Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—France downgrade, Asia pivot, kill switch, pirates

November 20, 2012
November 20, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

A truce in Gaza. Hamas says it is willing to agree to a ceasefire with Israel after a week of fighting that has killed three Israelis and at least 134 Palestinians, among them 34 children. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the region last night and is expected to help broker a halt to the violence.

Data hint at how bad the Black Friday stampedes will be. As America begins winding down for Thanksgiving, initial jobless claims and the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index are released, both of which might give some hints about how much people will go shopping in the traditional post-Thanksgiving mad rush. Either way, new data suggest that most of them will be buying things for themselves, not gifts for other people.

Fish appreciation day is upon us. Celebrants of World Fisheries Day would like to remind you that more than a quarter of the protein consumed by humans worldwide is provided by fish captured by an industry that provides a livelihood for half a billion people. But two-thirds of the world’s fisheries have been overfished, and the long-term trend is a total collapse of world fishing stocks.

While you were sleeping

Moody’s reads The Economist, downgrades France. Just days after the entire nation of France was offended by the gall of anglo cultural imperialists at The Economist, Moody’s ratings agency downgraded French debt from Aaa to Aa1, citing rigid labor markets and a dearth of innovation.

Glencore and Xstrata fuse into commodities megacorp. Two of the world’s largest mining and commodities concerns are now as one, creating what one paper called “a goliath capable of out-muscling nearly everyone in their field,” with the potential to reshape the mining industry much as mega-mergers changed the oil industry a decade ago. However, investors rejected a $200 million bonus plan that was to be part of the deal, prompting Sir John Bond, the Xstrata chairman who proposed it, to resign.

China, Japan and South Korea want to sell each other more stuff than ever. All three countries agreed to initiate talks for a trilateral free-trade agreement at talks in Phnom Penh, despite tension between them over disputed islands and maritime zones. Talks are also under way about a 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

American builders kick off nearly a million new units. Contra the predictions of many economists, US housing starts were up to 894,000 in October. Tellingly, that growth was driven by multi-family units, while single-family home starts were down 0.2% from September—confirming previous indications that people aren’t ready to invest in standalone houses just yet. Homebuilding is expected to add to US GDP this year for the first time since 2005.

But Bernanke remains glum. This housing recovery is “likely to remain moderate by historical standards,” warned the chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

Buyer for HSBC’s stake in China’s largest insurer: China. HSBC’s 15.6% stake in Ping An may be going to China’s gigantic sovereign wealth fund.

HP’s acquisitions binge yields heartburn. Who hasn’t acquired a $10 billion company and later been forced to write down almost its entire value because of accounting fraud? The $8.8 billion correction in HP’s books caused its stock to tumble 13%. It’s all part of a pattern of overly-aggressive acquisitions which were part of a culture of short-term thinking under HP’s former CEOs, says Quartz’s Simone Foxman.

A funeral for Samsung. The story of Samsung’s victory in the mobile market is best told in charts. But they won’t tell the story of feud within the Lee family, which runs the Samsung empire. It’s gotten so bad, they can’t even be at the same funeral for their patriarchs, reports Quartz’s Euny Hong.

Jail time for rogue trader. The largest unauthorized trade in British history, $2.3 billion, netted former UBS trader Kweku Adoboli a seven-year sentence.

Greek debt talks grind on. Eurozone finance ministers are finding it nearly impossible to make the math work on Greek debt. The country now has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 170%. But the argument over how to bail Greece out is just as much about the IMF’s credibility, says Quartz’s Tim Fernholz.

Australia’s stock market gets a kill switch. Concerned about algorithmic trading, Australia’s federal government has approved a “kill switch” in order to avoid events like the 2010 flash crash of the US stock market.

Quartz obsession interlude

The world is awash in new oil fields such as those in Iraqi Kurdistan, says Quartz’s Steve Levine, but getting the stuff to market is a major obstacle. “Agile companies such as Genel Energy, headed by BP’s former boss, Tony Hayward, are finding other ways out. Genel is using up to 500 trucks a day to ship 75,000 barrels a day of crude from its Taq Taq field north to Turkey, to be picked up by oil traders. Hayward is counting on cutting the costs and raising production by getting a 1-million-barrel-a-day independent pipeline through Turkey by 2014. But a pipeline is risky, since technically speaking Baghdad is in charge of the borders.”

Matters of debate

Israel, Gaza conflict rages. How Hamas’ long-range rockets changed the Middle East. And why this might be the last war in Gaza.

Asia is America’s new best friend. Sorry, Europe, but America has a new best trading and strategic partner: The 50% of the world’s population that lives between the Indian subcontinent and the scattered islands of the Pacific.

Is Windows doomed? The scariest chart in this history of Microsoft’s market share has the Wall Street Journal pointing out that returns on a decade of investment in the company are virtually non-existent. The real culprit: Android.

Elon Musk says Apple will lose. Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, said that Apple is not going to beat Google in the battle for the world’s mobile soul.

The most popular publication in the UK is a supermarket circular? Tesco magazine (sample article: “A beginner’s guide to Twitter“) is now the most popular magazine in the UK, claims Tesco. Unsurprisingly, a not-amused mainstream media is tearing that claim apart.

American heiress Paris Hilton opens a boutique in Mecca. Paris Hilton, a socialite known for lacking both taste and appropriate clothing, has opened a boutique in Mecca that is, in the eyes of local commenters, an insult to Islam.

Surprising discoveries

Spain reduced to selling residency. If you’re ready to buy an apartment worth at least $200,000, Spain will grant you long-term residency. The country is hoping to attract investors from China and Russia.

Looks like all that industrialization was for nothing. Modern container ships now move slower than sailing ships of yore, in order to save fuel.

Pirates lead to worse weather forecasts. An Indian Ocean aswarm with pirates is an Indian Ocean in which scientists can’t gather data about air and water temperatures. As a result, meteorologists are failing to predict major, market-moving shifts in medium-term weather patterns.

Retweeting can now earn you a libel suit. A former Tory politician is suing upwards of 10,000 people who retweeted false claims that he was a child molester. Legal experts say he could win.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, debt downgrades and pirate sightings to hi@qz.com or hit “Reply” to this email.

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