Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Mixed readings from manufacturers. A day of global announcements of purchasing manager survey results began with South Korea and Taiwan each breaking above the 50-point mark that separates contraction from expansion, for the first time in at least six months. Vietnam however fell below the 50 point mark and Indonesia also reported a decline while Australia remained at 44.3. Results for the US, India and many European and Latin American economies are due out later.
While you were sleeping
The US fiscal cliff showdown was resolved…for a few weeks. Republican lawmakers abandoned a last-minute push to add spending cuts to the bill passed by the US Senate to unwind large government budget cuts and tax hikes scheduled to go into effect as of Jan. 1. The House of Representatives passed the bill around 11p.m. by a 257-167 vote, with Democrats overwhelmingly backing the bill but only one-third of Republicans in favor. The bill now goes to the president to be signed into law, averting major recessionary pressures the fiscal cliff would have triggered. But the final deal, which enshrines higher tax rates for couples with taxable household income above $450,000, mostly defers rather than resolves some of the biggest underlying issues. The president and Congress now have less than two months to work out agreements to raise the debt ceiling and to address the budget cuts postponed in the compromise bill. It’s unclear whether US financial markets will rally significantly on the news today, given the lingering budget issues and US stocks’ significant Dec. 31 gain.
Singapore averted recession. The Southeast Asian city-state reported higher than expected economic growth in the fourth quarter, with output rising an annualized 1.8% from the previous period when it had contracted by a revised 6.3%. Overall, GDP rose 1.2% for the year, less than one-fourth of 2011’s pace. The prime minister this week forecast 2013 growth of 1%-3%, as a “new phase” of slower expansion takes root.
Hyundai targeted slower growth. South Korea’s Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors aim to increase global sales by 4% this year, which would mark their slowest growth in a decade and equate to half their sales growth in 2012. The strengthening won is hurting the companies, but they have gained share in China as tensions between Beijing and Tokyo have hurt Japanese carmakers in the market.
Quartz obsession interlude
Gideon Lichfield on how the deal to address the fiscal cliff only delays the crisis. “Let’s be very clear: this deal is by no means a solution to the longer-term goal (paywall) of reducing the deficit by $3-$4 trillion over 10 years. It’s not even really a solution to the fiscal cliff itself. It merely puts off some decisions.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Switzerland’s babies have the best chances in life. Boring stability helps make it the best country in the world to be born in. (If you’re not Swiss, you can consult The Economist’s full global rankings to see how much of a disadvantage you’ve afflicted on any offspring.)
Anorexic fashion models should be illegal. Attempting to fight eating disorders, Israel just made it a crime for models with a body mass index below 18.5 to appear in media or fashion shows.
Anonymity online is a basic human right. And users should be required to opt in before Internet companies can track them.
The party is over for Silicon Valley startups. Time to forego purchasing cute T-shirts with company logos and limit spending to salaries.
Architecture piracy in China. An unauthorized copy of a design by star architect Zaha Hadid could be completed before the original Beijing building itself is finished.
Some three-quarters of the world’s heads of state are now on Twitter, double the proportion two years ago, according to a survey by the Digital Policy Council. US President Barack Obama has the most followers, with 25 million, followed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez with 3.5 million.
Hong Kong’s “BMW syndrome.” The “blame my wife” syndrome is in the news after a series of officials blamed their spouses for personal scandals involving apparent violations of property regulations, or conflicts of interest in their real estate dealings.
US prosecutors last week seized a Tyrannosaurus skeleton worth more than $1 million. It and five other dinosaur skeletons will be returned to the Mongolian government.
China’s new commemorative coins feature an aircraft carrier on them, while euro currency out later this year will bear the image of a tragic princess.
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