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What to watch for today.
Obama shoots from the lip. Speaking today, the American president tries to rally support for his proposals for stricter gun control, which include stronger background checks and banning assault weapons. Later this week, Democrat senators are expected to introduce a bill backing many of the president’s policies with the exception of the assault-weapon ban.
Mariano Rajoy fights for his political life. Spain’s prime minister is under pressure to resign over allegations that a slush fund channeled secret payments to members of his Popular Party, including Rajoy himself, which he denies. An online petition calling on him to quit had amassed over 800,000 signatures at the time of this writing.
George Osborne gets tough on banks. On the same day that British parliament introduces a banking reform bill aimed at making the sector safer, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer will warn that there will be “no more too big to fail.” Banks that do not ensure adequate safeguards to “ring-fence” retail banking from the riskier investment arm could be forcefully split up.
While you were sleeping
The Ravens won and advertisers made the most of a power outage. The Baltimore Ravens are the 2013 Super Bowl champs (their odds of winning were worse than the chances of the Republican party taking the 2016 presidential election). During an electricity outage in the second half, advertisers, who paid up to $4 million for 30-second spots, took to social media. Tide tweeted, “We can’t get your #blackout, but we can get your stains out.”
Panasonic stocks soared on unexpected profits. The Japanese electronics-maker shot up by nearly 17% before circuit-breakers stopped trading on its stock. Panasonic’s net income was ¥61 billion ($658 million) for the last quarter of 2012 thanks to staff cuts and a weak yen. The firm is still on track to make a full-year loss of ¥765 billion.
Stocks in Iraq’s biggest post-war IPO surged on day one. Shares in Asiacell, Iraq’s biggest mobile-phone firm, closed 10% higher—the maximum permitted—within a few hours of trading this morning. The IPO, offering 25% of Asiacell, closed on Feb. 2 with foreigners buying 70% of the shares. Its effect on trading will be interesting: Asiacell’s shares will be worth half the Baghdad stock market.
Iran hinted it’s willing to talk about nukes. But only so long as Washington has “fair and real intentions.”
Blackstone moved closer to investment banking. The giant alternative assets manager acquired an underwriting license, going the way of rivals KKR and Apollo. The move is being seen as an attempt by listed private equity firms to diversify sources of revenue.
Cubans voted. The island held elections for the National Assembly of Popular Power, which meets twice a year and whose candidates are all chosen by the Communist party. Turnout was expected to be around 95%.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steven Chu’s legacy. Tim Fernholz and Christopher Mims argue that the Nobel physics laureate who served as Barack Obama’s first-term energy secretary was little more than a figurehead: “the aspirational vessel into which the nation poured its green energy hopes.” However, Steve LeVine argues that Chu “may eventually be seen as the most consequential person to hold the post since it was created in the 1970s,” having seeded centers for research and innovation in energy and materials science that could potentially drive a US economic revival.
Matters of debate
America needs more babies. The country’s falling fertility rate threatens to pitch it over a “demographic cliff” of rising welfare costs, declining innovation and dwindling power (paywall).
Is the “Great Rotation” a fairytale? Evidence for a rush out of bonds and into stocks, taken as a sign of better economic prospects, is thin.
Saving Cyprus could mean funding Russian oligarchs. Angela Merkel faces a tough choice in the Mediterranean.
The world should learn from the Nordic countries. Their government services are expensive, but at least they work.
The remains of King Richard III. Scientists said a skeleton dug up under a parking lot is indeed the remains of the reviled 15th-century monarch, resolving a 500-year-old mystery over the former king’s whereabouts.
Burkas for babies? La, say Saudis. Twitterati in the desert kingdom ridiculed a cleric who argued that even baby girls should be fully covered to protect their modesty.
Bush and Blair didn’t lie about WMDs. They were just wrong.
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