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 freight numbers could provide insight into how online retailers are faring in the crucial holiday 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.
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
UK unemployment fell. The jobless rate for the three months to October declined to 7.4% and is now at its lowest since 2009.
German business confidence rose. The Ifo institute’s business climate index advanced to 109.5 this month from 109.3 in November as the country’s economic rebound continues.
Ukraine’s PM praised its bailout. Mykola Azarov said the country’s $15 billion in aid from Russia, which includes cheaper gas deliveries, will permit the Ukraine to return to economic growth.
India held interest rates steady. The country’s central bank surprisingly left its key rate unchanged at 7.75% despite concerns over rising inflation, opting not to endanger already weak economic growth.
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.
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%.
A Great Train Robber died. Ronnie Biggs, the British criminal who was part of the gang that pulled off the 1963 heist, died at the age of 84. Biggs was sentenced to prison, escaped and lived abroad, and returned to the UK in 2001.
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
Ben Bernanke shouldn’t talk about the “taper.” Unless, that is, the Fed’s actually going to taper in January.
The US hiring system is broken. Older workers and the long-term unemployed are being unfairly frozen out of the economy.
There’s just one thing holding back the internet of things. It’s a common language, like HTML is for the web.
An elephant-sized work of origami. A Swiss artist is raising funds to fold a life-sized pachyderm out of a single 50-by-50 foot piece of paper.
Skinny jeans threatened the US money supply. The mint’s cotton-blend paper supplier was forced to innovate when denim makers started incorporating spandex.
There’s a small aluminum sculpture on the moon. An astronaut deposited a 3 1/2-inch tall sculpture on the lunar surface in 1971—and ignited a scandal.
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s upbeat family holiday card. It looks like a Ralph Lauren advertisement.