Business news

Google might make minivans cool

May 3, 2016
Kai Ryssdal

I might finally get some cool dad points. Despite much ridicule, I've made no secret of the fact that my usual mode of transportation is a minivan.

Practical, if not the hippest thing you've ever seen. Four kids will do that to you.

But now, this.

Google announced today it's gonna build self-driving minivans, 100 of them.

It'll partner with Chrysler to do it. Happy to be a test subject, just sayin'.

test test test

May 3, 2016

This year’s Tony nominations are out, and "Hamilton" cleaned up with a record 16 nominations. If getting tickets used to be a long shot, it’s probably now next to impossible. But there are alternative means: You have to know a guy and know how to sweet talk him.

D Gorenstein

Here’s a key theory behind cutting health care costs: If consumers knew how much they'd have to pay for various medical services, they could be savvier shoppers, which would ratchet up competition among doctors and hospitals,  to cut prices.

So, employers and insurers created online tools to help folks distinguish costly providers from less expensive alternatives.

Growth in sub-Saharan Africa at a 15-year low

May 3, 2016
Kim Adams

The International Monetary Fund is out with a new warning to countries in sub-Saharan Africa.  After years of commodity-fueled growth, the IMF said growth in the region has slowed to its lowest in 15 years. The agency said countries need a policy reset if they want to ride out the slump.

Leicester City: 'Every bookmaker is crying out in pain'

May 3, 2016
Marketplace staff

From our partners at BBC Business:

The betting industry is licking its financial wounds.

"In the history of betting, certainly since it was legalized in 1961, a [single event] winner with odds of 5,000-1 has never happened," said Simon Clare from the betting firm Coral. "Every bookmaker is crying out in pain."

"That's a barometer of what Leicester have done and just how amazing this win is," he added.

Jessica Bridges from rival firm Ladbrokes agrees.

Goodbye to Berlin rentals?

May 3, 2016
Annie Baxter

Berlin is one of the hottest tourist spots in Europe. But anyone trying to find short-term rentals in the German capital will now find it harder to do so.

There's a rental housing crunch in Berlin, and city authorities have banned property owners from offering vacation rentals, with few exceptions, in a bid to free up properties for permanent residents.

Eliza Garrison, an art history professor from Middlebury College, said she's learning about the new restrictions firsthand.

Kitchens — it's where the jobs are

May 3, 2016
Bill Zeeble

With about 20 students in chef whites, it’s time to begin afternoon class at El Centro Community College in Dallas, Texas.

“You guys ever eat cold soup?” asked Chef James Knifong, instructor and apprenticeship coordinator. Some of his students — ranging in age from their early 20s to retirement — said “Yes.” Others, “No.”

“Like I mentioned yesterday,” Knifong said, “the big deal on cold soups — you’re going to need to adjust your seasoning, because when it’s cold, the flavors aren’t popping out like they will when it’s hot.”

Kai Ryssdal

A lawsuit which at first glance will be easy to pooh-pooh, but once you think about it, does kinda make some sense:

A disgruntled Starbucks customer in Chicago has filed a $5 million suit against the company, saying it puts too much ice in its iced drinks. The lawsuit specifically notes that a large iced drink is supposed to have 24 fluid ounces in it, but in reality only contains 14 ounces of actual liquid, the rest being ice.

So there's that. Also, there's a dilution effect once the ice melts.

Explaining America’s productivity downturn

May 2, 2016
Kai Ryssdal

What happens when productivity hits a wall? Well growth slows for one. And we saw that with the gross domestic product numbers that came out just last week

GDP growth slowed to 0.5 percent and at least some of that has to do with a similar slowdown in productivity growth.

Jefferson City is spending thousands of dollars each year trying to maintain more than a dozen vacant properties near the historic district of downtown. And city leaders say the properties have become a hotbed for criminal activity. The city is taking the owner of the buildings to court to try to solve the problem.

Kim Adams

On Sunday, oil services companies Halliburton and Baker Hughes announced they were scrapping their planned merger. The deal faced pushback from regulators all over the world — an antitrust investigation in the European Union and a lawsuit from the Department of Justice here in the U.S.

A failed $35 billion marriage

May 2, 2016

On today's show, we'll talk about a canceled merger between Halliburton and Baker Hughes; look at a nasal spray that helps counteract opioid overdoses; and interview a 17-year-old Marketplace super fan who has some advice on how we can improve our coverage. 

David Brancaccio

We recently heard from a 17-year-old who wrote in saying she was a super fan of Marketplace Morning Report. Go figure. So we invited Patricia De Haven, who's in the 11th grade at Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, California, and her mom to come into our Los Angeles studio.

On what someone who goes to high school would want Marketplace to cover:

Amy Scott

School nurses are being enlisted in the fight against opioid overdose. The maker of the overdose treatment drug Narcan Nasal Spray is offering a free supply of the antidote to all U.S. high schools, at a potential cost to the company of millions of dollars. Naloxone, the generic name of the drug, quickly reverses the effects of opioids like heroin and oxycodone, allowing an overdose victim to breathe.

Rob Schmitz

China's government calls its newest environmental campaign "hei chou he," which literally translates to "black and stinky rivers."

Walking through an industrial section of southern Beijing, resident Shi Dianshou thinks he's found one.

"Look at all this garbage!" Shi exclaims, descending a riverbank filled with trash and milky white water. "The water is very dirty, too. I’d say this river belongs in the black and stinky category."

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

Apr 29, 2016
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

Apr 29, 2016
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.