Every weekday on Marketplace, Kai Ryssdal hosts a lively and unexpected exploration of the day’s business and economic news from Wall Street to your wallet.
From coffee to copper to corn, the price of commodities has fallen over the past year. Why has this happened and why do the prices of products remain so high? Next, a sad farewell to those who left us in 2013, from industry-changing successes like "Breaking Bad" to new products no one wanted, like Watermelon Oreos. Also, an intense oil-train fire in North Dakota demonstrates the scale of explosions and fire that can occur, as the nation’s rail system marks just the fifth anniversary of the modern moving-oil-by-rail era. Finally, while everybody is watching football on New Year’s Day, doctor’s offices are frantically planning for the onslaught of new patients in the new year.
The attacks in Volgograd in the past two days have raised fear of terrorism in Russia in the lead up to the February Sochi Winter Olympics -- in particular, that major transportation hubs are more likely to be targeted. Terrorism fears could put a major economic dent in Russia's Olympic plans. Next, if you want to spend your New Year’s Eve at Applebees in New York, they will hook you up for a mere $375 a head. New Year’s Eve is big business for restaurants and party spaces. Also, week look back at the stories of 2013 from China that’ll be important to understanding China next year: air pollution plus China’s hangover from 3 decades of economic growth. And finally, the once-phenomenally profitable orange juice business is being squeezed by a bunch of little bacteria.
For 1.3 million unemployed Americans, long-term unemployment benefits expire this weekend. The loss of that spending power may not make a big dent in the economy, but it could make one in local communities. Also, McDonald’s is shutting down McResource, a website that offers tips to employees -- like using food stamps to supplement income, and avoiding unhealthy food like fast food burgers and fries. Last year, Apple was mocked for its “Genius Training Manual.” Do leaks like this change how companies communicate with, and train, staff in an age where internal materials can easily go viral? And finally, narrative storytelling is gaining popularity and the internet's taking notice. Will long-form journalism save magazine writing?
The UPS delivery debacle raises a lot of questions: People will forgive companies a lot of things, but not screwing up their Christmas. So, how big a scar will this be for UPS (and to a lesser extent FedEx); and do we have the infrastructure to actually handle the shift to online shopping at peak times? Next, that dramatic increase in deliveries this time of year has meant an equal increase in the trash from all the packaging it takes to get goods from Amazon and others to consumers. Finally, Southwest is hiring hundreds of flight attendants (thousands have applied for the jobs) and other airlines are putting up the 'Help Wanted' signs too, after a long period of cuts.
Happy Holidays! Chances are you or someone you know bought something online this year. And, it makes sense, since you can buy everything from electronics to groceries with the click of a button. Many online retailers have policies that make it inexpensive to return what you don't like, but online buying returns are becoming so frequent, they're starting to eat into profits. There's another group of holiday spenders who aren't watching their pennies quite so closely. A look at how the other half spends Christmas Immigration reform has been in the news a lot this year, and unfortunately, that creates an opening for scam artists. They'll tell immigrants they can help them get green cards, even when they aren't eligible under current law. Many Syrians are leaving the war-torn country for Germany, but what's it like to start a new life in one of the wealthiest countries in Europe?
Toys R Us is staying open for 87 straight hours for last minute shoppers. Also, do people with birthdays on Christmas really get fewer presents? Marketplace’s Adriene Hill went in search of the answer. Plus, it’s been a monster year for companies going public, and that means this holiday season the newly-rich employees of those companies will have to manage their friends and families gift expectations. Finally, Ukraine, one of Europe's biggest countries, has been courted by east and west - the European Union offered Ukraine an historic free trade deal, Russia wants Kiev to join ITS economic bloc.