Business news

A possible strategy change for the financially strapped United States Postal Service.

The USPS is in some trouble, as you may have heard. Billions in deficits every year more billions in pension liabilities.

The Finnish post office is in the red, too, and has a plan. Posti, as the Finnish postal service is called, will start mowing customers' lawns starting next month.

Joining us to talk about the week's business and economic news are Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post and John Carney of the Wall Street Journal. The big topics this week: interest rates, global markets and China's slowing economy.

California makes an expensive primary appearance

20 hours ago
Sabri Ben-Achour

To the many unexpected things in this presidential campaign cycle, add California.

“This is the first time a California presidential primary will make a definitive difference since the 1972 Democratic primary,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

Usually, by now, the winners of the national primaries are pretty much figured out and they can just snooze through California's June primary. But on the Republican side especially, things aren't quite figured out. That means the state's 172 GOP delegates have suddenly become very important.

The taxpayer-funded pop album all about welfare

21 hours ago
Marketplace staff

President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform — officially known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act — into law 20 years ago this summer.

It was one of Clinton's key campaign promises, and it's still seen as one of his big domestic policy achievements. But with two decades of hindsight, what effect has welfare reform actually had? What do we really know about it?

ExxonMobil and Chevron profits slide on low oil prices

Apr 29, 2016
Marketplace staff

From our partners at BBC Business:

ExxonMobil reported Friday a 63 percent slide in first quarter profits, following low crude oil prices and weak refining margins.

The company reported a profit of $1.8 billion — it is its lowest quarterly profit since 1999, and a sharp decline from $4.94 billion for the same period last year.Revenue dropped 28 percent to $48.7 billion, but it had strong results from its petrochemicals division.

On today's show, we'll talk about the complicated relationship between CalPERS and tobacco; a lousy earnings season; and "Teach Children to Save Day," brought to you by the American Bankers Association. 

David Brancaccio

There are a lot of choices to make when you file for Social Security — when to file, whether to suspend, when to collect. 

Teaching kids the power of the piggy bank

Apr 29, 2016
Sally Herships

Today is "Teach Children to Save Day," an unofficial holiday sponsored by, yes, the American Bankers Association. With interest rates so low for so long, savings haven't been a big priority. The personal savings rate has been hovering around 5 percent for three years. So it seems hard for any of us, kids or adults, to save.  

Some consumers are like sharks, constantly circling banks on the hunt for an interest-bearing account that offers an extra fraction of a percent. 

Full interview: CloudFlare's CEO on TOR and politics

Apr 29, 2016
Bruce Johnson

CloudFlare is a company that helps people and companies all over the world keep their websites online in a way that makes those sites quickly accessible and secure. There's been a dust-up recently between CloudFlare and The Onion Router, or TOR project. TOR is the set of tools that helps people use the internet anonymously — good guys and bad guys. CloudFlare has made it more difficult for TOR users to access sites it hosts.

Matthew Prince is CEO of CloudFlare, and spoke with us Friday. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Adrienne Hill

The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 will have an official poet and poem. The poetry competition is a return to an Indy 500 tradition from the 1920s.

An Indiana University graduate student, Adam Henze, will read his winning poem during qualification weekend.

It'll also appear in the program on race day.

Marketplace called him up and asked him to read his ode to the Indy 500: “For Those Who Love Fast, Loud Things.”

Andy Uhler

Puerto Rico is in over its head. At the end of this week, the island needs to make a $422 million dollars payment on its bonds, but it’s a payment it can't afford, according to its government. The U.S. territory sold tens of billions of dollars in bonds to balance its budget as tax incentives were phased out and citizens, along with tax revenue, left the island.

Investor Carl Icahn dumps Apple stake

Apr 28, 2016

Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn said Thursday he had sold his entire stake in Apple Inc, citing the risk of China's influence on the stock.

Comcast to buy DreamWorks for more than $3 billion

Apr 28, 2016
Marketplace staff

To listen to Marketplace’s Adriene Hill and Variety’s Cynthia Littleton talk more about what this deal means for Comcast and movie goers, click on the audio player at the top of the page.

Comcast confirmed Thursday its interest in DreamWorks Animation, announcing it will pay more than $3 billion for the film company. Wall Street responded favorably.

US GDP growth slows to 0.5 percent

Apr 28, 2016

On today's show, we'll talk about slow economic growth for the U.S.; the decline of brick-and-mortar stores; and how the NFL draft grew into a major public spectacle. 

NFL draft has become a spectacle in itself

Apr 28, 2016
Nova Safo

The NFL draft, which begins Thursday in Chicago, has undergone a major evolution.

The draft used to be a closed-door meeting of NFL team officials who huddled to make deals over college players who are drafted into the professional football league.

"It used to be only sports writers cared. They used to hang out in the hotel where the draft is going on," said Rodney Fort, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan.

Retail shakeout: Web stores on the rise

Apr 28, 2016
Mitchell Hartman

Brick-and-mortar retail is going through a substantial shakeout in 2016. While retail sales overall have held up moderately well (up 3.1 percent in 2015), growth has stalled over the past several years. Virtually all the recent expansion in retail has been in online sales, rising by double digits annually.

Kai Ryssdal

The House of Representatives voted today to make the bison -- the buffalo the national mammal of the United States.

Makes sense in that bald eagle kind of way.

Iconic. Brought back from the endangered list.

Also, buffalo were vital to the subsistence of Native Americans.

But well, aren't humans the national mammal of the United States?

Tony Wagner

A city in Germany has given up on getting people to get off their phones when they cross the street. 

 H&R Block says it's laying off 250 workers, citing a disappointing tax season.

The Kansas City Star reports the downsizing announced Tuesday by the Kansas City, Missouri-based company amounts to 12.6 percent of its workforce.

H&R Block said it handled roughly 19.6 million tax returns in the just-completed tax season. That's more than 4 percent less than last year.

The company says it expects a revenue decline this year and will release a full report June 9.

McDonald's is testing a healthier Chicken McNuggets recipe

Apr 27, 2016
Reuters and Marketplace staff

McDonald's Corp. said it is testing new recipes for its staple Chicken McNuggets snack in some U.S. markets to cater to growing consumer demand for less-processed food.

The company said on Wednesday it started testing a "simpler" recipe for the snack in 140 restaurants in Oregon and Washington state last month. The nuggets being tested in Portland do not contain any artificial preservatives, the company said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The looming worry of another interest rate hike

Apr 27, 2016

On today's show, we'll talk about concerns over another interest rate hike; Facebook's efforts to expand to developing countries; and Georgia's plans to open its first oyster hatchery. 

D Gorenstein

February is Black history Month. March: National Nutrition Month and April? April is Distracted Driving Month, so named to draw attention to something that is nothing short of a public health crisis.

Nova Safo

Facebook is looking to grow its 1.6 billion monthly active user base by focusing on the infrastructure that carries the Internet.

The social networking giant is looking for growth in developing countries such as those on the African continent, but it has been hampered by networks that can be slow and expensive.

Politics, regulation and inferior infrastructure all play a role, said Mark Mahaney, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets.

"Anything they can do to remove friction between consumers around the world and the Internet benefits them," Mahaney said.

D Gorenstein

The nation’s most storied medical journal is facing criticism for failing to share enough data and for the way it handles errors. Those raising questions say the New England Journal of Medicine’s editorial policies make it less dependable than in the past.   

This is a fight over how to deliver the most reliable medical information.

Coming soon to your plate: Georgia oysters

Apr 27, 2016
Molly Samuel

Oysters already grow wild on Georgia’s coast, but they’re not those big, individual ones that restaurants usually serve. They grow in clusters, with lots of them stuck together. Great for throwing over a fire at an oyster roast, but not what people expect at a nice restaurant.

“The locals love them, they know how to deal with them,” Joe Maley said, who harvests oysters on the coast south of Savannah. “But get too far up the road and people go, ‘What’s that?’”

Why your online memories are massive energy guzzlers

Apr 26, 2016

If Memory Lane were a real place, it might be a long aisle in a dimly-lit data center. At least for those of us who keep photos online.

“When Facebook came out years ago, you loaded pictures and put them in an album that today you still want to be able to access," Ali Greenwood, with Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate firm in Dallas, said. "Do you ever look at them? Very rarely, right! But you would be devastated if you couldn’t click on it and pull up a photo album of your wedding from seven years ago.”

There's a reason trade is a divisive election issue

Apr 26, 2016
Tracey Samuelson

International trade – how we do it, who we do it with, and what impact it has on the American worker – has become a significant issue on the presidential campaign trail. Opposing the trade status quo and new pending trade agreements are central tenets in the campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The support they’ve found for those positions and the discontent they’ve tapped into has put pressure on other campaigns to follow their lead.

When movie stars are your teachers

Apr 26, 2016
Janet Nguyen

A lot is going on in the educational space. Here are some need-to-know numbers about the learning realm.

Kai Ryssdal

Listen to our full interview with Phil Knight by clicking here or subscribing to the podcast. Just want the highlights? Check 'em out here.

Phil Knight has held many jobs in his life. He was in the Army Reserves, he was a professor of accounting and a CPA.

The rise of U.S. home prices

Apr 26, 2016

On today's show, we'll talk about the Federal Reserve's interest rate plans; the real estate market; and a Baltimore program that aims to get ex-offenders back on their feet.