What to watch for today
European tobacco packaging gets a makeover. European parliamentarians are expected to vote in favor of legislation that will make cigarettes and other tobacco products less appealing to young people, by banning packs that contain fewer than 20 cigarettes and increasing the size of health warnings to two-thirds of the packet.
Hong Kong helps its poor. Hong Kong reports fourth-quarter GDP, hoping to record a boost to its economic growth after a pretty flat rest of the year. Hong Kong’s budget announcement, also today, is set to introduce $2.58 billion worth of financial relief for the working class, which is struggling amid rising housing and consumer prices.
Abercrombie & Fitch dresses up its profits. The US clothing retailer, which had a better-than-expected holiday season but otherwise pretty dismal financial year reports fourth-quarter earnings. Investors will be watching for Abercrombie’s online sales, which are coming in strong despite weakness in in-store shopping.
South Africa’s economic recovery plan. South Africans could face a tax hike when the budget is unveiled today, after the country’s GDP growth slowed to 1.9% in 2013. Raising taxes isn’t an attractive option for politicians during an election year, but investors believe it would have a larger effect than lowering spending or selling assets.
A read on Barnes & Noble’s future. Today’s earnings report should shed light on how the book retailer fared during the holiday season. And investors will be listening closely for any comments about G Asset Management’s recent $22-per-share offer to buy Barnes & Noble.
While you were sleeping
Mt. Gox disappeared. Once the biggest bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox closed its virtual doors, sparking speculation about why the Tokyo-based trading platform went dark. A document circulating online claimed that more than 744,000 bitcoins—that’s 6% of the currency —were missing. Other bitcoin firms banded together promising consumer protection measures in the wake of the Mt. Gox meltdown.
Argentina and Repsol made up. Argentina agreed to cough up $5 billion worth of bonds to settle a dispute with Repsol, the Spanish oil company that initially asked for $10.5 billion in compensation. The agreement ends almost two years of dispute, since Argentina seized 51% of Repsol’s YPF unit, claiming Repsol hadn’t invested enough.
Europe got a positive growth forecast. The European Commission raised its economic forecasts for the bloc, saying the euro zone should grow 1.2% this year and 1.8% next year in a sure sign the economic recovery is “gaining ground.” It added that “this is not an invitation to be complacent.” You don’t need to read the whole report, though—here’s our handy cheat sheet for discussing the European economy.
A fine for San Francisco’s crash landing. Asiana Airlines was handed a $500,000 fine for its mishandling of the plane crash at San Francisco’s airport in July 2012, which killed three people and injured dozens more. The US Department of Transportation panned the airline for taking five days to notify all the passengers’ families and not having translators and trained crash staff on board.
Some of America’s largest companies weighed in on a discrimination bill currently under review in Arizona. If passed, it would allow business owners to refuse to serve customers on religious grounds. Opponents believe this could harm gay employees and consumers.
Quartz obsession interlude
Leo Mirani on why there’s no point banning Google Glass in cars—at least, not yet. “In the coming years, cars are going to change unrecognizably. We will interact with them not through buttons and dials but by waving our hands, talking to them or, with eye-tracking technology, simply by looking around. Legislation is not prepared for that sort of change. Does talking to your car constitute the same sort of distraction as talking to somebody else on a hands-free device? Are larger and larger dashboard display screens the equivalent of looking at a Facebook post? Arguably not, because you’re looking to the screens and talking to your car about road-related things while a Facebook update from your ex-boyfriend might trigger an emotional, and therefore distracting, response.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Ghostbusters isn’t really about ghosts. The classic film is “a Reaganite carnival of ideological triumph.”
Two oligarchs drove Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych out of office. Rinat Akhmetov and Dmitry Firtash controlled his party, and then paved the way for his exit.
We’re managing the internet all wrong. It’s a utility, not a luxury, and should be treated as such.
Silicon Valley is the new Wall Street. The center of the financial world is moving west.
It’s wrong to plagiarize from an email. If you use a full sentence from an email that someone else wrote, you should attribute it to them.
Tetris’s distractive qualities are many. Playing the computer game for just three minutes can reduce the urge to eat, smoke and drink.
Hipsters are getting cosmetic surgery. The beard trend has led to a rise in facial-hair transplants.
Americans prefer breakfast food you can eat with one hand. Commuting drivers are likely the key to why Taco Bell is introducing the waffle taco.
The winning formula to bag an Oscar award. Set your film in the 1930s, base it on a novel, and feature a murder plot.
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