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.
New housing starts are down in January, but up year-to-year. We examine the mortgage factor – what role strict lending standards and rising rates have on buyers. Also, consumer debt is up, particularly among people with lower incomes and young adults. The economy depends on people borrowing and spending more, but this might not be a great sign -- we ask whether people are getting over-extended once again. Finally, Netflix seems to be slowing down. Why? Because the people who provide the pipes that Netflix streams through for free want Netflix to pay for that privilege. This flies in the face of net neutrality rulings, but the fact is that other big web firms do pay a premium for faster service.
The President announced new EPA targets today regarding fuel efficiency for heavy-duty trucks. It’s part of his much-talked-about strategy of going around Congress to get things done. But given how ambitious these new goals are, it raises the question of how much power the administration has to go around an industry in requiring new rules. Next, IPO wannabe King Digital Entertainment has made a lot of money out of peoples’ impatience: its top offering, Candy Crush, is free to play, but it makes money from impatient players who want to buy shortcuts in the game - a dubiously sustainable business model. Finally, loan applications for home purchases have slipped in recent months. One reason: student loan burdens have grown, which keeps would-be first-time home buyers out of the market.
It’s cold in some places and hot in others and that does funny things to tan lines, foliage and the economy. Plus: Without regulation, the rail industry has resorted to using pricing to impact how oil and natural gas are delivered by train. And: A check-in on the fifth year of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, iPads in schools, and those sleeved NBA jerseys.
President Obama’s aid for Western states hurt by drought shows the limits of what can be done without… rain. His main point, buried in his plan, is to look forward to continued climate change and prepare communities and industries to be “resilient” in the face of new conditions. Plus, the latest digital area of intense competition is messaging apps, which provide wide-ranging communication services that will challenge not only instant messaging, but also companies like Skype. Later, Pandora uses what it knows about our musical taste to lure political advertisers. The promise and the peril. And finally: The debut of the second season of the smash hit House of Cards doesn’t just mark the success of Netflix – it’s also an indicator of the enormous changes wrought in the televisual entertainment business.
Comcast’s merger with Time Warner cable will create the biggest cable company in the nation – if not the world. If it goes through, it would leave few competitors for Comcast in the cable business. Plus, how "seasonally adjusted" works in economic statistics – since this winter season is adjusting a lot of economic behavior in much of the country. Finally, Verizon has responded to the competition by cutting prices, adding more data and international texting with a new "More Everything" plan. As smartphones become ubiquitous – are mobile companies forced to focus less on bringing in new users and more on picking off customers from competitors?
A very significant study is out that sheds considerable doubt on the value of regular mammograms. We look at how this might affect the industry and the machine that has sprung up around the screening test. Next, the subject of Sports Illustrated ’s swimsuit issue is…. Barbie. How did this happen? Who is going to be excited about this publishing event? Finally, legislation in New York would make NY the first state to ban microbeads used as scouring devices in facial creams and toothpastes, catching up to studies showing the beads are entering the aquatic food chain because they’re too small to be filtered out by water treatment systems.