Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Any sign of the deadlock breaking in Italy. With the election having returned a hung parliament, Pier Luigi Bersani’s leftist coalition is trying to persuade comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement to form a coalition, though Grillo has so far refused all tie-ups.
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.
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.
It’s budget day in South Africa. The on-again off-again ‘S’ in BRICS will present its budget today. Unemployment is running high and the deficit needs slimming in Africa’s largest economy.
Anheuser-Busch InBev reports earnings. The Belgian beer giant is making progress in its bid to acquire Mexico’s Grupo Modelo, which was challenged in the US on antitrust grounds. It is also facing a lawsuit filed by irate consumers who think AB’s beer is too watery. (No jokes about making love in canoes, please.)
While you were sleeping
AIA announced full-year profit of $3 billion. One of Asia’s largest insurers solidly beat forecasts with an 89% rise in net income year-on-year, with new business rising a healthy 27%. The company has also received permission to open an office in Myanmar.
Internet gambling is coming to a screen near you. If you live in New Jersey, that is. It is the biggest state yet to allow casinos to set up gambling websites and could mark a turning point in America’s attitude to betting online.
Honda will open its first new Japanese factory in 49 years. The last domestic manufacturing unit was inaugurated in 1964. Honda’s move is being welcomed as a sign of growing confidence in Japan’s economy.
Westfield looked west. The Australian company will cut back its dependence on its local markets. Announcing an 18% rise in net profits yesterday, the world’s largest owner of malls and shopping centers said it would increase US and UK interests to 60% of its portfolio, up from 55%.
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%.
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.
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.
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 (or she) will be in the book.
Mars may be inhabitable today—for microbes, at least.