National / International News
Temperatures plunged to the freezing point or below in all 50 states this week, and home heating costs are expected to be somewhat lower this year, thanks to cheaper oil prices. But don’t look for a windfall of savings just yet.
The unseasonably cold weather has raised the specter of last year’s polar vortex, when a surge in demand for heating oil and propane upset household budgets and kept consumers out of restaurants and stores.
“It’s a little unnerving when you have 15-degree weather in mid-November,” says Mark Griffin, President of the Michigan Petroleum Association. Despite the temperatures outside, Griffin says it’s still too early to call this a vortex 2.0.
“Our fingers are crossed that we’ve done everything we can to meet the needs of the marketplace, and there won’t be any supply disruptions going forward," he says.
The cheaper price of crude oil (currently about $75/barrel) is expected to put some downward pressure on energy costs, but Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics for forecaster IHS Global Insight, notes that oil isn’t necessarily the primary driver of heating costs.
“What we should expect is relatively the same type of costs, maybe a bit lower, and they have been lowering, but it all depends on demand,” says Christopher.
In terms of consumer psychology, Christopher says the cost of gasoline at the pump plays a much bigger role in juicing the economy.
That's how many miles of railway China has agreed to build along the coast of Nigeria. Not for nothing, though. The two countries signed a deal worth $11.97 billion.1.51 percent
That's Visa's credit card processing fee, charged to merchants with every purchase. It's a key number in the surprise rivalry brewing between Apple Pay and mobile payment system CurrentC. The latter is backed by a consortium of retailers including Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid Target and CVS, which all shut down Apple's system in their stores on launch day. Venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gassée breaks down both sides in his Quartz column, cutting through the PR to conclude CurrentC is all about saving merchants the card processing fee, while Apple Pay is more user-focused.110,000
That's how many people subscribe to the Beats Music streaming, but that could change with Apple's recent acquisition. The Financial Times reported Apple will bundle Beats Music on all iOS devices early next year, possibly with the launch of Apple Watch. Insiders said the details are still being hammered out, but insiders told the New York Times a subscription would cost $5 to $10. The plans are likely to make Spotify sweat; as we learned during the U2 debacle, Apple has 800 million iTunes accounts.50 states
All 50 U.S. states experienced freezing or below temperatures on Tuesday. Good news: cheaper oil prices mean home heating costs are expected to be lower. Bad news: don't expect a windfall of savings any time soon.$11.9 billion
That's how much in outstanding student loans is currently held by Wells Fargo & Co. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the lender announced that this month, for the first time, it will lower interest rates for eligible borrowers.$4 billion
That's how much the Disney Princess line makes on merchandising in a year, which doesn't include the mind-boggling numbers "Frozen" has made on licensing. A recent New York Times column looks at last year's surprise mega-hit as a case study for children's movie licensing as a whole. Turns out spending on "Frozen"-branded toothpaste, food, dresses, toys, etc. bucks trends in most other industries. This might be because one party (parents) are almost always buying for someone else (children), making the business of Elsa dresses surprisingly similar to the pharmaceutical industry.
AAA releases its holiday travel forecast on Thursday. The big takeaway: lots more people will be hitting the road this Thanksgiving, due in no small part to plummeting gas prices. Drivers aren't alone with their lower fuel expenses—The airline industry saved $1.6 billion in fuel costs this past year; meanwhile, airfares have gone up.
During the holiday season, the vast majority of people will travel by car. "Usually accounting for about 85 to 90 percent of all travelers," says AAA spokesperson Heather Hunter.
For people taking incredibly long trips, or very short trips, the choice to fly or drive is clear. "But it is the medium length trips, say between 200 and 1,000 miles, where it gets more complicated," says Jon Lal is the CEO of befrugal.com and the creator of Fly or Drive calculator, which takes into account lots of factors. For example: Will you need a rental car if you fly? Are you checking bags? What are current gas prices and how much wear and tear will the trip put on your car?
Dan Sniadoski lives in Seattle. He’s been invited to Thanksgiving dinners at his mom’s place in Montana and at a friend’s house in Portland. "And I still haven't made up my mind if I’m going to travel, and if I do, where am I going to go," he says. Flying is out of the question; he can’t afford last minute airfare. So at this point, his decision comes down to whether to spend the holidays with friends or family.