Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Fiscal Cliff, Chinese nukes, Siemens cuts, laziness

November 8, 2012
November 8, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

US fiscal cliff takes the spotlight. Concerns about the “fiscal cliff—a combination of spending cuts, tax increases, and a new debate about raising the government’s debt ceiling—are crashing 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. If the US economy falls over the precipice, it could drag Canada down with it.

BoE to QE? The Bank of England starts off a big monetary policy day in Europe. On the table is another possible 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 is still too close to call.

It’s Draghi time. The European Central Bank (ECB) will announce its November interest-rate decision at 1:45pm CET (8:45am EST). 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.

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. A 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.

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

While you were sleeping

It was revealed that Angela Merkel killed the BAE-EADS merger (reportedly). The proposed mega-deal to combine the behemoth European defense contractors was scuppered by Chancellor Merkel’s administration, because of “wariness” about losing influence within EADS to France and “suspicion about the motives” of EADS CEO Tom Enders, Reuters reports in a tick-tock, fly-on-the-wall recount of the whole sorry saga.

UBS faces yet another tax fraud probe, this time in Germany. German media reported that the Swiss bank’s German subsidiary is being investigated on suspicion of moving clients’ money illicitly into Switzerland. The bank paid $780 million in fines to settle similar charges by the US government in 2009. That case was brought by a whistle-blowing UBS staffer who told US prosecutors he once stuffed a client’s undeclared diamonds into a toothpaste tube to get them across borders. (The whistleblower, Bradley Birkenfeld, also won a $104 million bounty).

Australian unemployment stayed at a two and a half year high. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the jobless rate remained 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 a 58% rise in exports of electrical equipment to the US from Vietnam in the first eight months of this year. Manufacturers are shying away from China, Thailand and other Asian countries where labor costs are rising.

Siemens wielded the axe. German industrial powerhouse Siemens has announced dramatic restructuring measures in an attempt to save €6 billion by the end of 2014. It plans to exit water businesses that generate annual sales of around €1 billion. The company has not said how many jobs will go, but layoffs in Germany could be high. According to Société Générale analyst Gael de Bray, Siemens pays the highest salaries among its competitors, and employs the fewest number of people in low-cost countries.

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 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.

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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