What to watch for today
On the G20 agenda: the Fed, Syria, taxes, and snubs. In St. Petersburg, heads of state will discuss the possibility of military intervention in Syria, the likely impact of the US Federal Reserve’s imminent “tapering” of monetary stimulus, and efforts to close corporate tax loopholes. Barack Obama will meet Russian human rights activists instead of Vladimir Putin.
Europe’s central bankers stand pat. The European Central Bank is poised to leave interest rates unchanged at 0.5%, but it may raise growth projections (paywall) slightly. No change is expected from the Bank of England either, but a steady stream of cheerful economic data may force it to start raising rates sooner than previously thought.
The warm-up for Friday’s main event. US private payroll data and weekly jobless claims will provide a prelude to Friday’s official jobs report, the big number the Fed will look at before deciding its timeline for paring back its asset purchase program.
A Smithfield-Shuanghui thumbs-up? A US Treasury panel has signaled that it will clear the pork buyout, which would be the largest-ever Chinese purchase of an American firm, as soon as Thursday, the FT reports.
While you were sleeping
The Bank of Japan struck an upbeat tone. The central bank lifted its assessment of Japan’s growth potential, pointing to a range of data including exports, public investment and housing. As expected, it made no change to its main policy settings (paywall).
IRS cracks down on auto-tipping. The tax agency will count automatic restaurant gratuities as taxable service charges rather than tips. The move could strangle attempts to move away from discretionary tipping because it is arbitrary and prone to abuse.
Mail.Ru cashes out of Facebook. The Russian internet group that was one of Mark Zuckerberg’s first investors sold its remaining shares for $525 million.
Dollar menu inflation. McDonald’s is testing a “Dollar Menu & More” with prices of up to $5.
Nigeria took a step closer to self-sufficiency. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, signed a loan worth $3.3 billion to build a Nigerian oil refinery and petrochemical and fertilizer complex.
Sweden’s SKF said it would buy America’s Kaydon Corporation. SKF, the world’s largest maker of bearings, will pay about $1.25 billion in cash for the industrial manufacturer, 22% above its closing stock price yesterday.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve LeVine on how Vladimir Putin, flush with gas profits, is ready to pick some more fights. “Putin is likely to continue sharp resistance to plans by the European Union to form free trade agreements with former Soviet republics, in particular with Ukraine. He will also not easily agree to harsher oil sanctions against Iran should the US advocate them. And Putin will also strongly push back against European plans to file anti-trust sanctions against Gazprom.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The G20 is usurping the UN Security Council. The Group of 20 will not be remembered as “an efficient mechanism for coordinating the world’s leading economies,” so much as a forum for war and peace.
Everything’s rosy in Britain. The OECD reckons the UK will be one of the fastest-growing rich countries in the second half of this year.
School is a prison. Compelling children to stay in a place where their freedom is greatly restricted is causing serious psychological damage.
Chinese literature textbooks are being modified to curb “deep thinking.” An essay by the father of modern Chinese literature has gone missing in the latest curriculum.
Witch doctors are ruining Venezuela’s water supply. Animal sacrifices are being dumped in a reservoir that provides water for 750,000 people.
California’s worst-case scenario? A US Geological Survey team says that a monster earthquake off the Alaskan coast would create a tsunami that would swamp California’s economy.
Birthplace of the infamous “red line.” The metaphor may be related to the “line in the sand,” which goes back, ironically, to Syria in 168 B.C.