Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Bernanke testifies, IBM announces, trees glow in the dark

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What to watch for today

Ben Bernanke will deliver his semiannual monetary policy report before Congress. Investors are awaiting any word from the Federal Reserve chairman about the timing of the US central bank’s tapering of its bond buying stimulus program (paywall) and the impact on interest rates. Here are three things to watch for, including any confirmation as to whether he plans to leave when his term expires in January.

A steady second quarter for financial services firms. Bank of America is expected to report a 4% increase in second-quarter profits, aided by the recovery in the US housing market. American Express is forecast to report improved earnings and revenue. Of special interest will be cardholders’ spending and payment trends, and any progress on the US company’s efforts to rein in costs.

A cloudy quarter for some technology giants. IBM could post muted earnings due to weakness in international markets, which account for nearly 25% of the company’s sales. Intel too may disappoint investors as falling sales of PCs dent demand for its chips. EBay is expected to report strong earnings on the back of steady revenue growth at its PayPal online payments division.

A crucial austerity vote in Greece. The Greek parliament will vote on a new round of austerity that involves unpopular measures like the overhaul of the country’s civil services. The package must be passed for Athens to access the first tranche of the $8.7 billion worth of bailout loans approved last week. Workers unions went on a 24-hour strike on Tuesday to protest the proposed measures.

While you were sleeping

Goldman Sachs’ profits more than doubled in the second quarter. Strong trading revenue from its fixed-income, currency and commodity businesses helped Goldman beat expectations. Net income came in at $1.93 billion, while revenue surged 30% from a year earlier.

Yahoo’s acquisitions and product overhauls didn’t boost revenue yet. Second quarter sales at the US internet company fell 7% from a year earlier, while earnings per share increased 19%—just enough to meet analysts’ expectations. CEO Marissa Mayer’s honeymoon period (she was appointed one year ago) may be coming to an end.

Google is working on a service that would compete with cable TV. The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has approached media companies (paywall) to license their content for an internet TV service that would allow consumers to flip between streaming channels like cable TV. Separately, signals increasingly suggest that Apple is designing an all-in-one TV set, which could offer cutting-edge features including gesture-based control.

Edward Snowden formally applied for asylum in Russia. In his application, the former US government contractor who leaked sensitive documents about surveillance said that he could face torture or the death penalty if he were to be extradited to the US. The White House said Snowden should be returned to the US to face trial on espionage charges.

India raised foreign investment caps. The government allowed 100% foreign ownership in telecommunication companies and eased investment rules for several other sectors including defense, retail, and insurance. New rules are part of ongoing efforts to attract long-term foreign investment and revive growth.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on why Nintendo faces an existential crisis on its 30th anniversary. ”When the original Nintendo Entertainment System was released, nothing else at its price point was fast and responsive enough to create a gaming experience that was as satisfying. Thirty years later, even a $40 Android tablet can run Angry Birds. We are surrounded by high-resolution screens and fast hardware, in our phones, tablets, soon, even our watches, and Nintendo can either figure out how to create compelling experiences on these devices, or it can continue to shrink along with the market for dedicated gaming hardware.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The Federal Reserve’s policies are paving the way for a market collapse worse than 2008. The US economy only looks stable.

Mexico’s drug wars have given rise to scores of self-defense groups. The government should resist the urge to disband and disarm these armed vigilantes, until it can shape up its security sector.

A transport workers strike in San Francisco epitomizes the inequality problem in the US. Americans distrust unions and consider the poor greedy.

Reforms in Myanmar are only skin deep. The military is still very much in charge.

Surprising discoveries

Instagram is Kuwait’s hottest business platform. The photo-sharing service is becoming popular among local entrepreneurs selling everything from makeup to sheep.

Insulin-producing cells can now be transplanted across species. Inter-species transplants could theoretically be used to treat Type 1 diabetes and save human lives.

Sony considered including sweat sensors on PS4 videogame controllersThe idea—ultimately abandoned—involved automatically tailoring gameplay to a player’s level of stress as measured by their sweatiness.

Entrepreneurs in California are creating plants that will glow in the dark. One day they may replace street lights.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Instagram business ideas, and Bernanke successor nominations to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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