Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—iPad mini, presidential debate, singing mice, talking whale

October 23, 2012
October 23, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Apple debuts the iPad mini. Apple is expected to unveil a new, smaller iPad today. The device is rumored to have a 7.85-inch screen, measured diagonally, with prices starting at roughly $329 and a Nov. 2 shipping date, in time for the important holiday sales season.

More earnings. Global shipper United Parcel Service is expected to report steady third-quarter earnings, providing another litmus test for the world’s economic health. US Internet giant Facebook will report its second quarterly earnings as a public company, as its shares trade at roughly half of their IPO price. Expectations are muted following rival Google’s disappointing results last week.

Canada keeps rates on hold. The Bank of Canada is set to announce today that it is keeping benchmark rates unchanged at 1%. The central bank is grappling with a dilemma. It probably should ease monetary policy to counter weakening growth. But as it has kept rates at 1% for two years, Canada how has record-high housing debt.

While you were sleeping

The US presidential candidates talked foreign policy. Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney locked horns on China and the Middle East, though in an hour and a half they managed, as one tweet put it, to mention “[n]o Europe, no Latin America, no sub-Saharan Africa, no immigration, no global health, no drug war, no international financial issues.” (Romney did in fact mention Latin America once in passing.) Obama accused Romney of having an outdated approach to foreign affairs, saying (video): “The 1980s called. They are asking for their foreign policy back.” For his part, Romney accused his opponent of causing too many civilian deaths in conflict zones, saying “we can’t kill our way out of this mess.” He didn’t make any more bizarre gaffes about office supplies.

BP and its Russian partners sold their TNK-BP stakes. The much-anticipated sale was finalized, with BP and its four Russian oligarch partners unloading their respective 50% stakes in Russia’s TNK-BP to state-controlled Rosneft for a combined $55 billion. The sales put Rosneft on the road to becoming the world’s biggest publicly-traded oil company. They also end a bitter and, for BP, sometimes frightening, 14-year partnership with the oligarchs. BP has been selling off assets to cover the cost of its 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.

Caterpillar and Yahoo reported earnings. Caterpillar, whose earnings are considered a bellwether for global economic growth, posted its best-ever quarterly sales, led by gains in its mining supply and logistics business—even as it slashed its full-year forecast by more than 3% and joined other global manufacturers warning of a cooling economy. Yahoo meanwhile saw sales and earnings beat expectations in the third quarter, its first under new CEO Marissa Mayer. “Our top priority is a focused, coherent mobile strategy,” she told investors, citing Yahoo’s 76 different mobile apps as evidence of a currently splintered approach.

Syrian violence spilled into Lebanon. At least seven people died as sectarian fighting spread west to Beirut, where tension between local allies and opponents of Syria’s president turned bloody after a car bomb killed a top Lebanese intelligence officer. Risks include more assassinations, a spillover into Turkey, and emboldened pro-Assad action by Hezbollah in Syria, potentially pulling the West into the conflict.

Scope widened in New York art forgery case. Court filings show that even more suspected fake modernist masterpieces passed through New York’s Knoedler & Company than had been previously known. The dealer that provided the paintings—which include works by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Wilhelm de Kooning—to Knoedler is now under FBI investigation.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims and Gloria Dawson on loss leading as a business model for the mobile web: “Subsidy—either of hardware by content, or content by hardware—is the common thread running through Apple’s iPad mini (due to be announced tomorrow), Microsoft’s move into hardware with its Surface tablet (due later this week), Nokia’s slow demise, Amazon’s ascent, and the modest success of every regional Android handset manufacturer on the planet. It’s notable that the successful firms have opted for either one model or the other: none makes significant money from both content and hardware.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Citigroup’s replacement of CEO Vikram Pandit last week was a rushed job. A detailed analysis (paywall) of “big, dysfunctional Citi.”

These are the issues Obama and Romney should have been talking about. Foreign Affairs has a collection of articles by policy scholars analyzing the Republican and Democratic positions, including a prescription on how America should approach China.

Surprising discoveries

Singing Mice. Male mice can not only sing high-pitched songs with identifiable melodies to court females, they can mimic one another and change their tunes, possibly expressing a broader range of emotions. This comes just after scientists discovered a Beluga whale that makes human speech-like sounds. Dr Dolittle would have been delighted.

Bovine ski lift fuel. Vermont’s famed Killington ski resort has a new way to fuel the lift that ferries skiers to its tallest peak: cow manure. A state utility program mixes manure from local dairy farms with water and bacteria to turn it into methane, which can power a generator.

Popularity in school pays off in higher earnings. Economists point to a 10% wage premium nearly 40 years later for the most popular kids. So if you want a comfortable retirement, give your children popularity training.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, and theories about downsides of popularity in school to hi@qz.com.

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