Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Argentina’s peso falls, Apple’s phablet foray, German homes, ghost ships

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What to watch for today

How well did Samsung sell? The South Korean electronics giant and world’s biggest smartphone maker delivers fourth-quarter results. Comments from big box retailer Best Buy last week suggested that its latest handsets didn’t fare particularly well over the holiday shopping period, in the US at least.

Davos continues. UK prime minister David Cameron and US secretary of state John Kerry are two highlights of the day’s agenda. Yesterday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani failed to impress Western policy hawks, Ukraine’s prime minister was summarily disinvited, and LGBT activists were sidelined.

Canadian inflation (or deflation). There’s been plenty of discussion about a housing bubble in Canada. But so far at least, that hasn’t translated into higher consumer prices, with economists more concerned about the persistent specter of deflation. Data today will belay or confirm those fears.

While you were sleeping

Argentina’s currency crumbled. The peso plunged as much as 18% at one point after the country’s central bank gave up trying to support it, a Sisyphean task that has depleted its foreign reserves to a 12-year low. Other emerging-market currencies were also hit, amid rising concerns about growth.

Apple is getting into phablets. The iconic device maker is planning to release a handset with a screen larger than 5 inches, probably because such devices are popular in places like South Korea and have huge growth potential elsewhere.

The White House stood up for the National Security Agency. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent government agency, said the country’s surveillance of phone calls must stop, but the Obama administration immediately rejected its recommendations.

Netflix soared. The video streaming company’s share price hit fresh record highs as Wall Street cheered possible changes to its pricing structure.

Microsoft’s sold some Surfaces: Sales of the much maligned tablet doubled during a record quarter, in terms of revenue, for the tech giant.

More evidence for water on Mars. A NASA rover confirmed the findings of another rover, adding to signs that at least some of the conditions needed for life to form once existed on the red planet. The next step is to find out whether the water contained the right chemicals.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on why so few Germans own the homes they live in. “Isn’t home ownership a crucial cog to any healthy economy? Well, as Germany shows—and Gershwin wrote—it ain’t necessarily so. In Spain, around 80% of people live in owner-occupied housing. (Yay!) But unemployment is nearly 27%, thanks to the burst of a giant housing bubble. (Ooof.) Only 43% own their home in Germany, where unemployment is 5.2%. Of course, none of this actually explains why Germans tend to rent so much.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Globalization could actually save the US labor movement. If, that is, a US union can convince Volkswagen to import the model it uses in Germany.

The world needs a “circular economy.” Companies shouldn’t sell goods, but rather services that are the use of goods, to encourage re-use and recycling.

A century year-old idea could ameliorate San Francisco’s class war. A simple change to land taxes could alleviate the bay city’s gaping inequality.

Or maybe it couldn’t. For densely populated, built-up cities, changes to zoning policy might be a better solution to stratospheric property prices, which are at the root of inequality.

Surprising discoveries

How a 1,500-ton ocean liner becomes a cannibal-rat-infested vessel. Abandoned “ghost” ships aren’t even that rare.

The CIA’s secret prison in Poland. It was established after the September 11 attacks in New York.

The strange life of bond traders at Pimco. The trading floor at the world’s biggest bond fund is eerily quiet, and there are some rather odd rules.

How life emerges from inanimate matter. A British physicist has a theory that says it’s pretty much inevitable.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, ghost ship sightings and theories of life to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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