Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Fed decision, UK unemployment, Chinese home prices, tiny lunar sculptures

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What to watch for today

News from the Fed. The US central bank concludes its final monetary policy meeting of 2013. The decision on whether to taper its bond-buying program will take center stage, and reporters may also grill outgoing Fed chairman Ben Bernanke on bitcoin after he tacitly endorsed the digital currency.

Fedex earnings. The company’s ground and air freight numbers could provide 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, sparing the country deep cuts and government shutdowns for a while. Next, the bill will need 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.

UK joblessness. Unemployment data are set to emerge against a backdrop of 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 rates.

Edward Snowden’s Brazil asylum request. The former National Security Agency contractor, currently in Russia, offered to help Brazil’s US spying investigations. He asked for asylum in July, and while some prominent lawmakers they support the idea, the government is reportedly unlikely to play ball.

While you were sleeping

Japan’s trade gap widened. The country’s trade deficit soared 35% in November compared to a year earlier thanks to the sinking yen and higher fuel costs following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

China confirmed a near-collision with the US Navy. Beijing effectively confirmed a statement earlier this month from Washington, saying a US guided missile cruiser and a Chinese warship “met” in the South China Sea. The US vessel had to take evasive action to avoid a collision, according to American officials.

Meg Whitman got a big raise. Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive saw her salary increased from a measly $1 to $1.5 million, with the company’s board rewarding her for gains in efficiency and a rising stock price. Whitman, a billionaire, agreed to the nominal salary when she took over in 2011.

Chinese home prices rose. November prices in the country’s biggest cities increased from a year earlier, with government policies to failing to deter buyers. The southern city of Shenzhen lead the way, where prices soared 21%.

JP Morgan sued the FDIC. The bank wants more than $1 billion from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, arguing that the agency should compensate it for legal claims following the 2008 implosion of Washington Mutual.

Deadly South Sudan clashes. The UN cited reports indicating some 400-500 people have died in recent days in fighting between South Sudan army factions. The government is hunting for former vice president Riek Machar, who it says tried to stage a coup on Sunday

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 US hiring system is broken. Older workers and the long-term unemployed are being unfairly frozen out of the economy. 

Ben Bernanke shouldn’t talk about the “taper.” Unless, that is, the Fed’s actually going to taper in January.

There’s just one thing holding back the internet of things. It’s a common language, 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.

Surprising discoveries

Fashionable jeans threatened US currency. The mint’s cotton blend paper supplier was forced to innovate when jeans started incorporating spandex. 

There’s a small aluminum sculpture on the moon. In 1971 an astronaut deposited a 3 1/2-inch tall statue on the lunar surface—and ignited a scandal.

Jamie Dimon’s upbeat family holiday card. It looks like a Ralph Lauren advertisement.

Good luck with your retirement. If you were born after 1960, you’ll basically need an inheritance to retire comfortably.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, holiday cards and small lunar sculptures to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.


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