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China’s GDP increased by only 7.3 percent in the third quarter this year. While that's a figure many countries would kill to have, it’s relatively slow for China – in fact, it’s the lowest quarterly figure in five years.
Of course, China’s not alone; Europe is in the midst of a slowdown, too. So which stalling economy is a greater threat to our own, here in the U.S.? On the one hand, China is the world’s second largest economy, but Europe is an important trading partner.
“If I was picking, I’d be picking Europe,” says Kent Smetters, professor of business economics and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Smetters says Europe tends to purchase high-margin goods from the U.S., such as machines.
“With China, not only is it a much smaller trading relationship, the margins that we get with what we’re trading is a lot different,” he says. “Our biggest export, for example, is soy beans.”
Slower economic growth in China matters to the U.S. less than a slowdown Europe, agrees Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. In addition to exports, Europe can also impact our stock markets, he says.
“Things look depressed in Europe,” he says. “So European shares are cheaper, so that’s going to ripple over U.S. shares because some investors will say, ‘Well, let’s buy those cheap European shares instead of the more expensive U.S. shares.’”
Hufbauer says Europe has been dragged down by the debt of its countries and a lack of agreement about how to combat sluggish growth. He doesn’t expect that to change any time soon.
On the other hand, China’s slowdown is at least partially by design of its leaders, says Nicholas Consonery, the Asia director at the Eurasia Group. So while many investors are fearful of the slowdown, he says, “It’s very clear that transitioning into a phase of slower, more sustainable growth is a healthy – and not just healthy, but also necessary adjustment for China.”
Consonery says a more stable China, with stronger consumer spending, could actually be good for the U.S. in the long term.
Morgan Spurlock is hoping to demystify the economy with a new series of short films he's calling "We the Economy: 20 Short Films You Can't Afford to Miss."
"I think we live in a country and we live in a time where a lot of us are economically illiterate," Spurlock says. "Our eyes glass over, we start to go into a slump when we hear about derivatives or market fluctuations or the Federal Reserve. And I think having a basic understanding of how these things work and how they impact our lives is important. It's important for the citizenry, it's important for our communities, it's important for our country."
Watch the first film here:
What's the material of the future? Titanium? Silicon? Maybe some rare metal used in electronics? Those materials will no doubt play increasingly larger roles in our lives. But arguably, the most important substance in the development of civilization has been — and will continue to be — concrete.
Take China, for example. It has poured more concrete in the past six years than America poured in the past 300.
Making concrete takes a ton of energy. As much as 10 percent of global CO2 emissions come from the production of concrete. So scientists and engineers are looking to reduce its environmental impact.
It's really just one ingredient that's responsible for its high carbon emissions: cement.
"The cement is just the glue that holds the other elements together," says Robert Courland, the author of "Concrete Planet." To make cement, limestone and a few other ingredients are put into a big kiln, and the temperature is fired up to about 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, which produces lots of CO2.
"It's been estimated, that producing one ton of cement generates one ton of CO2," Courland says. "Since we are producing around 4 billion tons of concrete cement per year worldwide, that's very, very troubling."
Concrete is the most common man-made material on earth. So if its CO2 emissions could be reduced by even a tiny fraction, the environmental impact would be huge. A group of scientists at MIT announced in a recent paper they've found a way to reduce CO2 emissions of cement by more than half.
"We have developed a set of experiments measuring the mechanical properties at the sub-micron or big-nano level," says Roland Pellenq, one of the authors.
His cement research is like a Russian doll, Pellenq says, the kind where a tiny doll rests inside a larger doll which rests inside a larger doll, etc. Pellenq and his colleagues study the properties of cement at the atomic level — the smallest possible doll. They do atomic-simulations, basically experimenting with different ratios of the elements in cement. Then they scale up those simulations until they have a new recipe.
This idea came from scientists at Corning who used a similar approach to invent Gorilla Glass -- the super tough, scratch resistant glass often used for screens on smartphones.
"So here we tried to do the same approach for cement," says Mathieu Bauchy, who also worked on the MIT paper.
Bauchy recently moved from Cambridge to Los Angeles to work at UCLA. In a basement lab below his office, engineers and chemists use Bauchy's atomic-scale simulations to make concrete cubes that they measure, weigh and smash.
UCLA student Gabe Falzoni takes a gray cube of concrete, about the size of a Rubik's Cube, and puts it in a cage. He lowers a metal cylinder on top of the cube and slowly ratchets up the pressure. When a cube breaks, it can be so loud that it jars the people in the office on the other side of the wall.
The display on the machine shows the pressure in kilonewtons. It climbs steadily 20kN...40kN...70kN...90kN...100kN... brace myself waiting for a violent explosion. And then, the cube crumbles sadly and quietly, like an Egyptian pyramid deteriorating slowly over hundreds of years.
"That happens sometimes," says Falzoni, removing the shattered bits of concrete from the cage.
The final number: 121 kN, about seventeen and a half pounds per square inch. I ask Falzoni if he would drive on a bridge that strong. "If it was designed right," he answers.
The goal of these experiments is two-fold: to develop cement that uses less limestone, which is the easiest way to cut concrete emissions, and to create stronger concrete. Stronger concrete means builders could use less of it — also cutting CO2 emissions.
But for builders to use concrete developed by this lab, it has to have another very important quality. It has to be cheap.
"That's really the key," Bauchy says. "You cannot expect the industry to change to a greener material if this greener material is not the same price, or cheaper than original material."
The only way to make new concrete competitive is to take into account the cost of the CO2 released and charge a carbon tax on it, Bauchy says, or government could mandate the use of greener materials. Those policies would be politically difficult to enact. Greener concrete is not high on the priority list of voters, especially in developing nations where progress is often measured by the amount of freshly poured concrete.
The CDC has released updated and stricter guidelines to keep frontline healthcare workers safe in the face of potential Ebola cases. The move comes after two nurses were infected with Ebola who treating Thomas Duncan in a Dallas hospital and the CDC’s oversight was questioned.
Hospitals across the country are now ramping up training efforts, but will they be sufficient enough to calm an uneasy workforce? When nurse Jessica Berney goes to work these days she sees something she’s not used to.
“You see these stacks of these plastic bags that have the personal protection equipment in it, and it’s kind of like an anticipation of something bad is going happen. Something big and something bad,” she says.
Not only are the stacks of gear new, that feeling the dread that Berney says has crept into the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, that’s new too.
“Is this going to be enough? Is this going to protect me,” she says.
At this point, it’s clear if the disease were to spread beyond the two current cases, the people most at risk of contracting Ebola in the U.S. are healthcare workers -- in particular, nurses and orderlies are the people most likely to come into contact with patient fluids.
The guidelines released by the CDC are aimed at many of these workers. But you can have all the protocols you want, a room stuffed with gear and Johns Hopkins' Dr. Daniel Barnett says you still may have staff scared stiff. He says he worries hospitals right now are making the same assumption he made about a decade ago.
“That people would be willing to come to work, regardless of scenario, regardless of context, regardless of personal and professional obligations given,” he says.
But his work in the field he calls psychological preparedness proved him wrong.
“We found that a third of hospital workers indicated they would be unwilling to show up in a severe pandemic. You can think of a severe influenza pandemic in terms of the fear in some ways as a proxy for what we are talking about with regards to Ebola,” he says.
Barnett, through a randomized controlled, found if employers educate their employees about how they fit into the plan to fight the public health threat, those workers are 12 times more likely to clock in.
But National Nurses United union president Deborah Burger says before any of that, you’ve got to remember some hospitals aren’t even covering the basics yet.
“They are not even supplying the equipment to allay the fears of the healthcare workers,” she says.
Burger says her members are urging President Obama to make CDC’s guidelines mandatory. With some 5,000 hospitals she worries about a patchwork of practices that could leave workers at risk and scared.
For less than $10, you can order Ebola online and take it home — not the disease itself but rather, a cuddly, worm-shaped mock up of the virus.
"GIANT Microbes" are stuffed animals that resemble tiny microbes, only at one million times their actual size. The website says the characters are designed to be “appealing personalities” which can engage any audience. And yes, there is one for Ebola.
The toys are based on a real microscopic image of an actual microbe, sans the googly eyes. The Ebola virus plush sells for $9.95, but is currently sold out. There are also "gigantic" and Petri dish versions of the toy.
The Ebola doll has a positive five-star review on the website, which calls the disease the “T. Rex of microbes." Reviewers note the toy is the "perfect prop" for a Halloween costume, with others commenting they didn't realize the virus was "so cute."
McDonald's and Coca-Cola both reported disappointing earnings Tuesday morning, with 30 percent and 14 percent drops in revenue respectively. Both companies saw declining sales in the U.S. and Europe, and the fast food chain is still grappling with a scandal in China.
Here are some more stories we're reading, and other numbers we're watching, Tuesday.5
Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, last year. Pistorius' lawyer said the Olympian could only serve 10 months before being placed under house arrest. The sentence was handed down by the second black woman to become a high court judge in South Africa, Thokozile Masipa.7
The number of YouTube stars appearing in a new collaboration between Google and Lionsgate to promote the studio's new "Hunger Games" movie, AdAge reported. It's a high-profile push into branded entertainment for YouTube, and just the latest example of a big corporation exploring the value of Internet celebrities.$50 million
That's how much Kansas City could potentially make once business from the run-up to the World Series and the games themselves are all totaled. But other expenses, like the $225,000 parade thrown by San Francisco when the Giants won in 2012, have some questioning whether the costs involved in hosting a large sporting event mean the benefits are more modest than projected.2
That's how many "Notorious R.B.G." shirts Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has given to NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg. Ginsberg is apparently relishing in her meme status, and has collected "quite a large supply" of the shirts.
Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died at age 82 on Monday. His clothes were well-liked by celebrities, by politicians, and also by many professionals who admired his sensibility and his style.
Vanessa Friedman, fashion critic and the fashion director for The New York Times, is someone who closely followed de la renta's career, and joined us to talk about his lasting legacy.
Click the media player above to hear Vanessa Friedman in conversation with Marketplace's David Gura.
Fast Food juggernaut McDonald’s released its earnings Tuesday. The company’s share price is less than super-sized. Comparative global sales dropped 3.3 percent in the third quarter. The Q3 report comes on the heels of the company’s troubles in China, where suppliers reportedly sold expired meat to stores.
As a result sales were down significantly in Asia, and the company upped spending on marketing to reassure customers that its food was safe.
But the bigger threat to McDonald’s is the drop U.S. and European sales, says Sara Senatore, a senior research analyst at Sanford Bernstein: “Same store sales declined pretty meaningfully in both regions."
Analyst Howard Penney attributes much of the sales slump to McCafe, the company’s rebranding of the old fashioned hamburger stand into something more Parisian shall we say. “They over indexed themselves to beverages in McCafe and that really changed the structure of the business and complicated the back of the house,” says Penney.
CEO Don Thompson acknowledged the company’s troubles in Asia the U.S. He also blamed the diluted earnings on a higher effective tax rate.
Yahoo posts its third quarter earnings today and the company CEO Marissa Meyer looks set to provide new information on how the company will evaluate possible acquisitions and cost cutting measures. Meyer has come under increasing pressure of late. What does Meyer need to do to keep her investors happy and is her strategy working? And the designer Oscar de la Renta passed away yesterday at the age of 82. We speak with Vanessa Friedman, fashion critic and fashion director for the New York Times, about de la Renta's career. Plus, we always hear that hosting a major sporting event, like the Olympics or the World Cup, will mean bigger revenues for host cities. But there are costs as well. Security, disruptions of traffic and daily routines, and even the price tag of a victory parade eat away at that extra revenue. We tally up the potential costs and benefits of baseball greatness.
Telee Brown counts out a stack of twenty dollar bills on the counter of at a Western Union on Staten Island, home to one of the largest Liberian communities in the U.S.
“I’m sending money to Liberia,” he tells the teller. “What’s the fee? $10.50?”
Brown has lived in Staten Island for about 15 years now, but many of his family and friends are still in Liberia, one of the countries hardest hit by Ebola. Nearly 2,500 people had died there from the disease by mid October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There have been only three diagnosed cases of Ebola in the U.S. — none in New York. But while the outbreak has largely been limited to West Africa, local communities are feeling the effects of this disease in other ways.
For example, Brown recently started sending back about $300 a month — double what he used to — and he’s fundraising for the Staten Island Liberians Ebola Fund.
Brown says basic items have become much more expensive in Liberia and members of his family there are staying home from work. Which means they aren't earning, and they need his support.
“My cousins who cannot go out in the street to sell water definitely are calling me on a daily basis, [saying,] ‘Oh uncle Telee, how am I going to make it? I don’t have food,’” he says.
But coming up with extra money each month for family members in Liberia, is making things tight for Brown and his family in New York.
“It makes me reduce the amount of milk that I used to drink,” he says. “If I maybe ate three times a day, I have to save on a meal and eat two times a day.”
Those kinds of cutbacks can have ripple effects in the local economy.
Brown has reduced his visits to an outdoor market that sells traditional West African food like hot sauces and cooked meats.
“Nobody got money to buy food here to eat,” says vendor Sonnie Selma, explaining that many regular customers are sending all their money back to family members. She says now she’s worried about paying rent.
But it’s not just the lack of money that’s keeping people away.
Solomon Reeves, a child care specialist who’s been fundraising to send money and medical supplies back to Liberia, says there’s also a lot of fear about who might have traveled to West Africa recently.
“Because of the Ebola, people don’t really come [to the market] the way they used to come here,” he says. “They’re afraid.”
Before he came to the market, Reeves said his wife told him to be careful; he noticed recently that a friend didn’t want to shake his hand; and there have been a couple of reports of Liberians being told to stay home from work.
The entire Liberian community here is suffering economically and socially because of this disease, even though the closest diagnosed case is well over a thousand miles away.
It's college-tour season, and everyone is a reviewer on Twitter:
— Hayden T. Balduf (@HBalduf) October 15, 2014
Just witnessed the worst guided tour of Messiah College, all that was said in a few minute time span was "that is our green house"
— William Wical (@willwical) October 13, 2014
k so my college tour guide for UCSB was kind of like....the biggest babe ever to exist pic.twitter.com/quXGFrmxbR
— abbey (@AbbeyxBlanford) June 24, 2014
Be it bad or babealicious, college admissions officers are paying attention to all that sharing.
"Institutions of higher education are most definitely reviewing that to find out how they are being evaluated," says Jeff Fuller, director of student recruitment for the University of Houston and President of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Fuller says if a kid has a bad experience on campus, an engaged admissions officer can respond fast; before a nasty tweet dings a school’s reputation.
"More and more colleges are hiring folks to manage their social media to make sure they remain current in what’s being discussed," Fuller says.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s admissions office has a small army working on social media.
"We have two blogs, we have multiple Facebook accounts, we have a Twitter account, we have an Instagram account," says Ashley Memory, an assistant director of admissions.
There are three admissions officers and as many as four paid interns managing and creating content for those accounts.
Memory says there is a little risk involved in having all these open forums—There will always be disappointed applicants.
More often than not, she says, negative comments are neutralized by the broader community of current UNC students or alumni.
The main job of college admissions officers on social media is to communicate with potential students. First, they try to convince them to apply to their school. Then, if they are accepted, they convince them to attend.
Part of that job involves answering a lot of basic questions.
"Before they may have just picked up the phone and called our office, or may have sent our office an email, or they may have sought out the answer for themselves online," says Gabe Santi, from the admission office at Michigan State University. "Now, they may just post the question on Facebook or tweet at us."
Can Michigan State tell me if I got accepted or not already #impatient
— sophia. (@samm_jamm) October 20, 2014
@samm_jamm Thanks for your patience!
— MSU Admissions (@msu_admissions) October 20, 2014
The Major League Baseball World Series gets started Tuesday in Kansas City, between that city’s Royals and the San Francisco Giants. And, as in past years, both cities involved are hoping for an economic boost.
In Kansas City’s case, as much as $50 million dollars could potentially be made once business from the run-up to the World Series and the games themselves are all added up, says Ronnie Burt, CEO of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association. He says businesses have already been reporting improved sales.
“Hats, T-shirts, jerseys have just been selling like hotcakes,” Burt says enthusiastically. “As well as restaurants and bars, year-over-year sales have dramatically increased.”
But there are many costs associated with hosting a massive sporting event such as the World Series games, says Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College who co-authored a report which looked at three decades’ worth of World Series economics.
“The economic impact of mega-events are exaggerated,” Baade says. “We are much better at keeping track of the benefits than we are the costs."
For example, in 2012 the city of San Francisco spent $225,000 on a victory parade, and that’s after the Giants footed the majority of the parade bill by spending a million dollars.
There are other costs, as well, Baade says, such as the cost to police departments for providing additional security, traffic and crowd control, clean-up costs, and the price of staffing additional transportation officials.
“And so there will be negative impacts from hosting a World Series, and those have to be taken into account,” says Baade.
The amount of money spent on World Series related expenditures may also be misleading, because some of that spending may be offset by non-spending in other areas of the economy.
“The normal course of commercial activity is often disrupted,” says Baade. "And if you have people in the community, residents of the World Series host, changing their normal activities — commercially speaking — that may detract economic activity in the community overall.”
Add it all up, and Baade says the study he co-authored concluded there was an overall economic benefit to cities hosting World Series games. But the benefit was modest and temporary.
Yahoo’s stock is down, and shareholders are demanding change.
The company scheduled a third-quarter earnings call which means it's make-or-break for CEO Marissa Mayer.
“She’s had two years and the strategies put in place have not worked,” says Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research Group.
One of those strategies that Wieser says hasn’t worked? Buying up more than a dozen other companies.
"Well, the problem is they bought the wrong ones," he says.
Wieser says Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr has yet to pay off. Investors also want to know what Yahoo will do with profits on the sale of Alibaba stock, and how to save money on taxes. And they also want to know how Yahoo will compete with Facebook and Google.
“They could build original content. They could build and invest into the underlying technology for display advertisements. They could acquire a company that has success in mobile,” says Colin Gillis, a senior technology analyst at BGC Partners.
Gillis says shareholders will give Mayer another six months or so to prove she can turn Yahoo around.
See the state rankings and compare counties with the Opportunity Index interactive map.
The impact of low oil prices is juicing American families’ pocketbooks in a way similar to a stimulus package, especially if crude stays low. Call it what you want: crude oil dividend, discount, energy quantitative easing.
Oil is 25 percent cheaper since the summer. And for drivers, the stimulus is instant.
“Every additional dollar or two you save at the pump you can use as disposable income right away,” says economist Ed Hirs of Hillhouse Resources and the University of Houston. “ Now you have more money for fast food. Or the six-pack of beer that you've been foregoing the past year or two.”
If oil prices stay low, and many bet it will, the savings will add up to a $200 billion domestic annual stimulus, estimates Citigroup. That’s about the size of the congressional stimulus in 2008. Citi figures the global economic boost is $1.1 trillion – again, annually.
Economist Stephen Brown at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas figures the typical American family saves $40 a month with today’s prices.
“Consumers in Washington D.C., New York and California, among a variety of areas in the United States will all see benefits,” Brown says.
But, he says, fortunes flip for energy producers. States like North Dakota, Wyoming and Oklahoma had benefited from high prices.
Similarly, global petro-states like Venezuela are also hurting from low prices.
“It limits the ability to be able to spend on the more expensive social programs you have within Venezuela,” says global oil analyst Jamie Webster of consultancy IHS-CERA. “It just puts additional pressure on the government there.”
So there has been all kinds of volatility on Wall Street lately — triple digit ups and downs.
Well, consider this:
27 years ago yesterday, October 19, 1987, was 'Black Monday.' The Dow was off 22 percent that day which came out to 508 points. The next day, known as 'Terrible Tuesday,' nearly caused the New York Stock Exchange to collapse.
A similar drop today? 3607 points.
All this to say: context truly is everything.
Monday was a dark day for IBM investors. The company's stock price fell by more than 7 percent after it released a disappointing quarterly earnings report.
But alongside that announcement came a more unconventional one: IBM is selling its chipmaking business to GlobalFoundries. But in this "sale," GlobalFoundries is collecting the check: $1.5 billion in cash over the next three years.
"It’s the deal of a century," says Dan Hutcheson, who follows the industry for VSLI research.
The key is to look beyond the headline number. While IBM is paying GlobalFoundries in cash over the next three years, GlobalFoundries will supply chips for IBM servers for the following ten years--inputs that are key for IBM's legacy hardware.
"I know a billion and a half sounds like a lot, but it’s probably a deal for IBM, too," says Hutcheson.
"If you only look at the headline cash number, you are missing a lot of the story," says Rob Saloman, professor at the NYU Stern School of Business.
Acquisitions are complicated, and those complications can make payments to the acquirer economically sound.
"As a matter of fact, there’s another example where this happened, which is Daimler-Chrysler’s spin-off of Chrysler. In effect, Daimler paid Cerberus to take Chrysler off its hands," Saloman says.
In this case, there were tax benefits to be had, and the ire of the U.S. government to be avoided. Such deals are rare--Saloman doesn't believe there's been another this year--but aren't unheard of.
"They’re almost always manufacturing-type businesses, right?" says Peter Cowen, adjunct professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management. "Ones that have heavy overhead, certain amount of infrastructure, certain amount of scale of things that need to unwind if they can’t find a buyer."
In other words, costly businesses — that would be even costlier to shut down.
Apple Pay launches today, and many are predicting the company - at an advantage with millions of existing iPhone users - could bring mobile payments into the mainstream. Many banks are aggressively advertising the service, the Verge reported, as part of a race to become the default card on users' lock screens.
Apple will report earnings after markets close today. In the meantime, here's what we're reading - and the numbers we're watching - Monday.43 people
At the 21-day mark since Thomas Duncan was admitted to a Texas hospital and diagnosed with Ebola, 43 of the quarantined contacts have been released, among them Duncan's fiance and her son. Officials pleaded for compassion as their reintegrations began, the Washington Post reported. Additionally, Senegal and Nigeria were both cleared of Ebola over the weekend.20 seconds
The length of Snapchat's very first ad, a commercial for a movie based on a board game. Snapchat, which is valued at $10 billion, hasn't made money yet, but that could change with the introduction of ads. Universal didn't actually use Snapchat's camera to make a "native" video, AdAge reported, but it did edit the trailer for "Oujia" to look like the app's "stories."1
That's how many albums have gone platinum this year. Only the soundtrack to Disney's "Frozen," which has moved 3.2 million copies, has the distinction. Every other record has floated under 1 million in sales. By this time last year, Forbes reported, five albums had passed the 1 million mark.10 percent
The approximate percentage of American Indian and Alaska Natives who have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to about 30 percent of all U.S. adults. Natives have the lowest educational attainment rates of all ethnic and racial groups in America. The American Indian College Fund, founded 25 years ago, was created to assist the country’s more than 30 tribal colleges and universities. These are federally-funded schools located on or near native lands.1 billion
The tech industry likes to talk about "The Next Billion." It's shorthand for the next billion people that will become online consumers and that makes them the target of tech giants like Google, Facebook and Samsung. This new, targeted market lives in emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and Africa, and have very different needs than the American smartphone user.
It's closing in on Halloween, so we're going to get financially spooky.
We want to hear your stories of the scary side of finance. Have you ever fallen victim to a scam? What was that like for you? What did you learn?
The number of year-round public schools is small, but growing fast, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.Which region of the United States has the most year-round schools?