Nightly Business Report — August 21, 2014

Tonight on Nightly Business Report, as the S&P 500 closes at record levels, are you better off investing in an index fund that tracks the market or picking stocks? And, why natural gas is being deliberately burned across the oil-rich fields of North Dakota.

c-George | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

A pension, for those lucky enough to have one, offers a guaranteed check every month for the rest of your life upon retirement. But a number of companies are now offering an alternative—a pension advance, typically made in one lump sum payment. Their pitch, aimed at military and government retirees with generous pension benefits and …

Thomas Samson | AFP | Getty Images

As college students head back to school, cybercriminals are heading back to work. Hackers often target universities during the school year, and campuses are not equipped to handle the cybersecurity threats, according to a new report published Thursday by the security firm BitSight Technology. In fact, colleges and universities fare worse than both the retail and health-care …

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
EBay signage at the company's headquarters in San Jose, Calif.

Ebay is considering spinning off its payment service PayPal, according to a new report. The Information reported that Ebay has been telling new recruits for PayPal’s CEO that the company may spin the payments service off as soon as 2015. This move would represent a change of strategy, as Ebay CEO John Donahoe has previously publicly dismissed …

Adam Berry | Bloomberg | Getty Images

McDonald’s appointment of its first U.S. vice president of digital is the latest step in a widespread revamp the burger chain sees as key to reaching its audience. Julia Vander Ploeg joins the Golden Arches from Ticketmaster as a member of its Global Digital Team. This group is focused on customer engagement, e-commerce, service delivery and …

Ariana Lindquist | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The skyline of Minneapolis.

While much of the nation still struggles to find homes for sale, Minneapolis is finally showing signs that sellers are back in the game. Inventory in the market was up 6.1 percent in May, according to the latest reading from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. The only hitch: Buyer demand is slightly weaker than …

Source: Lisa Sanguedolce
Le Dolci bakery’s $900 cupcake

The cupcake craze has come and gone. But the three-figure cupcake craze may be just beginning. A Toronto bakery recently whipped up a $900 cupcake for a customer who wanted to buy “something special” for his wife’s 40th birthday. It’s now offering the extravagant confection to the public. Created by Le Dolci bakery, the cupcake …

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York.

U.S. stocks climbed on Thursday, with the S&P 500 hitting a record, as investors anticipated a dovish tone from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen when she talks about the labor market in Jackson Hole on Friday. Hormel rallied after the maker of pork and turkey products reported third-quarter results that beat expectations. Bank of America gained after agreeing …

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

After a calm and boring summer of trading, the currency market is getting exciting again with the dollar breaking out to an 11-month high. Things could heat up even further for foreign exchange, as global central bankers convene in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the Kansas City Fed Symposium. The dollar index is at the highest level since …

Profiting from California’s drought

Having a green lawn in the middle of drought-ridden California is becoming big business for some small companies.

Nikki Kahn | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Iowa Senate candidates Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley

DES MOINES, Iowa—This crucial battleground in the Republican-Democrat fight for control of the U.S. Senate has scrambled terms of engagement in the politics of class. Democratic Bruce Braley makes his party’s familiar arguments against Republican Joni Ernst. He slams her for opposing a minimum wage increase, for entertaining the idea of privatization for Social Security, …

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A new report shows a growing number of car and truck owners are struggling to make their monthly auto loan payments. Experian, which analyses millions of auto loans, says the percentage of those loans that were delinquent or ended up in default with the vehicle being repossessed surged in the second quarter of this year. …

Turning point for Target?

Target cut its profit forecast as it is trying to win back customers and increase sales. But there may be a glimmer of hope in the retailer’s latest earnings report.

Stocks inch towards new records

Despite the small pullback midday on the Fed minutes, the S&P 500 rebounded to within a few points of a new high.

Price Chambers | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park is seen through a window at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Moran, Wyoming.

The Federal Reserve holds its annual meeting in Jackson Hole this year with substantial questions about the outlook for the labor market, inflation and the path of interest rates. Close attention will be paid to the Friday morning speech by Fed Chair Janet Yellen—her first at Jackson Hole as head of the central bank—who will focus …