Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Mixed readings from manufacturers. A day of global announcements of purchasing manager survey results for December includes the UK, South Korea and Taiwan, with each breaking above the 50-point mark that separates contraction from expansion, for the first time for each in at least six months. The US is also expected to cross the midline after reporting its worst number in three years in November. The results for euro zone manufacturers were less promising, however, with production shrinking in December.
Pennsylvania to sue over university sanctions. Governor Tom Corbett will announce the filing of a federal antitrust lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association over the $60 million fine it imposed on Penn State after last year’s child sex abuse scandal. The fine will finance child abuse prevention programs nationally.
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 11pm 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 (paywall) 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 (paywall) whether US financial markets will rally significantly on the news today, given the lingering budget issues and US stocks’ significant Dec. 31 gain.
Portugal budget to get constitutional review. President Aníbal Cavaco Silva said he was sending the budget, which he signed earlier this week, to the Constitutional Court as it didn’t treat citizens fairly. The budget contains heavy tax increases to meet the terms of the country’s €78 billion bailout.
India urged less gold buying. Finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said “Demand for gold must be moderated” to reduce imports after the country’s current account deficit reached a record high as a share of gross domestic product, with gold accounting for much of the gap. India has been the world’s largest gold importer, but China is expected to have surpassed it last year. Indian gold imports declined 30% between April and September from a year earlier after the government raised taxes on gold, but Chidambaram said those fees could be raised further.
Macau casino revenues up 13.5%. The world’s largest casino market closed the year with its best month ever, but growth this year is expected to fall to 5%-10% with no new casinos opening, new anti-smoking regulations coming into effect, slower growth in China, and tightened scrutiny of money transfers.
CAR rebels halt advance. Rebel forces in the Central African Republic said they would halt their approach to the country’s capital and start peace talks. The rebels say President Francois Bozize reneged on an earlier peace deal, but other African governments have sent troops in to support the government.
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 country’s strengthening currency 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).
The World Bank’s finance arm, the International Finance Corp., is focused primarily on profit, not alleviating poverty.
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.
Can America be fixed, asks Fareed Zakaria.
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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