Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—Walmart earnings, PS4, Pentagon cuts, new planet

February 21, 2013
February 21, 2013

What to watch for today

Has Meg Whitman stopped the bleeding? PC maker Hewlett-Packard reports first quarter earnings today, a chance to see whether Whitman has stabilized the company after mass firings and $17 billion in write-downs last year.

Consumers, LBOs, Hurricane Sandy. Wal-Mart’s fourth-quarter earnings, expected to rise 9%, should shed some light on the state of retail around the world, while those of private equity firm Carlyle Group could do the same for the seeming boom in leveraged buyouts. Insurer AIG, bailed out by American taxpayers and now on a profitable rebound, will shed some light on the costs of Hurricane Sandy.

Chesapeake’s CEO, off the hook, presents his last earnings report. An internal investigation found that Aubrey McClendon was not guilty of any intentional misconduct in taking out massive loans to buy stakes in the energy company’s wells. Profits are expected to have dipped in today’s Q4 results.

Rising US inflation? After yesterday saw modest gains in wholesale prices, watch to see if US consumer prices—which have held below even the Federal Reserve’s official targets—start to increase, a possible sign of growth.

Also to be announced: December’s retail sales figures for Mexico; and manufacturing activity surveys in France, Germany, and the European Union at large, as well the United States, where initial unemployment claims and existing home sales data will also be disclosed.

While you were sleeping

Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4. Kind of. A two-hour-long presentation introduced hacks to a new controller, games in development and some specs but there was no sign of the actual box. Or the price. Or a release date more specific than “holiday 2013.”

Qantas doubled its profits. The Australian airline made A$111 million (US$114 million) after tax in the six months to December, compared to A$42 million the previous year. Qantas slashed loss-making long-haul routes and got an injection of cash thanks to refunds from Boeing for a cancelled order of Dreamliners. Qantas shares surged on the news.

The Boston Globe is for sale. Its owner, The New York Times Company, wants to sell the Boston paper to concentrate its energies and resources on the flagship. The NYT may have learnt from its unsuccessful attempt to sell the Globe in 2009; reports suggest that it may decouple pension liability from the sale.

Pentagon’s civilian staff to pay for cost cuts. Some 800,000 civilian employees of the Department of Defense will be forced to take a day off without pay every week for five months if the “sequester” goes through on March 1. The move will account for $5 billion of the $46 billion in spending that the Pentagon needs to cut by the end of the year.

You can’t spell BRIC without B and R. Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Brazil and met with President Dilma Rousseff to talk about arms and nuclear technology deals. Naturally, Medvedev is now off to Cuba.

The great QE debate. In the US, minutes from a January meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers showed divisions over how long to continue purchases by the central bank. Meanwhile, markets were surprised when minutes of the Bank of England’s last meeting revealed that Governor Mervyn King had supported more asset purchases, leading to a drop in interest rates and a depreciating pound sterling.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve Levine on China’s smart bid for the US electric car industry. “Chinese firms are buying control of a string of struggling US electric-car and battery makers—tarnished trophies of America’s exuberant but so far disappointing foray into the industry. But while critics assert that the Chinese shopping spree reveals the failures of US energy policy, it actually says more about how some of the world’s biggest fortunes of the last three decades have been earned: namely, thanks to a sharp eye for an unrecognized bargain.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Is Google becoming a cop’s best friend? How the search engine solves crime.

What Sweden’s right wing has in common with America’s Tea Party. Xenophobia is the same in every language.

Why the biggest US banks are riskier than you think. You can’t trust their accounting if they keep so much risk off their balance sheets.

Your homepage doesn’t matter. Sorry, Yahoo.

Surprising discoveries

A new planet! It’s called Kepler 37b and it’s the smallest yet, about the size of our moon.

Most drug overdoses in the US are caused by legal drugs. What to do about addictive painkillers?

“Unlimited voice, texting and data for $20 a month.” So what’s the catch?

China planned to kill a Burmese drug lord with a drone. But it decided to capture him instead.

Economic forecasters always think growth is around the corner. And lately,they’re always wrong.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, homepage screenshots and Panglossian forecasts to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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