What to watch for today
News, or no news, from the Fed. The US central bank concludes its last monetary policy meeting for 2013. The decision on whether to “taper” its bond-buying program looks increasingly finely balanced. Reporters might also grill outgoing Fed chairman Ben Bernanke on bitcoin, after he tacitly endorsed the digital currency.
News on earnings from Fedex. The company’s ground and air freight numbers could provide an insight into how online retailers are faring in the crucial holiday trading period.
The US budget deal gets passed. The Senate will almost certainly vote today to approve the two-year budget bill that the House of Representatives passed last week, and which relieves the country from deep cuts and government shutdowns for a while. After that, it just needs president Barack Obama’s signature.
More cold water on the Indian economy. The country’s central bank is expected to raise its key interest rate for the third time in four months, as it seeks to cool worsening inflation on the subcontinent.
No change in joblessness in Britain. Unemployment data are set to come out amid rising political discontent with the Bank of England’s “forward guidance” monetary policy. Economists expect unemployment to stay steady at 7.6%—the BoE has said it will wait for it to fall at least to 7% before raising interest rates.
While you were sleeping
Russia cut a bailout deal with Ukraine. Moscow agreed to buy $15 billion worth of Ukraine’s debts and cut the price of gas it sells the country. The agreement eases Ukraine’s funding crunch, but triggered a fresh round of the anti-Russia protests in Kiev that have now lasted nearly a month.
Steve Ballmer got a stay of execution. Microsoft said it wouldn’t replace its current CEO until early 2014. Chairman and founder Bill Gates had previously said the firm’s search for a new head would be wrapped up during December, but at least a couple of plausible candidates have been eliminated recently.
A corruption scandal engulfed Turkey. Police arrested 49 people, including a billionaire property magnate, a state bank head and the sons of the minister of economy. Turkey-watchers see it as an ominous escalation in a conflict between the Erdogan government and its one-time ally, the Gulen movement.
Calm began returning to South Sudan. After two days of violence the government is hunting for the former vice president, Riek Machar, who it says tried to stage a coup on Sunday. Machar was fired in July after he said he wanted to run in elections in 2015 in South Sudan, which became independent only in 2011.
Bullish noises from 3M. The materials manufacturer announced a $22 billion share buyback program spread over five years. It’s the biggest buyback announcement this year, which has seen the highest volume of them (a measure of business confidence) since 2007. 3M also increased its dividend by 35%.
Quartz obsession interlude
Ritchie King, Sam Williams and David Yanofsky explain the science behind bitcoin mining. “Your computer is not blasting through the cavernous depths of the internet in search of digital ore that can be fashioned into bitcoin bullion. There is no ore, and bitcoin mining doesn’t involve extracting or smelting anything. It’s called mining only because the people who do it are the ones who get new bitcoins, and because bitcoin is a finite resource liberated in small amounts over time, like gold, or anything else that is mined.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The one thing Ben Bernanke mustn’t do today: Talk about the “taper”. Not unless he’s actually going to taper in January.
It’s not the end of the party for emerging markets. They’re still catching up to developed ones, albeit at different speeds.
Businesses shouldn’t call for less government, but for better government. Treating government as a problem guarantees that there there will be one.
There’s just one thing holding back the internet of things. It’s a common language for the things to communicate in, like HTML was for the web.
Europe is headed for a Soviet-style economy. Just one of Denmark-based Saxo Bank’s outrageous predictions for 2014.
JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon sent out his family holiday card. It looks like a Ralph Lauren advertisement.
There are diamonds in Antarctica. But layers of ice and a decades-long mining ban means nobody’s likely to extract them (paywall).
Good luck with your retirement. If you were born after 1960, you’ll basically need an inheritance to retire comfortably.
Broadcast your bodily functions. 70% of people say they would let a smart toilet share their data.
Distillers hope to make London’s first whiskey in over 100 years. It’ll be ready in 2017.