What to watch for today
Japan’s yen for business. Japanese industries have been on a tear for three consecutive months, helped by a weaker yen. November production data will indicate if the winning streak has continued.
Who will defend the Central African Republic? EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels today to determine which countries will dispatch peacekeeping forces to secure the capital Bangui in the conflict between Christian militias and a mostly Muslim rebel coalition that seized power in March.
The Iranian economy gets a break. The US will start easing sanctions against Iran involving petrochemical, vehicle and metals trade today, in exchange for Iran eliminating its uranium stockpile. The limited relief will boost Iran’s economy by an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion.
Over the weekend
China’s GDP numbers pleased no one. The fourth-quarter increase of 7.7% was the lowest since 1999; the annual rate (also 7.7%) was only achieved because the government freaked out about missing its target, and overshot the mark.
British bankers are feeling cheery… A financial industry survey shows 69% of firms feel more optimistic about the economic climate.
…and Deutsche Bank bankers are not. When a bank releases an unexpected €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) quarterly loss on a Sunday night, you know it’s really bad.
Violent protests in Kiev…Tens of thousands of demonstrators clashed with police to rally against new laws aimed at curbing public protest, in an ongoing challenge to president Viktor Yanukovich.
…and in Bangkok. A second major grenade attack wounded scores of demonstrators as protests against prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra entered their second week. Some $4 billion worth of investment has been pulled out of Thai stocks and bonds since the unrest began.
The Vatican’s Holocaust test. Jewish groups applauded Pope Francis’s decision to open the Vatican archives and investigate the actions of his predecessor Pius XII during the Holocaust.
The UAE went army shopping. The United Arab Emirates announced compulsory military service for men. The move comes amid a territorial dispute with Iran over three Gulf islands, as well as intensifying conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Quartz obsession interlude
Roberto Ferdman on why Dr. Dre’s Beats Music hits the wrong notes. “[E]ssentially, Beats is betting it can beat Spotify at its own game. There’s only one kink in Dre Dre’s master plan: He’s shouldn’t have chosen Spotify as the company to copy. Pandora may not be the coolest music streaming product, but it is the best music streaming business right now.”
Matters of debate
Pot is no more dangerous than alcohol. US president Barack Obama makes his case.
Google is the new GE. In a break from the past, the company is positioning itself as a major inventor of hardware.
The US government is sending mixed messages on gay marriage and polygamy. A US federal court judge recently struck down the US government’s ban on plural marriages in Utah. That could leave the US Supreme Court in a “quandary” about how to approach gay marriage.
The US and China may build the world’s biggest dam together. The US development agency is considering financing the Inga III dam in Congo, and Chinese firms are among the leading bidders.
The Jamaican bobsled team is back. For the first time in more than a decade, the team earned a spot in the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The bobsledders are accepting PayPal donations to help them get there.
American seniors are contracting STDs at alarming rates. Rates of chlamydia and syphilis among Americans 65 and over resemble those of the 20- to 24-year-old age group.
Prairie dogs are infanticidal cannibals. Scientists noticed that not many mating females ended up with babies, and some would emerge from their female relatives’ burrows with blood on their faces.