Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Greek austerity, Draghi time, same-sex marriage, “Merlande”

November 7, 2012
November 7, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

With the austerity budget passed, is it all over for Greece bar the shouting? In a midnight vote, the Greek parliament has just approved a €13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) package of austerity measures. The vote comes amidst growing popular angst; even Prime Minister Antonis Samaras called some of the cuts to workers wages and pensions “unfair” but stressed that Greece is bound to the terms of its agreements with the rest of the euro area. The question is, will the protests that have shaken Greece in the past two days continue, or will the people now reluctantly accept their politicians’ decision.

Australian unemployment. The Australian Bureau of Statistics will announce its latest figures on unemployment. Analysts predict that the unemployment rate will rise from 5.4% to 5.5%, as global growth—and particularly growth in China—stagnates.

BoE to QE? The Bank of England starts off a big monetary policy day in Europe. On the table right now appears to be another round of quantitative easing—essentially, pumping cheap cash into the economy—after poor economic data showed renewed signs of sluggishness in the third quarter. But this one’s still too close to call.

It’s Draghi time. The European Central Bank (ECB) will announce its November interest-rate decision at 1:45 p.m. CET (8.45 p.m. HKT). While some investors expect the bank to cut its target rate from 0.75%, most expect that the bank will move forward with its current policies. The press conference from ECB President Mario Draghi after the decision is announced could be more interesting. European leaders have been bickering about an appointment to the central bank’s executive board. Spain has vetoed the nomination of Yves Mersch, an inflation-hawk from Luxembourg, demanding that it get a representative on the committee instead.

Siemens will lay out cost-cutting plans. German industrial powerhouse Siemens is expected to announce dramatic cuts in an attempt to make the company more competitive. Those cuts are likely to include widespread layoffs. According to Société Générale analyst Gael de Bray, the company pays the highest salaries among its competitors, and employs the fewest number of people in low-cost countries.

Meddling hedge fund could thwart Sprint’s M&A plans.  When Japanese cellular network Softbank acquired America’s Sprint, many thought that Softbank wanted Sprint to complete a takeover of  Clearwire, which owns the rights to the same band of wireless spectrum as Softbank has in Japan, making it easier for Softbank to get a big contract with a handset maker. But now a minority shareholder in Clearwire, hedge fund Mount Kellett Capital Management, is pushing Clearwire to auction off that spectrum instead. Not only would that give it enough capital to stay afloat and avoid a takeover by Sprint, but it would also make Sprint less interesting as an acquisition target.

While you were sleeping

Germany is getting clobbered. The latest data—GDP growth projections and industrial production data—suggest that Germany is indeed slowing down. Not to mention similar comments from ECB President Mario Draghi, who told Germans Tuesday that the country was finally being pulled into the European crisis.

Same-sex marriage has a fabulous day. Not only did voters in the US states of Maine and Maryland approve referendums that allow same-sex couples to marry; gay rights activists made strides in Europe as well. A Spanish judge upheld a law legalizing gay marriage that the country’s parliament passed in 2005. The French government also put forward a proposal to allow gay marriage, although activists have argued that the law wouldn’t go far enough.

Earthquake shakes up Guatemala. A 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Guatemala, killing eight people and damaging 40 homes. It was the worst earthquake to hit the country since 1976. Rumblings could be felt as far away as Mexico City, 750 miles away.

Molotov cocktails in Greece. Greek protestors exchanged Molotov cocktails and tear gas as the country’s Parliament prepared to vote on austerity. The violence followed massive rallies and a two-day general strike.

US fiscal cliff takes spotlight. Concerns about the “fiscal cliff”—a combination of spending cuts, tax increases, and a new debate about raising the government’s debt ceiling—crashed back on the scene today. While both Republicans and Democrats want to temper the measures, which would cut US GDP by an estimated 5% if they all go into effect, analysts worry that Congressional deadlock might stand in the way of averting the cliff.

Banks are down and guns are up, and why is anybody’s guess. Bank stocks led a fall of US markets, which could be read as a signal either of Wall Street’s nerves about Barack Obama’s re-election, its dismay at Europe’s gloomy economic figures, or both. But gun-makers’ share prices rose, and this, as Quartz’s David Yanofsky explains, can be read as meaning either that new gun-control regulation is expected in Obama’s second term, or that it isn’t. (So much for the predictive power of the markets.)

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz asks if 2012 has been the worst election for Wall Street in decades: “The final stroke against the banks could be the reelection of President Obama, Wall Street’s best friend in 2008 and public enemy number one ever since. Given widespread political opposition to his campaign from the financial sector, expect it won’t have much say in naming the next Treasury Secretary or the appointees who run regulatory agencies, shaping future housing reforms, or merely protecting the carried interest loophole.”

Steve LeVine on the easiest way to make $128,700 in Canada: “There is a serious skill shortage in the world’s oilfields. Hard numbers are hard to come by, but the employment trendline—look at the chart below—and summonses for workers are so shrill and widespread that the demand at least seems high. The first reason is the obvious one–booms require labor near and far, and it takes time for enough people to hear word of work, and to get there; it requires even more time for schools to turn out sufficient numbers of graduates.”

Matters of debate

The great American divide. It’s all about ideology.

Why the world will hate Obama in his second term. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

The check for Hurricane Sandy. Moody’s Analytics projects the total cost of the storm will be $49.9 billion. That would make it the third-costliest storm ever in the US.

Can France get Germany back in line? Begging for a “Merlande” (German Chancellor Angela Merkel + French President François Hollande).

Surprising discoveries

Sight for the blind. A new device could allow blind people to “see”—by mapping sound. (Mind you, they’ve been talking about these for a while.)

Is “being lazy” the key to a long life? Take it from Britain’s oldest man.

The speed of light could be infinite. When it’s inside a very particular, very tiny device, that is. No instantaneous trans-galactic travel for you.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, long-life tips, and Sandy cost predictions to hi@qz.com.

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