Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—EU budget, Pakistan’s election, adieu Libor, taxing the weed

May 13, 2013
May 13, 2013

What to watch for today

The EU tries to sort out its finances. European leaders will try to come up with a budget for 2013 and a long-term budget plan through 2020, after the European parliament rejected a previous proposal as too austere.

How will markets react to Fed whispers? WSJ reporter Jon Hilsenrath, known as “the Fed whisperer” for his close access to US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, reported on Saturday that the Fed has a plan for unwinding (paywall) its $85-billion-a-month program of quantitative easing. Will the markets believe it when they open on Monday, and if so, what will the reaction mean?

Americans still reluctant to open their wallets. US retail sales figures for April are released today, but expected to have fallen for the second month in a row. But judging by another economic indicator, Disneyland attendance, Americans are feeling alright.

Over the weekend

Nawaz Sharif declared victory in Pakistan. Almost 14 years after being ousted in a coup, Sharif defeated former cricketer Imran Khan in an election that marks the first democratic handover of power.

A spanner in the works of Iran’s election. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a popular and reformist former president, registered to run minutes before the deadline, posing a conundrum for more hardline clerics, who have the power to block him but may not want to risk popular anger.

The Group of Seven let the yen be. After meeting near London on Sunday, the G-7 finance chiefs said they would tolerate further devaluation of the yen in support of the country’s economic growth strategy. They also dropped hints of a move away from fiscal austerity policies.

Yum’s Chinese chicken woes intensified. The KFC owner reported that same-store sales in China plunged 29% last month, indicating that it’s not just the avian flu scare keeping customers from KFC stores.

Turkey accused Syria of car bombings. The blasts that killed 46 people in a Turkish border town were organized by fighters loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the Turkish government said.

A plan for getting rid of Libor. British regulators are proposing phasing out the discredited interest-rate benchmark (paywall) by running it in parallel for a while with a more independent measure of interbank lending rates.

Iron Man continued his global dominance. Iron Man 3 was the world’s most popular movie for the second week in a row.

Harvard dumped its Apple stock. The university’s endowment got rid of its $304,000 stake in the computer maker.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zachary M. Seward on the culture of omniscience at Bloomberg, where journalists’ access to client information has caused a scandal. “Within the company, stalking is simply part of the culture. Employees can look up—using the <FON> function on their terminals—the last time anyone scanned into or out of a Bloomberg office, which they use to keep legitimate tabs on coworkers and, more voyeuristically, to track their executives on business trips (“Winkler just badged out of Tokyo!”). Some staff make a habit of looking up the last time Michael Bloomberg—the company’s founder, longtime chief executive, and now mayor of New York—visited his family’s foundation, which uses the same security system.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Don’t count on the yen to fall further. Four reasons why it won’t go much beyond the magic three-digit mark.

Vietnam’s star is dimming. Like China, its post-socialist growth policy is running out of steam.

Why hedge funds hate Ben Bernanke. To them, the Fed chairman is a rogue trader like JP Morgan’s “London Whale”—only worse.

Economists shouldn’t take themselves too seriously. The lesson of the Reinhart-Rogoff debacle is that they should avoid pushing their work on policy-makers.

Advice for the class of 2013: Resist simplicity.

Surprising discoveries

How marijuana is taxed. In Colorado, at least, it’ll be somewhere between alcohol and tobacco.

The McDonald’s of the future. An avant-garde burger-joint-cum-gas-station, on the Black Sea coast of Georgia.

The earth and moon got their water from the same source. And based on what we know about how the moon was formed, that doesn’t quite make sense.

Why babies around the world say “mama”. Not because they love their mamas, but because it’s the sound of suckling.

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