Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Draghi speaks, foreclosure settlement, table PCs, fusbands

January 7, 2013
January 7, 2013

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for Monday

US banks pay up for turfing people out of their homes. Federal regulators are expected to announce a $10 billion settlement with 14 banks over claims of foreclosure abuse. The banks would extend $6 billion to homeowners behind on their mortgages and in danger of losing their homes, while $3.75 billion would go to 4.4 million people who went through foreclosure in 2009 and 2010.

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.

Obama to nominate Hagel for defense.  US President Barack Obama is expected to nominate former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, for Secretary of Defense. Hagel, a veteran of the US war in Vietnam, may face stiff opposition from former Republican colleagues who think he is too unfriendly to Israel and too soft on Iran. Some officials say the president will also announce his nominee for a new CIA director to replace David Petraeus. Leading candidates are Michael Morell, the acting director, and and John Brennan, counterterrorism and homeland security adviser.

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

Lenovo introduced its table PC. No, that’s not a typo. The Chinese computer maker showed off what it calls the first “interpersonal computer”, a 27-inch touchscreen machine that, laid flat, allows four people to use it together and responds to movements by up to 10 fingers at the same time. Targeted as a gaming device, the IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC runs Windows 8 with a multi-user interface on top, and will come packaged with air hockey paddles, joysticks and “e-dice” that communicate directly with the computer.

Xinhua planning an IPO. The internet news arm of Xinhua, China’s state news agency, has applied to launch a domestic initial public share offering but has not put a size on it.

China resumes nuclear construction. Workers broke ground on the 3 billion yuan ($476 million) nuclear power plant in the coastal province of Shandong, the first since Beijing halted development plans after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. The Shandong plant is to be the first built with “fourth-generation” safety features, and should begin generating power by the end of 2017.

China backed off on yellow lights. The Ministry of Public Security will set aside plans to fine drivers who go through yellow traffic lights and instead issue warnings, after a public outcry over the new rule came into effect last week. Xinhua, the state news agency, said some drivers and netizens had complained that the rules ran “contrary to the laws of physics as vehicles travelling at normal speeds cannot stop within seconds of seeing a yellow light.”

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

Japan tries to play it cool through TV. The government’s “Cool Japan Fund” is supporting the launch of TV channels around Southeast Asia to promote Japanese culture and products, in an attempt to catch up to South Korea’s newfound cultural cachet.

So that’s what a cat burglar is. Brazilian prison guards apprehended a white cat with drill bits, hacksaw blades, a mobile phone and other paraphernalia taped to its body. “It’s tough to find out who’s responsible for the action as the cat doesn’t speak,” one of them explained helpfully to the press.

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 giant tablets to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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