Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—US hiring, Gulf rig settlement, Al Jazeera, Depardievsky

January 3, 2013
January 3, 2013

What to watch for today

US jobs nudge upwards. The first official estimate of unemployment in the final month of 2012 will be released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; economists expect a moderate increase of 140,000 net jobs. Strong performance might be a nice capstone for the past year, but the economy is still wobbly and could be dented by continued spending cuts and political wrangling post-fiscal-cliff.

All you ever wanted to know about global services. In Europe, India and the United States, surveys will offer a snapshot of recent economic activity in the increasingly important non-industrial sector, building on positive news from China, where a surge in activity is boosting growth.

Brazilian economists expect industry to shrink. Today the country’s government will release statistics on industrial production in Nov. 2012; with forecasters calling the downturn, speculators expecting more government stimulus drove down interest-rate swaps.

An Australian heatwave. The country’s meteorologists expect record temperatures across the country, including 41ºC in Melbourne.

While you were sleeping

Indian tax authorities seized $5 billion in bills of exchange from a man’s Chennai home. They worry that the bills, issued by Barclay’s Bank and reportedly intended to finance an oil refinery, may be part of a scam. Maybe he just wanted to avoid the bank fees?

The owner of the rig responsible for the Gulf Oil spill will pay $1.4 billion. The settlement, between the US Department of Justice and Transocean, Ltd., woud end civil and criminal inquiries into the incident that resulted in 11 deaths and widespread environmental damage.

Iraq’s biggest IPO since the US invasion. Asiacell, a mobile phone operator,  began raising at least $1.35 billion by floating 25% of its share capital on the Baghdad market in the first major IPO since the 2003 US-led invasion. Qatar Telecom holds a majority stake in the profitable company, which claims to have a 43% market share by revenue and 9.9 million subscribers. The subscription period ends in February.

Settling anti-trust probe, Google finds an unexpected ally. Google’s long-awaited settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was just released, and it’s mostly as expected: Google avoids an antitrust suit and patent regulation by making some changes to its business practices. But in a somewhat unexpected twist, the FTC offered a full-throated defense of Google’s practice of promoting its own services over competitors like Yelp on certain search results pages, saying the practice benefits consumers.

Formal charges brought in the India gang-rape and murder case. Police asked for the death penalty after accusing five men of gang rape, murder, kidnapping, criminal assault and robbery in the case of a 23-year-old woman who was attacked by a group of men on a bus in New Delhi and died days later of her injuries. A sixth defendant will be tried in juvenile court. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in a case that has cast an ugly light on the state of sexual harassment and the feebleness of the justice system in India, and provoked violent protests.

Meet the new US Congress, again. It’s basically the same leadership, but we hope a newly inaugurated Congress with slightly more Democrats and slightly more discord in the House Republican caucus can do a better job resolving the next American fiscal deadline. The new intake also includes Congress’s first-ever Buddhist, first-ever fluent Chinese speaker, and, extraordinarily, first member ever to register her religious affiliation as “none.” A vote on reforming the Senate filibuster, a procedural tool used by opposition parties to block action on legislation, has been pushed back to later in the month.

Is the Fed getting anxious about easing? The US Federal Reserve Bank released the minutes of its lastest meeting, held on Dec. 11, 2012, where members fretted about the state of the economy in 2013 and how best to support it. Some of the Fed’s policymakers seem to be getting uneasy about prolonged quantitative easing, argues Quartz’s Simone Foxman—or maybe that’s just what they’d like you to think.

Al Jazeera bought Current TV. The Qatar-based cable news company bought Current TV, a struggling cable channel founded by former US vice president Al Gore. Al Jazeera, which has struggled to get US distribution for its English-language channel, will launch a new US channel via Current TV, but Time Warner Cable, a key distributor for Current TV, said it was dropping the channel “as quickly as possible.” The deal, which analysts valued at up to $500 million, should still expand Al Jazeera’s reach from 5 million to 40 million US homes.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on how multinational CEOs adroitly navigated the fiscal cliff to their advantage: “Major business leaders joined the White House in media events to pressure Congress to raise income taxes and make a fiscal cliff deal in search of corporate tax reform that would make it easier for multinational corporations to move money around. They got two major elements of that in the extenders. A provision allows US companies operating overseas to convert “passive” profits like interest payments and rents into lower-tax “active” investment vehicles, largely benefitting financial services companies or industrials, like GE, with major financial units. Another provision allows tech and pharmaceutical companies to move intellectual property to subsidiaries in low-taxed or no-tax countries. These are the kinds of rules that allow companies like Pfizer and Google to pay low taxes, and recently attracted public censure for Starbucks in the United Kingdom.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Should the central bank be a central planner? What the Fed really needs is a US sovereign wealth fund.

Do professors even need universities anymore? Freelance academics might be the future of education.

America’s banks are black boxes. What kind of regulation could make these behemoths comprehensible to average customer or investor?

The case for currency wars. Just not trade wars. You can tell the difference, right?

Surprising discoveries

Smaug the Dragon is a monetary phenomenon. A macroeconomic analysis of The Hobbit. 

Gérard Depardievsky? The actor, who renounced his French citizenship in favor of Belgium to avoid his country’s high taxes, is now a citizen of Russia too.

A new ground-based location system could make GPS work indoors. The military is excited, and so are robots.

A French ISP is automatically blocking online ads. The tech update boggled consumer minds, but could inspire ire among content creators.

And a reminder: Quartz is hiring. As we expand in 2013, we’re looking for a new corporate reporter and science/technology writer. Tell your journalist friends.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, and $5 billion in bills of exchange to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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