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Marketplace Weekend Staff

Robots are coming! Do they save you money? Or time? Are they intelligent? Where are they filling in the gaps, and when are they not good enough?

What would you never trust a robot to do?

We want to hear your stories. Send us an email or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

Housing is up and down, but mostly up

Jul 24, 2015
Mitchell Hartman

With summer, the housing market has been warming up. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales were up 3.2 percent in June, on top of strong sales in April and May, to a level not seen since early 2007. June’s new home sales figures were disappointing, with sales down 6.8 percent month-to-month.

PODCAST: Housing sales for June

Jul 24, 2015
David Brancaccio

The June report for new home sales is out today - we'll talk about what to expect. Plus, we'll talk about what to make of recent movement in the Chinese stock market. And President Obama arrives in Kenya on Friday for a three-day visit. It's his first trip to the country where his father was born since he was elected. The visit is bringing a mini-economic boost for some Kenyans.

Affordable housing for teachers in short supply

Jul 24, 2015
Aaron Schrank

Jennifer Marlar teaches seventh grade language arts at Jackson Hole Middle School in Jackson, Wyoming, but she doesn’t live anywhere near the tourist town’s shopping district or ski area.

“It just makes the most sense, financially,” Marlar says.

Instead, she commutes one hour — over a sometimes-treacherous mountain pass — from her home in Driggs, Idaho.

“It’s brutal,” says Marlar. “And that hour feels like eternity.”

Kenyans hope to cash in on Obama visit

Jul 24, 2015
Kim Adams

During his first trip to Kenya as president, Barack Obama is expected to discuss ways to fight regional terrorism with with the countries leaders and speak at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in the capital, Nairobi.


Airing on Friday, July 24, 2015: With President Obama arriving in Kenya on Friday, we'll cover how the visit is bringing a mini-economic boost for some Kenyans. Next, a check in on the burgeoning refugee crisis in Syria. We'll talk about how the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees deals with a recurring problem: donors who don’t pay what they promise. We'll also talk about how a lack of affordable housing is making it difficult for schools to recruit and retain quality teachers.

Marketplace Tech for Friday, July 24, 2015

Jul 24, 2015

Airing on Friday, July 24, 2015: First up, we'll talk with Marketplace’s Adriene Hill about Hollywood's many failed video game tie-ins. And how well have you kept up with the week in tech news? It's time for another installment of Silicon Tally. Marketplace's Molly Wood will try to stump Tom Merritt, host of the Daily Tech News Show, with numbers from the week's tech news.

States wavering on standards for renewable energy

Jul 24, 2015
Adam Allington

Thanks to the ready availability of natural gas, some states are considering freezing, rolling back or eliminating Renewable Portfolio Standards — standards that tell utilities how much of their electricity has to come from renewable sources. Roughly 30 states have such guidelines. Back when many of these standards were put in place, they were seen as a way to hedge against the uncertainty of fossil fuels.

The Konami Code for vintage gamers

Jul 23, 2015
Adrienne Hill and Tommy Andres

Even though it’s been years since arcades reached their peak of the '80s, there’s still a fondness for the classics. Whether it’s Pac-Man, Donkey Kong or Galaga, old-school arcade games still have an audience.

One store that celebrates that love is the Vintage Arcade Superstore in Glendale, California.

Gene Lewin is the owner. At the store he sells everything from pinball to Pong. He says his love for all things retro and arcade began when he was young.

The changing platform for YouTube stardom

Jul 23, 2015
Adrienne Hill

YouTube is growing up, and the line between YouTube stars and celebrity is becoming blurrier. Thousands of screaming fans are out in force at VidCon, a conference for online video makers in Anaheim, California, on Thursday.

Freddie Wong will be among them. His YouTube channel, RocketJump, has more than 7 million subscribers, and he is one of the latest YouTube stars looking to move their production off YouTube.

HBO picks up former ESPN host Bill Simmons

Jul 23, 2015
Adrienne Hill, Mukta Mohan and Bridget Bodnar

ESPN has parted ways with a lot of its big-name talent recently, including Bill Simmons, whose contract was not renewed back in May. Simmons has landed at HBO, where he'll host a weekly talk show and work on sports documentary projects.

Marketplace for Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jul 23, 2015

Airing on Thursday, July 23, 2015: Health insurance giants Anthem and Cigna are closing in on a $48 billion merger, just days after Aetna announced plans to acquire Humana for $37 billion. These deals could help insurers navigate the changes brought about by healthcare reform, but how will they affect consumers? Next, it's not easy doing business in China these days, with the stock market and property values falling. U.S. companies are having to adapt to a more mature Chinese economy.  

D Gorenstein

Health insurer Anthem appears ready to throw down nearly $50 billion to purchase rival Cigna. This would be the second proposed mega-merger in the industry in less than a month.

Welcome to healthcare’s version of an arms race, where hospitals and insurers vie for supremacy. As these titans battle it out, the threat is that consumers end up losing no matter who winds up on top.

Carnegie Mellon economist Martin Gaynor says there’s a simple question we shouldn’t lose sight of in this new wave of potential deals.

“Are these mergers going to make us better off?” he asks.

Sam Beard

A Greek exit from the eurozone has been averted – for now at least-  but another , even bigger crisis for the European Union  is still waiting in the wings:  not Grexit  but Brexit,  a British exit from the EU.

Over  the next 18 months the United Kingdom will attempt to negotiate an even looser arrangement with the EU than Britain currently enjoys   and then to hold a referendum asking the British people, “Do you want in or out?" 

"Out" campaigners believe that the treatment of Greece has given their cause a major boost.   

US companies adjust to a more mature Chinese economy

Jul 23, 2015
Nancy Marshall-Genzer

It’s not easy doing business in China these days.  Stocks have fallen — in some cases by 30 percent — and property values are down.  

“You know, all American companies are getting whip sawed in China to a certain extent,” says Barry Naughton, a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego.

Celebrities are mastering the art of the group selfie

Jul 23, 2015
Adrienne Hill

When I was talking to YouTube video creator Freddie Wong, who heads the channel RocketJump, he told me that today — far more often than signatures — fans want selfies.

So, these stars are coming up with efficient ways to take a bunch of them in a short amount of time. 

Apparently at some of these conventions, fans form big circles, with their phones out, and the stars runs around the back of the circle putting their head in shot after shot.

Whatever you think of selfies, you've got to admire the ingenuity. 

PODCAST: Improving infrastructure with bikes

Jul 23, 2015
David Brancaccio

On today's show, we'll talk about news that the number of people signing up for unemployment benefits fell to a low not seen in four decades. Plus, we'll talk about the merger between two health care giants: Anthem and Cigna. And Portland Oregon’s two defining cultures – tech and bikes – have come together to improve transportation infrastructure using a new app that will anonymously track behaviors, and preferred routes of cyclists, with or without the app. The data from these combined technologies will act as a guide for decision-making when planning bike lanes, routes, and signals.

Marketplace Tech for Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jul 23, 2015

Airing on Thursday, July 23, 2015: First up, we'll talk to Sucharita Mulpuru, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester, about Amazon ahead of its earnings call. We'll also pay a visit to Minnie Ingersoll, Co-founder and COO of the secondhand car company Shift, at the company’s used-car warehouse. And Portland Oregon’s two defining cultures — tech and bikes — have come together to improve transportation infrastructure, in the face of the city's exceeding growth.

Brash new competitor challenges Amazon

Jul 23, 2015
Andy Uhler

Amazon is set to release earnings on Thursday. And now its got more competition in the retail game.

This week, launched, boasting plans to lure you away from Amazon with the lowest prices on the internet. Founder Marc Lore seems to relish competing with Amazon. In 2010 Amazon bought his startup Quidsi for half a billion dollars.


Airing on Thursday, July 23, 2015: On today's show, we'll talk about a merger between two of the largest health insurers in the U.S. — Anthem is reportedly nearing a deal to buy Cigna for $48 billion. Plus, we'll talk about a monthly number that gauges overall economic activity and inflationary pressure: the Chicago Fed National Activity Index. But if you find yourself thinking that inflation has been flat-lining of late, resident Marketplace explainer Paddy Hirsch is here to plumb the depths of the inflation mystery.

Soundtracks have a life beyond the movies

Jul 22, 2015
Kai Ryssdal and Tommy Andres

A movie’s soundtrack can have big impact on the movie itself. However, sometimes a soundtrack can take on a life of its own, says Los Angeles Times writer Gerrick Kennedy. Case in point, “Fifty Shades of Grey” and its use of the track “Earned It” by The Weeknd.

“['Fifty Shades of Grey' is] not the greatest movie. Decent enough book. Soundtrack — super hot. And I think...we saw what just happened with really successful music, and how you build that into the film,” Kennedy says.

Marketplace for Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jul 22, 2015

Airing on Wednesday, July 22, 2015: Global oil prices are half what they were a year ago, but you’d never know it in California, where regular gas is $4.50 a gallon. We explain California’s broken market, where special requirements for anti-smog gas blends limits the state to gas refined locally, and environmental  pressure has limited the number of refineries.  Next: "I am Cait," premieres this Sunday. The docu-series that chronicles former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner's transformation into the female Caitlyn promises to be a ratings blockbuster for the E! Network. Where would E!

Nova Safo

This Sunday at 8 p.m., E! Entertainment TV will premiere Caitlyn Jenner's show "I Am Cait."

The network is calling the show a "documentary series," in an attempt to differentiate it from the reality shows featuring the Kardashians that have helped sustain the network's ratings for years.

Developers look to create disability apps

Jul 22, 2015
Lauren Silverman

It’s the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The federal law opened up services and opportunities for millions of Americans.  Today, developers in the tech world are testing new ideas with the disabled community in mind.

Take Chad Hebel. Sometimes he'll go to a restaurant with friends only to find himself physically cut off from his company.

“You’re looking under the table at everybody else,” Hebel says of his experience being in a wheelchair in those settings. 

Gigi Douban

Willie Hudgins drives a 2006 Ford Expedition stretch limo. Earlier today, he pulled into a Mobil station in Birmingham, Alabama to get gas. He paid $2.39 a gallon. Happily.

"Oh, it's like, man, pennies on the dollar," he says, compared with before global oil prices collapsed.

The national average for gas is $2.74 a gallon. Then there's California, where prices are almost always higher.

"Typically, California prices should be about 40 cents above the national average," says Severin Borenstein with the Energy Institute at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

Apple's drop illustrates the power of expectations

Jul 22, 2015
Tracey Samuelson

Apple announced Tuesday that it made a boatload of money in the third quarter (without saying boatload). Revenue was up more than 30 percent and CEO Tim Cook called it “an amazing quarter.”

But many investors just didn’t see it the same way, as they expected Apple to sell more iPhones than it actually did. That disappointment sent the company’s stock down more than 4.5 percent Wednesday– and experts say that demonstrates the danger of high expectations.

Why a share's price and its value might not line up

Jul 22, 2015
Paddy Hirsch

Valuation is a sticky subject: what is a company worth? Apple was worth $766 billion at the start of the week. This morning it was worth $50 billion less. Yesterday, Facebook was worth less than General Electric: today it’s worth $2 billion more.

PODCAST: Banking in Cuba

Jul 22, 2015
David Brancaccio

There is word today that a bank in Florida has set up a direct link with a bank in Havannah. It's called a correspondent deal, and we'll talk about how it will improve banking between Cuba and the U.S. And an advocacy group in Chicago is tackling a problem affecting transgender people: how to find businesses and service providers that are not just friendly, but understanding of their needs. 


Airing on Wednesday, July 22, 2015: We're bouncing off a big day in tech stocks. Apple reported profits yesterday after the market close — Even though earnings were up, the company's stock went down. We'll talk more on how the company failed to meet investors' expectations. And an emerging debate in the Trans Pacific talks … cheese. Who owns the intellectual and property rights to make certain cheeses and foods? Washington wants to allow Asian countries to reject European trademarks for certain foods, which would open the doors for American producers of those products.

Marketplace Tech for Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jul 22, 2015

Airing on Wednesday, July 22, 2015: First up, we'll talk with Van Baker, Research VP at Forrester, about Apple earnings. We'll also hear from Christopher Koopman, research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, about the shutdown of the Uber-like cleaning company Homejoy. We'll also talk about an advocacy group in Chicago creating a Yelp-like service for transgender people.