Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—US election, German slowdown, FT sale, the greatest rogue trader ever

November 6, 2012
November 6, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

And the winner is… US election results are beginning to slowly trickle in. The first town to report results—Dixville Notch, New Hampshire—reported that its 10 registered voters were split right down the middle in their support for President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The White House race isn’t the only one up in the air; Democrats are struggling to retain power over the Senate and win more seats in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The last polls will close at 8pm Pacific time (noon Hong Kong time on Nov. 7th, not 11am as we said in yesterday’s newsletter), and depending on the vote in the key battleground states, a result could be in two hours before that—or could take days.

German industry: slowing down? Germany’s economy ministry will release its latest read on the country’s industrial production. Recent data—most recently a survey of manufacturing managers—suggest that German economic growth is shrinking. That slowdown has been most visible among car companies, like Volkswagen and Daimler, which reported lousy earnings last month. Spain, Denmark, and Norway will also publish their latest manufacturing data.

A look ahead in Europe. The European Commission will release its latest projections for economic growth in EU member states. The Commission releases these projections every six months. While the region’s economic outlook didn’t look too pretty in the spring, downward revisions to growth forecasts could foretell even steeper challenges ahead.

While you were sleeping

Stock market rally, semblance of certainty ahead? US stocks rallied as investors welcomed a resolution to months of uncertainty about the country’s leadership. While the fiscal cliff—a combination of spending cuts, tax increases, and new regulations—is likely to raise new questions, it seems the markets like any answer better than no answer.

Citigroup gets yanked into the LIBOR drama. Citigroup revealed that the Monetary Authority of Singapore, among other global financial authorities, had requested documents from the bank (and others in Singapore) while probing its role in what seems like widespread manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR)—one of the most important financial benchmarks in the world. It has also turned over documents to various state Attorney Generals in the US.

The FT may be up for sale. Bloomberg reports that according to unnamed sources, Pearson, owner of the Financial Times, wants to divest itself of the newspaper (but not the FT group, which also owns 50% of The Economist) in order to focus on its growing education business. There has been speculation about a sale since the news that Marjorie Scardino, the Pearson CEO, would step down at the end of this year. Among the buyers rumored to be interested are various unnamed oligarchs, and Bloomberg.

Indonesia wants to re-impose price controls on food. The Indonesian government wants to pass a proposal that would keep food prices low for consumers and set minimum prices for producers. Experts say these efforts have been accelerated by a drought in the US that dramatically reduced the availability of crops like soybeans.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on the flaws of the American electoral system: “Why is America’s electoral machinery so backward? One reason is that any 246-year-old system will have quirks that newer democracies can leapfrog. Another is the federal system and the emphasis on states’ rights, which breeds resistance to uniform measures. But a third is, hopefully, temporary: The nature of American politics today, with an extremely close balance of power between the parties, means that elections are closer and decided in small jurisdictions. That magnifies the risk that miscounting, error or fraud, could tip the result, which in turn further heightens the partisan paranoia.”

Matt Phillips on the most successful rogue trader of all time“It stands to reason that there must be unauthorized trades that actually end up generating massive profits too. Strangely, banks don’t seem to make a big public stink about those. So we usually don’t hear about them. But over time, such stories have a way of getting out. Which brings us to perhaps the most-successful rogue trader of all time. In 1857, while working as an accountant for the firm of Duncan, Sherman—a position his Wall Street banker father, Junius Spencer Morgan, had secured for him—a young John Pierpont Morgan himself heard the siren sounds of unauthorized trading.”

Matters of debate

Does the world need a powerful US? Why the election matters to the world.

Capitalism has destroyed America. A system that polarizes “haves” and “have-nots” means the election is all smoke and mirrors.

Are Europeans losing faith in their parliament? Ineffectiveness and scandal threaten an institution meant to unify Europe.

The real losers in sanctions against Iran. Ordinary Iranians are being hurt by sanctions that were claimed to be “smart” and “targeted”.

Surprising discoveries

Ant colonies are democracies. The tiny insects use crowdsourcing to make otherwise impossible decisions.

Dead men really can vote. An elderly man living near Detroit, Michigan, collapsed at a polling station. A nurse who happened to be voting found his pulse and breathing had stopped, and brought him back to life. Among his first words upon regaining consciousness: “Did I vote?

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, suggestions, rogue trades, and ant polls to hi@qz.com.

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