Business

Business news

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Joe Moore stood near a sign reading: "Authorized Personnel Only."

"I used to be authorized," he said.

Moore is a coal miner. The sign was at the entrance to the mine that had laid him off the previous day. The Alliance Coal facility had closed — a symptom of the coal industry's rapid decline.

Just as David Bowie left an indelible mark on music, he also played an important but lesser-known role in the world of finance.

In 1997, Bowie became the first musician to package his future royalties into a security that could be bought and sold by investors, an asset that came to be known as a "Bowie bond."

The sale of the bonds to Prudential Securities netted the musician $55 million. They were downgraded to junk by Moody's Securities in 2004, amid a wave of illegal downloading and weak overall music sales.

TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, is suing the U.S. government because President Obama struck down the next step in the pipeline plan in November. The company says Obama's rejection exceeded his authority under the Constitution, NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

Like cheap gasoline?

Then you're in luck. Experts say gas prices very likely will keep falling. That's because a report released Wednesday showed a sharp increase in gasoline inventories.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said that last week, companies added another 10.6 million barrels of gasoline, creating the biggest surge in supply since 1993. That added to fears that supplies will far outstrip demand for a long time.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, the House of Representatives is now back to work. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has already decided on the first order of business, and it's a pretty big one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

Oh, the irony.

Historically, when political tensions increased in the Middle East, the price of oil rose too. Buyers of oil worried that conflicts could interrupt drilling or interfere with oil-tanker access to waterways. In theory, when risks rise, so do prices.

But in recent days, even as tensions have been growing between two key oil producing nations — Iran and Saudi Arabia — oil prices have been falling. They slipped below $36 a barrel on Tuesday.

Why?

The notion of a gun smart enough to tell who's holding it isn't new.

Since the 1990s, inventors have been developing firearms geared with technologies that can authenticate their users — for instance by recognizing the fingerprint, the grip or an RFID chip — and stop working if held by the wrong hands.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Japan has made progress recently in getting more women to join the workforce. The latest numbers show a greater percentage of Japanese women work outside the home than American women. But for a rapidly aging and shrinking population, that progress may not be fast enough.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

If you hail a ride using the on-demand app Lyft, that car could one day be self-driving.

On Monday, Lyft announced a new partnership with General Motors, which is pumping half a billion dollars into the software startup and joining the board. One of the things they're doing is planning to build an autonomous fleet.

They haven't released a specific timeline on when, though in the future, when you call the on-demand car service, the vehicle likely won't have a human driver.

Volkswagen's use of a "defeat device" to fool U.S. regulators has resulted in a federal lawsuit against the company. Volkswagen has acknowledged that millions of its diesel cars worldwide relied on a ruse to skirt emissions controls.

The civil complaint was filed in federal court in Detroit, with the Department of Justice acting on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency — which says it hasn't yet reached an acceptable agreement with Volkswagen over how to handle a recall.

China's stock markets stumbled badly on the first day of trading in 2016, with a 7 percent plunge forcing a market shutdown. The trigger mechanism that cut the day short in Shanghai and Shenzhen was created in response to last year's market crash, which brought trillions in losses.

We change our minds about purchases a lot in the U.S., especially after the buying binge of the holidays. Returns cost retailers about $260 billion each year. That doesn't include the cost to the environment of all that producing, shipping, and throwing away.

One of the companies on the receiving end of all those returns is trying to reduce the cost to retailers, and the cost to the environment.

The weekend after Christmas has typically been big business for retailers, as people return gifts — and buy new ones for themselves. But some brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling this holiday season, facing the dual problems of overexpansion and an increasingly demanding consumer base that likes the ability to shop online.

If you own a commercial building in America, chances are you're going to take out terrorism insurance. It has moved into the mainstream with the depressing frequency of international incidents. Six in 10 major businesses in America are insured for terrorism damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute, although the coverage is rarely used.

Congress is getting closer to lifting a 40-year-old ban on oil exports, a move that could be a boon for U.S. oil producers hoping to expand into the global market.

President Obama and environmentalists oppose ending the ban, but Congressional leaders made it part of a $1.14 trillion spending bill, unveiled Tuesday, greatly increasing its chance of passage.

Pages