Stacey Vanek Smith

Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; flew to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and spoke with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.

Prior to coming to NPR, Smith worked for Marketplace, where she was a correspondent and fill-in host. While there, Smith was part of a collaboration with The New York Times, where she explored the relationship between money and marriage. She was also part of Marketplace's live shows, where she produced a series of pieces on getting her data mined.

Smith is a native of Idaho and grew up working on her parents' cattle ranch. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in comparative literature and creative writing. She also holds a master's in broadcast journalism from Columbia University.

Life On China's Blacklist

Oct 10, 2018

In America, default and bankruptcy is almost a rite of passage for people in business. It's certainly nothing to be ashamed of. In China, however, failure to pay your debts is a cardinal sin. Offenders are banished to a blacklist. If you're on the blacklist, you can't buy a plane ticket or stay in many hotels. And your face may be plastered on billboards throughout the city, naming you as untrustworthy. Today on the Indicator, we talk with a coal broker who has been on the list for more than two years.

Who can you trust? How can you tell whether someone who borrows money from you will pay it back? In the U.S., we have a credit score to help make these calls. But in China, no such system exists.

So the government came up with its own equivalent: it will score peoples' trustworthiness using not just court and bank records, but also data from the online shopping companies. Today on the Indicator: China's social credit system and what it might mean for citizens.

The Iron Lotus

Oct 8, 2018

Today on The Indicator, we answer your questions. Well, one of them anyway. Listener Sam Spear wrote to us to ask us about the mysterious financial contortions performed by a company called Helios and Matheson, which owns a company called Moviepass. Specifically, Helios and Matheson performed a reverse stock split, after which they diluted their stock an extraordinary amount. Sam asked us to explain what happened, and why, and whether what Helios and Matheson was even legal.

The jobs news this week continues to be good: at 3.7 percent, the jobless rate is the lowest it's been since late 1969. But the number doesn't tell the whole story about the state of employment in America today.

Today on the Indicator, we steal from our econ pals to look at the jobs numbers through a few separate lenses. We look at the average number of jobs created over the last six months, which industries are hiring the fastest — and which are shedding jobs the fastest. Plus we look at the unemployment rates for certain demographics.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Team Indicator shares its reactions to the new NAFTA, now known as the USMCA. The deal probably does not represent a huge change to the way these countries trade with each other, but it could have intriguing consequences for America's approach to trade with China.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

For almost a century, General Electric was a powerhouse of the American economy, a byword for progress, innovation, and excellence.

GE did everything, from light bulbs to jet engines to medical devices to banking. And it was that last little venture that turned out to be a bridge too far. GE got into the business just ahead of the financial crisis, and once the dust from that debacle had settled, GE found itself more than a little dinged up. A decade later, the company still hasn't recovered. Today on The Indicator, we find out what brought GE to its knees.

NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley asked us to solve a mystery for him: He's been reporting on corn prices, which have been falling lately, but when he went to get a snack from the vending machine in the press corps break room in the White House, he discovered the price of a bag of Fritos had risen 20% (a quarter!) Today on the Indicator, the case of the pricey Frito! A tale of transportation costs, tariff penalties, and our deep love of salty snacks.

Archival tape from Suspense

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One of the toughest parts of living in a big city is finding an affordable place to live. That might be getting a bit easier. Here's Stacey Vanek Smith and Cardiff Garcia from NPR's economics podcast The Indicator.

Companies buy back their stock from shareholders when they have excess cash lying around, and they want to hand some of it over to the owners. And they've been doing it a lot more recently: companies are on track to spend more than a trillion dollars on buybacks this year. Today on the Indicator, dueling opinions on buybacks. One economist says they're a way to get cash to companies that need it; another argues they're a brake on the economy.

Music: "Break Me"

The financial crisis was brutal for the American economy, so it's no surprise that we still bear the scars. But some of the lingering damage is evident in areas that you might not expect. Today on the Indicator, where we're a lot more cautious than we used to be.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

This week, back in 1933, a team of American Geologists from Standard Oil Company in California arrived on the shore of a small, sparsely populated Middle Eastern country called Saudi Arabia. Today on the Indicator: what the team of geologists found and how it changed the economy of a country and the global economy for better ... and for worse.

Archival Footage: "Desert Venture"

Rent!

Sep 21, 2018

Ever since the end of the financial crisis, rents have been rising all across America. A recent report from Zillow put the median monthly accommodation rental payment in the U.S. at $1440.

The good news is, that it is the same as last year. After years of rising, rents are finally leveling off. Susan Wachter of the Wharton school talks with Stacey and Cardiff about what that means for renters and for the entire U.S. economy.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A standout characteristic of emerging economies is their volatility: they have a tendency to boom and go bust, often frequently and often fast. George Magnus, an economist and author of Red Flags: Why Xi's China is in Jeopardy, has been studying China and other young economies to understand why it is that emerging economies experience these ups and downs. He has found that quite often these emerging market boom and bust cycles often follow a similar pattern

Pages