Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—Greece, Vietnam banks, Oz office woes, rude parrot

November 13, 2012
November 13, 2012

This item has been corrected.

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Serious talks about the fiscal cliff begin. In an attempt to hammer out a deal to defuse America’s looming budgetary adjustment, President Barack Obama will meet with leaders from labor unions and other civic groups Tuesday, while planning a separate sitdown with business executives on Wednesday and a confab with political leaders from both parties on Friday. Quartz’s Tim Fernholz explains how Obama and Republican Congressional leader Boehner have laid out their opening offers. Meanwhile, former Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard now suggests that raising taxes on the wealthy is a viable path forward. Watch to see which other prominent Republicans start to deviate from the party’s pre-election line.

The Greeks will get more time, but it will cost them.  A draft document prepared for the current meeting of euro-zone financial ministers in Brussels indicates that Greece will receive more time to comply with budgetary goals laid out as part of the terms of its bailout funding plan. As it again faces the specter of default, Greece is expected to try to raise more than €3 billion by selling Treasury bills in the financial markets today so that it will be able to meet a scheduled debt payment on Friday Nov. 16.

Banking trouble in Vietnam.  The South-East Asian nation does not seem to know what to do about rising bad debts in its banking system. The central bank governor is due to explain himself today in front of parliament after making the bizarre comment that he “could not promise anything about the handling of non-performing loans”. Bad debts in Vietnam rose to an estimated 8.8% of total bank lending by June 30 from 8.6% at the end of March, according to (pdf) official data. (Fitch Ratings puts the figure at more like 13%.) Vietnam’s financial sector has looked sickly since state-owned shipping firm Vinashin almost sank under $4 billion of debt back in 2010.

While you were sleeping

Indonesia mulled a 50% minimum wage hike. No wonder retailers are excited about the Asian archipelago’s potential. Indonesia may lift its minimum wage 50% next year, to $208 a month. Quartz has already discussed the strength of the nation’s burgeoning consumer economy. Tackling entrenched public-sector corruption is one way Indonesia could pay for the wage hikes. According to one report public sector graft in the city of Jambi in Central Sumatra has cost 42.8 billion rupiah (US$4.4 million) in the last 18 months. That $4.4 million could finance the 50% minimum wage increase for over 5,000 public sector staff for a year.

The Petraeus affair continued.  More details about the extra-marital affair that prompted David Petraeus to resign last week as director of the CIA have emerged. The former general has told friends he was shocked to learn of the threatening emails his biographer and girlfriend is accused of sending to another woman she saw as a romantic rival. Those emails became the starting point for an FBI investigation that eventually unearthed the affair. Petraeus also hadn’t planned to resign until President Obama’s intelligence supremo told him to. Quartz dug in to how the FBI may have got on to the trail of the emails. And here’s a timeline of the entire mess.

US energy production is going to grow faster than anyone thought. America will become the world’s biggest gas producer (overtaking Russia) by 2015, and the biggest oil producer (overtaking Saudi Arabia) by 2017, the International Energy Agency said in a new report. The US will be an oil exporter by 2030 and self-sufficient in energy by 2035, said the agency, which had previously forecast Saudi Arabia to remain the top oil producer until 2035.

Shoppers spend more per square foot in Apple’s US stores than they do in Tiffany & Co, according to this survey. No wonder breakfast at Cupertino—as well as lunch and dinner—is such a lavish spread.

Quartz obsession interludes

Stephanie Gruner Buckley on the euro crunch and the grilling some representatives of major US corporations such as Amazon, Starbucks, Facebook and Google received over paying scant UK taxes. “No one has suggested that the companies did anything illegal—they are simply taking advantage of the tax codes as written. But with debt strangling Europe’s economies, it’s starting to look, even to the lawmakers who made the rules, a little unseemly, and the rules may need changing.”

Matters of debate

Is Sydney heading for a real estate crash? An office building spree in Australia’s largest city is about to collide head on with bank job cuts.

Where is the Chinese stimulus happening? If Chinese officialdom is trying to crank up growth, they’re not doing it through the banking system. They are, however, dumping billions into railroads.

Uncertainty in China’s leadership transition. One of the few real questions that surrounds China’s leadership transition is whether departing president Hu Jintao will remain on as civilian military chief as his two predecessors Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping had done.

Getting the US budget under control has to include clamping down on the growth of the welfare state, argues one conservative observer of economics.

Fear of capital gains taxes is one factor driving US stocks lower

Commodities have done truly awfully this year.

Surprising discoveries

Before he became the whiz who flawlessly predicted the 2012 presidential election, Nate Silver tried to pinpoint the best burrito in Chicago using statistical methods. He didn’t succeed.

A foul-mouthed parrot once shocked St. Louis zoo goers.

A researcher and three of his colleagues gamely allowed bed bugs to feed on them several times after taking a dose of an anti-parasitic drug, and found that it killed the bugs too.

China’s Communist Party is still a boys club(OK, file that under “Unsurprising discoveries.”)

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, threatening emails and burrito recipes to hi@qz.com or hit “Reply” to this email.

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Correction: An earlier version of this item referred to Sydney as the capital of Australia.

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