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.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Anyone with a 401(k) retirement plan has been painfully aware of the gyrations in the stock market in recent years. The market has come back up lately, but the economy is still in low gear, so many analysts aren't too bullish in the short term. Also, treasuries and CDs are offering tiny returns.

So what's the average American trying to save for retirement to do? Answers are percolating at an annual economics retreat in Maine.

In New England, more women are breaking through the glass gangway. That's the ramp you use to walk down onto a dock to hop onboard your own fishing boat. For generations lobstermen in Maine have been predominantly, well, men — but that's starting to change.

At a small gas dock in a rock-lined cove on Deer Isle, Maine, there's a new captain fueling up. Genevieve Kurilec, 29, wears a tank-top, orange fishing overalls and lobster buoy earrings.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The Treasury Department today changed the terms of its bailout agreement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As NPR's Chris Arnold reports, those terms were proving hopeless for the companies to keep up with.

Over the past four years, Bruce Marks has been on a traveling road show to help people avoid foreclosure. His nonprofit, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, has held more than 80 events in cities around the country. So far, Marks says, NACA has helped 202,000 people get their payments lowered so they can afford to keep their homes.

If you don't love scallops, you probably just haven't had one that's cooked properly. That is, pan fried with some garlic and butter and herbs. They are very tasty.

In Maine, scientists and fishermen are learning how to farm, instead of catching, these tasty sea critters. That could be good for business and the environment.

Out on the water off Stonington, Maine, Marsden Brewer is motoring his lobster boat through the crowded fishing harbor. Today, just about all the boats here are lobster boats. But 30 years ago, he says, it was a different story.

Transcript

SUSAN STAMBERG, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Susan Stamberg in for Scott Simon. In an encouraging sign for the U.S. economy, the Labor Department told us yesterday that the country gained 163,000 jobs in July. That was better than expected but not all signs are pointing up. In a separate government survey, the unemployment rate increased slightly to 8.3 percent. NPR's Chris Arnold is at a gathering of economists in northern Maine. He sent this report.

A federal regulator is blocking the government-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from reducing the principal that homeowners owe on their mortgages in order to avoid foreclosures.

Tuesday's decision came from Edward DeMarco, the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The collapse of the housing market has led to plenty of finger-pointing in Washington. Two easy targets are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

These government-backed mortgage giants had to be rescued by taxpayers and now owe the government $188 billion. Still, Fannie and Freddie, which currently make the vast majority of home loans possible, are crucial to supporting the housing market right now.

Amid all the economic uncertainty over the credit crisis in Europe and slow job growth in the U.S., one sector may be looking up. The U.S. housing market is finally showing more signs of recovery, according to a report being released Thursday by Harvard University.

Harvard comes out with this study once a year, and this time around, it's painting a much brighter picture.

After adding a robust 275,000 new jobs back in January, job growth appears to be slowing. The Labor Department reports that the economy added only 69,000 jobs in May.

Meanwhile, despite the worst recession in generations, there are still countless small business owners plugging away around the country, seeking to expand and hire more employees.

"This year we hired two more technicians, and we hope to hire one more," says Srinivas Konanki, who employs 20 people at Pipette Calibration Services, a laboratory equipment company he owns with his wife.

For generations, owning a home has been a key part of the lifestyle most Americans aspire to. But when the mortgage crisis exploded in 2007, it brought down the U.S. housing market — and the entire economy along with it.

The ensuing recession was an assault on the American dream of homeownership itself. The tidal wave of foreclosures, the crash in home prices and tighter lending standards have left some Americans unable or simply too nervous to buy a house.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

So, why is job growth slowing? Well, part of the problem, as we just heard, appears to be in Europe. The economic turmoil there is looking worse, and that has ripped into the U.S. economy and slowing down hiring. NPR's Chris Arnold has more from Boston.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A lot of housing news is out this week and all of it is looking surprisingly good. Sales of new and older homes both saw gains. And two reports showed prices rising.

NPR's Chris Arnold has more.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: The question is: Can this last? And some people who've studied housing for decades think that maybe it can.

William Weaton is an economist at MIT.

This week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that in the first quarter of 2012, the American homeownership rate hit its lowest level in 15 years. During the housing boom, millions more Americans bought homes, bumping the rate to nearly 70 percent. Now, that buying spree has been replaced with millions of foreclosures, and most of those gains have been lost.

The housing market has a new frontier — turning foreclosed homes into rental properties. Some big-time investors are starting to buy up thousands of homes to turn into rentals. That might help shore up home prices. But some housing advocates are nervous.

For decades, most single-family homes available for rent have been owned by mom-and-pop landlords. Sometimes it's the nice old guy up the street who owns a couple of rental homes, and some even offer advice on the Internet.

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure might get help by having the amount they owe reduced by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

This is a hot topic in Washington, D.C., with many Democrats pushing for these so-called "principal reductions" to try to help the housing market. On Tuesday, a top federal regulator came a step closer to allowing the move.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with Spanish bonds.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

When you think of cutting-edge technology, power tools don't generally come to mind. Take the table saw: Many woodworkers are using 30-year-old saws in their wood shops and, among the major tool companies, there hasn't been much innovation since those decades-old tools came out.

But more and more inventors are trying to make these saws safer — and David Butler is one of them. At his home in Cape Cod, Mass., Butler flips on the fluorescent lights in his basement turned wood shop.

The two most powerful entities in the housing market — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — could be on the verge of a significant change regarding foreclosures. NPR and ProPublica have learned that both firms have concluded that giving homeowners a big break on their mortgages would make good financial sense in many cases.

The stock market hit some major milestones this week: The Standard & Poor's 500 index reached its highest level in more than three years, the Dow Jones industrial average settled in above 13,000 — up about 24 percent since early October — and the Nasdaq rose to its highest level in 11 years. Still, the Federal Reserve has been warning not to get too excited about where the economy is headed next.

David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors, says there are a bunch of reason for stocks to be rising.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Wednesday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Here's the good economic news: Employers have been hiring more quickly than the experts predicted.

INSKEEP: The bad economic news is that experts still are not sure why employers are hiring so quickly. While the U.S. economy is growing, economists are not sure it is growing quickly enough to justify the many jobs created in recent months.

Apple has about 47,000 workers in the U.S. That's not a huge amount for such a profitable and influential company. Now the tech giant is saying it has actually created about 10 times that many jobs indirectly.

Some economists are skeptical of the claim. And the move comes as Apple is facing increased criticism and scrutiny over labor practices at factories it outsources to in China.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

News of the foreclosure settlement spread in Washington, just as the Senate Banking Committee was holding a hearing on the housing market.

NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Details were still emerging as the hearing began. And senators wanted to know would this deal do anything meaningful to help homeowners and the housing market.

SENATOR ROBERT MENENDEZ: Do you think the $25 billion state/federal foreclosure settlement is a good deal? Do you think that that's the right amount?

A federal Inspector General's office confirmed Wednesday it is looking into Freddie Mac investments that act as bets against homeowners being able to refinance.

In addition, U.S. senators are expected to probe Freddie Mac's investment practices at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Freddie Mac, based in northern Virginia, is the taxpayer-owned mortgage giant whose public mission is to make homeownership more affordable for Americans.

Pages