Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Fiat’s Chrysler play, Snapchat’s security breach, American football’s demise, famous dead cats

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What to watch for today

Is France the sick man of Europe? That’s what recent manufacturing activity suggests, as France’s dismal data bucked the overall trend of a recovering eurozone. The European Union’s and France’s December purchasing manager indexes (PMI), which both come out today, will offer more insight.

Singapore rings in a good year. After growing just 1.3% in 2012, the city-state should log a growth rate of 3.8% for 2013. Economists predict that growth gained momentum in Q4, building on Singapore’s faster-than-expected recovery.

The US plays Mideast peacemaker. US secretary of state John Kerry arrives in Israel today to broker Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over a final peace agreement, with the following caveat: Don’t expect a “big breakthrough.”

Ecuador gives socialism a good name. The economy is on track to expand 4%, according to government projections, thanks to hefty public investment in infrastructure and social programs.

While you were sleeping

Fiat scooped up all of Chrysler. The Italian carmaker agreed to pay $3.7 billion for the 41.5% stake in Chrysler (it already owns the rest). The deal will likely put the kibosh on a Chrysler IPO that was rumored to have been under consideration.

Latvian ATMs started pumping out euros. The EU’s fastest-growing economy and former Soviet republic became the 18th member of the euro zone, even though at least half of Latvians oppose the currency switch.

Coloradan pot-smokers rejoiced. Legal recreational marijuana sales became legal in the Rocky Mountain state, the result of a recent state ballot measure. Lines were reportedly long at the limited number of retail outlets selling weed. The first US state to legalize the drug for recreational purposes could see up to $400 million in weed sales in 2014.

Snapchat’s security…snapped. Recently courted by Facebook, the social-sharing app known for quickie photos (aka the “teen sexting app“) released phone numbers and usernames for more than 4.6 million North American users. Earlier, Shapchat had reportedly dismissed concerns raised by Gibson Security, a research group, over problems with the code.

China’s manufacturers caved to pressure. The country’s measure of manufacturing activity, PMI, fell to 51 in December, marking a four-month low. The real dark spot was a contraction in new export orders, suggesting that industrial expansion is dangerously tied to the country’s contracting credit.

Quartz obsession interlude

Todd Woody on why China is building a massive solar power plant in the middle of nowhere. “China has become a growing profit center for Chinese solar companies. In 2012 China accounted for nearly 13% of Trina’s revenues; this year the company estimates the domestic market will provide as much as 30% of its earnings. The US market is expected to supply just 15% to 19% of revenues, down from 25.5% last year.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Bitcoin is a “high-tech dinosaur soon to be extinct.” If you discount bitcoin’s encryption, it’s merely a private currency like those issued by London merchants in the Middle Ages.

Company boardrooms need more philosophers. They understand the human plight of customers better than most businesspeople.

Mario Draghi is the force behind Europe’s falling  interest rates. Don’t go thanking austerity.

High-tech helmets won’t save American football. Fewer American parents want their kids playing football now that everyone knows about the brain injuries plaguing the National Football League.

Surprising discoveries

Canada can’t claim credit for the maple leaf on its currency. Marked by its iconic seven-point leaves, the maple depicted is an invasive species from Norway so virulent that the US state of Massachusetts banned it. It was brought to North America in the 1700s, according to botanists.

Women can be CEOs of major banks. South Korea just got its first one, which puts it way behind India, but far ahead of the US.

Fukushima could be in the middle of another meltdown. Radioactive steam plumes could spell more trouble for the crippled nuclear power plant, but no one knows what’s causing them.

Five important cats died in 2013. The New York Times saw fit to eulogize them.

Americans started recycling back in 1690. With such an early start, you’d think they’d recycle more than 3% of their plastic. But, no.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, football helmets and cat memorials to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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