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.

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.

McDonald's has been struggling in recent years to keep pace with fast-casual chains like Five Guys and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

So the fast-food giant is testing different menu options to lure back customers. Starting later this month, McDonald's diners will be able to choose a $4.99 sandwich — the Sirloin Third Pound burger.

Dear March,

We got your news that employers added just 126,000 jobs on your watch. Hate to say it, but you have disappointed everyone. No doubt you'll say you were under the weather — literally. Sure, it was cold, but still ... Let's hope April does better.



On Friday, the Labor Department's report on weak jobs growth left economists scrambling to explain what went wrong in March.

True story: The other day, I attended a speech by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who said phone scammers are swarming the country in the run-up to April 15, aka Tax Day.

These criminals call taxpayers and insist they must "immediately give up their personal information or make a payment," Koskinen warned. Don't fall for it.

If you live in a town still dotted with dirty piles of old snow, this is not going to come as good news:

The U.S. Census Bureau today listed the nation's fastest-growing metro areas. And it turns out, Americans prefer Florida's sunshine, lakes and beaches to your cloudy, cold climes.

This week, labor leaders made sure President Obama knows that when it comes to foreign trade, they are living on opposite sides of the track — the "fast track," that is.

That's a term describing a president's broad power to negotiate a trade agreement — and then put the final package on a "fast track" through Congress. Lawmakers can give it a yes-or-no vote, but can't amend or filibuster the deal.

In this country, all children are supposed to have a shot at success — a chance to jump "from rags to riches" in one generation.

Even if riches remain out of reach, then the belief has been that every hard-working American should be able to go from poverty to the middle class.

On Tuesday, a book and a separate study are being released — both turning up evidence that the one-generation leap is getting harder to accomplish in an economy so tied to education, technological know-how and networking.

For decades, economists have tracked the "misery index," a simple formula that adds the unemployment rate to the inflation rate. The result equals how miserable — or not — you feel.

On Friday, the Labor Department released February's jobs report, and the good numbers will further drive down the misery index, already at its lowest level in more than a half-century, thanks to falling oil prices.

A new government report confirms: Wages and prices are going their separate ways.

This breakup is helping consumers on the rebound from recession.

Fresh evidence of the split came Monday in the Commerce Department's monthly report on personal spending, income and saving. It showed paychecks are fatter, prices are leaner and Americans are saving more.

Economists usually worry about a "wage-price spiral" taking hold. That's when workers are earning more, but losing buying power as prices rise.

For now, at least, something very rare is happening: Paychecks and prices are heading in opposite directions.

"You have a schism that's helpful to consumers," IHS economist Doug Handler said about the recent decline in prices and rise in wages.

This time, they're done. Through. They're walking out the door on Friday.

Unless they aren't. Unless they renew their vows and their union grows ever closer.

That's basically where Greek officials and European finance ministers are in their complicated relationship. After years of possible-breakup drama, a real deadline will arrive Friday and the parties must decide: Are we in this thing together or not?

Anyone who has pulled up to a gas station this winter knows oil prices have fallen — down roughly 50 percent since June.

But it's not just oil. Prices for many commodities — grains, metals and other bulk products — have been plunging too.

Here are a few of the changes since many prices peaked in recent years:

- Copper is $2.59 a pound, down from $4.50 in 2011.

President Obama revved up quickly for his economic victory lap.

"After a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999," President Obama said less than a minute into his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The lap was fueled by cheap gas: "We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we've been in almost 30 years," he said.

Democrats roared.

In so many ways, Jan. 20, 2009, was a frightful day to be taking the oath of office.

The U.S. economy was in free fall as Barack Obama rose to deliver his inaugural address. "We are in the midst of crisis," he said. "Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered."

Exactly six years later, Obama is returning to Capitol Hill to deliver a State of the Union address at 9 p.m. EST. He is expected to highlight the economic progress that has been made since that frigid Day One — and call for more changes.

It's flattering to be King of the Hill.

And these days, the U.S. dollar is wearing the crown. It has climbed to its highest point in 11 years, with global investors pushing it ahead of the euro and other major currencies.

But while it's a compliment to have a strong dollar, the honor is not without its downsides. When the dollar rises against other currencies, it increases risks to U.S. manufacturers.

So economists are looking for signs that a good thing may be starting to go too far. These questions and answers may help explain what's happening.

Six years ago, homebuilders and Realtors were facing brutal business conditions: millions of Americans were losing their jobs and homes.

As 2015 begins, hiring is strong and economic indicators are pointing up. Could this be the year when the housing market finally breaks out of its tepid recovery and takes off?

Economists see several reasons why 2015 might be a banner year for homebuying — and not just in San Francisco and Miami.

They also see One Big Factor that potentially could block a buying binge.

Each December, economists make predictions. And each new year, they get hit by unexpected events that make them look more clueless than prescient.

This year's bolt out of the blue was the plunge in oil's price, which no one saw coming.

Still, top economists' forecasts did get a lot right for 2014. One year ago, most were predicting healthy growth, tame inflation, low interest rates, rising stock prices and declining unemployment — and that's just what we got.

As the year's end approaches, economists are looking back and assessing the news stories that shaped 2014.

Though their lists may vary, most analysts are pointing to five developments that had very big impacts on the U.S. economy. These were the biggies for 2014:

Oil Prices Plunge

No one saw this one coming. When 2014 began, a barrel of crude oil was selling for about $110. It hovered there until late spring, when the price ticked up to nearly $115.

Best-selling business books typically tell you how to get rich — either by becoming a better worker or investor, or perhaps by learning the secrets of successful entrepreneurs.

And in 2014, readers could find plenty of books promoting pluck and hard work, such as MONEY Master the Game and The Innovators.

But three books broke the pattern, generating headlines and big sales by focusing on unfair aspects of wealth creation.

As the latest Congress draws to a close, economists are looking back — and seeing little.

Lawmakers passed no measures addressing tax reform, trade, immigration or even the minimum wage.

But judged by the very low standards of recent years, the 113th Congress did manage to win at least light applause from economists who are watching as the curtain goes down.

Sure, Congress allowed a disruptive government shutdown in 2013 — but it avoided repeating that drama in 2014.

When it comes to environmental regulations, taxes and the minimum wage, business groups generally object to President Obama's positions, while liberals support him.

But one issue blurs the usual political lines: trade.

Just last week, Obama told the Business Roundtable he would push to complete massive trade deals with both Asian and European nations. "If we can get that done, that's good for American businesses," he said.

As 2014 winds down, you might want to save that calendar hanging next to the fridge.

Maybe even frame it.

After so many years of misery for the middle class, 2014 is now looking like the one that finally brought relief. The November jobs report, released Friday by the Labor Department, had blowout numbers showing a surge in job creation, an upturn in work hours and a meaningful boost in wages.

Thanksgiving is remembered for feasts, family gatherings and ... awkward conversations.

You know what I'm talking about. You're back with relatives you haven't seen in years, and the conversation takes a frightening turn toward politics, religion or, worse, your love life.

You need help. You have to switch to a newsy but neutral topic. Here's a handy list of conversation changers you can use at any time.

Just start each sentence with, "Hey, did you know that ... " and here are the safe categories:

The Road

The global economy rolls along more smoothly when it's not riding a unicycle. It needs additional wheels for momentum and stability.

That is, in effect, what Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is telling leaders of other advanced nations.

Earlier this year, some trade supporters had predicted this week's APEC summit would bring a breakthrough on a comprehensive trade deal.

They had hoped that when the 21 global leaders met at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, Obama would be able to use a smaller side meeting to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal involving the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as eight Asian and Latin American countries.

But the deal wasn't reached, and there's no telling when it will be.

Airlines are paying less for jet fuel these days. But don't expect that price drop to translate into Thanksgiving travel bargains for you.

Rather than cut fares, airlines are turning fuel savings into cash for acquiring aircraft, upgrading software, rewarding workers and attracting long-term investors, according to John Heimlich, chief economist for Airlines For America, A4A, a trade group.

Besides electing lawmakers Tuesday, voters settled ballot initiatives affecting everything from soda-pop taxes to fracking to marijuana sales.

The outcomes varied, but there was one economic issue that united voters. Overwhelmingly, they approved raises for minimum-wage workers.