Marilyn Geewax

Marilyn Geewax is the senior business editor for NPR's National Desk. Besides assigning and editing business stories, Geewax regularly discusses economic issues on Weekend Edition Sunday.

Geewax was previously the national economics correspondent for Cox Newspapers' Washington Bureau. Before coming to Washington in 1999, she worked for the Cox flagship paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, first as a business reporter and then as a columnist and editorial board member. She has also reported for the Akron Beacon Journal.

In 2004, Geewax earned a master's degree at Georgetown University, where she focused on international economic affairs. During 1994-1995, she studied economics and international relations at Harvard as a Nieman Fellow. She was also a Davenport Fellow at the University of Missouri, and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from The Ohio State University.

From 2001 to 2006, Geewax taught a business journalism class as an adjunct professor at George Washington University.

Some economic matters are stunningly complex. Take the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The trade deal's details cover more than 6,000 pages.

Others are simple, like the federal minimum wage. A bill to raise the $7.25 hourly wage covers a few paragraphs.

The congressional response is simple, too: Democrats are for it; Republicans against.

Let's say you are Janet Yellen.

As chair of the Federal Reserve, you must decide next month whether to hold down — or nudge up — interest rates. This huge decision could affect virtually all Americans who borrow money, which a lot of people do during the holidays.

So you, Janet, must be sure the U.S. economy is strong enough to handle higher borrowing costs in December.

And that's why you may have broken into your happy dance on Friday after the Labor Department said job growth surged last month.

New York's attorney general would like to know: Did Exxon Mobil lie to you about the risks of climate change and to investors about how those risks might reduce profits?

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office confirms that a New York Times story is correct in reporting that an investigation has been launched into Exxon Mobil. That story said Schneiderman issued a subpoena on Wednesday, seeking financial records, emails and other documents.

Going from young and broke to retired and comfortable is a long, tough road.

So the Obama administration on Wednesday rolled out a simple, no-risk retirement account to help people start that journey. It's called the myRA — or "my retirement account."

President Obama first outlined this program in his State of the Union address last year.

Since then, his administration has been working with a few dozen employers to test what works.

The nation's central bank is proposing rules to help ensure that if a big bank were to fail, the costs of a bailout would not fall on taxpayers.

The changes would mark "another important step in addressing the 'too big to fail' problem," Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Friday.

The rules would force some major banks to issue long-term bonds that — in an emergency — could provide a cushion of capital to cover losses, rather than leaving it to taxpayers.

About 55 miles east of Capitol Hill, one small business — International Green Structures — is trying to stretch beyond its base in Stevensville, Md., to go global.

IGS, which has about 50 factory workers, makes fiberboard out of compressed wheat. The panels, used to build durable housing, are both "green" and red-white-and-blue-American-made.

Most likely, Congress will — as it always does — find a last-minute way to dodge a debt-ceiling crisis.

It's easy to get bored with it all. Scores of times over recent decades, lawmakers have taken the country to the brink of financial catastrophe only to swerve away by voting to allow more debt.

In a desk drawer, I have baggage tags from Eastern, TWA, Braniff, PanAm, Continental, Northwest and more.

As a journalist, I covered each of those airlines as they disappeared from the skies.

On Saturday, I can add one more to my defunct-carrier collection: US Airways will fade into history when its last flight, leaving from San Francisco on Friday night, lands in Philadelphia, scheduled for 6:18 a.m. ET.

Even though President Obama has not yet released details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership announced Monday, supporters and opponents are making their voices heard — at full volume.

Business leaders and interest groups hope their impassioned pleas will sway Congress, which must vote on the proposed deal next year.

This is what the cheers sounded like:

If you were betting that the Federal Reserve would soon raise interest rates, you may have lost your money Friday when the Labor Department released its September employment report.

The hiring and wage data came in well below economists' expectations. Only 142,000 jobs were created, falling far short of consensus forecasts of about 200,000. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.1 percent, but the number of people in the labor force slid by 350,000 and hourly earnings dipped by a penny, to $25.09.

In recent days, we've seen these headlines:

  • Caterpillar is planning to cut up to 10,000 jobs.
  • After standing for 127 years as an industrial giant, Alcoa will be splitting into two smaller companies.
  • Glencore, a global mining giant, is seeing its stock price crumble amid insolvency rumors.

The three events may seem unrelated, but in fact, all are part of one big story: the commodities-price collapse.

Cheaper jet fuel prices are starting to translate into lower airfares, which may begin prompting infrequent fliers to plan holiday travel.

And cheaper technology may be turning drones into affordable Christmas presents. In fact, one FAA official says a million new flying robots may be under Christmas trees this year as a result of price drops.

Now let's add that up and consider what it could mean for the last week of December:

Inexperienced travelers will be crowding airport security lines. And a million inexperienced operators will be sending up drones.

Someday, White House event organizers will be able to tell their grandchildren about this week.

But for now, they just have to get through it — with loads of energy and grace.

Staffers spent the first half of the week preparing for a visit from Pope Francis, who pulled up in a little Fiat. Now they are switching their focus to that most formal of Washington events: a state dinner. This one will honor Chinese President Xi Jinping.


You have heard that word over and over — and over — in recent months.

On the campaign trail, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump often spits it out with disdain, as this Huffington Post video shows.

On Wall Street, traders use "China" as an excuse for recent market volatility and losses.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

The Federal Reserve decided Thursday to leave interest rates unchanged at historically low levels, even though the U.S. economy has been gaining strength.

Borrowers and lenders all over the world had been closely watching for the announcement that came at the end of a two-day Fed meeting. Many had been thinking the U.S. central bank would pick this date to change course and start nudging up interest rates.

The Federal Reserve on Thursday chose to leave interest rates unchanged. For the central bank even a decision to do nothing is a big deal, creating all sorts of winners and losers.

Here's a short list of who most likely cheered the announcement and who probably turned thumbs down.

These people are applauding:

The last time the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, it was summer of 2006 — back when Shakira was topping the music charts, Barry Bonds was breaking home run records and the housing bubble was still inflating.

That's quite a while ago.

In fact, the Fed has been depressing interest rates for so long that, in their adult lifetimes, millennials have never seen anything other than cheap loans for homes and cars.

This week, you'll hear lots and lots about the Federal Reserve, or "the Fed" as its friends call it.

The Fed is considering raising interest rates — and will announce that decision on Thursday. If the central bank were to act, it could have an impact on your financial life, forcing you to eventually pay more for car loans, credit cards, home equity loans and more. Or if you're a retiree with savings, a rate hike could boost your income.

This week on Wall Street, investors experienced thrills, chills, tears and giggles as their investments plunged, soared, dropped, rose, dipped, moved sideways — and then ended about where they started.

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average inched down 12 points to 16,643 for the day, ending a bit higher than last Friday's 16,459 close.

So if you just got back from spending a week on a tiny desert island with no smartphone, you might look at the Dow's close and think it was a pretty tame week.

You would be very, very wrong.

Stock prices took another beating Tuesday, with all major stock measures falling.

Two closely followed market indicators, the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500, each fell roughly 1.3 percent, despite opening the day with big gains.

This huge summer sell-off must mean the U.S. economy is sinking, right?

Well, so far at least, that's not right. In fact, the economy has been improving, and Tuesday brought yet more evidence of that. Here are some highlights:

Stocks opened Monday with a swan dive: The Dow Jones industrial average plunged about 1,000 points, or 5 percent, in just minutes.

By midday, enough brave buyers had waded back in to push up prices — up to where losses were only around 1 percent or so.

But that didn't last. Around 3 p.m., the Dow dropped again, sliding nearly 700 points.

Stress-filled minutes ticked down until 4 p.m.: CLANG, CLANG, CLANG.

The closing bell rang. Brows were wiped, and commentators scrambled to explain why investors had seen both panic selling and panic buying.

Wow. That was ugly.

For investors, a brutal week ended Friday with prices plunging for stocks and commodities. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 531 to 16,460, a 3.12 percent drop.

Oil's tumble was especially notable. For a while, West Texas crude was trading below $40 a barrel — the first time that happened since March 2009. It finished at $40.45, marking an eight-week stretch of price declines — the longest losing streak since 1986.

If you watch the news shows on Sunday mornings, or cable news at night, you've probably seen that ad where parents are dropping off their daughter at college. And then they start to fret about, well, something involving access to investment advice.

The ad ends by urging you to "Tell Congress: Fix this now."

When China suddenly cut the value of its currency Tuesday, investors everywhere were caught off guard.

And they didn't like it. They sent both stock and commodity prices much lower. Even interest rates fell.

Now maybe you are wondering: Huh? What does this China move mean for me?

Before we get to that, let's first run through what happened on the other side of the world:

The Labor Department's July jobs report, released Friday, showed employers added 215,000 workers and that the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.3 percent.

So how would you interpret that report if you were a policymaker for the nation's central bank?

It really — really — matters how you read those numbers, because you have a huge decision to make in September. You and the other Federal Reserve Board policymakers have to set the direction for interest rates.

Oil prices took another drop Monday, rattling the stock market and putting more downward pressure on gasoline prices.

For oil companies, the price slump is hitting hard at profits, but for U.S. motorists, the downshift has brought savings at the pump.

A mega-economic story is playing out globally. It involves U.S. interest rates, the Chinese stock market and jobs in Minnesota, Arizona and North Dakota.

And your wallet, too.

No kidding. It's all related. To see how, let your mind wander back.

Temperatures soar, flowers bloom and the sun rises early. On these long summer days, there still seems to be plenty of time for achieving your 2015 goals.

But not if you are a business lobbyist. For you, time is short.

Here's what you want by Christmas: a Pacific Rim trade deal; an updated No Child Left Behind Act; revival of the Export-Import Bank; long-term highway funding and a completed federal budget.

Is news coverage of Greece wearing you down? Too many deals and deadlines?

It's no wonder. The "Greek debt crisis" has been in progress for nearly six years, making it easy to assume that we're seeing just another crazy episode in a long-running drama.

But European leaders are saying this time it really is different. Here's why:

After a nerve-rattling plunge, stocks in Asia, Europe and the United States managed to end the week ahead of where they started.

But not so for industrial commodities. Their prices just keep heading south — creating more worries for miners, but good news for many manufacturers and consumers. The price drops could even help depress interest rates for all sorts of borrowers.

Before considering the impacts, first check out the magnitude of the changes. These are approximate prices, compared with one year ago:

  • Copper: $2.55 a pound, down from $3.27