What to watch for today
A Syrian strike averted? US president Barack Obama pulled back from military intervention in a speech Tuesday night, saying he has asked Congress to postpone a vote on using force, after Syria pledged to surrender its chemical weapon stockpiles. US secretary of state John Kerry will meet Russia’s Sergey Lavrov Thursday to discuss the terms and monitoring of that surrender.
The UK’s stubborn unemployment. Economists expect the jobless rate to remain at 7.8% (paywall), where it has stayed since March. But if the rate edges lower, it could increase the pressure on Bank of England to hike rates earlier than expected.
Verizon’s record debt sale. The US telecoms company will sell $49 billion worth of corporate bonds (paywall) on Wednesday to raise funds for its buyout of the $130 billion share of Verizon Wireless it doesn’t already own.
South African factories recover. Manufacturing output for July is expected to have increased 1.4%, partly offsetting the gloom of Tuesday’s trade data that showed the current-account deficit widening to 6.5% of GDP in the second quarter.
While you were sleeping
Apple showed off two new iPhones; neither is cheap. The iPhone 5C, the stripped-down model with the same features as the previous iPhone 5, will cost $549 in the US without a contract. The 5S, with a faster processor and fingerprint sensor, will cost at least $649. In China, the 5C will start at $733, too high for many consumers. By making the iWork software free, though, Apple could pose a challenge to Microsoft Office.
The NSA violated court rules, a lot. Declassified documents show that the US surveillance organization ignored court privacy protections between 2006 and 2009 by examining thousands of phone numbers on a regular basis, most of which had no reason for a suspected connection to terrorism.
The biggest reshuffle of the Dow in a decade. Goldman Sachs, Visa and Nike will join the most cited but least important stock-market index next week, replacing Alcoa, HP and Bank of America. The shakeup was carried out to diversify the index and remove companies whose stock prices were too low.
The Koreas re-open Kaesong. North Korea and South Korea have agreed on a trial run for the Kaesong Industrial Park, a jointly operated area that once employed 53,000 North Koreans and was a symbol of cooperation until its closure in April during a spike in tensions. The park will re-open on Monday.
Reversing the bailout. The Canadian and Ontario governments sold nearly a quarter of their common shares in General Motors, the American auto company bailed out with Canadian assistance in 2009. The shares were priced at Tuesday’s closing, less a small discount, at approximately $1.11 billion.
Australian optimism. Consumer confidence rose to its highest level since 2010 on news of Tony Abbott’s election win, boosted further by low interest rates.
Intel looks beyond smartphones. The chip maker, which struggled to gain a foothold in the market for smartphone processors, unveiled a a new family of tiny chips called Quark, aimed at wearable devices such as smart watches.
Quartz obsession interlude
Tim Fernholz on how how cigarette companies use free-trade deals to sell more cigarettes to women and kids. “As cigarette smoking has fallen in the United States and Europe thanks to public health laws and liability lawsuits, global tobacco companies have increasingly turned to developing markets to expand their business. Now they’re trying to make sure the largest trade agreement since the World Trade Organization gives them the tools they need to stop those countries from adopting the laws that cost them customers in wealthier nations.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The iPhone 5S just brought us closer to a world of constant surveillance. With constant monitoring of positioning and activity, the phone can collect information on everything from weather to users’ every movement.
The conflict in Syria goes back 13 centuries. America and Europe did not exist then, but the bloodletting was depressingly similar.
Emerging markets should stop trying to prop up their currencies. Instead their central banks should focus on policies that can boost domestic output.
The Swiss secret to 3% unemployment: apprenticeships. The system lets students mix academic and vocational training and prepare for careers.
Zero-g veg. NASA is getting ever closer to farming in space, but it is not the only one looking at the commercial benefits.
The pains of inequality. The richest 10% of American families made half of all income last year.
Monkeys can be rational economic actors too. Scientists find that rhesus macaques make the same basic investment decisions as humans.
Go ahead, skip breakfast. Studies showing that eating breakfast helps weight loss have been largely “observational” and found no direct cause and effect.
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