create a new breed of art collector—kids with art allowances big enough to buy works by Andy Warhol, or even Rembrandt. New York developer Bil Ehrlich said he pays for his 13-year-old son, Ace, to buy brand-name artists to teach him to love art and spend money on things that last. Dakota King, 9, had another reason for buying an Andy Warhol panda from the artist’s series on endangered species. “Panda is darling and chubby and cute,” she said, “and at night he protects me.” (The Wall Street Journal)

Google shoots for the moon

Internet search giant Google is offering $20 million to the first private group that can land a roving robot on the moon. The X-Prize Foundation—which in 2005 gave $10 million to the first privately funded group to send a human to space—will dole out the money, along with a $10 million second prize for the first non-roving spacecraft to land on the lunar surface and send data back to Earth. Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the company was getting involved because the contest “is really going to accomplish something very, very impressive.” (USA Today)

A new economic engine—pet pampering

Pet industry sales are expected to swell to $41 billion this year, making the category the second biggest retail sector after electronics. Experts say Americans—especially empty nesters and people with fragmented families—increasingly look to pets for comfort. And people have more money than ever, so they’re spending it on things like pet hotels offering themed movies such as Lady and the Tramp, GPS devices to help find lost dogs, and organic pet food. But even Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, winces sometimes. “I just got a brochure from a company that makes wigs for dogs,” he said. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)