Chris Arnold

NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996, and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.

In recent years, Arnold has spent much of his time reporting on the financial crisis, its aftermath, and the U.S. economy's ongoing recovery. He has focused on the housing bubble and its collapse. And he's reported on problems within the nation's largest banks that have led to the banks improperly foreclosing on thousands of American homeowners. For this work, Arnold earned a 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for the special series, The Foreclosure Nightmare. He's also been honored with the Newspaper Guild's 2009 Heywood Broun Award for broadcast journalism. He was chosen by the Scripps Howard Foundation as a finalist for their National Journalism Award, and he won an Excellence in Financial Journalism Award from N.Y. State's society for CPA's.

Arnold is also reporting on the now government-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In a series of stories in partnership with ProPublica, Arnold exposed investments at Freddie Mac that raised serious concerns about a conflict of interest between Fannie and Freddie's massive investment portfolios, and their mission to make home ownership more affordable. The stories generated widespread attention, and led to calls for an investigation by members of Congress.

Arnold was recently honored with a Nieman Journalism Fellowship at Harvard University during the 2012-2013 academic year. He joined a small group of other journalists from the U.S. and abroad and studied, among other things, economics and the future of home ownership in America.

Prior to that, Arnold covered a range of other subjects for NPR – from Katrina recovery in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, to immigrant workers in the fishing industry, to a new kind of table saw that won't cut your fingers off. He traveled to Turin, Italy, for NPR's coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics. He has also followed the dramatic rise in the numbers of teenagers abusing the powerful and highly addictive painkiller Oxycontin – more than 1 out of 20 high school seniors report using the drug.

In the days and months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Arnold reported from New York and contributed to the NPR coverage that won the Overseas Press Club and the George Foster Peabody Awards. He chronicled the recovery effort at Ground Zero, focusing on members of the Port Authority Police department, as they struggled with the deaths of 37 officers - the greatest loss of any police department in U.S. history.

Prior to his move to Boston, Arnold traveled the country for NPR doing feature stories on entrepreneurship. His pieces covered technologists, farmers, and family business owners. He also reported on efforts to kindle entrepreneurship in economically disadvantaged areas ranging from inner-city Los Angeles to the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

Arnold has worked in public radio since 1993. Before joining NPR, he was a freelance reporter working out of San Francisco's NPR Member Station, KQED.

On the eastern edge of St. Joseph, Mo., lies the small city's only hospital, a landmark of modern brick and glass buildings. Everyone in town knows Heartland Regional Medical Center — many residents gave birth to their children here. Many rush here when they get hurt or sick.

A federal directive will go into effect Saturday making it easier for some Americans to come up with a down payment to buy a house.

The vast majority of home loans are guaranteed by the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The regulator in charge of Fannie and Freddie will allow first-time homebuyers to put down as little as 3 percent.

It's a busy time of year for turkey farmers around the country. And these days, with the growth of the local food movement, small family farms are struggling to keep up with all the orders for birds. So, we went to find out what one New England farmer is doing to get her gobblers from the field to the table. Enter the "abattoir."

The fallout from the housing crisis isn't over.

According to Moody's Analytics, there were 700,000 foreclosures last year. And some of those people probably didn't need to lose their homes. Even now, more than six years after the housing crash, lawyers for homeowners say mortgage companies are still making mistakes and foreclosing on homes when they shouldn't be.

The 30-year mortgage is the foundation of the real estate market largely because it makes housing more affordable. But the truth is, it's a lousy loan for building actual ownership or equity in your home during the first 5 or 7 years, which caused big trouble when housing crashed.

Heavy drama played out this week — and not just on Shonda Rhimes' TV shows.

The bond-investing world was roiled by news that Bill Gross — the man known as "The Bond King" — has abruptly left the huge investment firm he founded in 1971. The departure left a lot of people scratching their heads on Wall Street.

"The natural question is: What's going on at PIMCO?" said David Kotok, chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors. "There's all kinds of speculation" about why Gross left.

"And the answer is, it's speculation — and so we don't know," Kotok said.

California's public employee pension is divesting its entire $4 billion stake in hedge funds. Calpers says the investment proved to be too complex and not worth the expenses. Many public pensions turned to hedge funds in hopes of boosting returns and gaining protection from market crashes, but most have lagged behind market indexes in recent years.

The financial crisis pushed millions of Americans from their homes. And housing advocates complain that the government did more to prop up big banks on Wall Street than it did to help average people on Main Street.

But many of those people on Main Street could still qualify for a government program to help them save money by refinancing their mortgages.

Of all the U.S. currency in the world, nearly 80 percent is in $100 bills. That's about a trillion dollars.

Some people want to get rid of the bill altogether. Ken Rogoff, an economist at Harvard University, says the $100 bill helps criminals:

Public pension funds have been doing something new in recent years — investing in hedge funds.

Hedge funds are often secretive investment firms led by supposedly supersmart fund managers. Though, sometimes they implode spectacularly — think Long-Term Capital Management. Another prominent firm, Galleon Group, recently got shut down for rampant insider trading.

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Many homebuyers have been throwing down cold hard cash for their entire house purchase in recent years. Some are baby-boomers who sold a bigger house and are downsizing. Some are investors. Others are from outside the U.S.

"Top of the list in terms of cash sales in the first quarter was Florida, with 64 percent of all sales going to cash buyers, followed by New York, 59 percent; Alabama, 56 percent," says Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, which did a study on cash purchases.

A year ago, the housing market looked like it was finally recovering. Sales and prices were picking up. But then home sales fizzled. Currently, they are down about 7 percent from last spring.

A big part of why housing remains so stunted is that there are more than 2 million "missing households" in the U.S. That's how economists describe the fact that fewer people are striking out on their own to find places to live.

More than five years after the crash, homebuilding is stuck at half its normal level. That's a big drag on the economy. And things aren't looking much better: A report out Thursday shows homebuilder confidence is at its lowest level in a year.

This severe slump in single-family home construction has been going on across the country. We haven't seen anything close to this kind of a long-term construction slump since World War II.

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There's been a lot of talk about wearable devices being the next big thing in the technology world. It's easy for the hype to get ahead of the products, but there's actually some serious innovation going on.

The game of chess is a national pastime in Russia. And you might say that Vladimir Putin is playing a high-stakes game of geopolitical chess when it comes to Ukraine.

Western leaders are plotting how to counter Putin's latest moves with economic sanctions. So to get some insight into what might come next, we talked to an economist who knows Russia — who is also extremely good at chess.

Putin Playing From A Weak Position

More Americans are saving for retirement through their employers' 401(k) programs. That's because in recent years they've been given a strong nudge — more companies are automatically enrolling workers in retirement savings programs.

Some firms are also automatically increasing the amount employees contribute. That's just as important, experts say.

And all of this makes a big difference: Without it, millions of Americans don't save at all.

Making Time For Retirement Planning

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And I'm Audie Cornish. Volatile, that's the kind of week the stock market had. Investors sold off high-flying technology and biotech stocks. Weak bank earnings also added to the sour mix. The NASDAQ is down 8 percent from its peak this year. The S&P 500, it's off 4 percent. But as NPR's Chris Arnold reports, the sell-off hasn't triggered alarm and indicators for the broader economy are mostly positive.

Saving for retirement is a challenge facing most Americans. Research shows the challenge is made harder by our basic human impulses. We know we should be saving. But we don't. We consistently make bad financial decisions.

One thing that leads us astray is what behavioral economists call "loss aversion." In other words, we hate losing. And that gets in the way of us winning — if winning is making smart financial decisions.

How A Smashed Car Is Like A Smashed Nest Egg

Russian President Vladimir Putin's swift move to annex Crimea is seen as a sign of strength by many Russians, and it has boosted Putin's popularity at home. But when it comes to Russia's economy, many analysts think Russia's prospects are looking weaker.

In recent days, we've seen Russians rallying in the streets, waving flags and celebrating Putin's move to reclaim Crimea as part of Russia.

The economy often absorbs the impact of snowstorms, such as this week's storm, without much trouble, but this winter the weather is doing more damage than usual.

The snow and ice storms sweeping the East Coast have been felt not only on the ground but in the air, as well. Airlines are cancelling thousands of flights, and both the companies and their passengers have had to deal with the fallout.

The U.S. added just 113,000 jobs in January, instead of the 180,000 analysts had predicted. Despite the anemic gains, the unemployment rate inched down to 6.6 percent, the lowest level since October 2008.

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Stock prices soared in the past year, but this was a rough week and prices really tumbled today. The Dow lost 318 points, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ both fell 2.1 percent. This was part of a global sell-off, as investors focus on the growing financial turmoil in the developing world. NPR's Chris Arnold is following this and he joins me now. Chris, the year started off looking like the global economy was more stable. We didn't have a financial crisis unfolding somewhere. So what's going on now?

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