What to watch for today
Some American ideas for gun safety. President Barack Obama will present proposals for reducing gun violence developed by Vice President Joe Biden in the wake of December’s school massacre. They include closing loopholes that allow gun buyers to avoid background checks—a move that would have widespread support—as well as various measures Obama could take without consulting Congress, which would oppose many of them. The announcement comes just after the state of New York passed new restrictions on guns.
Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan announce decent earnings. The two banking giants post fourth quarter results today. Goldman is expected to announce big profit gains, despite thinning trading volumes, because of a strong investment banking division and due to cutting jobs and costs. JP Morgan should show strength, but today’s focus will likely be on whether the bank chooses to release an internal report on its “London Whale” trading disaster.
US homebuilders get more confident. A key housing market index is expected to show builders increased confidence again this month. December’s reading was the highest since April 2006. Optimism has surged back into the North American housing industry thanks to an increase in home loans brought about by government purchases of mortgage-backed securities.
More data from the US. Forecasters expect US inflation for 2012 to be at 1.8%, slightly below the Fed’s target, after a mildly deflationary December. The Fed will also release its Beige Book, a collection of anecdata about the US economy.
While you were sleeping
More misery for Boeing. Japan’s All Nippon Airways, the first airline to send a Boeing 787 Dreamliner into the skies, has grounded its 17 Dreamliners after one was forced to make an emergency landing. Japan Airlines has reportedly followed suit. US and Japanese regulators are already looking into the Dreamliner’s safety, after years of well-documented problems.
Luxembourg says euro stinks. European stocks are dropping after Luxembourg’s prime minister said the strength of the euro threatens the region’s economies. It does not take much to unsettle European investors these days. For those who are unfamiliar with Luxembourg, it is a tiny banking secrecy haven wedged between France, Belgium and Germany, has a GDP of less than $60 billion and, aside from finance, is best known for its declining steel industry.
Is Syria’s Bashar Assad using chemical weapons on his people? The State Department now believes so, according to a leaked report. This news comes on the heels of reports that explosions have torn through Syrian universities, killing over 80 people on the day exams began. More than 50 countries have urged the UN to refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court. But Russia, Assad’s main backer and Syria’s longtime arms supplier, blocked the initiative.
China tells Beijingers to be “patient” with smog. Though the level of smog particles in the air has fallen more than five-fold from its record-breaking high on Jan 12, incoming premier Li Keqiang has asked for patience in resolving the problem, though he did not offer specific plans. Even China’s tightly controlled state media have commented on the choking atmosphere, with the China Daily saying the nation’s capital is becoming better known for the “Beijing cough” than for Peking Opera or Peking Duck.
French troops moved further into Mali. French tanks have headed out from the African country’s capital, Bamako, to an area captured by Islamist rebels. The US shares France’s fear that Mali could become another outsized hub for Al Qaeda attacks on Europe, and possibly North America.
Quartz obsession interlude
Gwynn Guilford on China’s questionable trade data. “If the problem is big enough for the government to acknowledge, surely the preponderance of fake invoicing means that China is edging into the danger zone, right? Nah, argue Martin Kessler and Nicholas Borst of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. There is a crucial distinction between round-tripping designed to game taxes and the sort of capital flight that reflects a ‘sell’ rating on the Chinese economy. The difference is crucial.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
It’s too early to canonize Mario Draghi. Sure, he helped stop the European financial crisis, but what about that recession?
China may have lost Myanmar. The country’s new leaders are turning to the West (paywall), which is bad news for China.
Why does Japan’s suicide rate remain so high? It could be unemployment, or lack of a religious doctrine telling them not to do it.
If you can’t get into a top-5 MBA program, don’t even bother. On the plunging value of the MBA.
A Dell leveraged buyout could make it this year’s tech success story. It starts with Dell killing off its most successful business.
Xi Jinping’s stated corruption crackdown has not depressed China’s luxury goods sales. Perhaps it is all talk.
Brazilian shower habits are a leading indicator of economic trouble. The country’s over-leveraged middle class—and their expensive grooming habits—spell trouble.
Barnacles have really unique sex lives. They can capture sperm directly from water, for example.
Some tricky questions for Lance Armstrong’s biggest backer. How much did legendary Silicon Valley banker Thomas Weisel know about drug use in cycling—and did he try to bribe an official of the International Cycling Union?
China busted 670 secret gun manufacturers and distributors last year. They also seized 2,780 tonnes of explosives during the crackdown, which seems like a lot.
Vegan food can be really unhealthy, as all this animal-friendly junk shows.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, questionable trade data or suggestions for helping Beijingers survive the smog to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.