National News

Fed hosts meeting of banking leaders

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-08-27 02:53

World banking leaders will gather in Jackson Hole, Wyoming starting Thursday night for an annual meeting hosted by the Federal Reserve.

Janet Yellen and some members of the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy, will not be attending. Still, there will be enough "intellectual firepower" there, says Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Marcoeconomics, to make the event an important one for Wall Street.

Investors will be listening for hints that could help them figure out whether the Fed is still likely to raise short-term interest rates in September, or whether it will wait until later in the year.

"I think the key is to look to see what happens in the next four employment reports," says Patrick Newport at IHS Global Insights, who thinks any delay will be a short one.

'Don't panic' is good advice even if you're retiring

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-08-27 02:00

"Stay the course" and "don't panic" were common tips as the stock market dropped this past week. But what about people who are so close to retirement, they can practically smell it? Traditionally that means folks who are almost 65 or older, but to financial planners,  it can mean anyone who plans to stop working full-time within 10 years.

Whether you're a year away from retirement or 30 years, the advice is the same, said Elizabeth Mannen, an investment advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors: "Don't sell at the bottom. Don't turn a trip into a fall."

If a vacation in Bali was in your retirement future, you wouldn't liquidate stocks to pay for it—if you'd budgeted wisely -- she said. Still, the last few days have been really emotional.

"I've only had one person cry," Mannen said, "so that's good."

That was someone who was already retired. William Delwiche, an investment strategist with Baird, said having lots of money tied up in stocks is a bad idea.

"As you approach retirement, you should be moving more of your assets to less risky or less volatile investments," he said.

Too late? Delwiche said not to worry.

"An event like you're having over the past few weeks shouldn't have much of an impact," he said. Usually after a sharp drop, the markets do come back.

Despite The Drought, California Farms See Record Sales

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 01:08

While the drought has put a strain on California agriculture, its farms actually set an all-time record for total sales — $54 billion — in 2014. How? By pumping more water from their wells.

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Farmworkers See Jobs, Earnings Shrivel In California Drought

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 01:07

More than 21,000 are out of work this year from California's drought, a study says. The majority are farmworkers, and those lucky enough to have a job are often working longer hours for less money.

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Good Vibrations Key To Insect Communication

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 01:05

For some insects, sound waves or vibrations are the real social media — high-speed rumbles sent through the air and along leaf stems to help the bugs claim territory, send warnings and find mates.

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Why Shooters Record Themselves In The Act

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 01:03

The Virginia shooter who murdered two TV journalists allegedly recorded the attack himself. Experts say wearable cameras will become a regular part of the toolkit for killers who want attention.

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Philly Preps Blessed Beer And Other Edible Swag To Greet Pope Francis

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 01:02

Enterprising businesses will mark the pope's visit to Philadelphia next month with irreverent tchotchkes — including beers brewed with holy water and toasters that etch the pontiff's face on bread.

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In Britain, Who's Tormenting The Queen's Swans?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-08-27 00:56

Wild swans — which all belong by law to the Queen — are among Britain's most cherished birds. But there's been an uptick in incidents of neglect and cruelty. Some swans are even being eaten.

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Despite Policy Allowing Gay Leaders, Mormon Church Keeps Ties With Boy Scouts

NPR News - Wed, 2015-08-26 16:59

The church implied it might leave the Scouts when they changed the policy. Now, the church says as long as it can use its own criteria for appointing leaders, it will go on sponsoring troops.

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Biden, Considering Presidential Bid, Says Family Is Weighing On Him

NPR News - Wed, 2015-08-26 16:55

Vice President Joe Biden said in a conference call with Democratic National Committee members that he's considering whether he has the "emotional fuel" to mount a 2016 presidential campaign.

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Tennessee Court Upholds Lethal Injection Procedures

NPR News - Wed, 2015-08-26 15:52

A county judge ruled the state's use of the lethal injection was constitutional, but further appeals are all but certain.

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Wal-Mart To End Sales Of Some Semi-Automatic Rifles, Citing Low Demand

NPR News - Wed, 2015-08-26 15:30

The retail giant says that because of a drop in customer demand, it will focus on other hunting and sportsmen's firearms.

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How volatile is the market? Let's consult the VIX

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-08-26 14:04

The Volatility Index (VIX) measures whether or not there’s too much fear or optimism in the markets. Robert Whaley, father of the VIX, says at the “beginning of the week it was about at a level of 12, at the end of the week it was at 28. That was the biggest percentage increase the VIX has ever had in its entire history.”

Currently, the VIX is around 34 percent. But what exactly does that mean? “It’s a measure of the volatility you expect over the next 30 days,” Whaley says. He adds that the VIX is usually around 20 percent.

So what happened with the VIX on Monday? “The spread between the bid and the ask was so large that it introduced a lot of noise into the VIX itself,” he says. Basically there was too much volatility for the volatility index.

Whaley explains, “I think the market’s simply overreacting to what’s going on in China.”

Moving forward, Whaley says things will get better.

“Things will calm down. There’s just too much repeated information flow about one issue, and it just has tended to scare people.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the entire interview. 

Deputies In Oregon Town Go On Leave As State DOJ Investigates Sheriff

NPR News - Wed, 2015-08-26 14:02

Citing an attorney who represents the Klamath County Peace Officers Association, Oregon Public Broadcasting says the deputies feared retaliation from the sheriff.

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No worries on China's streets

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-08-26 13:45

The Yuan devaluation and China’s market crash has caused global chaos. But Rob Schmitz, Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai, says people on the street in China really aren’t that worried. A Sichuan restaurant owner told Schmitz “that business is really good.”

“Most importantly [China’s] got a growing economy," Schmitz says. "We've seen the headlines this week about China’s market crash ... [but] China’s economy is continuing to grow at around 6 or 7 percent, faster than nearly every other economy in the world.”

Around the corner, fruit store owner Wang Tao tells Schmitz he doesn’t buy stocks because they don’t seem like a stable investment.

“Less than 7 percent of urban Chinese actually own stocks, and that’s a huge difference from the U.S., where around half of Americans own stocks,” Schmitz explains.

Schmitz talked to one man whose wife has stocks.

“He was really more worried about the news this week that China’s government was planning to invest part of the state pension fund into the stock market,” Schmitz says.

Because of this, there’s a lack of trust in China’s government and financial system.

“People really don’t care that much about what’s going on in the stock market," he says. "But if the government starts putting their money into the stock market, that’s when people will start to worry a little bit more.”

Kansas, South Carolina Take NIMBY Stance on Guantanamo Prisoners

NPR News - Wed, 2015-08-26 13:28

President Obama's plan to close Guantanamo lacks a crucial element: a U.S. prison to hold captives too dangerous to release. The Pentagon is considering military prisons in Kansas and South Carolina.

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No, the economy is not like a roller coaster

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-08-26 13:25

When the market goes wild, people say the economy is like a roller coaster. And, frankly, I am sick and tired of this disgusting comparison. Someone has got to stick up for the inventor of roller coasters, my grandfather, Dr. Johann T. Rollercoaster.

And yes, laugh at his name if you must. It was changed at Ellis Island from the original Rollercoasterstein.

You see, the economy is nothing like a roller coaster. When the market drops, peoples’ money vanishes. When a roller coaster drops, the only thing that vanishes are your brain’s sadness receptors. Also, when a roller coaster goes up, coaster fans know it’s gonna go back down. But when the market goes up, money fans pretend it’s going to keep going up forever.

Plus, the stock market can make people rich. My grandfather, Dr. Rollercoaster, never profited off his invention. To be fair, he intended the roller coaster to be a form of rapid, short-distance transit and potentially a cure for smallpox, so he gave all the rights away.

But the most important difference is that no one has ever been hurt by a roller coaster, except for the dozens of people each year who are hurt in roller coaster accidents.

The fact is, economic downturns are cyclical, but you don’t hear the inventor of the wheel, Pete Wheel, getting slandered every time capitalism takes a nose dive. You know what else takes nose dives? Dolphins. But the discoverer of dolphins, Wesley Dolphin, doesn’t have his family name dragged through the mud after every financial disaster.

Besides, lots of things go up and down, not just roller coasters. Yo-yos, bungee jumpers … roller coasters. OK, I couldn’t think of a better metaphor for the economy than roller coasters, but I do know two things. One, my grandfather, Dr. Rollercoaster, was the best man I’ve ever met. Or, he would’ve been if he hadn’t died in a roller coaster accident 40 years before I was born. And two, don’t invest your money in roller coasters. The market for amusement rides has taken a real Dolphin.

And remember, a stock market crash can ruin millions of lives. A roller coaster crash can ruin maybe a dozen lives, tops. 

No, the economy is not like a roller coaster

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-08-26 13:25

When the market goes wild, people say the economy is like a roller coaster. And, frankly, I am sick and tired of this disgusting comparison. Someone has got to stick up for the inventor of roller coasters, my grandfather, Dr. Johann T. Rollercoaster.

And yes, laugh at his name if you must. It was changed at Ellis Island from the original Rollercoasterstein.

You see, the economy is nothing like a roller coaster. When the market drops, peoples’ money vanishes. When a roller coaster drops, the only thing that vanishes are your brain’s sadness receptors. Also, when a roller coaster goes up, coaster fans know it’s gonna go back down. But when the market goes up, money fans pretend it’s going to keep going up forever.

Plus, the stock market can make people rich. My grandfather, Dr. Rollercoaster, never profited off his invention. To be fair, he intended the roller coaster to be a form of rapid, short-distance transit and potentially a cure for smallpox, so he gave all the rights away.

But the most important difference is that no one has ever been hurt by a roller coaster, except for the dozens of people each year who are hurt in roller coaster accidents.

The fact is, economic downturns are cyclical, but you don’t hear the inventor of the wheel, Pete Wheel, getting slandered every time capitalism takes a nose dive. You know what else takes nose dives? Dolphins. But the discoverer of dolphins, Wesley Dolphin, doesn’t have his family name dragged through the mud after every financial disaster.

Besides, lots of things go up and down, not just roller coasters. Yo-yos, bungee jumpers … roller coasters. OK, I couldn’t think of a better metaphor for the economy than roller coasters, but I do know two things. One, my grandfather, Dr. Rollercoaster, was the best man I’ve ever met. Or, he would’ve been if he hadn’t died in a roller coaster accident 40 years before I was born. And two, don’t invest your money in roller coasters. The market for amusement rides has taken a real Dolphin.

And remember, a stock market crash can ruin millions of lives. A roller coaster crash can ruin maybe a dozen lives, tops. 

How Nevada could cast a shadow over solar

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-08-26 13:00

A big bet on solar energy may be about to go sour in Nevada. State regulators are considering a utility's proposal to charge owners of rooftop solar systems a monthly fee for being connected to the grid.

That kind of fee, called a demand charge, would take the savings out of solar for most homeowners, undermining the business model of solar companies. Utilities in several states are pressing for similar charges. One big solar installer, Vivint Solar, has already stopped doing business in Nevada because of the uncertainty.

"That's the definition of eliminating the industry," says Bryan Miller, who is with Sunrun, a solar installation company. "So this debate is about one word: competition."

Green groups say the Nevada demand charge could jack up solar users' bills by $70 a month.

"Which is too complicated to explain," Miller says. "And anybody could read the thousand-page filing and still not understand how much they would pay under this Byzantine set of charges and fees."

NV Energy's side? The company's Kevin Geraghty says if you own solar today, you get so many credits, you hardly pay the electric company, which runs the grid you use when there's no sun.

"At any one time, if a cloud goes by or your system fails, NV Energy service to your home will assure that your lights don't dim, they don't flicker," he says. "And that demand charge represents just how much you are depending on the grid for your energy choices at your home."

Is this about quashing competition? A power industry paper calls rooftop solar a "disruptive challenge."

"I think utilities have been not stellar examples of players in competitive businesses," says Larry Reilly, a former utility executive.

He said power companies are making less money as solar grows. One solution: charge every customer a lot more for connecting to the grid.

"The analog there is the way cable TV is billed," he says. "You pay a fixed amount to have cable TV, and if you never turn the TV on at all, you're still going to pay the charge per month.

Just last week, Nevada hit a state solar energy cap. Regulators can't lift the cap, but can allow new customers at new rates.

Late Wednesday, Nevada regulators approved a plan to continue the current rate structure for customers with solar panels until the end of calendar 2015. It amounts to a temporary victory for rooftop solar advocates, but a permanent decision will not come until 2016 at the earliest. 

Blame low wages on slack

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-08-26 13:00

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office is shedding some light on why wages aren’t going up, even as the unemployment rate goes down. 

Blame it on slack, the CBO says. That is, extra workers in the labor market — people who’ve given up looking for a job. 

These extra workers aren’t officially counted as unemployed because they’re not looking for work. They might be boomers who are pushed toward an unexpectedly early retirement. Or millennials who decide to stay home with the kids.

“They’d like to be working and if they really thought they could pick up the phone and get a job they’d be back in the labor force," says Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "But we’re not to that point yet.”

So they stay home. The CBO says this pool of would-be workers is bigger than it thought. Maybe because the severity of the recession made it really hard to get back into the workforce.

“The CBO seems to be acknowledging that there’s more slack than expected based on previous recessions," says Jonathan Rothwell, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. "So there’s this unexplained slack.”

The effect of this slack, though, is clear. Economists say it’s one factor keeping wages down. Employers know there’s this backbench of workers, waiting for a job. 

“When they have a lot of folks to choose from there’s very little upward pressure on wages,” says Marick Masters, a professor of business at Wayne State University.

One bright spot in the CBO report: It says there’s less stigma against the longterm unemployed. Because so many people lost their jobs during the great recession, and found it hard to get new ones. The report says they could return to the workforce in coming years.

 

 

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