Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—The US after the storm, Vietnam’s Pussy Riot, Star Wars, rats

October 31, 2012
October 31, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

What will happen when markets reopen? If you missed the US financial markets, they’re back after Hurricane Sandy—the first weather-related two-day closure since 1888. The overall economic impact of Sandy is likely to be fairly limited, though total costs—public, private and opportunity costs—could reach $50 billion. But there are fears that the rush back into the markets will create volatile conditions in which high-speed trading algorithms could set off a “flash crash”.

Greece’s fate hangs in the balance, as usual. Yesterday Greece finally agreed a rescue package with its “troika” of international lenders. Today the Greek parliament will consider the budget that this package entails, which includes €13.5 billion ($17.5 billion) in austerity measures; the government’s coalition allies are not happy. Also today, euro-zone finance ministers will discuss giving Greece more time to reduce its debt burden. Both the budget and the extension need to be approved by Nov. 12 if Greece is to get the next €31.5 installment of bailout money.

President Barack Obama goes touring with an unexpected friend. The president will visit the disaster-stricken state of New Jersey with its Republican governor, Chris Christie, who has been praising the federal government’s disaster response. That’s making things uncomfortable for Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, who counts on Christie’s support. Here’s how the storm could affect the presidential election, just seven days away.

While you were sleeping

The northeastern US started to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Sandy. The death toll reached 30 and transportation infrastructure is paralyzed, but the storm is past. In New York, the subways will be out for four or five days, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (A study last year, in the wake of Hurricane Irene, predicted that a storm like Sandy could take key transit infrastructure out of commission for weeks or months.)

Mickey Mouse bought Luke Skywalker. Disney announced the $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm from George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars franchise. Fans will be wondering whether the company best known for its cartoons will reduce the dark complexity of the world’s best-loved intergalactic space fantasy to brightly-colored mush. Based on an analysis of Disney’s past performance with its acquisitions, we think there’s some cause for them to be optimistic.

Japan’s central bank made markets yawn. The bank expanded its asset purchase program in a bid to end deflation after heavy public pressure, but it disappointed markets, which had hoped for more aggressive measures; rather than weakening the yen, the news slightly strengthened it.

China is mulling a jet engine push. Despite advances in technology and manufacturing, China still can’t build a reliable jet engine. The country is considering a ¥100 billion ($16 billion) plan to fix the problem.

Vietnam’s Pussy Riot? For the first time in recent memory, Vietnam has jailed two musicians for the political content of their music, namely songs attacking the regime in China.

Caribbean nations count the cost—in lives and food shortages—of the Frankenstorm. Haiti, still ravaged by the earthquake that struck nearly three years ago, and where Hurricane Sandy has already claimed 56 lives, is facing crop damage and food shortages. Sandy has also caused 11 deaths in Cuba and damaged 137,000 homes, while devastating the nation’s coffee crop. Meanwhile, banana plantations have been ruined in Jamaica.

Quartz obsession interlude

Naomi Rovnick on why Japanese automakers can’t blame their country’s diplomatic standoff with China for their weak sales there: “Honda has slashed its full year profit forecast by 20% because of bad September sales in China. No shock there. Honda and its rivals Toyota and Nissan have already disclosed the sales droop they all suffered last month because of an anti-Japan backlash in China, caused by the ongoing row between Beijing and Tokyo over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Yet the Japanese firms’ poor performance is due not just to politics, but to a longer-lasting series of strategy mis-steps.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

When will China overtake the US? At best, the US economy is only the top dog of global GDP until 2018.

Asian cities are vulnerable to mega-storms, too. warning from civil engineering experts: Indian cities like Kolkata and Mumbai and Chinese metropoli like Shanghai and Guangzhou, among others, could suffer worse fates than New York if a big storm comes along.

What’s wrong with disaster price gouging? Slate, a news site so famous for its contrarian stances that it spawned the internet meme #slatepitches, argues for finding the social good when businesses hike prices on necessities in times of trouble.

An optimistic case for the euro. Someone had to make it, and that someone is Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist and former Reagan adviser.

The US election doesn’t matter. The case that 2012 is the least consequential presidential election in years.

Surprising discoveries

Here’s why FedEx’s famous logo works so well. Part of the answer is negative space.

If you host the Olympics, you get 30 years of debt. Hope the memories are worth it.

What happened to all the rats in New York when the sewers and subways flooded? You’ll never guess.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, rat sightings, and incredible logo designs to hi@qz.com.

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