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Consumer Confidential: Sin City beckons, grocery relief coming, toasters recalled

June 30, 2011 | 10:07 am

Vegaspic Here's your three's-a-crowd Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Here's an economic indicator that things are looking up ... or not. Nevada tourism officials predict thousands of travelers will head to Las Vegas for the holiday weekend. A spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority says roughly 292,000 people are expected to visit Sin City through Monday. That's a 3% increase from the 2010 Fourth of July holiday. Hotel occupancy is expected to be at 92%, up from 89% last year. Visitors are expected to spend more than $179 million, excluding gambling dollars. Last year, Independence Day revelers generated a non-gambling impact of $173 million. I take this as either a sign that people have more cash on hand to go out and play, or that they figure the economy will never get better, so they might as well party while they can.

-- There may be some relief on the way for our grocery bills. Farmers have planted the second-largest corn crop in nearly seven decades, raising the prospect that prices for a variety of goods could be reduced. The size of this year's corn crop will be 92.3 million acres, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. That's 9% larger than the average annual corn crop over the past decade. This could ultimately make everything from beef to cereal to soft drinks cheaper at the supermarket. For all of 2011, the USDA predicts food prices will rise as much as 4%. It typically takes six months for changes in commodity prices to affect retail food prices.

 -- Heads-up: About 300,000 Hamilton Beach toasters are being recalled because of a fire hazard. There have been 15 reports of toasters that did not pop up as intended, including three reports of minor damage to kitchen cabinets. There were no reports of injuries. The recall involves model 22600 toasters, made in China. The toaster has a chromed steel exterior, a front control panel with a rotary toast shade selector and function buttons arranged in an arc. There's also a front removable crumb tray and "Hamilton Beach" printed across the front of the appliance. If you have one, Hamilton Beach says you should stop using it immediately and contact the company to arrange a free replacement.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Las Vegas is expecting boom times this holiday weekend. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times