Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—US election, German slowdown, FT “not for sale”, ants

November 7, 2012
November 7, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

And the winner is… By 11.20pm Eastern time, most of America’s TV networks were projecting that Barack Obama would be re-elected as president, narrowly defeating Mitt Romney. Obama’s Democratic party is expected to keep control of the Senate while Republicans retain the House of Representatives; whether the political deadlock of the last four years continues will depend whether the president becomes more aggressive now that he cannot seek election again, and whether Republicans are chastened or further radicalized by their defeat.

However, expect ripple effects to continue throughout the day as counting continues on a variety of congressional and gubernatorial races, as well as ballot measures in various states on issues like marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage and immigrants’ rights.

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.

No FT, no comment? Bloomberg reported that according to unnamed sources, Pearson, owner of the Financial Times, wants to divest itself of the famous salmon-pink newspaper (but not the FT group, which also owns 50% of The Economist) to focus on its growing education business. Pearson strongly denied this. 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. Bloomberg would probably be among the interested buyers, along with, it is rumored, oligarchs from a variety of emerging-market nations.

Japan’s opposition said no to a no-strings bailout for Sharp. The policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party said the ailing electronics company needs to come up with a viable turnaround before asking for state rescue funds. The LDP’s view is important because Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan will probably lose next year’s election.

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.”

And Christopher Mims on why high-tech voting machinery isn’t necessarily a great idea. Experts in computer security “have concluded that the best way to ensure that votes are not tampered with is to have them recorded on paper before they are recorded by a computer. That way, if there is any question whether voting machines were subject to tampering, or even just software bugs and human error, there is always a physical record that can be verified by any election observer.”

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”.

The US-China relationship will remain as dysfunctional as before, whoever wins the election. 

And the China leadership transition is more important to Australians than the outcome of the US poll. 

Surprising discoveries

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

Cockatoos can make tools. A captive cockatoo in Austria has learned to adapt splinters of wood into tools that it uses to grab hard-to-reach nuts.

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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