Business news

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.

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. 

In home bidding wars, love letters can seal a deal

Jul 22, 2015
Annie Baxter

In many real estate markets around the country, a shortage of homes for sale is creating stiff competition among buyers. In order to stand out in a possible bidding war, some buyers try to win favor by writing a personal appeal to the seller. 

“When the listing for your home came up online, we fell in love,” wrote Becca Schulman Havemeyer in a letter to the seller of a four bedroom home in the Boston area. “We love the charm and character of your home and can tell that your family cherished it as well.”

American foodmakers see new market with TPP

Jul 22, 2015
Mark Garrison

Congress gave President Barack Obama authority to fast-track those trade talks, but there’s still not a done deal. Negotiations continue later this month to finalize the trade pact. But one agenda item is causing friction between the U.S. and another part of the world. Politico reports that the latest flash point is over food, setting up a battle between America and the European Union.

Nova Safo

About half the time Ricky Hill of Chicago goes to the doctor, Hill has to educate the doctor about being transgender. Other times, clinic workers have called Hill by the wrong name. These are experiences with which many other transgender people can identify.

"We figure out who is a doctor that's not going to mis-gender me, or get my name wrong every single time I go in. Or, look at me like I'm a weirdo. Or, ask a bunch of inappropriate questions that have nothing to do with the sinus infection that I came in for," Hill says.

Without tourists, Egyptian business owners adapt

Jul 21, 2015
Kim Adams

In 2013, Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal had a chat with Cairo shopkeeper Emad Nour Hafez about how political instability since Egypt's 2011 revolution was affecting his tourist shop.  Since then, Egypt has had more ups and downs, but tourism has never really returned to the pre-Arab Spring heyday.


Airing on Tuesday, July 21, 2015: The senior leadership of Toshiba, one of Japan's biggest corporations, resigned today after an investigation showing the company had dramatically fudged its profits. More on that. And it’s the fifth anniversary of Dodd-Frank. We look at the biggest accomplishment of the law so far, and the biggest issue it’s not yet gotten to. And as you know we’ve been talking to people about the tools that they can’t live without while doing their job — their "Pro Tools." Well, our sibling program Marketplace Tech is doing a series called Noise Makers.

Marketplace for Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jul 21, 2015

Airing on Tuesday, July 21, 2015: Rural states have a lot of jobs, but don't have the skilled or professional workers to fill them. That's why states like Wyoming, South Dakota and Idaho have recently started their own Tinder of sorts —job-matchmaking programs to try and convince their expats to come back home. Next: Gold prices have hit a five-year low. What's been causing the drop? Marketplace explores. 


Long-shot candidates reap benefits after race

Jul 21, 2015
Nova Safo

With Ohio Governor John Kasich today entering the race for the GOP presidential nomination, the total number of major contenders has risen to 16. There are also five major candidates on the Democratic side.

A lot of them are long shots, whether due to lack of name recognition, lack of financial support, or low numbers in the polls.

Miles Bryan

Meet Max Salzburg. He’s 37, married and works in marketing. He lives with his wife Sonja in Fort Collins, Colorado, a bustling small city filled with breweries and bike aficionados. But Salzburg grew up about an hour away from here, in the much smaller town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. 

“I thought it was small,” Salzburg says. “And lame. And boring.”

Annie Baxter

A key conduit for moving goods east from ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California was choked off when heavy rains Sunday washed out part of a bridge in the desert between Los Angeles and Phoenix. Some officials in Riverside, California say the standing portion of the bridge could reopen soon, but it turns out that even when a bridge falls in the middle of nowhere, the costs rack up quickly. 

The bridge that collapsed was on a remote stretch of Interstate 10, far from any town. But it's a key passageway for truckers hauling consumer goods from Asia out of California ports.

Marketplace Tech for Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jul 21, 2015

Airing on Tuesday, July 21, 2015: First up, we'll ask what will people be watching for Apples reports quarter earnings, and where the Watch figures in. We'll also talk to Ryan Calo, Assistant Law Professor at the University of Washington and an affiliate scholar at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, about why it’s so difficult to enforce drone regulations. And Kyle Wiens, CEO of the computer repair site iFixit, joins us to talk about why PC users won’t need to upgrade their hardware when they make the switch to Windows 10.

Five years on, Dodd-Frank still controversial

Jul 21, 2015
Kim Adams

It’s been five years since the Dodd-Frank Act became law, with the goal of preventing the chaos of the 2008 economic crisis from happening again.

But the question whether it’s worked is just as polarizing as the law itself was back then. The law affects Wall Street, banks, whistleblowers, consumer protection, and other sectors of the financial industry.

A boom in new hotel construction

Jul 21, 2015
Julie Satow

The Baccarat Hotel and Residences is one of Manhattan’s newest hotels. As its name suggests, it is dripping in crystal, with enormous chandeliers, ornate vases — even its walls are made of what looks like undulating crystal glass.

It is the latest in a rash of new hotels that are opening across New York City, and the country. From Houston to Miami, cranes are busy erecting new hotels. In fact, over the past year, hotel construction is up 21 percent, according to data from STR, which analyzes the industry.