Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Japanese cars, Taiwanese trade, Karzai, fusbands

January 6, 2013
January 6, 2013

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for Monday

More bad news for Japan’s car makers. Analysts are expecting the fourth straight month of decline in Japanese domestic auto sales. In November they were down by 3.3% over the same period of the previous year. The decline in sales has been blamed on the end of subsidies for fuel-efficient cars, and adds to the woes of car makers already hit by falling exports because of a Japan-China diplomatic dispute. The fresh data come as word emerged that Toyota—Asia’s largest car maker—plans to hold off on building new factories for the next three years.

Reading Taiwan’s export tea-leaves. Smartphone geeks will parse December export data on electrical components for an update on trends in mobile device sales. In the fall of last year, Taiwan producers benefitted from a jump in stateside sales of such new products, including the iPhone 5. In November however, export growth slowed.

Draghi speaketh—in semi-secret. European Central Bank president Mario Draghi will speak about  “the political shape of the new Europe” in Berlin at 7:30 p.m. CET. The discussion will be held under Chatham House rules and no transcript will be published recounting the conversation at the conference, which is sponsored by German newspaper Die Welt. But it comes ahead of the ECB’s first rate decision of 2013, due Thursday Jan. 10.

Karzai comes to Washington. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is set to meet with President Obama in Washington early this week, as the US weighs whether to leave fewer troops than considered earlier after it pulls out of Afghanistan in 2014, as well as how quickly to bring home the 66,000 service personnel it currently has there.

While you were sleeping

Assad rallied supporters. Syrian President Bashar Assad delivered a defiant speech at the Opera House in central Damascus on Jan. 6, rallying his followers and characterizing the nation’s civil war as a battle against Islamic extremists and foreigners. He also proposed a national reconciliation conference, new elections and a new constitution, although he stressed that he was willing to hold a dialogue only with those “who have not betrayed Syria.”

Obama looked set to tap Hagel as SecDef.  The New York Times reports that Obama has settled on former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, as his nominee for Secretary of Defense. If put forward Hagel, a veteran of the US war in Vietnam, may face stiff opposition from former Republican colleagues who think his positions on issues such as Israel and Iran are too dovish.

Global bank regulators eased rules on safe assets. In a boon for banks, regulators from the Basel Committee announced that rules defining the safe and easy-to-sell assets they would have to hold will be more flexible than expected and won’t be fully enforced until 2019, four years later than initially proposed. Under the looser rules banks will be able to count some kinds of stocks and securitized mortgage debt towards their required holdings of “safe” assets.

Grab your skates. It looks like there’s going to be a US hockey season after all, albeit a shortened one. The players union and the National Hockey League reached a tentative deal to end the lockout that has been in place since September. The New York Times reports that an abbreviated season could start as soon as Jan. 15.

Quartz obsession interlude

Naomi Rovnick on how the slumping demand for potash undermines the rationale of investors in commodities who assume Indian and Chinese demand will keep growing: “Indian farmers tend to be extremely poor and their Chinese counterparts are not too wealthy either. They are bound to look for bargain alternatives to potash where they can. Successive food scandals and snafus in China, from poisoned milk to exploding watermelons, provide ongoing evidence of farmers choosing price over quality. China is also cutting back on potash strategically. Earlier this year it delayed new purchases to strengthen its negotiating position with suppliers; it eventually won a huge discount from Canadian producers.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Ignore forecasts. Wall Street got pretty much everything wrong in 2012.

China to get a Jinping jolt. Nicholas Kristof’s case for Xi Jinping as a reformer, contrary to the common view of the new leadership as conservative.

How much government debt is too much? Nobody knows.

The US should repeal the Second Amendment. The latest on the US gun quandary.

The e-book moment is over. Why the printed book is proving resilient.

Surprising discoveries

Twitter doesn’t play nice. The microblogging service is making it tough for researchers to parse massive Tweet troves.

POSSLQs, fusbands, mujeres and baby-daddys. The US still doesn’t know what to call people with unmarried partners.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, and Saharan water rocks to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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