What to watch for today
Keep Calm and Carney On. Bank of England governor Mark Carney is likely to talk down borrowing costs that have shot up due to strong economic data, and reiterate a pledge to keep interest rates at their current record low until unemployment falls to 7%.
Imminent military strikes against Syria. The US and UK are likely to launch limited strikes this week to punish the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, though the White House insists it is not looking for regime change in Damascus. Jitters over Syria sent the Nikkei to a two-month low as investors headed for safe havens, and oil prices hit a six-month high amid concerns that Middle East supplies could be disrupted.
Brazil mulls an interest-rate hike. The central bank, which has been grappling with high inflation and a plunging currency, will issue its decision on the nation’s benchmark interest rate. Economists expect the rate to rise from the current 8.5% to 9.5% by the end of the year.
Signs of strain in US housing. Pending home sales are expected to have declined in July, in one of the first signs that rising mortgage rates may be hurting the housing recovery.
While you were sleeping
US banks face big fines for mis-selling mortgages. US regulators are reportedly demanding $6 billion from JP Morgan to settle allegations it sold securities to government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac without checking their quality. And a judge has lifted obstacles to a government lawsuit that seeks $1 billion in damages from Bank of America on similar charges.
Obama’s surveillance review board got to work. The US president met with a five-person panel he appointed to review privacy issues related to the government’s surveillance operations, in an effort to win back some trust after a series of revelations by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Nissan challenged Google on autonomous autos. The car-maker pledged to put self-driving vehicles on the roads by 2020 (paywall) in a challenge to Google, which already has prototypes on the road.
The New York Times was hacked again. The Syrian Electronic Army, which supports President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, sabotaged access to the New York Times for several hours by attacking a company that manages the paper’s domain name requests. It appears Twitter may also have been a victim.
Bank of America settled on a discrimination lawsuit. The bank will pay $160 million to resolve accusations that its Merrill Lynch division discriminated against black financial advisers, over a thousand of whom banded together in an eight-year case against the bank.
Quartz obsession interlude
Matt Phillips on the steps India should take to stop its currency crisis. “The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) needs to put everything it’s got into intervening in the markets to beat back the speculators pushing the rupee lower. That means it has to draw a line in the sand and defend it by using its stockpile of foreign exchange reserves to buy rupees in the open market.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Microsoft’s next CEO should be LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner… He has exactly the right kind of vision that Microsoft needs.
…or former IBM chief Sam Palmisano. He has a proven track record of dealing with software, hardware and fractious global organizations.
The US recovery is slow and will stay that way for five years. The necessary process of unwinding excess borrowing by banks worldwide is delaying growth.
King’s “I have a dream” speech changed the surveillance state. It triggered one of the FBI’s biggest surveillance operations, an example of domestic security gone to excess.
Unlimited vacation time isn’t as great as it sounds. Employees end up taking less time off because it’s too hard to figure out how much to take.
The Oxford dictionary has made some voguish additions. “Twerk,” “derp,” “selfie” and “phablet” have all been included in the latest online edition.
Babies start learning language before they are even born. A fetus can learn and recognize specific words in the womb.
A good reason to have science on your mind. Merely thinking about science can trigger moral behavior.
South Korean surgeons are pushing the boundaries of plastic surgery. They can carve permanent smiles into otherwise sullen faces.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, dictionary-worthy slang and intercepted Syrian phone calls to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.