Marilyn Geewax

Marilyn Geewax is a senior editor, assigning and editing business radio stories. She also serves as the national economics correspondent for the NPR web site, and regularly discusses economic issues on NPR's mid-day show Here & Now.

Her work contributed to NPR's 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for hard news for "The Foreclosure Nightmare." Geewax also worked on the foreclosure-crisis coverage that was recognized with a 2009 Heywood Broun Award.

Before joining NPR in 2008, Geewax served as the national economics correspondent for Cox Newspapers' Washington Bureau. Before that, she worked at Cox's flagship paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, first as a business reporter and then as a columnist and editorial board member. She got her start as a business reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal.

Over the years, she has filed news stories from China, Japan, South Africa and Europe. Recently, she headed to Europe to participate in the RIAS German/American Journalist Exchange Program.

Geewax was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, where she studied economics and international relations. She earned a master's degree at Georgetown University, focusing on international economic affairs, and has a bachelor's degree from The Ohio State University.

She is a member of the National Press Club's Board of Governors and serves on the Global Economic Reporting Initiative Committee for the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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

If you were looking for reasons to be nervous, Wednesday provided lots of them, like these:

-- Chinese stocks plunged again, with the Shanghai Composite Index falling another 5.9 percent.

-- The Greek debt crisis remained unresolved, with European officials still scrambling for a solution.

-- Many raw-material prices continued their slide — with the Bloomberg Commodity Index down 26 percent from last year.

Maybe it seems like just yesterday that you were storing away your holiday decorations.

Maybe it actually was yesterday because life gets busy and tasks get put off, and before you know it, half the year is over and you're scrambling to catch up.

So in case you have been too busy to pay close attention, here's what we now know about the just-ended half of this year's economy:

Business groups and labor unions sharply disagreed today over the potential impact of a proposed change to the federal rule governing overtime pay.

In coming months, the two sides will submit comments in writing to the Labor Department to try to shape the rule's final wording, but the verbal sparring already has begun.

Business leaders say hiking overtime pay would reduce hiring, while unions say the change would stimulate the economy by raising incomes for about 5 million Americans.

Before laying out the different reactions, we'll look at what happened today:

"It was Greek to me."

Shakespeare used that phrase in one of his tragedies to suggest that a complicated matter was beyond understanding.

Many Americans may be muttering those words again as this week's Greek tragedy plays out.

The situation in Athens really is complicated, but it's also important. So let's walk through the basics together, and then consider what it might mean to Americans.

Here's what has happened so far:

-- The Greek government has way too much debt and can't pay its creditors.

The U.S. House voted 236-138 Thursday to tie a bow on President Obama's package of trade-related legislation — giving him final approval on everything he wanted.

The Senate already had signed off on all of it, granting: 1) enhanced trade negotiation powers to the president, 2) aid for displaced workers and 3) trade incentives for sub-Saharan Africa.

Thursday's vote marked a stunning victory for Obama by clearing his path to completing the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal involving the United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations.

The Senate handed President Obama a huge victory Wednesday afternoon, giving him final approval of legislation that enhances his power to negotiate trade deals.

The bill needed just 51 votes, but passed 60-38, making it look almost easy.

But earlier this month, the legislation granting Trade Promotion Authority seemed likely to die because of fierce opposition from many Democrats and some Republicans. Various legislative maneuvers were employed to set back the measure.

The Senate voted 60-37 Tuesday to advance President Obama's trade agenda — setting up a big victory for the White House and a painful loss for labor unions.

This latest Senate vote clears away procedural hurdles for legislation granting Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to Obama. That power allows the president to negotiate trade pacts and then put them on a so-called fast track through Congress. With TPA in place, Congress would take a simple yes-or-no vote on any trade deal, with no room for amendments.

You'd think everyone in the aviation industry would be on the same page about improving air travel. Surely they all want more modern aircraft and upgraded airports, right?

They do. But airlines and airports are in a political dogfight this summer over who should be getting more of your money for improvements.

The Federal Reserve's policymakers Wednesday held steady on interest rates — and gave no specific time frame for when they might change course.

That was the expected outcome of their two-day meeting.

But this changed: The policymakers seemed a bit more optimistic about the U.S. economy. Their statement said that while inflation is very low, "economic activity has been expanding moderately."

Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET

This afternoon, the U.S. House voted 236 to 189 to give itself six more weeks to sort out tangled legislation involving trade.

The House Republican leaders prodded their members to approve a rule change that extends time for a second vote on one part of a trade package. This portion, called Trade Adjustment Assistance, failed on Friday.

Dealing a big blow to President Obama's agenda, the House of Representatives failed to pass a key element of a package of bills that would have given Obama the ability to fast-track a trade deal with Pacific Rim nations.

The House began by voting on a bill that would provide funding for training Americans who would lose their jobs because of the trade deal. Failing to attract enough Democratic votes, the body rejected the measure by a large margin.

Recipe for a good summer-job market: First, hire a lot of people in May. Second, give workers raises, and third, push down gasoline prices. Mix it all together — and pour out hope for teen workers.

"Having a job makes me feel really excited. I can put my own money in my pocket instead of asking my parents for money all the time," said José Moncada, a 16-year-old job seeker in New York City.

Moncada and other teens may have caught a break Friday when the economy followed that seasonal employment recipe precisely.

Many U.S. passengers who have been wedged into coach-class seats on long flights might welcome more flying options — even if that competition were to come from overseas.

But the chief executives for Delta, United and American airlines say it's not fair if such competition involves big government subsidies given to state-backed carriers.

Transportation funding was going to get plenty of attention this week in Washington — even before an Amtrak train derailed about 140 miles to the north.

This is National Infrastructure Week, so lobbyists, labor leaders and activists started swarming Capitol Hill on Monday, seeking funds for roads, bridges and other projects related to transportation.

Both stock and bond markets had already been having a rough week, and then on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen added to the jitters.

She warned that stock valuations are "generally quite high," and that "there are potential dangers there."

So if you happen to be an investor who wants to buy low and sell high (and really, who doesn't?), then you might take Yellen's comment as a suggestion that it's time to sell.

And that's just what happened: Measures of U.S. stock prices all slipped — down about 0.7 percent by midday.

President Obama's plan for creating a Pacific Rim trade zone has been hovering in the wings, waiting for the right moment to demand attention.

On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed it out on to center stage during a dramatic joint meeting of the U.S. House and Senate. He urged Congress to approve the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

The global economy won't sink this year, thanks to the oceans of cheap oil keeping it afloat.

That's the bottom line of the World Economic Outlook, released Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund. The 2015 pace of economic growth will tick up to 3.5 percent, helped along by lower energy costs and weaker currencies.

If you are under 30, this may be hard to imagine, but in the late 1990s, the economy was a job-generating machine.

In 2000, the final year of Bill Clinton's presidency, the unemployment rate fell as low as 3.8 percent. Then, within a decade of his White House departure, the rate was up to 10 percent.

Those two numbers explain why the name "Clinton" remains magic for many. People who got jobs, bought homes and invested money two decades ago associate "Clintonomics" with good times.

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