Quartz Daily Brief—North Korean nuke, shopping on Twitter, Obama speech, canned air

February 12, 2013
February 12, 2013

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

POTUS’ SOTU! President Obama will deliver his 2013 State of the Union (SOTU) address Tuesday evening, which sets out his government’s policy agenda for the year. He’s expected to spotlight gun control, climate change and immigration in the speech.

Barclays posts earnings. But more importantly, the British bank’s new chief, Antony Jenkins, will trot out his strategic review, known somewhat grandly as “Project Transform”. Will it counterbalance the recent flow of bad news for the bank, including—but not limited to—the Libor rate-rigging scandal and new allegations of murky relationships with Qatari investment vehicles?

Mario Draghi speaks in Spain. The European Central Bank (ECB) president will address the parliament and meet with embattled Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy. The men may talk about aid for Spain via the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transaction program, under which the ECB would buy Spanish government bonds. Spain’s borrowing costs have fallen sharply in financial markets, however, so it might not be asking for help after all.

Coca-Cola’s fourth quarter results. The beverage giant delivers fourth-quarter results before the start of US trading. Watch out for the company’s volumes in China. During the third quarter they only rose 2%, slowing sharply from the 11% gain seen in Q3 of 2011.

Fat Tuesday. Rio’s Carnival 2013 winds down today—Happy mardi gras. Also known as Shrove or Pancake Tuesday, it precedes Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the more sober Lenten season.

While you were sleeping

Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon. North Korea’s neighbors registered seismic activity that they say was probably caused by a 10-kiloton nuclear test. A “scientific” rocket launch by North Korea in December was widely thought to be a disguised missile test and faced condemnation from the UN Security Council. Pyongyang last tested nuclear weapons in 2006 and 2009, and warned last month that it would test a weapon targeted at the US.

East Asian market looked robust. Traders returning to the Nikkei after a long weekend seemed in a good mood. The Japanese index rose 2.4% in early trading as the yen continued to weaken and prospective Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda said he would support further stimulus.

Nasdaq sought and lost a partner. Talks between the tech stock exchange, which has been on the lookout for a partner, and private-equity group Carlyle fell through after disagreements on price. Nasdaq lost interest after it became clear that the bid did not match up to its expectations. The exchange has long thought public markets undervalue its worth compared with rivals.

Kenya held its first televised presidential debate. The seven men and one woman who hope to lead the East African nation took to a stage in a school hall to debate the future of the country. It is the first time in Kenya’s 50 years as an independent country that it has held an American-style debate, which was broadcast live on radio, television and YouTube. Kenya’s last elections, in 2007, were marred by widespread violence.

Twitter branched out into e-commerce. American Express cardholders will be able to buy products by tweeting once they have linked their credit cards to their accounts on the microblogging service. If successful, the service could be the first of many as Twitter looks for fresh sources of revenue beyond advertising.

The horsemeat scandal galloped on. French officials say the trail of mislabeled meat runs from Romanian butchers to Dutch and Cypriot traders, among others. British officials announced a “food summit” with industry representatives and the Food Standards Agency after Tesco, a giant supermarket chain, found that its “value lasagne” contained 60% horsemeat.

Quartz obsession interlude

The surprise resignation from the Holy See turned the papacy into a mini-obsession for Quartz. Lily Kuo and Christopher Mims rounded up five papal facts to know. Kuo and David Yanofsky looked at how popes’ life expectancies have changed surprisingly little over two centuries. Meanwhile, Matt Phillips analyzed the pontiff’s job in terms of management paradigms and suggested that the next Vatican CEO may be a clean-up guy, a product guy or a merger specialist, but is unlikely to be an outsider.

Matters of debate

Europe is losing the currency war. Because it’s not printing as much money as everybody else

Housing isn’t really a great investmentsays Robert Shiller, co-inventor of the Case-Shiller index, the standard indicator that Americans use to decide whether to invest in housing.

Germany is overly obsessed with doctorates. A plagiarism scandal is the latest example.

Conservatives have reason to get behind breaking up the big bankssays George Will, a conservative pundit.

Surprising discoveries

New Yorkers like to tour sewage plants on Valentine’s day.

A Chinese entrepreneur is selling canned air. 

Tupperware’s top North American saleswoman is actually a salesman. Or, a salesperson. Fine, it’s a man in drag.

Lightning struck the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Yes, on the same day Pope Benedict announced his resignation.

Best of Quartz. Read our most popular recent stories.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, pancake recipes and canned air recommendations to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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