Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—Greek unrest, Chinese nukes, legal marijuana, laziness

November 8, 2012
November 8, 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 approved a €13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) package of austerity measures, by a slim majority. The vote comes amidst growing popular angst; several government coalition MPs voted against it and were ejected from their parties, and 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.

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.

Heightened paranoia about China’s nuclear arsenal.  China may be able to launch ballistic missiles from submarines within two years. That is the view of the  US-China Economic Security Review Commission, which just distributed drafts of its findings on the topic to media. Its full report will be out later this month. China building up its nuclear capability clashes with the US and Russia’s plans to reduce weapons stockpiles.

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 “Super” 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

Australian unemployment stayed at a two and a half year high. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the jobless rate stayed at 5.4% in October. This is better than analysts had feared—they predicted a rise to 5.5%—but shows Australia is not yet benefiting from the recent and very short-lived uptick in the Chinese economy.

Vietnam lured jobs from China. Intel and Samsung are among the companies that contributed to Vietnam’s exports of electrical equipment to the US rising 58% in the first eight months of this year. Manufacturers are shying away from China, Thailand and other Asian countries where labor costs are going up.

Oregon’s stoners vow to fight on. After Washington and Colorado voted in ballot referendums to legalize marijuana for recreational use but Oregon’s residents said no, some are promising to take their campaign further.

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.

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. 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.

Billion-year-old breaking news: The universe has largely stopped producing new stars. A study concludes that 95% of the stars the universe will ever produce have now been born.

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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