Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—Gay marriage, Virgin Media, tiny car, bored with Facebook

February 6, 2013
February 6, 2013

What to watch for today

WalMart de México reports earnings. Will they reflect the bribery scandal afflicting the company?

German factory orders coming. A bellwether for manufacturing across the continent.

Poland’s central bank probably cuts interest rates. Most analysts are expecting rates to drop from 4.0% to 3.75%, because household spending is slowing.

RBS may be sold off. Vince Cable, Britain’s business secretary, will today suggest that Royal Bank of Scotland be returned to private ownership. The UK bailed out the bank in 2008 owns 82% of it. RBS faces fines of £390 million ($612 million) to American and British authorities for its part in the Libor rate-fixing scandal.

Canadians find out why everything is so expensive. Why are goods sold just miles south of Canadian border towns, in the US, as much as 18% cheaper? Canada’s senate will issue a new report that attempts to explain some fundamental economic principles.

While you were sleeping

Hewlett-Packard’s board is considering breaking up the company. You heard it here first, courtesy Quartz’s newest staff member, Gina Chon.

Britain approved gay marriage; Tories fumed. In a late-night vote, Britain’s lower house of parliament passed a bill allowing gay couples to marry, with 400 MPs in favour to 175 against. In an exceptional rebellion against prime minister David Cameron, who pushed for the measure, 136 of the dissenters were from his own Conservative party.

Let the battle of the media titans commence. Telecoms giant Liberty Media set up a fresh contest with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp with its acquisition of Virgin Media, the UK’s second-largest pay-TV provider, for $23 billion including debt. Liberty boss John Malone’s last skirmish with Murdoch contributed to the consolidation of the US cable TV market.

China will raise the minimum wage. Worried by rising inequality between urban and rural workers, China’s State Council announced a 35-point plan to address the gap. Measures include raising the minimum wage to 40% of average urban salaries and spending more on education and housing.

Video game company Zynga blew away analysts’ estimates. Zynga, the maker of FarmVille and other social games, which boomed and then deflated, eked out a profit, after being expected to lose money.

BRIC creator to retire. Jim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who in 2001 came up with BRIC as an acronym to describe the four major emerging markets and in the process launched a thousand bad headlines, will leave the bank later this year.

Quartz obsession interlude

Naomi Rovnick on how Chinese exporters are getting crushed by banks unwilling to lend. “Back in 2009-2010, these lenders doled out a record 17.5 trillion yuan, under orders to keep the economy motoring despite the global crisis. Local governments began building huge and questionable projects, such as this planned replica of Manhattan, and racked up a lot of debt. The nation’s banking regulator has warned about a pile-up of bad loans so lenders are avoiding all but the largest, government-backed companies.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Companies shouldn’t cut office retreats. They’re essential for cultivating corporate culture.

Most of us are in thrall to a dangerous ideology known as “internet-centrism.” From business and government to the way we run our households and personal lives, many have become convinced that the success of the internet means we should mold all other systems in its image.

Should the US audit the Federal Reserve bank? Senator Rand Paul thinks so, and this time, he might actually get a bill passed that will make his dreams a reality.

East Asia in 2014 = Europe in 1914? China is like Germany under Otto von Bismarck, and its conflict with Japan is a dangerous tinderbox.

Surprising discoveries

Amazon.com becomes a currency manipulator. Amazon has pegged the exchange rate of its new virtual currency, “Amazon Coins”, to the US dollar. But it’s mostly just a way for the company to encourage developers to make more apps for its tablets.

The world’s (new) tiniest car. You may think you’ve seen the world’s tiniest car floating around the internet before, but this is a whole new level of ridiculous.

People are getting bored with Facebook. Americans as a whole are are taking breaks from it, and young people are spending less time on the site.

Best of Quartz Read our most popular recent stories.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments or new-fangled ideologies to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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