National / International News
Opponents of the Federal Reserves policy of buying bonds to stimulate the economy always worried about the end game: what happens to markets when the stimulus ends. With that time now upon us, it appears the turmoil has come and gone. So as central bank stimulus draws to a close, when will the economy be healthy enough for higher interest rates? Plus, good news for college seniors and their parents: The job market for 2015 graduates looks like the strongest in many years, with employers looking to make significantly more hires than last year, many of them at higher starting salaries. Those early findings are from Michigan State University's annual survey of employers. How ever, economists say the good news doesn't trickle backwards to people who graduated during the down years. More on that. And surveys show that many people choose a new car based on how connected the vehicle is to the internet (forget about zero-to-sixty, or initial quality or EPA mileage). We take a test drive to see how manufacturers are taking this information on board.
New college grads will find jobs more easily, according to a Michigan State survey of 5,700 companies.How much is hiring of new grads with bachelor’s degrees expected to rise in 2015?
One of China's largest electronics companies, Xiaomi, has a plan. They want to sell 100,000 phones in India every week. But there's a problem. A privacy problem.
Chinese smartphones have notoriously been banned or even put on a trade restriction lists because people are concerned that they might be carrying spyware installed by the Chinese government.
To combat this stigma, Xiaomi announced that they will be building a data center in India to ensure customers that they will not be storing their data on Chinese servers.
Molly Wood, Technology columnist at the New York Times, brought up an interesting point in this regard. She wonders if at some point, some country will declare themselves as the "Switzerland of data storage," in that this country will not honor requests from anyone to sift through your data.
However, there's only one slight problem with that, she says. What if we don't trust the manufacturers of the product either? What then?
Click on the media player above to hear Molly Wood in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.
Male or female, you were once a teenager and so will likely remember how, for the longest time, personal care products were all about removing oil from our faces, hair and skin.
“Oils were a product that historically consumers have been told to take off," says Karen Grant, a beauty industry analyst for the NPD group.
But now, oil is having a moment. You might say it's getting a chance to shine. Especially when it comes to the haircare industry, where brands are advertising their ability to make your healthy, nourished and moisturized — with oils.
“You’ll see oils on the shelf at Target. You’re seeing them in Walmart, you’re seeing it in Walgreens, you’re seeing it in CVS,” says Grant.
And at Ricky's, a chain of beauty supply stores in New York, where you can see the slick display from the sidewalk. Behind the cash register, there is a giant wall of hair products, all with the same color turquoise packaging. And in the center aisle, you'll be confronted with even more.
Says Richard Parrott, president of Ricky's, about the nose-high shelves packed with products, “It’s a hero display. This is basically our hero products. These are the products that people, they come in with their iPhones and they have pictures. They just say do you have this?”
The brand Parrot is talking about is Moroccanoil. That's the brand. But it's core ingredient is a product called Argan oil. Pure Argan oil retails for about $12 an ounce. Mohamed Omer, an industry analyst with Mintel, says the oil is difficult to produce.
"Argan oil can only be extracted from the argan fruit, which can only be found in Morocco. It can only be collected by hand. And the kernels have to be taken out by hand. It’s not an easy oil to get," he says.
And a lot of it is grown on cooperative farms run by women.
Argan oil's rarity and exotic story make it a best-seller. And when it comes to best-sellers, says Richard Parrott, the beauty industry moves in cycles.
“Curly hair is in. Straight hair is in. Curly hair is in. Straight hair is in. This is not new. Right? They were using this stuff in ancient Egypt," he says.
In ancient Egypt, Argan oil might have been as common as regular shampoo — we don't know. But today it's like the truffle of the beauty industry. Because it’s so expensive and scarce, very few consumers can afford the pure ingredient. But they’re still willing to pay for a bottle of shampoo that contains just a few drops.
Car companies have been slow to adapt to a connected world. But they're starting to catch up, putting out cars that increasingly work like huge smartphones on wheels.
Qualcomm is a company built on smartphone chips. But lately, they've also been trying to get their chips inside cars.
"Fundamentally, the car is turning into a smartphone," says Qualcomm's senior vice president of business development Kanwalinder Singh. He's speaking from the passenger seat of an Audi A3, the first car with its own 4G connection.
With the help of Qualcomm chips, the A3 features more detailed Google maps, internet radio, and Netflix streaming for the kids in the backseat. Drivers can dictate Tweets using voice command, and the car reads incoming text messages out loud.
Singh says Qualcomm is giving drivers the features they want, and they're doing it in a safe way.
"We believe that driver distraction would actually be alleviated by providing these services," he says. "When all of this is embedded, like it is in this Audi, phone calls destined to you and your smartphone would actually come through the car's antenna, and play through the car's audio-visual system. You would interact through the car."
But some driving safety researchers say moving these features from the phone to the car won't make drivers any safer.
"I think they're really ignoring the powerful effect of cognitive distractions," says Linda Hill, who leads a team of driving safety researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.
Hill admits voice command might cut down on visual distraction, preventing phone-handling drivers from staring down into their laps. But eye-tracking studies have shown that even when drivers have their hands free and their eyes on the road, their minds can still be elsewhere.
"A recent study looking at that found that voice-to-text increased driving errors more on a closed driving course than text-to-text did, shockingly," Hill says.
Hill does like the idea of building one bit of technology into cars, though: An app that disables phones in moving vehicles.
Good news for college seniors (and their parents): The job market for 2015 graduates looks like the strongest in many years, with employers looking to make significantly more hires than last year, many of them at higher starting salaries. Those early findings from Michigan State University’s annual survey of employers are in accord with other statistics showing that the job market has gotten stronger since the recession.
However, economists say the good news doesn’t trickle backwards to people who graduated during the down years. For instance, the Michigan State numbers show salaries for new engineers will be about $6,000 higher than they were for 2009 graduates.
"There is no way that those people who came in at 2009 are going to be at that salary," says Michigan State’s Philip Gardner, who conducted the survey. "It would take some pretty nice wage increases."
The Michigan State findings echo other recent data, says Brookings Institution economist Gary Burtless. So does the bad news for earlier graduates.
"There’s no doubt that entering the job market—either as a new college graduate or a new high-school graduate—at a time of high unemployment is not the best career move," says Burtless.
Those workers can see their wages stay relatively low for 10 years or more.
Shu Lin Wee, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University, has studied the process by which recession-era grads lose out, in a paper titled "Born Under a Bad Sign: The Cost of Entering the Job Market During a Recession."
Her numbers show that when jobs are scarce, young people don’t get to hop around from career to career as much. Finding the first job is enough challenge.
"Even if you manage to find a job," she says, "and you realize that you’re not very good at that particular career, now you have problems switching jobs.
So you develop fewer skills and don’t get experience with other fields that might be a better fit.
Southern California’s huge port complex has been making headlines lately over congestion and shipping delays. But ports all over the world are experiencing traffic jams, and they all have one thing in common: megaships. Some container vessels are now three and a half football fields long and they’re overwhelming ports.
Just five years ago, ocean carriers calling on global ports typically could handle 5,000 20-foot containers.
“Now, they are bringing in ships that can handle three times that amount,” says Peter Friedmann, counsel to Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Associations. “And there are some ships that have already been built that can carry 18,000 on one ship.” Even the expanded Panama Canal won't be able to handle a ship that big.
Hacegaba says these megaships came on line faster than expected. They’re straining capacity at many global ports, where authorities are scrambling to build bigger terminals and bigger cranes to unload them.
Companies like Maersk and MSC are forming alliances to share these vessels, a move that gives shippers more leverage over the world’s ports.