Today's Business Press

The Price Is Right

The Wall Street Journal offers two seemingly contrasting stories about prices. On Page One, a well-reported story details the effects of a recent Supreme Court decision that has effectively relegalized a form of price-fixing in the United States. It reversed a decision from 1911 saying that manufacturers cannot punish retailers for selling products below the suggested retail price, and now some manufacturers have begun doing precisely that. The paper quotes a manufacturer arguing that “[w]e don’t want consumers to think we’re the cheapest guys in the world,” but notes that critics maintain this interferes with the free market and may lead to inflation.

On Page A2, the Journal seems to take some solace from recent dips in commodity prices. Oil, rice, palm oil, wheat, and copper have all seen major drops in prices, the paper notes, “providing welcome relief for the fragile global economy.” The Journal seems to think that the worst is over, at least for now. “With economic growth slowing across the world, including in China, and demand for raw materials easing, many analysts believe it is unlikely the commodity-market highs of earlier this year will be tested again soon,” it says.

Of course, even with dropping prices, many basic things are still relatively expensive; “[a]t its current price, rice is still nearly twice as expensive as in 2007,” says the paper. And the London Times points out that rising prices have contributed to the worst hunger crisis in East Africa in eight years, with 14 million people at the risk of malnutrition. But the recent easing should help most governments and might prevent central banks from raising interest rates, “a move that would have slowed economic growth further,” says the WSJ.

The New York Times examines the effect that young people’s interest in the presidential race is having on the TV-news business. The paper reports that “[a]bout 6.5 million people under 30 participated in the primaries and caucuses this year, almost double the number that turned out in 2000.” The challenge for TV networks is translating that increased engagement into viewers: CNN has created a “League of First Time Voters,” and Fox News has assigned a full-time correspondent to cover the youth vote. The networks are hungry to capture younger viewers to offset their traditional, much older audiences; the Times notes that the median age of Fox News’ audience is 63.9 years. So far, though, it doesn’t appear that the efforts are yielding much; NBC Nightly News, “the most popular of the three newscasts, has added 200,000 viewers this year over the same period last year, but only 2,000 of those new viewers are between 18 and 34,” reports the Times.

BusinessWeek serves up a double issue devoted to the workplace, “the first issue of BusinessWeek created in collaboration with readers,” according to the magazine. The biggest problems identified by readers are mostly well-established—work-life balance, staying entrepreneurial, negotiating the bureaucracy, toxic bosses—but one possible surprise is “generational tensions.” To aid the situation, the magazine offers a “Boomer’s Guide To Communicating with Gen X and Gen Y.” Sample advice: “Gen Y started online social networks. Think about how you can leverage them in the workplace to encourage team collaboration and knowledge sharing.”

Finally, Bloomberg has an unusual analysis of the side effects of the burst in strength of the Brazilian real, which has risen 83 percent in four years. This currency increase has allowed Brazilian advertising agencies to be able to hire once-unaffordable Hollywood celebrities—including Sarah Jessica Parker, Sylvester Stallone, and Richard Gere—to appear in ads. “There was a time when hiring a Hollywood star was unthinkable,” an ad agency tells the wire. “Now they are not only affordable, they are actually cheaper than the locals.” Still, Bloomberg’s survey of economists indicates that the currency will fall before the end of the year.