Jim Zarroli | WYPR

Jim Zarroli

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.

Over the years, he has reported on recessions and booms, crashes and rallies, and a long string of tax dodgers, insider traders, and Ponzi schemers. Most recently, he has focused on trade and the job market. He also worked as part of a team covering President Trump's business interests.

Before moving into his current role, Zarroli served as a New York-based general assignment reporter for NPR News. While in this position, he reported from the United Nations and was also involved in NPR's coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the London transit bombings, and the Fukushima earthquake.

Before joining NPR in 1996, Zarroli worked for the Pittsburgh Press and wrote for various print publications.

He lives in Manhattan, loves to read, and is a devoted (but not at all fast) runner.

Zarroli grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, in a family of six kids and graduated from Pennsylvania State University.

The U.S. trade deficit soared to a 10-year high in 2018 on the heels of a strong economy, despite President Trump's ongoing efforts to bring it down through tariffs on imported goods.

For 2018 as a whole, the deficit grew to $621 billion — the highest since 2008, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. When the service sector is excluded, the gap was even greater, rising to a record $891.3 billion.

In the 1980s, China was beginning a long economic boom that would transform the global trading system, and Michael Korchmar decided to go there to launch a joint venture.

He quickly soured on the country.

"It didn't feel right," recalls Korchmar, whose family runs a 102-year-old Florida-based company that makes briefcases and travel bags. The Chinese government maintained a heavy hand in his staffing and factory decisions, and its minders followed him everywhere.

Updated at 11:33 a.m. ET

The U.S. economy expanded at a solid 2.6 percent rate during the last three months of 2018, but growth was significantly lower than it had been earlier in the year, the government said Thursday.

For 2018 as a whole, the economy grew 2.9 percent, a touch below the Trump administration's projected target of 3 percent.

When U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio, in the 1950s, it was a thriving port town on Lake Erie where everyone who wanted one found a job. Ships brought in iron ore destined for the steel mills of Pennsylvania, and left with coal from the mines of Appalachia.

But as steel and coal have declined, the Ashtabula of Lighthizer's childhood has disappeared, taking a lot of jobs with it.

President Trump has nominated Treasury Department official David Malpass, a vocal critic of the World Bank, to head the international financial institution.

Malpass, 62, is a conservative with longstanding ties to Trump. He once worked as chief economist at investment bank Bear Stearns, which collapsed in 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis. He also served in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. At Treasury, Malpass is currently involved in tense trade negotiations with China.

When U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio, in the 1950s, it was a thriving factory town with a busy port where freighters brought iron ore to be used in the steel mills of Pennsylvania.

Today, many of the biggest factories have long since left the region for low-wage places — taking a lot of jobs with them — and the port ships a fraction of the freight it once did.

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

The partial shutdown of the government reduced federal spending by about $3 billion and cut into overall U.S. economic growth, according to a report released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The report says that because of the shutdown, which lasted from Dec. 22 through last Friday, about $18 billion in discretionary government spending was delayed. Most of the money will be spent later, now that the shutdown has ended.

The stock market has left many investors struggling to catch their breath.

Just last Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained a record 1,086 points, after sliding 653 points on Christmas Eve. And there were many more days, when the markets swung by hundreds of points. In general, 2018 was a unusually bumpy year for markets.

Steve Heimoff remembers coming home from a restaurant December 10, 2008, to find an email from a cousin with the words "Bad news" in the subject line.

The $2 million retirement nest egg he had counted on was suddenly wiped out, as was much of the savings of his relatives, casualties of the multibillion-dollar Bernie Madoff scam that was dominating the headlines.

Updated at 9:01 a.m. ET Wednesday

Stock prices tumbled Tuesday amid investor fears about trade, wiping out the gains that followed the Trump administration's decision to delay higher tariffs on imports from China.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 799 points, losing 3.1 percent of its value, while the S&P 500 index fell 3.2 percent. The Nasdaq composite index plunged 3.8 percent.

In another worrisome sign for the economy, the interest rate on short-term U.S. Treasury securities actually rose above that of longer-term instruments.

Updated at 4:08 p.m. ET

The phrase "just below" neutral might seem bland or innocuous. But those words from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell touched off a wave of optimism among investors who took them to mean the central bank may be winding down its interest rate hikes.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up more than 600 points, or 2.6 percent, Wednesday.

Maxine Waters of California is known as a partisan firebrand who gives as good as she gets, especially where President Trump is concerned.

Now, with Democrats assuming control of the House in January, the California Democrat is about to become more visible than ever before, with the power to slow down an important part of Trump's agenda and even shine a light on his company's finances.

Investors worried about a slowdown in global growth helped push stocks sharply lower Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 602 points, or 2.3 percent.

Technology stocks fared especially badly, with Apple down 5 percent, after a report it was cutting orders for iPhone parts. The decline knocked 100 points off the Dow and helped lead to a broader rout. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell almost 2.8 percent., wiping out its gains for November.

General Electric has booted out its chairman and chief executive, John Flannery, after a little more a year on the job, amid declining profits and cash-flow problems.

Flannery will be replaced by H. Lawrence Culp, a current GE board member who served as chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based conglomerate Danaher Corp. from 2000-2014, GE said.

Chris Johnson knows all too well how a promising crop can suddenly be ruined — by poor weather, an economic downturn or bad luck.

This year, he and other soybean farmers in North Dakota are contending with something less common but potentially just as destructive: a trade war between the United States and China that has already driven down the price of soybeans sharply.

"Oh, it's a devastating loss. Soybeans are my largest acreage crop," says Johnson, who farms 3,300 acres in Great Bend, in the southern part of the state.

Updated at 3:06 p.m. ET

With a deadline looming, Canada and the United States headed into talks for a fourth day, trying to hammer out a deal that would rewrite the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Canada rejoined NAFTA talks on Tuesday, a day after the U.S. and Mexico reached a deal, tweaking the free trade agreement. President Trump said he had a new name for that pact: the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement.

President Trump is taking aim at Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, saying he is unhappy over the central bank's decision to raise interest rates.

"I'm not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I'm not thrilled," Trump told Reuters in an interview.

President Trump boasts that his trade policies are bringing back the steel industry, but recent corporate earnings reports make clear that they're also hurting the bottom line at many manufacturing companies.

"We're putting our steel workers back to work at clips that nobody would believe, right?" Trump asked the crowd at an Aug. 1 rally in Pennsylvania.

Major American steelmakers have reported higher-than-expected revenue in the second-quarter, thanks in part to Trump's 25 percent tariffs on imported steel.

President Trump is ratcheting up trade tensions with China, threatening to increase proposed tariffs on Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent.

The higher tariffs, which would apply to some $200 billion in Chinese imports identified by the administration last month, represent an effort to get Beijing to address longstanding unfair trade practices, officials say.

President Trump is eager to tout a fast-growing economy, boosted by the tax cuts he pushed through Congress. That makes Friday morning's report on gross domestic product a highly anticipated news event.

Did GDP growth top 4 percent in the second quarter — more than double the first-quarter pace — as many economists project?

Forecasts are all over the board, with estimates even among Federal Reserve economists diverging widely.

The events of 10 years ago show why these forecasts are so important.

As President Trump threatens to heap more tariffs on Chinese imports, he's got one important fact on his side: The United States remains China's biggest single export market, buying some $500 billion in goods last year alone.

But China is less dependent on the American market than it was even a decade ago and in some ways is better able to withstand a trade war than the United States.

A federal judge has ordered China's largest wind-turbine firm, Sinovel, to pay $59 million for stealing trade secrets from a Massachusetts-based technology company.

The Trump administration is doubling down on its trade rhetoric, even as other countries ready tariffs on American goods and U.S. business groups part company with the president over his trade policies.

President Trump travels to Wisconsin on Thursday, for the groundbreaking of an enormous Foxconn electronics plant that state officials hope will help turn the region into the next Silicon Valley.

But the $10 billion plant faces continuing skepticism over the nearly $4 billion package of incentives that state and local officials paid out to lure the Taiwan-based company to the area a half hour south of Milwaukee.

Updated at 8:08 p.m. ET

President Trump is unhappy with Harley-Davidson's plans to move production of motorcycles it sells in Europe overseas, in response to growing trade friction between the United States and Europe.

In a tweet sent out Monday afternoon, Trump said he was surprised that Harley-Davidson "of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag. I fought hard for them...."

Big banks are skirting the rules on the sale of the complex financial instruments that helped bring about the 2008 financial crisis, by exploiting a loophole in federal banking regulations, a new report says.

The loophole could leave Wall Street exposed to big losses, potentially requiring taxpayers to once again bail out the biggest banks, warns the report's author, Michael Greenberger, former director of trading and markets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

As the world's largest economy, the United States can use its considerable economic muscle to force other countries into making concessions in trade disputes.

But as President Trump is finding out, even the biggest guy on the block can face resistance by pushing too hard.

The widening political crisis in Italy sent stock prices falling around the world Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average losing 1.8 percent of its value.

European bank stocks were among the hardest hit, with Italy's Unicredit and Spain's Santander down by more than 5 percent, but U.S. banks were also hit.

As stocks plunged, investors poured money into safe havens. U.S. Treasury yields saw their biggest one-day drop in two years and the dollar gained ground against the euro.

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Trade negotiators for the United States, Canada and Mexico are running out of time to complete an overhaul of the North American Free Trade Agreement, making it likely the effort won't be completed this year.

The failure to complete the deal would be a political setback for President Trump, who has repeatedly vowed to scrap NAFTA and replace it with something better.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that under timetables imposed by a 2015 law, the three countries need to complete a deal by Thursday if Congress is to pass a new treaty before the November midterm elections.

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