What to watch for today
The thinking behind the taper. The US Federal Reserve releases the minutes of its December meeting, in which it surprised the markets by announcing that it will start to unwind its massive bond-buying program. Investors will comb the documents for clues as to its rationale and how the “taper” will play out in the future.
A euro zone data dump. Several important economic indicators come out, including data on employment and retail sales in the monetary union, as well as the trade balance and factory orders for the bloc’s largest country, Germany.
An early read on US jobs. Analysts expect the private-sector payroll survey from recruitment firm ADP to show that the US added 200,000 new jobs in December, down from 215,000 in November. Although the official jobs numbers on Friday are more important, ADP’s survey was pretty close to them last month, so it’s worth watching.
Event: Talking tech in 2014. Quartz technology editor Christopher Mims, Re/code co-executive editor Kara Swisher, and Wall Street Journal columnist Farhad Manjoo hold a live video discussion on the outlook for technology in 2014 at 1pm ET.
While you were sleeping
The US trade deficit narrowed. Thanks to domestic energy production the country is importing less petroleum, pushing the trade deficit to its lowest level since 2009.
Turkey’s turmoil intensified. The Turkish lira sank to all-time lows as fighting between the government and judiciary escalated. Hundreds of police officers were dismissed in Ankara in seeming retaliation for the arrest of officials on suspicions of corruption.
JP Morgan took what could be its last big fine. This time, the banking giant will pay around $2.6 billion to settle charges that it failed to report suspicious activity by fraudster Bernie Madoff, who was its client. But it could mark the end of the bank’s run of stiff penalties, amounting to $22 billion in the past year.
The US froze. Record cold temperatures broke records across a huge swathe of the country, disrupting travel and pushing up energy prices.
Irish bonds were a hit with investors. Ireland issued bonds for the first time since it exited its international bailout last month. Eager investors bid for more than three times the amount the government sought.
Euro-zone inflation fell. Excluding food and energy, prices rose by only 0.7%, the lowest since the creation of the euro. This may force the European Central Bank to ease monetary policy further when it meets later this week.
Quartz obsession interlude
Leo Mirani on how an ageing bureaucrat in a small town in Ireland found himself safeguarding a billion people’s privacy. “Every morning, the man in charge of overseeing how [technology] companies use our data cycles to Heuston station, takes a 50-minute train ride out of Dublin, and walks the last five minutes to his office next to a convenience store in Portarlington, a town of some 7,500 people in the Irish midlands. It is an unlikely place for what has grown to become one of the most important offices in global privacy. But little about this story is likely.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Company wellness programs might be a waste of money. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that companies shouldn’t have them.
Women are not welcome on the internet. The sheer volume of harassment online is far more than law enforcement agencies can deal with.
Western Europe’s fear of eastern European immigrants is hypocritical. The wave of immigration from Poland and other countries that joined the EU in 2004 was good for everyone.
Business schools are unethical frauds. Not only do they gouge students, they underpay teachers, without delivering what they promise.
Mimes have moved on. The world’s longest-running mime festival opens in London today, and features nothing like what you’d expect if you think it’s all about blokes trapped in imaginary boxes.
Draught beer is cheapest in China. Guangzhou, to be precise, where a pour will set you back a mere 36 US cents.
It’s easy to create your own version of bitcoin. As the Guardian reporter who made one admits, “It’s mostly focused around my face and my name.”
A bullet James Bond would have liked. It expands into a 14-inch-wide spinning buzzsaw as soon as it is fired, improving accuracy in “high pressure situations,” according to its maker.
The trademark Afghani rolled-up hat actually comes from Pakistan. Trade brought the pakol across the border.
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