Illinois Economy

Business and economic news

Banks count their blessings in recovery

3 hours ago

Three big banks posted their quarterly results Friday. And they were good. When you hear that profits at a bank like JPMorgan Chase were up almost 25 percent, you have to wonder: Why? Well, one reason is banks are making a lot more from you and me.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story. 

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, premiums are going down for most policies sold in the federally run exchanges. 

One reason 2019 premiums will be 1.5 percent lower? It has to do with how high they were in 2018. They increased by an average of 36.9 percent for 2018, said Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

"These premium decreases are really about returning excess profits," he said. 

When mortgages hit the roof

6 hours ago

It’s become more expensive to borrow money for a house or condo.

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has climbed to 4.9 percent — the highest rate in seven years, according to data from Freddie Mac. However, over the past several decades, rates below 5 percent haven’t been the norm. They started dipping below that figure in the late 2000s, eventually bottoming out at 3.31 percent in November 2012. 

Here come the consultants

6 hours ago

With an avalanche of tariffs to navigate, companies are facing a lot of uncertainty over how to plan ahead. Meanwhile, business is booming for trade consultants. We'll talk about it, but first: mortgage rates have hit a seven-year high, and Obamacare prices are dropping for the first time. What's going on? Plus, how nonprofits fund raise after scandal.

Trade consultants get a boost from tariff tensions

6 hours ago

The tit-for-tat tariff war between China and the United States has been bad news for lots of importers in this country. In the last few months, the Trump administration has published three lists of products made in China that now carry 10 percent tariffs, and that could go up to 25 percent on January 1. Companies are struggling with whether to pass that cost onto customers, swallow it or do something else. And there are options out there if you know whom to ask. Trade consultants have seen their business rise lately along with importers' woes. 

(Markets Edition) The volatile nature of the markets, especially this week, can take a mental toll on anyone paying attention. It hasn’t been this active since February, so we talked to market pro Barry Ritholtz, founder of Ritholtz Wealth Management, about it. Then, despite all the news of trade tensions between China and the U.S., China actually has a trade surplus with the U.S. Nancy Marshall Genzer has more.

Mortgage rates hit highest level in 7+ years

11 hours ago

It’s getting more expensive to get a mortgage. Data out this week from Freddie Mac shows the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 4.9 percent. That’s the highest it’s been in seven years. What does that mean for prospective home buyers? 

 

(U.S. Edition) The Dow’s roughly 1400-point drop this week seemed to have a ripple effect across the global markets as well, but now things appear to have settled down as of Friday morning. We talk to Barry Ritholtz of Ritholtz Wealth Management on how to deal with this kind of activity day-to-day. Then we check in with columnist and ProPublica editor Allan Sloan about the role of interest rates in the ongoing tale of President Trump and his blaming of the Federal Reserve for the market issues this week.

(Global Edition) From the BBC World Service … Businesses are turning away from Saudi Arabia after reports a dissident journalist was killed by the country’s security forces. Then, we hear from Paul Romer, who won this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in economic sciences for his research into how innovation can be used to protect the environment. Afterwards, Netflix and Amazon are battling in India to increase viewers. But competition from Indian production houses is complicating efforts.

In just the last week, Facebook and Google have both announced new smart speakers with video screens. And Amazon is heck-bent on putting Alexa in everything. On the one hand, people seem to want these doohickeys. Research firm Canalys says global smart speaker sales grew 187 percent in the second quarter of this year. On the other hand, an always-on, always-connected listening device in the home really freaks some folks out. Let's dig into this in Quality Assurance, the segment where we take a deeper look at a big tech story.

In just the last week, Facebook and Google have announced new smart speakers with video screens. And Amazon is bent on putting Alexa in everything. On the one hand, people seem to want these doohickeys. Research firm Canalys says global smart speaker sales grew 187 percent in the second quarter of this year. On the other hand, an always-on, always-connected listening device in the home really freaks out some folks. We dig into this in Quality Assurance, the segment where we take a deeper look at a big tech story.

Retirees and other Americans who get Social Security benefits will start receiving bigger checks come January. The 2.8 percent boost, which amounts to about a $40-per-month increase on average, is intended to be a cost-of-living adjustment. This will be the biggest adjustment to Social Security payments in the past seven years. Marketplace spoke with a few of the estimated 67 million Americans receiving benefits about how the extra money will help.

How food banks are reaching high-risk seniors

Oct 11, 2018

The AARP estimates more than 10 million people 50 and older are at risk of going hungry every day in the United States. In Florida, where many baby boomers retire, this food insecurity is compounded by a lack of public transportation. Some food banks are holding food drops to bring food and other health-related events to the neighborhoods where they live in an attempt to reach more high-risk seniors.

This story was produced by the Marketplace hub at WMFE in Orlando.

Questlove on "chasing ghosts"

Oct 11, 2018

If you watch late night TV — "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," in particular — you probably know the show’s house band, The Roots. And perhaps you'd recognize its drummer and frontman, Questlove, aka Ahmir Khalib Thompson.

Thompson is also a DJ, a producer, an author, a foodie, and a podcaster on Pandora with "Questlove Supreme." He came into the studio Thursday to talk with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Why do gas prices end in 9/10 of a cent?

Oct 11, 2018

This series originally ran during February 2014. We're republishing it today in light of our Make Me Smart podcast's new Explainathon episode, which included the first question here. The rest are good too, and the original article appears below.

For those of you who have stockpiles of Forever Stamps, some good news: the post office is planning to hike their prices.

The U.S. Postal Service has proposed increasing the price of its first-class mail Forever Stamp from 50 cents to 55 cents, which would take effect on Jan. 27 of next year. (However, the price for any additional ounces will drop from 21 cents to 15 cents.) Like the name suggests, this piece of postage doesn't expire.

What's better than no fees? Negative fees.

Oct 11, 2018

Roughly one in three people in the United States have less than $5,000 in retirement savings, but for those lucky enough to have some money stashed away, the cost of investing has been getting lower and lower. Management fees for mutual funds have dropped to fractions of a percent over the last decade, and some funds have no fees. So what's driving the fee wars? What do institutions get out of it? We'll talk about it. Then, a conversation with Ahmir Khalib Thompson, better known as Questlove of the legendary Roots crew, about deciding to accept his biggest job offer.

The low-fee wars have no end in sight

Oct 11, 2018

Roughly one in three people in the United States have less than $5,000 in retirement savings. It doesn’t help that wages haven’t been getting much better. But for those lucky enough to have some money stashed away, the cost of investing has been getting lower and lower.

Like many Oakland residents, Candice Elder, 34, is alarmed at the rapidly increasing number of people pitching tents on sidewalks and under freeways in the city.

Unlike most residents, Elder has worked at dozens of homeless encampments as part of a team providing “rapid response services on call 24-7,” including food, crisis management and medical assistance.

At the end of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases an updated percentage estimating how many Americans are unemployed. But the question always comes up, what exactly does employed mean?

Say you’re a part-time barista, part-time Uber driver, when-you-really-need-the-money-time IKEA-furniture-assembler, what kind of employed are you? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one asking the question: The Bureau of Labor Statistics is confused too.

Could a vacancy tax help Oakland with homelessness?

Oct 11, 2018

(Markets Edition) We take a look at inflation numbers in light of the Consumer Price Index’s rise by a tenth of a percent last month. Then we talk about pollution from a seemingly unlikely source: meat. Large meat processors have released more pollution than acceptable in streams and rivers according to a new study.

The Consumer Price Index tracks the average price change over time for a "basket"  of goods and services. The CPI takes into account things like food, transportation and health care. If the CPI goes up, that's considered an indication that the inflation rate is rising. But when the Federal Reserve calculates the inflation rate, it relies on something called the core PCE, the personal consumption expenditures price index. Why use a different measure? 

(U.S. Edition) Wednesday was a rough day for Wall Street, with markets dropping across the board. To shed some light on what’s happening is Michael Hewson, market analyst with CMC Markets. Also, earnings season is coming up, and big banks are expected to report their earnings on Friday. Marketplace’s Justin Ho shares more. Then, we look into the issue affecting people 50 years of age and older: hunger.

Global stocks retreat as U.S. worries spread

Oct 11, 2018

(Global Edition) From the BBC World Service … Stock markets around the world are in retreat as a selloff ricochets from the U.S. Is it the latest buy-the-dip opportunity or are there more serious risks at play? Then, a conference on the illegal trade in wildlife opens Thursday in London – it's worth $22 billion a year, making it the fourth-biggest transnational organized crime. Afterwards, prepare for takeoff: The world’s longest non-stop flight, from Singapore to New York, clocks in at 19 hours and launches Thursday.

The whole multitrillion dollar promise of 5G and its millions of jobs and new businesses is just a pipe dream without infrastructure. Unlike 4G, which can be delivered through a relatively small number of tall towers, 5G wireless service relies on lots and lots of small receivers placed fairly close together. And installing all those little 5G cells is turning into a big fight. (10/11/18)

The whole multitrillion dollar promise of 5G — millions of jobs and new businesses — is just a pipe dream without infrastructure. Unlike 4G, which can be delivered through a relatively small number of tall towers, 5G wireless service relies on lots and lots of small receivers placed fairly close together. And installing all those little 5G cells is turning into a big fight.

At Tuesday’s American Music Awards, Taylor Swift repeated a plea she’d made earlier to her 112 million followers on Instagram: Register and vote. Swift is the latest celebrity to join what’s been a concerted effort this year to boost voter registration among young people.

U.S. tightens foreign investment rules

Oct 10, 2018

Some sensitive industries — everything from technology to defense firms — will face tougher federal scrutiny under new regulations formalized Wednesday. The Committee of Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS, announced its pilot program will take effect in 30 days. The announcement has some innovation, defense and tech companies scrambling to comply so they don't face penalties.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story. 

Sears teeters on the edge of bankruptcy

Oct 10, 2018

Shares of Sears fell today on reports from the Wall Street Journal that the company has hired advisors to prepare a bankruptcy filing. The department store chain has been struggling for decades, announcing one turnaround effort after another.

Why rock is still king on the concert circuit

Oct 10, 2018

With a nod to the fact that nominations for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame came out this week, there's an economic reality about the music business that needs to be recognized: Last year, hip-hop and rhythm and blues replaced rock as this country’s most popular music genre. That’s according to Nielsen’s analysis of digital and physical album sales as well as streaming. There's a twist here, though, because what Nielsen did not consider was how much money people spend on concerts.

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