Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Amazon earnings, Indian rate cut, North Korean maps, new Microsoft Office

January 29, 2013
January 29, 2013

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Amazon, Santa’s little helper. The online retailer’s fourth-quarter earnings should show a spike due to the holiday shopping season. But while analysts expect revenue to climb 28% year-on-year, they think profits will fall 26%. They’ll also be looking out for news about the company’s foray into advertising.

The US Federal Reserve kicks off a two-day pow-wow. At the Fed’s last monthly meeting, some members of its Open Markets Committee questioned whether continued quantitative easing to stimulate the economy might have unintended consequences. But others argue that the Fed will likely keep buying bonds, keeping the spigot of easy money open.

Obama outlines his immigration plan. The US president will present his much-awaited plan a day after senators put forward similar proposals that would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and some foreign students in exchange for more stringent border controls between the US and Mexico. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the speech.

And the Word is… Office 2013 coming today. Microsoft hinted at a launch of the latest version of its productivity software with a coy tweet: “Imagine, more time to do the things you want.” The new Office is designed in line with the Windows 8 operating system and will support swiping, pinching and dragging, if you use a touchscreen.

While you were sleeping

Capital returned to the PIIGS. Nearly €100 billion in private money returned to the European countries hardest hit by economic pressure—Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, suggesting increased confidence in official efforts to end Europe’s financial crisis.

Draghi paid Milan a visit. Head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi visited Italy’s finance minister to discuss escalating problems at the Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena. A parliamentary hearing will be held today for the 500-year-old bank at the center of an emerging derivatives scandal.

India’s central bank offered up a little—very little—cheer. The Reserve Bank of India cut the rate at which it lends to banks by 25 basis points to 7.75%, the first such measure in nine months. It also reduced the amount that commercial banks have to park in their accounts, freeing up $3.4 billion for lending.

Egypt warned the country could collapse. Egypt’s army chief warned on his Facebook page that the country’s current political crisis could lead to “a collapse of the state” that would threaten future generations. More than 50 people have died in protests begun last week.

Japan lifted a ban on American beef. The Japanese government has lifted a decade-old restriction on imports of US cows over 20 months old over concerns of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad-cow disease. It’s a move that is unpopular with the public but could win its new leader Shinzo Abe a better trade deal with the US.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on why America’s elite universities may not be admitting future leaders, like New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. “All colleges want to be ranked as highly as possible. Rankings are calculated using a methodology that relies on factors such as the test scores of the students it admits, its retention rate, its graduation rate, its academic reputation, how much money it has… but not the quality of the graduates it produces. In short, the rankings evaluate the past performance of a college’s students, but not their future.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Is killing people ever not wrong? A Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan asks whether the killings he carried out there can ever be ethically justified.

The US minimum wage may be too low. Many American states certainly think so—and they’re doing something about it.  

Boeing will find it hard to overcome the Dreamliner fiasco. People have become too used to products, including planes, that work well the first time.

A perfect storm is brewing in the debt market. Too much debt chasing too-low yields could set the stage for a blow-up.

Surprising discoveries

Iran may have sent a monkey into space, which would explain why it’s slowing its nuclear program.

Sea foam blanketed a stretch of beach in Australia after last week’s tropical cyclone.

The secret lives of North Koreans. Britain’s ambassador from 2006-08 describes his time there. Meanwhile, Google has started populating its maps in the hermit kingdom.

Old Navy is actually considered stylish in super-cool Sweden.

Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting this year will be capped off with a five-kilometer run.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, space-monkey sightings and Old Navy cast-offs to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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