Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Draghi speaks, Apple investors, Syrian strike, life on Mars

February 26, 2013
February 26, 2013

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Mario Draghi speaks, Europe listens. The European Central Bank president will be giving a speech in Germany. The markets will be looking to him for reassurance after Italy’s election promised fresh chaos. We’re not so sure he can give them any.

The world continues to wait for Italy. Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right party may agree to form a coalition with the center-left party of Pier Luigi Bersani to avoid a re-run of the election, which produced a hung parliament. And both parties will probably court members of comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, though he has refused all tie-ups.

Ben Bernanke to defend easy money again. The Fed chairman testifies before the US House of Representatives, after appearing before the Senate yesterday. He told senators that the Fed would continue with its bond purchases, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. But wait—did he give them ever such a fleeting hint that it wouldn’t be forever?

Apple deals with cranky investors. The tech giant holds its annual meeting Wednesday. It will face hedge fund activist David Einhorn, who is pushing for Apple to give back more of its $137 billion cash pile to investors. Last week Einhorn won a court ruling that may force Apple to accept his proposal of issuing preferred shares, which pay a fixed dividend.

Anheuser-Busch InBev reports earnings. The Belgian beer giant is also making progress in its bid to acquire Mexico’s Grupo Modelo, which was challenged in the US on antitrust grounds. Mega-retailer Target also reports earnings.

While you were sleeping

Chuck Hagel was confirmed as US defense secretary. Hagel, a former Republican, was blasted by many of his old colleagues as ideologically unsound, and his shaky confirmation hearings did not help. His first task: Deal with an impending $46 billion budget cut.

US home sales and consumer confidence are up. New US home sales rose by more than 15% in January from December. That news, along with Bernanke’s hint that stimulus policies would continue, cheered US markets, which had taken a knock after Italy’s election.

Fewer bankers, but more pay. JP Morgan announced that it’s cutting 4,000 jobs this year and 13,000 next year, following cuts already announced by Bank of America and Citigroup. But bankers’ bonuses for 2012 are expected to rise by 8%.

Syrian missile strike kills 141. Human Rights Watch said that children made up more than half of the deaths in the strike last week. The report comes as new US Secretary of State John Kerry hints at giving more aid to Syrian rebels.

More bad news for Egyptian politics. The country’s main opposition group, the National Salvation Front, will not participate in the parliamentary elections in April, which it says won’t be independent enough. Also, 19 tourists died when a hot air balloon crashed near Egyptian city of Luxor.

Quartz obsession interlude

Ritchie King on how the music industry is staging a comeback. “The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a music industry trade group dating back to 1933, released its annual overview of the state of the business today—and the news is surprisingly good. In 2012, worldwide revenue growth from digital music outpaced the ongoing collapse of CDs, LPs, and other physical media, meaning that overall sales grew for the first time since 1998.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China won’t learn how Washington DC works by hacking. Instead, it should check out diners at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Language is key to India’s mobile market. Only one in two Indians send texts.

More than 20 people involved in Vatican leaks. And it may not be over.

The ethics of basketball diplomacy. Was it right for sports star Dennis Rodman to take a trip to North Korea?

Which languages should be protected from extinction? Anthropologists, biologists and others debate.

Surprising discoveries

The world’s first billboard that converts air into water is located in Peru.

A California man died of complications from a shooting that took place 36 years ago, leading police to label it a homicide.

What a literary character eats for breakfast can show how violent he/she will be in the book.

Mars may be inhabitable today, according to scientists gathered at a Mars conference.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, videos of Beppe Grillo impersonations and zebra burger discoveries to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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