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.

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

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.

All around the country, gasoline prices have been falling for weeks, down to an average of about $3 a gallon. Those lower prices are helping restrain inflation across the board.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department said its consumer price index barely inched up 0.1 percent last month. Over the past 12 months, the CPI has risen by 1.7 percent, roughly half of its historical average rate of increase.

That sounds great for consumers.

West Africa is a poor region, struggling to improve its economic growth.

It had been succeeding. Last year, Sierra Leone and Liberia ranked second and sixth among countries with the highest growth in gross domestic product in the world.

The Obama administration's effort to curb corporate inversions — the strategy of moving company headquarters overseas to dodge U.S. taxes — drew boos from business on Tuesday, and cheers from consumer and labor groups.

No surprise there. But the Treasury Department's rule tweaks to discourage tax-avoidance deals also united everyone on one point: The country needs comprehensive tax-reform legislation.

The Federal Reserve's policymakers just eyeballed the economy and saw nothing new.

On Wednesday, they announced that wage and price hikes remain low, and that growth continues at a moderate pace. That means interest rates can stay superlow for a "considerable time," while the Fed's bond-buying program can wrap up next month, as expected.

Need more evidence that the U.S. economy is moving on two tracks? A new Harvard Business School study, released Monday, may confirm your fears.

The report, "An Economy Doing Half Its Job," involved a survey of 1,947 alumni. The Harvard-educated business leaders expressed concerns about U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace. But they were far more optimistic about the future for U.S. corporations than for that of workers, the survey showed.

If you're on a tight budget, here's a plan for enjoying late summer:

1) Take the family for a sightseeing drive.

2) When you get home, have a beer.

Don't do this:

1) Invite neighbors over for grilled steaks.

2) Make milkshakes for the kids.

Such budget-savvy conclusions can be drawn from the inflation report released Tuesday by the Labor Department.

In about one-third of U.S. households, the sound of a phone or doorbell ringing may trigger a desire to duck.

That's because roughly 77 million adults with a credit file have at least one debt in the collection process, according to a study released by the Urban Institute, a research group. A credit file includes all of the raw data that a credit bureau can use to rank a borrower's creditworthiness.

Want to borrow money for a car or a home this fall?

Oddly enough, the interest rates available months from now for big-ticket items may be determined by the prices you pay today for everyday consumer goods. When store prices are rising rapidly, policymakers start pushing interest rates higher, too.

But for the moment, at least, inflation appears mild enough to keep interest rates low for a long while.

Should you be watching your mailbox for a check from Citigroup?

The banking giant says it will pay out $2.5 billion to provide "consumer relief" to help settle charges brought against it by the U.S. Justice Department. The government said Monday that "defects" in Citi's mortgage securities had fueled the financial crisis that triggered the Great Recession.

Economists regularly issue reports calling inflation tame or mild, or some other word that suggests consumers shouldn't be feeling much pain.

One example: "Inflation has been tame and this is providing households with some relief" from economic stress, according to an assessment done this week by PNC Financial Services.

But if you happen to be buying gasoline or groceries, you may not be feeling relieved — at all.

When the Supreme Court ruled Monday that "closely held" corporations don't have to pay for workers' contraception, you may have assumed the decision applied only to family-owned businesses.

Wrong. An estimated 9 out of 10 businesses are "closely held."

However, some benefits experts question just how many of those companies would want to assert religious views.

Congratulations Class of 2014! You are entering a labor market that offers a record number of paychecks.

On Friday, the Labor Department said the U.S. economy now has 138.5 million jobs, slightly more than the previous high set in early 2008 — just as the Great Recession was tightening its grip.

French economist Thomas Piketty became a publishing superstar this year by putting two and two together and concluding that the rich are getting richer.

His best-seller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, uses mountains of data to calculate Western wealth over the past two centuries. He says the historical statistics, drawn from many sources, show unrestrained capitalism inevitably leads to immense income inequality.

The U.S. housing market is strengthening after a tough winter, according to economists at a Realtors convention in Washington.

But even as the short-term outlook brightens, they remain worried about a long-term problem with "missing" young buyers.

"There really are serious issues in the first-time-buyer market," Eric Belsky, managing director of Harvard's Joint Center of Housing Studies, told the National Association of Realtors on Thursday.

Bill Clinton says he was "dumbfounded" by Republican strategist Karl Rove's recent comments about Hillary Clinton's brain. But the former president was hardly left speechless.

"First they say she was faking her concussion; now they say she's auditioning for a part on The Walking Dead," Clinton said on Wednesday when asked about Rove's remark that Hillary may have suffered "brain damage" from a fall in 2012.

Most Americans and Germans agree: More trade between the United States and the European Union would be a good idea.

But when you get down to details of a possible trade pact, suspicions pop up, according to a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in association with Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation.

Let the senior-citizen tourists stare at the fluffy pink cherry blossoms.

Let the Midwestern seventh-graders tilt their heads back and gaze gape-mouthed at the Washington Monument.

Sure, this is a lovely week for them to be in Washington, D.C. It's April. It's gorgeous.

But no one is happier to be here this week than the wonks. And no, not the I-read-a-good-article-in-The-Economist wonk wannabes.

This week is for the true, serious wonks who just can't get enough of lecture halls, hearing rooms and soggy hors d'oeuvres.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy sponsored the event.

But the speaker, Anthony Alexander, the chief executive of FirstEnergy Corp., offered a vigorous defense of that 20th century invention — nuclear power. And he was even more adamant about the value of the 19th century's key energy source — coal.

As winter loosens its grip, employers are taking on more help.

Hotels, bars and restaurants added 33,000 workers, while retailers tacked on 21,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists say those increases suggest employers are growing more confident that Americans will be spending more this year.

Somewhere under all of that melting snow, there's a warming economy.

"Adverse weather conditions" have hurt economic growth so far this year, but things are headed in the right direction now, according to a forecast released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics.

"Conditions in a variety of areas — including labor, consumer and housing markets — are expected to improve over the next two years, while inflation remains tame," Jack Kleinhenz, NABE president and chief economist for the National Retail Federation, said in a statement.

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