Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—RBS, Virgin Media, Chinese wages, world’s tiniest car

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?

A bill for RBS. The Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to announce a deal with authorities today where it will pay around £400 million ($627 million) in penalties for rigging Libor and other benchmark interest rates.

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 issues a report that attempts to explain some fundamental economic principles.

EU officials talk free trade. The EU trade commissioner meets with his counterparts in Washington and Ottawa to see who wants a free trade deal with the EU.

Poland cuts rates. Poland’s central bank is expected to cut interest rates today, its fourth time in a row. Previously resilient Poland saw its economy slow last year to 2% from 4.3%.

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.

Yen went down, Nikkei shot up. Japan’s main index jumped nearly 4%, hitting a 52-month high. That’s thanks to Bank of Japan boss Masaaki Shirakawa’s announcement that he’ll step down early. A plummeting yen, now at its lowest in nearly three years, also helped.

Southeast Asia’s biggest lender missed quarterly earnings estimates. Singapore-based DBS Bank reported net profit of S$760 million (US$614m), missing an average of analysts’ expectations of S$795 million. DBS’ CEO wasn’t too bothered, predicting business from China would turn things around in the new year.

Let the battle of the media titans commence. Telecoms giant Liberty Global 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.

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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