The 7.7-magnitude temblor struck the southern part of the country. Although there are reports of deaths, it could be several days before the full extent of any damage and destruction is known.
The housing sector remains one of the U.S. economy's bright spots. In major cities across the nation, prices in July were up a bit more than 12 percent on average from a year ago.
Facebook is experimenting with a new service called “Autofill with Facebook.” The idea is if you want to buy something on an app, instead of having to enter in all your payment info, you just log in with Facebook. And zap, everything is filled out.
Right now, the social media giant has only partnered with two apps. But, more importantly, Facebook is making a move into what's known as “frictionless payment," which has become the holy grail of online retail. To understand “frictionless payment,” it’s worth remembering what it used to be like to shop on, says Rebecca Lieb, an analyst at the Altimeter Group.
She says in the early days, before eBay bought PayPal, “When you purchased something on eBay, you then had to navigate over to PayPal, sign into your PayPal account, find the auction you just won...”
If Lieb's sheer explanation is enough to make you tune out, you can imagine how the shoppers felt! eBay eventually bought PayPal and now, everything’s just a couple clicks away.
If you've ever bought anything on Amazon or iTunes, you know they are masters of frictionless payment.
“They make transactions faster and easier and also more impulsive,” says Lieb.
And don't I know it. I look at half the songs I have downloaded from iTunes and wonder where they came from. Then I remember the party where everyone was asking if I had this song and that song. That was all it took. Click!
“They’re trying to attract more advertisers to their platform,” Yeager said. “They want to be able to prove that if somebody sees an advertisement within a few clicks they can have a very seamless path to purchase.”
Yaeger says Facebook and Twitter are a long way off. But, he says, if they can make it super easy on to click an ad and buy, especially on a a mobile device, then they'll have a huge advantage over print and TV with advertisers.
The latest Case-Shiller housing index report is out. Long story short, housing prices are going up, but slowly. Interest rates are also on the rise. Not good news for buyers and lenders. Citigroup just announced that it laid off 1,000 employees, all of them from its mortgage division. Several of the country's biggest banks are trimming their mortgage operations. It's the result of big changes happening in the world of refinancing.
If you go back about 20 years and look at mortgage applications, you would find that the vast majority, 80 percent, were new home purchase loans and the rest were refinancings. Today it's nearly the opposite. Only about 30 percent of all mortgage applications are new purchase loans.
"We've had this prolonged refinancing boom because mortgage rates just continued to hit new lows, and a lot of people kept refinancing over and over again," says Greg McBride, a senior analyst with Bankrate.com.
The result of the refinancing boom was that banks hired more employees, and over time the mortgage divisions generated a larger portion of the banks' profits. "Think of it almost like a seesaw in the respect that when rates are really low, refinancing takes off," says McBride.
And now that interest rates are rising, the demand for refinancing is dropping, says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia. "And typically when you have a mortgage rate spike of half a point in a month, which is a big increase but that's what we've had in May and June, refinancing rates tend to drop by almost half."
So what does all this mean for the housing market? For homeowners, it means that refinancing will save them less. For banks, it means they will be looking for ways to make up for the decline in revenue in their mortgage divisions. "I expect we are going to see some banks increasing their home purchase lending, making it easier than it has been to get a mortgage for people that are looking to buy a home," says Kolko.
According to the new Case-Shiller report, that home will cost about 2 percent more than it did last month.
World leaders are gathering for the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week and questions continue to swirl around a possible meeting between President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. The U.S. and Iran have had icy relations for years, but Rouhani has hinted, however tentatively, that a thaw may be possible. Analysts say U.S. sanctions on Iran, including a trade embargo that bans many Iranian companies from doing business in the U.S., have hit Iran's economy hard. Companies that flout the embargo risk having their assets seized.
Last week, a federal judge in New York said the government can seize a 36-story Fifth Avenue Manhattan skyscraper that is partly owned by The Assa Corporation. The judge called Assa a front for Iran's state-owned Bank Melli.
The U.S. government can seize anything from racehorses to sports cars, said Charles Intriago, president of the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists. Typically, he said, U.S. Marshals are assigned to watch over those assets, though in some cases the work is contracted out.
"There have been racehorses seized, for example," he said. "The marshals may not know much about keeping thoroughbred racehorses. They will hire some folks to make sure those horses are maintained in top condition."
That a company with links to Iran might attempt to conduct business in the U.S., given the tensions between the two nations, might strike some as surprising, but Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says it may be more common than assumed.
"There have been some stunning bank accounts," Clawson said. "You have to go -- what was crossing their mind when they opened that bank account. People aren't very bright."
Clawson's awareness of those accounts stems from his service as an expert witness in the court cases of Americans who have been victims of terror attacks that are proven to have ties to Iran, such as the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Since the mid-'90s, the U.S. government has allowed victims to sue, to claim some part of the billions of dollars in seized Iranian assets.
"Increasingly," Clawson said, "the courts have ordered the banks to hand that money over to these victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism, who have now collected hundreds of millions of dollars. And the Iranian government is not happy about this process."
This week, the Chinese government will open the country's first 'free trade zone' in Shanghai. It will be an area of deregulation where foreign companies will be able to sell products and services without import duties or taxes. Marketplace's China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz says the move has those in the foreign buisness community optimistic -- but they know it won't make business in the region a cake walk.
"There is a lot of skepticism because nobody knows the specifics of how exactly this is going to make selling your products easier in China," he says.
Schmitz says China may utilize this free trade zone to give global financial markets a go at determining the value of its currency -- something U.S. lawmakers have been pushing China to do for years to allow American products to better compete with Chinese products. But Schmitz says, don't hold your breath.
"China has always been very, very cautious about loosening control on its currency for fear that it would have a broad, negative impact on its economy."
Marketplace China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz joins Marketplace host David Brancaccio to discuss.
Some conservative Republicans don't think a government shutdown will hurt them ... Former House GOP leaders say Speaker Boehner and his team have it far harder than they did ... George W. Bush defends the present golfer in chief.
Carol and Willie Fowler of Atlanta turned something sad into something glad. Their daughter's wedding was canceled 40 days before it was to happen. The Fowlers decided to turn the already paid-for reception into a dinner for homeless people. Now they plan to have charity dinners every year.