Quartz Daily Brief – Americas Edition – AIG, Bharti Infratel, Mali crisis, teenagers without Facebook

December 11, 2012
December 11, 2012

Good morning Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

More Operation Stimulus in the US. The US Federal Reserve is expected to announce more monetary easing at a two-day policy meeting beginning today. The Fed’s Operation Twist, where short-term treasuries were swapped for long-term debt, expires this month.

Treasury exits AIG shares. The latest deal in what has to be American bankers’ favorite bailout ever is likely to be the US Treasury selling a sixth and final tranche of the shares it acquired in the insurer as part of the $182.3 billion bailout in 2008. This follows yesterday’s news that AIG is offloading its aircraft leasing division to Chinese buyers.

Warnings of a US recession. Trade data from the US are expected to show that the US trade deficit widened to $42 billion in October, from $41.5 billion the month before. Combined with the looming “fiscal cliff” of tax raises and spending cuts, a worsening trade gap could help push the economy into a recession, bears warn.

While you were sleeping: 

Big Indian IPO looked set to succeed. Bharti Infratel, a telecom tower provider that is part of the blue chip Bharti Airtel, has launched a $715 million IPO on Indian exchanges. It will be one of the country’s biggest initial public offerings in two years, and while subscriptions are not yet closed, it looks likely to be popular with retail investors. The deal’s progress will be viewed as a bellwether for investor sentiment in India generally. The nation’s economy is stalling due to high inflation and bureaucratic paralysis. But there are multiple ways for it to recover. A policy induced slowdown in a fast growing nation might be reversible.

Disappointing Philippines data. A government report was expected to show that exports in the Philippines expanded for the second month in a row. In fact, export growth slowed in October and the government has lowered its forecast for the year. It shows economic predictions in the South East Asian archipelago can be as unreliable as its weather forecasting. Nonetheless, the country has been doing well. Its economy grew 7.1% over the three months up to September, the fastest rate in two years.

Diageo backed away from Cuervo. The British drinks giant was expected to buy the Tequila brand but has now ended acquisition talks and will exit a contract it had to distribute the drink outside of Mexico. It is widely speculated that Diageo will now go hunting for a new tequila name.

Venezuela might need a new president. Venezeulan president Hugo Chávez flew to Cuba for surgery. While he vowed, Terminator-style, “I’ll be back,” he spoke openly for the first time of his possible successor.

Mali crisis deepened. The West African country’s prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, has resigned. He was possibly forced to. Hours before, he was arrested by the soldiers who seized power in a military coup in March. The military has denied this is another coup d’etat. Diarra’s resignation comes days after the Mali government sat down for peace talks with secular separatists and a group linked to Al Qaeda that have been fighting for control of Mali’s deeply unsettled Northern region. In places they have captured, the Islamists are banning music, which in the homeland of Amadou and Mariam and Ali Farka Touré is extremely sad.

 Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on UN anti-terror sanctions on charcoal exports from Somalia. “Dozens of empty boats are waiting. Five thousand workers are waiting. Most importantly, four million sacks of charcoal, worth some $40 million, are waiting for the United Nations to lift a charcoal embargo imposed on Somalia, one of the world’s most troubled countries… While economic sanctions like these have become part of the modern way of war… when replacing bullets with bank bans, the human costs become harder to count.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Rules coming in now for banks could have prevented the financial crisisIt is a shame regulators did not think of them before.

The outcome of this Japanese election might actually matterPoliticians are generally seen as weak caretakers of a stagnating economy. But the Liberal Democratic Party, which is likely to emerge from the December 16 elections as Japan’s largest, seems to have found a new lease on life.

China faces de-industrialization. Only two years after China became the world’s factory, the country is scaling back on manufacturing because of rising labor wages, political unrest, and waning foreign investment.

In 18 years, China will be the world’s no. 1 economy but the US will still lead. study from the National Intelligence Council predicts that China will pass the US in economic power by 2030 but an energy-independent US will continue to be a major world leader.

Apple’s demise would be better for everyone. Apple tablets are dumbing down society, the company spreads misinformation about the state of US entrepreneurship based on its stock price, and it does a host of other evil, insidious things, complains a columnist for the Asia Times who opens with the unequivocal “I hate Apple.”

Surprising discoveries

Asia’s delightfully old-fashioned bond markets are going electronicAutomated trading is gaining popularity in some markets. How quaint.

Qatar is bankrolling Islamic radicals that the neighboring UAE is jailing. That is worrying for the US, which wants the Gulf nations politically united, mostly to support its stance on Iran.

December 11th is the most fertile day of the year in the UK. Sept. 16 is the most common birthday, according to Lovehoney, Britain’s largest online retailer of sex toys, making Dec. 11 something of a national day of conception.

Teenagers who cannot access Facebook enjoy their lives. This school in Vermont (video) cuts teenagers off from mobile phones and heavily restricts their internet access. Instead of taking to car jacking, they say getting outside and participating in activities is more fun than refreshing their Facebook page all day.

If the world ends on Dec. 21 we’ll never know whether cleaner desks help productivity. A team of scientists conducted a tongue-in-cheek assessment of  how the obliteration of the human race, as predicted by some based on the Mayan calendar, would affect clinical trials. The conclusion is not so surprising: it would be bad.Here are Quartz’s suggestions for how to see in the non-apocalypse.

The world in your eye. A Belgian team of researchers at Ghent University have built an LCD screen onto a contact lens. Eventually the lens could be used to function as sunglasses or even act as a way to access the internet. So far, all the device does is flash a dollar sign.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, designs for dollar-sign contact lenses, or what you’ll be doing the night before Dec. 21 to hi@qz.com or hit “Reply” to this email. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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