What to watch for today
China’s strong growth, its worst since 1999. The country’s GDP growth is expected to have grown 7.8% year-on-year in the fourth quarter, and 7.7% for 2012 overall. Robust by anyone else’s standards—but for China, the slowest growth in over a decade. Policymakers aren’t expected to push for higher growth in 2013, in part because of fears of rising property prices and over-investment.
Abe to talk China checks. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe finishes a three-country diplomatic tour through Southeast Asia today with a policy speech in Jakarta, Indonesia. He’s expected to unveil his strategy for containing China, “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond,” that relies on deeper ties with Asia’s democracies and the West.
Manufacturing boosts GE’s profitability. The US industrial titan, widely watched because of the worldwide market for its diverse products, reports its fourth-quarter earnings today, and analysts expect higher profits thanks to a tighter focus on its core products after sales of its media division. Then again, it’s also worth remembering that in terms of overall profit, GE is still basically a bank.
More earnings. We’ll also hear fourth-quarter results from Schlumberger, Wipro, Morgan Stanley, State Street and SunTrust Banks.
US consumer sentiment check-in. An index of consumer confidence will let us know how bullish Americans are in the first month of 2013.
While you were sleeping
A bloody raid at the Algerian hostage site… Algerian armed forces attempted a rescue operation at petroleum facility where Islamist militants had seized dozens of hostages, including foreign nationals from Japan, France, the United States and the United Kingdom. Reports are mixed, but some hostages were rescued, others escaped and still others were killed along with militants, while the operation continues. The Algerian government attracted criticism for failing to notify other countries of the raid.
…while the conflict in Mali continues. The Islamist rebels—in whose support the kidnapping in Algeria was supposedly carried out—are thought to be getting closer to the capital, Bamako. The US has agreed to help airlift supplies and troops for the French forces leading an international coalition against the rebels. Where have we heard that before?
His strategies failed, Rio Tinto chief replaced. The world’s second biggest mining company will take $14 billion in writedowns for failed aluminum and coal mining acquisitions led by Tom Albanese, who is to step down as chief executive along with a top lieutenant. Sam Walsh, head of the company’s iron ore business, was named chief executive following the accounting charges for the purchases of Alcan and Riversdale Mining.
US indicators stay positive, boosting stocks. Home construction continued to expand in December, while the number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance dropped, in another sign that the US recovery remains steady. Markets reacted positively, with the S&P 500 closing high at a five-year high.
No more Dreamliners flying. After regulators in India, Europe and Japan followed the US Federal Aviation Administration in grounding Boeing 787 jets over safety problems, Chile’s LAN, Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines all followed suit, thus taking all of the world’s 50 active Dreamliners out of service. All the bad press could cost Boeing in its ongoing rivalry with Airbus.
New protections for US mortgage holders. The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued new rules that make it harder for mortgage servicers to foreclose on homeowners who have stopped paying off their loans. A servicer must now wait until a loan is at least 120 days overdue and give borrowers who miss two consecutive payments alternatives for avoiding foreclosure.
Iraq weighing BP deal. The government is considering a multibillion-dollar deal for BP to redevelop the Kirkuk oil field, though control over it is disputed by the national government and the Kurdish regional government.
Quartz obsession interlude
Naomi Rovnick on the changing economy of North Korea and the prospects of reunification: “North Korea attracted almost $100 million of Chinese investment between 2003-2009, often via Chinese-funded joint ventures….Chinese cash is not enriching most North Koreans yet. But the capital, Pyongyang, has started to seem wealthier, Chosun’s Abrahamian says. Around two years ago, he reports, Pyongyang got a hypermarket that is ‘about the size of a mid-sized Walmart’ and ‘sells relatively modern processed foods such as crackers, fish cakes and long-life bread.’ He has also noticed an increase in cars on the roads of the capital, where three years ago it was rare to see a car. ‘I’ve seen Toyotas,’ he says. ‘And even a couple of traffic jams.'” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Citi’s biggest strength is its biggest weakness. After poor fourth-quarter results, the megabank may be regretting its global emphasis.
Tim Geithner defends his response to the crisis. The outgoing US Treasury Secretary explains the European and American economic situations in terms of basketball. (Quartz’s news editor would not be pleased.)
Simon Johnson says Geithner did terribly. The IMF’s former chief economist says Geithner helped create, and then failed to fix, the “too-big-to-fail” problem.
The S&P has beaten gold over every 30-year period of history, ever. A righteous rant against the goldbugs.
A twitter spat between Estonia’s president and Nobel economist Paul Krugman will become an opera. Who says high culture is dead?
American Airlines updates its aesthetic. Or as it’s called in the business, its “livery.”
We can learn about internet fame from the Red Baron. World War I German fighter aces make the case for achievement.
What it’s like to live in the International Space Station. Take a tour with the outgoing commander.