Quartz Daily Brief – Americas Edition – Indian FDI, Tesco to quit US, HSBC sells Ping An, sleep-baking

December 5, 2012
December 5, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today:

Britain’s chancellor prepares to explain himself. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will offer his “Autumn Message,” an assessment of the state of the economy, while articulating the policy agenda of Britain’s Conservative government; late yesterday, he leaked plans to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy to blunt criticism of cuts to government welfare programs. Nearby, Ireland’s government will announce its sixth austerity budget in as many years.

Indian lawmakers vote on letting foreign retail chains into the country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants to revive India’s slowing economy by letting foreign retailers such as Wal-mart open stores. Bringing the world’s supermarket giants in could also modernize the nation’s creaky and inefficient agricultural supply chain. But India’s small “mom-and-pop” stores are against the move. And they count for a lot of votes. Some Indian media have predicted the proposal looks set to scrape through.

Can mediators resolve America’s massive marine traffic jam? Employers and unions agreed to begin talks with federal mediators to end strikes that closed the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, an important Pacific gateway to the United States. After eight days of picket lines, global shippers are starting to take notice: some 40% of US-bound marine cargo goes through the twin ports.

Has US business activity gone over the cliff? The US ISM non-manufacturing index, which shows trends in business hiring and investment, is released today. The index has been on an upward trend over the past few months. This may have reversed in November if the fiscal cliff has prompted businesses to postpone orders and delay expansion.

And on that note, our continually-updating US fiscal cliff whiteboard: hastheusgoneoffthefiscalcliff.com, and the latest report on the state of talks between President Obama and America’s conservative opposition.

While you were sleeping:

Red faces at Tesco over US climbdown. The British retailer said it will probably exit its North American business, Fresh & Easy, after setting it up to much fanfare in late 2007, when the US was on the cusp of the Great Recession. The UK company did away with checkout staff at Fresh & Easy, which confused older customers, and built small stores in a land of big box retailers. The chain had aimed to sell mid-priced, healthy produce to price conscious customers, fitting in between Wal-mart and upmarket chains such as Trader Joes, but the market gap was not as wide as Tesco thought. Tim Mason, the executive who spearheaded the US expansion, has quit.

HSBC sold its massive stake in China’s second biggest insurer. The British bank is offloading its $9.4 billion interest in Ping An, an insurer whose shareholders reportedly include outgoing Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s relatives, to Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont. The deal makes sense as HSBC will get a welcome capital boost. HSBC arguably could have got more money for Ping An a year or two ago, before serious concerns about China’s economic slowdown emerged and Chinese company valuations tanked. But selling now is less likely to harm HSBC’s interests in China than it would have done before the nation’s leadership transition.

Cairo crisis continued. There were violent clashes between police and protesters outside the presidential palace. Egyptians are angry about Islamist president Mohamed Morsi’s decision to hold a referendum on a new constitution that takes a controversial stance on women’s rights and suggests religious authorities may hold sway over democratically elected lawmakers.

Quartz obsession interlude: Naomi Rovnick on why China’s consumers are so bullish. “Overall consumer sentiment rose for the second month in a row and one element of it, the readiness to buy durable goods, was at its highest in a year and a half. But their confidence is nowhere near the dizzy highs it reached in 2009-2010, when the Beijing government’s banks were pumping record amounts of credit into the economy to insulate China from the global slowdown. And that should be a clue to what’s actually going on. Confidence is rising simply because the government has put its foot down hard on the stimulus pedal again.” Read more here

Matters of debate:

The perilous drift to intervention in Syria. Are Western powers inching toward involvement in the Middle East’s latest bloody civil war?

India’s new look on the UN Security Council. new pragmatism marks the country’s 2011 return to the highest stage in international diplomacy.

China isn’t going to invade the United States. And other reasons Americans should stop spending so much money on defense.

Reality TV shows aren’t just popcorn for the brain. Apparently, people watching “Survivor” or “Say Yes to the Dress” are having a very deep introspective experience while doing so.

Surprising discoveries:

Some post-Arab Spring nations are now viewed as more corrupt by their people. Egyptians and Tunisians view their public officials as more corrupt now than they did last year, according to Transparency Internationals’ annual survey of perceptions of official graft in 176 countries.

India’s rising demand for domestic help is causing a corresponding rise in domestic human traffickingEconomic growth has a dark side.

What it’s like to watch a day of planes landing at an international airport in just thirty seconds. Pretty cool, actually.

People do much weirder things in their sleep than just talking. The BBC has collected tales from members of the public who claim they have baked quiches, smoked cigars, and shopped online for ski equipment while sound asleep.

The Simpsons is “blasphemous”. So says the Turkish broadcasting watchdog, which has fined a TV channel for “mocking God” by airing a supposedly blasphemous episode of the cartoon show in which God takes orders from the Devil. Humor often does not travel.

The year in photos, 2012: The annual roll-out begins from one of the internet’s best photographic curators.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, feedback and opinions on which reality TV shows are the most psychologically beneficial to hi@qz.com.

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