It's Fed meeting day today, which means, of course, that Jay Powell is going to fix everything now, but it really doesn't mean that from American public media. This is marketplace. In Los Angeles, I'm Kai Ryssdal, it is Wednesday, today, the 16th of December.
Good as always to have you along, everybody.
Fed Chair Jay Powell said a bunch of stuff today about this economy, what Congress ought to maybe should be doing about it and what the next four to five months are going to be like. The way he sees it.
The case for fiscal policy right now is is very, very strong. And I think that is widely understood.
Fiscal policy, of course, is Congress and the White House deciding to spend money or, you know, not.
But with the expiration of unemployment benefits, some of the unemployment benefits, the expiration of eviction moratoriums with the virus spreading the way it is, there's a need for households and businesses to have have fiscal support. And I do think that again, and I think that is widely understood.
He keeps using that word. Understood. I'm not sure it means what he thinks Congress thinks it means.
Of course, it's the rise in virus cases, the Fed chair says, that is really running this economy.
The general expectation is you're seeing some slowing now and you'll see the first quarter could well be. What we said is that coming months are going to be challenging. The first quarter will. We'll certainly show significant effects from this. But at the same time, people are getting vaccinated now they're getting vaccinated. And by the end of the first quarter into the second quarter, you're going to be seeing significant numbers of people vaccinated. And so then what will be how will that play into economic activity?
Well, here is the skinny from the guy running America's central bank. Second half of next year is when things start to start getting back to normal.
Mr. Powell mentioned retail sales in his press conference today.
Two numbers out this morning show they fell a bit more than one percent in November, which matters because that most likely includes the first wave of holiday shopping. And retailers are doing what they can to encourage us to keep on buying. Wal-Mart, for instance, just announced its deadline for free shipping to get there before Christmas. It's going to be December 21st is their deadline, which I don't know.
Seems tight to me if you want to risk it.
Marketplace's Marielle Segarra has more now on shopping for the holidays in this very strange year.
Every year, Nicole Fritz in Michigan goes to holiday gatherings where she sees co-workers or cousins. She doesn't really know that well. So every year she finds herself standing in a store looking for that perfect generic holiday gift, a lotion and a candle, even some kitschy but fun little coffee mugs.
Since Fritz is not really seeing anyone this year, her shopping list is much smaller. She's mostly buying online from small retailers. She ordered a custom made dress for her sister in October, one of several packages that still haven't arrived.
They sent stuff out, but the delivery date keeps getting later and later.
Meanwhile, Dina Chadwell in Tennessee has been shopping exclusively online. She says stores are too risky because her parents are elderly and her is on dialysis. Also, she often buys people experiences like concert tickets. But this year she's getting her mom some cookware she asked for and her dad.
There's zero chance my dad will hear this. So I can tell you, you know, I got him a couple of flannel shirts and colors that I thought he would really like and some handkerchiefs.
Danny Groner in New York is trying something new to instead of physical gifts, he's spending money on Venmo, like his friends have two young kids. And at a picnic in September, they ate all his pretzels.
So on Hanukkah, I then I yell at them. I'm ten dollars in the market for pretzels. Just as a nice note that despite the fact that we couldn't see one another over the holiday, I was still thinking of them.
A few days later, that friend sent Groner some photos. The kids had turned the pretzels into a crafting project, making menorahs out of them, using marshmallows and other things. Groner says he's hoping some of this year's new traditions will stick by Marielle Segarra for Marketplace.
So, you know, that lady's dad is totally going to hear this somehow, right? That's absolutely what's going to happen. Also, stocking stuffers.
Big thing in my house. We're worried about that. So Mariel had the consumer side of the story, but there is the other side of the checkout counter as well.
According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses employ almost half of the private labor force in this economy.
And small businesses are also the most hard pressed right now. We have been following some of those small businesses, small retailers, through what are supposed to be some of the busiest retail months of the year, emphasis on supposed to be this year.
First up is annealing Hartman. She runs a stationary company in Leelanau County, Michigan.
Things have been going it pretty well. Our Q4 is up three hundred and fifty percent compared to last year. Our deadline for. Holiday orders have come and gone, so things are starting to slow down a little bit, so the name of the game right now is just helping people track down their orders and the postal service system right now. Sometimes I feel really guilty about it. But are this kind of business was built for a pandemic? I mean, since you can't see your people in person and you're getting hundreds of text messages every day, if you want to stand out, stationery is an easy and expensive way for people to do that.
So I think that's that's why we've been doing OK this year.
And Ylang Hartman there that she's the owner of Compass Paper Company in Leelanau County, Michigan. Two more retailers coming up a bit later in the program.
Wall Street today, traders kind of heard Jay Powell and went. We'll have the details when we do the numbers.
The cybersecurity news of the week is that big and long and until recently undetected.
Russian attack on agencies and departments of the federal government, Treasury, State, Homeland Security and others falling victim to a malicious software update. Also targeted, though, were most of the Fortune 500 companies that used the same software. So we have gotten David Sanger. He is the national security correspondent for The New York Times on the phone to put this cyber attack into economic context.
David, it is good to have you back on.
Always great to be back with you, Kai. How interesting and or curious was it to you that we found out about this not through government cybersecurity experts, but from a private company who keeps an eye on this kind of thing?
Well, you know, I was trying to think of what the right analogy was for this, and, you know, when Pearl Harbor happened, everybody complained that our radar was turned off.
But in this case, we can't argue that the U.S. doesn't have a great radar. It does. It's built spent billions of dollars. And the fact that this was found by FireEye cybersecurity firm tells you two things.
One, there are obviously holes in our net and the Russians figured out quite devilishly how to go exploit those holes. And the second is that sometimes the cybersecurity firms have a better look inside the workings of the Internet, where our foreign intelligence agencies are not allowed to go. The NSA can't be inside the U.S. and the Russians know it. Huh?
OK, true to what they were after, one can can hypothesize about what the Russians might have been looking for in the Department of Commerce or Treasury or State when they start poking around inside Fortune 500 companies.
What do you think they're looking for?
You know, in some ways they may be more interested in the Fortune 500 companies than they are in state. And there's other places because they've been breaking into the Defense Department since the mid 1990s when the midnight Meiwes attacks began. So inside companies, all kinds of things we've known since middle of the year that the Russians, among others, were going into the pharmaceuticals looking for vaccine research.
We know that they're fascinated by the defense industrial base. And what they've discovered in this entire incident is that the software supply chain is basically the best way to get in. If you want to do a hack, that will get you into both government and into private industry because everybody uses it. So if you're into the update process of that software, it's sort of like getting into the update process for your iPhone, right. You know, you plug it in by your bedside and you don't actually go and look at the code in the morning before you start your phone up.
Do you? Or maybe you do.
No, I did not. And and so the result is that they're slipping in to a system that is fundamentally considered trusted. And everybody's known for a long time that this is a big vulnerability.
But this time we really got whacked by it, following on that thread there of us not knowing what they have yet. We don't know the national security implications.
They will certainly be bad. We also don't know to the corporate side of this what the economic implications might be.
That's right. Look, we know that the Fed uses software from solar winds, the company involved here, but we don't know if they used the platform that got updated the way this one did. We know that lots of companies use them in lots of different processes. And so it's going to take a long time to go figure this out. We have a few saving graces. We don't have any evidence yet that they've gotten into classified systems. That doesn't mean they haven't.
We don't have any evidence of that yet.
We haven't seen any signs of a destructive hack yet. In other words, if they got into a utility company and I don't know that they did, but I wouldn't be surprised. We don't have any evidence that they've tried to turn on or off the power.
I think it's going to take us months, maybe a year to figure out where they went. The hope is that because they didn't want to get caught, they picked their targets very selectively and went into very few.
David Sanger is a national security correspondent for The New York Times. He writes about the stuff in books, too, most recently, a book which is now on HBO actually called The Perfect Weapon.
David, thanks a lot. Thank you. I should say here that David's on the daily today, that's the New York Times podcast and a radio show sometimes aired right after us and a lot of markets. Lots more from David Sanger on this whole story there. Continuing our unscientific survey of small businesses in this economic moment, we called Irene Kesselman. She runs a toy shop in Carrboro, North Carolina.
The last three weeks have been extremely busy in years past my shop, my shopping would have been done pretty much by October and this year because not knowing what to expect, I really, really was looking at sales and just, you know, ordering some things last minute, seeing how quickly I could get it.
We are still doing deliveries. We are spending time with people on the phone. Just this morning, I spoke with an 80 year old woman who whose only way of feeling comfortable in purchasing for her grandchildren and other kids was just to talk to me on the phone for one hour.
And she was chatting away saying, I hope you're having as much fun as I am, Irene. And I was. But I also have another person who can't get to the store and I'm sending him pictures. So we're kind of just going through the motions to do what we need to do. That was Irene Kesselman. She's the owner of Alleycat Toys in Carrboro, North Carolina. One more small business later on in the show. Coming up, we don't really know.
We're hoping for the best and planning for that, but we're not sure what to expect.
Hope for the best and plan for the not best, I guess. But first, let's do the numbers.
Dow Industrials lost 44 points today, a tenth percent closed at thousand one five four. The Nasdaq gained 63 points, about a half percent, 12000 658. The S&P 500 picked up six points, 10th percent, 37 01, roughly 3400.
That is how many black and let black, rather, and Latin baseball players from the Games segregated era will now be recognized as Major League players. Major League Baseball announced today it would now recognize the Negro Leagues of the segregated era as major leagues. What that means is they're going to incorporate their stats into MLB records. Long overdue. Good sign after Mario's piece. Let's check on some big retailers, shall we?
Target picked up a 10 percent Wal-Mart down at 10 percent. I don't know about that December 21st shipping deadline.
I'm telling you, you're listening to Marketplace. This is Marketplace, I'm Kai Ryssdal.
We have been hearing throughout the program today stories of retail and retailers and how they are doing all that stuff in retail, though, has to get words going somehow.
So we have gotten Austin Golding back on the phone. His family company, Golding Barge Line, moves petrochemical products among which are oil and gas along the Gulf Coast and up and down American waterways.
Austin, it is good to talk to you again. Good to talk to you guys.
First question, same as always. How's business on the barge lines? Well, business is really slow. People not moving nearly as much around the country. You know, it's really had an impact on refinery capacity. And we've seen a big slowdown in gasoline demand. So our our petrochemical business is really, really slow. We've seen a pickup in some other sectors and some steadiness, but the petrochemical business is very, very slow.
Well, you know, that's funny because, I mean, you know, so I have to come down to the studio every day to do the show for a whole lot of reasons. But there's traffic out there, man. There's people driving around. It's not like nothing's happening.
Oh, yeah, I get that a lot. You know, the example I've used recently is if you watch football and you see these empty stadiums, every seat you see empty the gas tank that didn't get filled up.
And I think the other part that people really, you know, don't don't understand about our our country is we're really a commuter based, you know, society. And, you know, we're seeing that top 20 percent is still still not still not back.
Yeah, that football stadium analogy is a good one. So I'm guessing you are banking on this vaccine in a big, big way.
We are. I mean, I think the vaccine and and having everybody participate in that and work towards less of a threat where we can get back to normal life is really essential to our business. So this is our path forward.
You carry mostly petrochemical stuff. Is that your whole deal? I mean, could you diversify away if you had to if this thing goes on? Because, look, it's going to go till next fall, right? Not everybody's going to be vaccinated. It's going to be a while. All of that stuff you're looking at like nine more months.
10 more months. Yeah. Yeah. And look, we're, you know, I think prepared to to ride that out. Now, could this volume, as we operate today, sustain our business and the amount of businesses that do what we do? Absolutely not. And yes, we could diversify. We can push other products. But when you have the capital invested that we do and the types of barges that we do, yeah, we're definitely counting on to come back.
And I think it'll happen. I mean, it's nine months of a barge. Is lifespan being 30, 40 years? We should be able to sustain that, I would hope. Yeah. Are you have you had to lay anybody off?
I mean, how has the whole labor force side of the barge business? Well, we haven't had to lay anybody off here. Golding Barge Line. We have had some attrition that we haven't replaced. We also, I think as an industry, have seen a withdrawal of some of the older folks. Career mariners make really good money. And, you know, if they're in their 60s or in they're even in their 70s, a lot of them still work.
They may take a year off. And I think we're seeing some of that right now. It's not as loose as you would think, being as slow as we are.
My last question, the incoming Biden administration, there are going to be some new policies, new new regulations. What are you looking at? What do you think it is going to happen to you?
Well, you know, on the positive side, we're certainly hopeful that the stability with America's place in the world internationally helps our business. Most of what we move is a piece of an international supply chain. But make no mistake, Joe Biden and his administration as a self-proclaimed enemy of my cargo, they are no fans of what we push. I think that the slow withdrawal from, you know, the carbon footprint of what we have is something that will lead to long term evolution even within our industry.
But any short term quick movement is going to be met with with very strict opposition from our side that it's just that that plain and simple. And I know not everybody agrees with that and has a lot of supporters that support that path. But for us, if you're an enemy of our cargo, I'm going to have to have a lot of other positives to get me back on your side.
Also, Golding running a business, that business is called Golding Barge Lines down in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Thanks a lot. I appreciate your time.
And as always, thank you, guys. Thank you very much. Open enrollment ended yesterday in the 36 states that use the federal health care marketplace, health care dot gov, the other 14 states and Washington, D.C. do have later deadlines.
It's going to be a while before we have final numbers. But early indications are the number of new people signing up for health coverage was about the same as last year. And that is despite the fact that millions of people have lost their jobs this year and presumably the health care that came with them. Marketplace's Samantha Fields explains what's going on.
Given what we know right now, the number of people who've lost health insurance in the pandemic is actually lower than experts worried it might be.
Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation says one reason is most of the people who have lost jobs during the pandemic didn't have health insurance to begin with because their jobs in restaurants, retail and hospitality didn't offer it.
Pollitz says many of those who did lose coverage through employers were able to replace it.
People have been figuring out if they did lose job based coverage and if they still make too much for Medicaid. But they did have a qualifying events. They're figuring out how to sign up for marketplace coverage.
That means the Affordable Care Act is working as intended, says Aviva Aaron, dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
And protecting people who have lost their jobs, lost their coverage from becoming uninsured.
There are still about 29 million people who are uninsured. Many are eligible for free or low cost coverage and just don't know it. Kavita Patel is a doctor in Washington, D.C. and a fellow at the Brookings Institution. She had an uninsured patient come in a couple of weeks ago.
And when I said, have you looked into whether you qualify for Medicaid or potentially even a subsidy to buy health insurance? She said, I have no idea what you're talking about.
That's common, she says. In large part because the Trump administration almost eliminated funding for open enrollment marketing. I'm Samantha Fields for Marketplace.
You have heard probably stories of people fleeing big cities in droves. And yes, in some cities and in some limited numbers, people are leaving.
But overall, Americans have moved less during this pandemic, not more.
And there are studies showing Americans have been less and less on the move for decades now. And it's not because they are thrilled where they are. Marketplace's Sabri Benchwarmer has that story.
So a lot of New Yorkers might find this story familiar. After a week or two of both working from home and our five hundred square foot Brooklyn apartment, we just realized we needed some more space.
Jesse Gerritsen and her fiancee left Brooklyn and moved to Pennsylvania. A study by moving company Hire a Helper found 80 percent more of its clients moved out of New York than moved into it between March and June. But that is New York and that is the pandemic most everywhere else. And up until the start of the pandemic, Americans have been moving less.
We have reached a post-World War too low. William Frey is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He's talking about last year, nine point three percent of Americans moved in 2019. That is less than half the number in the 50s and 60s.
Really the last 10 years, the drop off has been bigger.
A lot of this is that usually young people move more than anyone. And a whole generation has had a rough time this past decade.
They were hit by the one two punch of a bad housing market and a bad labor market.
Part of it is also that Americans just don't change jobs as much as they used to, according to Evans Starr at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business. But all that could change, he says, in a work from home world.
It's much easier to change jobs if you're just sitting at your computer. And so I think that the growth and work from home that the pandemic has spurred is going to reduce labor market frictions, but only for people who can work from home in New York, I'm sure, for Marketplace.
Three words for your listening pleasure on the Morrow Marketplace Morning Report. Check it out. The last stop in our tour of small business is making a go of it right now is Phoenix, Arizona, where Rue Newby runs an e-commerce clothing brand.
The last two weeks have been very busy, which has been nice. We weren't sure what to expect. Not this past weekend, but the weekend before was our busy weekend. You know, we'd like to keep that momentum going that we've had from the beginning, but it did drop off a little bit this past weekend. So we don't really know. We're hoping for the best and planning for that, but we're not sure what to expect. It has been strange because my family is really a holiday oriented.
We want to, you know, every holiday we spend together and none of that's happening this year. Both my parents and my. Sisters, the other owners are impressed, get together so they see each other all the time, but it's fine since we are able to keep in touch so much through the business, then it feels like we're closer than we are.
Through Newby running the label by three, she does it with her sisters there in Prescott, she's in Phoenix, Arizona.
This final note on the way out today from the marketplace desk of personal grooming and government regulation, there was a new regulation from the Trump administration out this week about showerheads going back decades.
Now to Clinton, the limit for water flow has been two and a half gallons per minute as multiple showerheads in the same shower became more popular.
The Obama administration said nope, total limit is still two and a half gallons per minute, no matter how many showerheads you have. The new rule from the Trump administration, two and a half gallons per showerhead, no matter how many nozzles you've got in your shower. Now, you might remember President Trump has publicly bemoaned showerheads without enough flow.
He says, and this is a quote, he says he needs more water because his hair has to be perfect. All right.
We got to go. But here's your midweek moment of economic context. Real estate, this time from the real estate firm Redfin. Saw it in the Wall Street Journal today.
Amy Scott has been telling us for a good long while now about how tight the housing market is, low supply, lots of bidders.
So here is the data, more than half, fifty three point six percent, to be exact, of the U.S. offers that Redfin handled last month on homes were competitive. That is, there were bidding wars involved for those houses.
It's seventy five percent in San Diego, 66 percent in Denver. It's a lot. Our media production team includes Robin Edgar, Drew, Josh that, Garret Lang, Jeff Peters, Jacob Ultrathin, Sorbent Holiday and Becca Wineman. Just a reminder, they're the ones coming into the studio, so the rest of us don't have to unless our home Internet is terrible. I'm Kai Ryssdal. We will see you tomorrow. This is AIPA.