From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up Thursday:
- The Conference Board releases its monthly index of leading economic indicators.
- It’s the first day of spring. One springtime activity—the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It begins in Washington.
- And Mister Rogers fans, put on a nice sweater. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Day is observed on the anniversary of Fred Rogers’ birthday.
Citing progress in the labor markets, the Federal Reserve said it would continue winding down its economic stimulus program. But Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the U.S. economy still faces headwinds.
Terrorists haven't hit our food supply – yet. But there are major vulnerabilities, from food processing plants to cattle ranching. U.S. regulators want the industry to start taking the risk seriously.
In the past year, Russia has given asylum to Edward Snowden, hosted the Olympics and attempted to annex Crimea. Teams debate Russia's role on the world stage in the latest Intelligence Squared U.S.
Just to show you that pretty much everything out there's trying to do you harm...
On the same day Toyota got slapped with a $1.2 billion fine from the Justice Department for how it handled that Prius unintended acceleration recall, Ganz, the plush toy manufacturer, has recalled three different models of its Grumpy Cat plushes (that's what they're called).
1) The internet can help you out if you don't know what Grumpy Cat is.
2) Once that happens, you'll ask the same question I did: Who buys one of those things?
The Commerce Department just released big news about the U.S. current account deficit, the measure of the flow of goods and services into and out of this country. The deficit has reached a 14-year low, down to $81.1 billion.
The simplest way to think of the current account deficit is as a gap. It's the value of all the stuff and money the U.S. sends overseas, minus what it imports. Right now the U.S. is importing $81.1 billion more in goods and services than it is exporting. But this is $215 billion less than the peak in 1999.
The main reason, says economist Robert Scott at the Economic Policy Institute, is that the economy is weak and therefore interest rates are low. That means the U.S. is paying less to foreign countries that hold U.S. Treasuries. That means less cash leaving the country, headed overseas.
A weak economy also means a weak dollar, which makes U.S. products more attractive to foreign countries, so they are buying more American goods. Another big reason for the deficit drop is the U.S. energy balance. "In recent years the U.S. has had a boom in unconventional energy production domestically, gas but also oil," says Gian Maria Milesi-Feretti , deputy director of research at the International Monetary Fund.
Oil and gas production continues to increase this year, and much of that energy will probably be exported. That growth, along with an expected decline in imports, means the deficit is likely to continue its decline.
After a year-long review prompted by a battery fire and other problems, an FAA team has concluded that the jet meets its "intended safety level."
No one knows what happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. That doesn’t stop news outlets from talking about theories.
Explanations are all over the place, sometimes bordering on the absurd:
- Local news sources are asking local pilots for their best guesses.
- Multiple sites wrote about rock-star Courtney Love’s tweets about the jet's location.
- Politico reported on Congressmen’s theories about the disappearance. (SPOILER: Representative Peter King thinks it was a suicide.)
- There are online guides to the theories.
- On Fox, Bill O'Reilly blasted other news coverage.
- And this story, too, is a story about stories:
“The problem is that when there is nothing new, you have a ton of talking heads blathering on, which gets them into speculation, which is not information,” said Judy Muller, a broadcast professor at USC’s Annenberg journalism school, “it’s blather.”
“You can’t really tell 24 hour news stations that thrive on this sort of story to only come on when they have new information, because that’s not what drives ratings,” she said.
And, CNN’s ratings are way up. The AP reported that prime-time ratings for the news channel have risen 68 percent.
“Let me be provocative,” said Jill Geisler, who teaches at the Poynter Institute, “I’m glad CNN is giving it this much coverage.” Too often, she said, the only news that gets attention in the U.S. is news about Americans.
— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) March 17, 2014
But this mystery transcends that. People want find the missing plane. To know what happened. There’s an element of fear that drives us. “This is a story that involves mystery, universality, and relatibility,” Geisler said.
We just have to remember this isn’t entertainment. It’s not a movie. There are 239 missing people.