What to watch for today
Cracking the banks’ books. JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo report fourth-quarter results as the US earnings season gets going in earnest.
Euro zone industrial update. New data shed light on whether Europe will be able to stay out of recession, after a worrying drop last month.
How merry was Christmas? US retail sales for December will reveal whether Americans were feeling naughty or nice.
Francois Hollande changes the subject. The French president will talk about his plan to fix the economy, and perhaps allegations of a secret love affair with an actress. France being France, the scandal has made him more popular with voters.
While you were sleeping
Congress actually agreed on a spending bill. Bipartisan negotiators in the House and Senate signed off on a trillion-dollar measure to keep the government running through September, reversing some budget cuts and keeping Obamacare intact.
UK inflation hit the target. British consumer prices rose by a less-than-expected 2.0% in December, down from 2.1% the previous month and equal to the Bank of England’s target rate. The low inflation rate will give governor Mark Carney more room to operate.
FBI suspects bank front-running. The bureau think traders are manipulating derivatives markets used by US mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Reuters reports. Separately, the US charged three former Rabobank traders with manipulating Libor and other benchmark interest rates.
Japan’s current account deficit hit a record. The gap between payment for imports and revenue from exports tripled to a wider-than-expected 592.8 billion yen ($5.7 billion), risking investor confidence in government-issued debt.
Thailand protesters threatened the stock exchange. Anti-government demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, but the shutdown has paralyzed businesses and government ministries, with some operating from back-up sites like an arts-and-crafts center.
Egypt headed back to the polls for a two-day referendum on a new constitution. A large turnout and a yes vote would bolster the military regime which ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in July.
Quartz obsession interlude
Gwynn Guilford on why an Australian program targeting lethal sharks won’t make humans safer. “By making them unable to move enough to breathe, both nets and drumlines almost always kill any sharks who become ensnared. But despite the decades-long history of Queensland’s and New South Wales’ shark control programs, it’s not clear that the logic behind them—kill big sharks, stop the attacks—actually works.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Thailand’s protests don’t add up. Anti-government demonstrators are refusing to accept the country’s economic and demographic transformation.
Kalashnikov had blood on his hands. The late AK-47 inventor wrote to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church about his “spiritual pain.”
It’s expensive to be poor. From jobs to rent to food, low-income Americans pay more and get less.
New Jersey epitomizes America’s woes. Governor Chris Christie’s scandal takes place against a backdrop of dysfunctional suburban sprawl.
A magnetic space net for orbital junk. Dangerous micro-debris that threatens astronauts and satellites could be corralled by Japan’s space agency.
Bitcoin could save the legal marijuana industry. Where banks fear to tread, the digital currency could be a game-changer.
Redheads are less genetically attractive. The recessive gene could signal a lack of genetic mixing—an evolutionary turnoff.
An app could help spot sex offenders. It sounds like a really bad idea.