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PODCAST: Fiat buys the rest of Chrysler

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 06:39

The FT100 in London is down about a tenth percent on this first day of trading in 2014. Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures are all down. The number of people signing up for unemployment benefits dipped slightly in the last week, a hint that the job market is holding steady.

The Italian carmaker Fiat has reached a deal to buy the rest of American automaker Chrysler, something it has wanted to do for years. Fiat hopes the deal will make it easier for them to compete with companies like Toyota and Volkswagen. Perhaps more importantly, Fiat desperately needs some of Chrysler’s cash.

And, foreclosures are way down from the worst of the housing crisis. But as we start this new year, don’t be surprised if some places see a rise in foreclosure sales. That’s because foreclosures that have been slowly working their way through judicial pipelines are now coming to market. That may prove a rude awakening in some areas.

Accident Or Not? Palestinian Diplomat's Death Is A Mystery

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 06:20

The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic was killed Wednesday by an explosion at his home in Prague. At first, officials said he may have triggered a bomb meant to explode only if a safe was tampered with. But other officials are disputing that account.

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Fiat hopes Chrysler deal will help it compete with VW, Toyota

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 06:07

The Italian carmaker Fiat has reached a deal to buy the rest of American automaker Chrysler, something it has wanted to do for years.

“The main reason is it will allow them to fully integrate as one company,” says Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Edmunds.com.

Fiat hopes the deal will make it easier for them to compete with companies like Toyota and Volkswagen. Perhaps more importantly, Fiat desperately needs some of Chrysler’s cash.

According to analyst Dave Sullivan, with AutoPacific, Europe’s anemic economy hasn’t been good for auto sales.

“Chrysler is really helping to keep Fiat afloat during these difficult times,” he says.

Fiat’s relationship with Chrysler goes back to 2009, when Chrysler was in bankruptcy.

“I mean, you could say that Fiat was basically gifted a stake in Chrysler,” Sullivan says.

The rest of the company went to the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, which had considered an IPO to sell its shares.

With this agreement, that won’t happen. The UAW will sell its ownership stake in a deal valued at more than $4 billion.

Fiat reaches deal to buy rest of Chrysler

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 06:07

The Italian carmaker Fiat has reached a deal to buy the rest of American automaker Chrysler, something it has wanted to do for years.

“The main reason is it will allow them to fully integrate as one company,” says Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Edmunds.com.

Fiat hopes the deal will make it easier for them to compete with companies like Toyota and Volkswagen. Perhaps more importantly, Fiat desperately needs some of Chrysler’s cash.

According to analyst Dave Sullivan, with AutoPacific, Europe’s anemic economy hasn’t been good for auto sales.

“Chrysler is really helping to keep Fiat afloat during these difficult times,” he says.

Fiat’s relationship with Chrysler goes back to 2009, when Chrysler was in bankruptcy.

“I mean, you could say that Fiat was basically gifted a stake in Chrysler,” Sullivan says.

The rest of the company went to the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, which had considered an IPO to sell its shares.

With this agreement, that won’t happen. The UAW will sell its ownership stake in a deal valued at more than $4 billion.

Jobless Claims Were Nearly Unchanged Last Week

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 05:47

But the fact that 339,000 applications were filed — the fewest in a month — is a hopeful sign. Meanwhile, the most-anticipated news about the labor market each month, on the unemployment rate and job growth, won't be released until Jan. 10.

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Challenging new GED exams go all digital

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 05:35

Starting today, people who take the high school equivalency exam will face a test that's supposedly tougher and will only be offered via computer, no more paper and number two pencil. The test was created in 1942 at first to help military veterans get higher education without forcing them to return to high school after the experience of war. Emily Hanford, Education Correspondent for our documentary unit, American Radio Works, joins us to help explain.

Stocks in 2013: All sugar rush, no substance?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 04:58

The S&P 500 went up 29 percent in the year gone by. The Nasdaq Composite rose nearly 40 percent. But this has prompted an argument that stock prices in 2013 were like cotton candy, lots of size, but not a lot of substance. Marketplace's Economics guy Chris Farrell has been considering this.

The argument comes down to the idea that the gains of 2013 reflected more of the Fed's quantitative easing rather than any real economic improvement, and that prices are bound to come tumbling back down sooner or later. But does the claim that the stock markets' gains have no substance, hold up?

Click the audio player above to hear more.

100 Million People In Path Of 2014's First Wintry Blast

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 04:35

Parts of the Northeast and New England are expected to be hit the hardest today and Friday. More than a foot of snow may fall on Boston. The wind chill may plunge to 40 degrees below zero in the Adirondacks. Flight delays and cancellations are piling up along with the snow.

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TV news paywalls are coming

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 04:01

Never paid for local TV news?  Well, that may be changing.  Cincinnati’s  WCPO-TV is going to offer local investigative stories behind a paywall.  It’s added 30 digital staffers.

“What they’re saying is, don’t think of us as TV, think of us as your best local digital news source,” says Ken Doctor, a media consultant.

The way WCPO-TV sees it, it’s go digital and dominate -- or die.  Adam Symson, who is chief digital officer for the station's owner, E.W. Scripps, says Cincinnati’s many TV and radio stations won’t all survive.  Symson is hoping a beefed up web presence will ensure market dominance.

“This is not just an investment in growing a digital audience,” he says. “This is an investment in the brand, WCPO, the television ratings and the digital audience.”

The question is, will people pay for something they’re used to getting for free? Other TV stations are watching WCPO’s web experiment closely, to find out.  

Apps to help keep your New Year's resolutions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 03:35

Today is the second day of the new year and if you haven't started with major life changes you are already a day behind schedule. You might be hoping to get some help from apps. Whitson Gordon, editor in chief of Lifehacker, joins us to offer some advice.

Click play on the audio player above to hear more.

VIDEO: Stranded Passengers Flown To Safety In Antarctic

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 03:35

The 52 scientists and paying passengers aboard the MV Akademik Shokalskiy had been stranded by ice since Christmas Eve. They've been flown by helicopter to an Australian ship in open waters. The 22 crew members of the Akademik Shokalskiy are staying behind. It's hoped the ship will soon break free.

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Tech predictions for 2014: Software and startups

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 03:08

All this week we've been talking to people about their predictions for tech in 2014. Today we hear from Dave McClure, founding partner at the Venture Capitol firm 500 Startups. McClure traveled all over the world last year. We asked him what kind of software everyone everyone will be using this year. He says expect more growth in messaging apps around the world. Also, don't be surprised if online and mobile video sees a big boost in parts of the world where television is restricted.

Click the audio player above to hear more.

The tech of New York's new taxi cabs

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 02:31

New York gets a new mayor this week -- Michael Bloomberg is being replaced by Bill De Blasio. And one of the things the new mayor will be looking at is the taxi of tomorrow:  A fleet of green Nissan vehicles that launched this fall, fitted with some custom technology absent in the usual yellow cab. Former mayor Bloomberg pushed hard for the new cars, but their future is uncertain. Nonetheless we hopped into one recently for a ride from Manhattan to the boro of Brooklyn, accompanied by Ted Mann, who covers transportation for the Wall Street Journal's greater New York section, to help detail some of the new cab's features.

Foreclosures are down, but some places may see a surge

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 02:12

Foreclosures are way down from the worst of the housing crisis. But as we start this new year, don’t be surprised if some places see a rise in foreclosure sales. That’s because foreclosures that have been slowly working their way through judicial pipelines are now coming to market. That may prove a rude awakening in some areas.

In almost half of states, foreclosures have to go through court. The idea is to do everything possible to protect homeowners, but these judicial foreclosures can take a long time, sometimes take years.

Tom O’Grady is CEO of Pro Teck Valuation Services, which analyzes housing data. He says foreclosure is quicker in non-judicial states.

“It’s kindof like ripping the bandaid off, instead of pulling off slowly,” O’Grady says.

He’s found that non-judicial states have bounced back from the low point of their housing crises faster than judicial states.

Non-judicial states worked through their foreclosure pain – and inventories -- up front, says Dave Stevens. He’s head of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“The home values were depressed much quicker, much faster, but now they’re in significant recovery,” says Stevens, who points to the double digit appreciation in places like Phoenix, Arizona.

“That’s gonna be very different in states like New York, New Jersey, and Florida where they have now the backlogs that are just hitting the market,” he says.

Foreclosures tend to sell for about 30% less than non-distressed sales, Stevens says. When there are lots of foreclosures in the market, they pull down the value of the homes around them. That means some communities won’t get to share in the housing recovery just yet.

Why The Cod On Cape Cod Now Comes From Iceland

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 00:56

Order cod in a restaurant on Cape Cod, and you might assume you're buying local. But the fish that gave the Cape its name are now so depleted that restaurants are serving cod imported from Iceland. Some activists think it's time America developed a taste for the less popular fish still present in the waters off the Cape.

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How Mass-Produced Meat Turned Phosphorus Into Pollution

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 00:55

Phosphorus is one of the nutrients that plants need to grow, and for most of human history, farmers always needed more of it. But excess phosphorus, either from manure or manufactured fertilizer, can run off into streams and lakes and become an ecological disaster.

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'Good Behavior' More Than A Game To Health Care Plan

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 00:54

The Trillium Community Health Plan in Oregon gave 50 schools money to integrate the Good Behavior Game. It keeps kids plugged in and learning, and hopefully less likely later to pick up a dangerous habit like smoking.

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Food As Punishment: Giving U.S. Inmates 'The Loaf' Persists

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 00:53

In many prisons and jails across the U.S., a bland, brownish lump is served to inmates who misbehave. Law enforcement officials say it's not that bad, and it's a very effective deterrent. But the practice is starting to fade as more prisoners argue that the loaf is cruel and unusual punishment.

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Rescue Begins For Icebound Ship In Antarctica

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 00:17

A long-awaited rescue of passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week finally got under way on Thursday. The helicopter will carry the passengers a dozen at a time in an operation expected to take five hours

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"A communist party casino" - Despite the lift of IPO ban in China, investors remain unhappy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-01 23:44

It’s the first trading of the New Year at Shenyin Wanguo stock brokerage house in Shanghai. A gray haired man everyone calls ‘Old Chen’ watches stock prices along the floor-to-ceiling trading board. On the Shanghai stock exchange, red numbers -a symbol of communism- are good. Green numbers mean share prices are falling. "Look at the board!" screams Chen. "It’s the first day of the year and it’s all green! This is a casino - A communist party casino! We can’t possibly win against them. I gotta stop coming here," he mutters, still staring at the board.

This is not the response from investors China’s government was hoping for when they reopened the market to new listings. Securities analyst Qian Qimin says China will have to do a lot more to restore investor confidence. "The rate of return investing in stocks in China is lower than the bank deposit rate," says Qian. "Insider trading also continues to be a big problem."

Back on the trading floor, trader Jin Demin says investing in stocks in China is hopeless in a country where the markets are controlled by the state. Jin says when US stocks go up, China’s drop. When US stocks drop, China’s drop further.

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