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What to watch for today
The European Central Bank does its best not to spook anyone… The ECB is expected to announce that euro zone interest rates will remain at a record low of 0.75%, but there are jitters ahead of its meeting. Berlusconi is back, and France and Germany disagree on how strong the euro should be
.…While 28 European leaders try to agree on a budget. After failed talks in November, when Britain and Germany pushed for a cut of about 10% in the EU’s trillion-euro budget for 2014-2020, a fresh two-day summit starts in Brussels today of the 27 EU countries plus Croatia, which joins this summer. Like any good compromise, this week’s meeting, which will probably end with cuts to both agricultural subsidies and growth-enhancing measures, will leave everybody unhappy.
An interrogator gets interrogated. John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for head of the CIA, faces a grilling in the Senate today. As the president’s counter-terrorism advisor, Brennan (a drone apologist, according to some) increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and has never been coy about supporting “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Britain’s new central banker drops by for a chat. Mark Carney, presently governor of the Bank of Canada and due to take over at the Bank of England in July, will appear before the Treasury select committee. As the bank takes on its additional role of financial regulator, Carney, the first foreigner to fill the post, will become the most powerful central banker England has ever seen.
We find out how much US consumers borrowed in December. November saw the biggest jump in ten years; was consumer confidence sustained?
While you were sleeping
Swiss banks slugged it out. After arch-rival UBS reported losses this week, Credit Suisse posted lower-than-expected fourth-quarter net profit of 397 million Swiss francs ($435 million), missing an average forecast of 645 million francs. The two banks have followed opposing strategies since the financial crisis, with UBS winding down its riskier fixed-income business while Credit Suisse has kept its going.
India downgraded itself. India’s Central Statistical Office said GDP growth for the year ending in March 2013 will be a meager 5%, the lowest in a decade and far below already bearish forecasts of 5.5%. India grew at 6.2% in the previous financial year.
The bank formerly known as Anglo-Irish was liquidated. In an emergency midnight session of parliament Irish lawmakers voted to liquidate the former Anglo Irish bank, now known as Irish Bank Resolution Corporation. The move is part of an attempt to lighten the country’s massive debt burden. Ireland is angling for a deal with the ECB to replace €28 billion promissory notes, expensive IOUs, with long-term government bonds.
Japanese stocks continued bouncing around. They’re up, they’re down, they’re up, hey they’re back down again. After hitting dizzying heights yesterday, the Nikkei closed 0.9% lower as traders booked profits and Nikon’s outlook weakened. One analyst thinks the market could climb 10% in the next three months, but it’ll be a bumpy ride.
American skies got a little friendlier. American Airlines and US Airways, the fourth- and fifth-largest flyers in the US, will merge. With a combined passenger traffic of 170 million, the new entity will be the world’s largest airline.
Quartz obsession interlude
Ritchie King on the drug company that doesn’t worry about patents. “GSK’s Advair inhaler (called Seretide in most of Europe and India)—used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—lost its patent at the end of 2010. Ordinarily, a cheaper, generic version of a patented drug comes out shortly after the patent expires… The reason Advair has been immune to a takeover of generics is that, unlike a basic chemical pill, it’s extremely difficult to mimic.”Read more here.
Matters of debate
Is China is trying to end a conflict in Myanmar so it’s no longer beholden to the US Navy? The Strait of Malacca is the choke point for 80% of China’s imported oil, but if Beijing can just end the standoff between the government and rebels in Myanmar, it can get that oil via a pipeline.
Is it time to puncture the mystique of banking? Regulators treat banks as if they’re special, but they’re just like any other business, argue Anat Admati & Martin Hellwig.
The solution to climate change is European-style vacations. Well, maybe not the flying-off-to-Ibiza part, just the part where everyone works less.
America is doomed, doomed. Some cheerful lessons learned from the US Postal Service’s attempt at reforms.
The real threat to your online accounts isn’t Chinese hackers. It’s your significant other.
China is wrestling with gay marriage, but not the kind you’re thinking of. A rising tide of “fake” marriages between women and gay Chinese men has led to a lively debate.
The most common job for women in the US is the same one it was in 1950. Back then they were called secretaries—today, administrative assistants.
It’s e day. Not that e. If you’ve ever calculated compound interest, you’ve used Euler’s Number. And now it has its own day.
Are condoms too big for Indian men? That may explain the 1.2 billion people.
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