What to watch for today
The Fed’s first female chair. It’s Ben Bernanke’s last day in the hot seat, as Janet Yellen steps up to the US central bank’s top position on Saturday. Yellen, who is also the Fed’s first Democrat boss since 1987, will have to oversee the winding-down of the Fed’s stimulus without damaging the global economy.
Russia’s slowing growth. Analysts predict that Russia’s economy expanded by 1.5% in 2013—less than half its increase the previous year (3.4%) and the weakest growth since 2009. The country relies heavily on oil and gas exports, which suffered low demand this year due to Europe’s economic woes.
The state of Europe’s job market. The euro zone’s unemployment rate has hardly budged for the last year, hovering around 12.1%, and markets aren’t holding their breath for a shocker today. However, they’ll be watching closely: Even a drop to 12% would point toward a post-crisis recovery.
Mexico’s interest-rate decision. Most expect no change from today’s Bank of Mexico meeting, but policymakers will have to somehow answer to Mexico’s rising inflation, which hit 4.6% this month. The central banks of Turkey and South Africa raised rates this week to stem their currencies’ losses.
The year of the horse. Chinese new year is marked around the world with fireworks and dancing dragons. Around 1.3 billion people travel home to China for the celebrations. Pets hate them.
While you were sleeping
Nintendo went for self-improvement. A day after pretty bad earnings, the games company unveiled a self-preservation plan: a “third platform” centered around “quality-of-life” apps (physical fitness, health monitoring and mental dexterity), to help Nintendo tap into a new customer base of non-gamers.
Ukraine’s president called in sick. Viktor Yanukovych has gone on sick leave, two days after the prime minister and his cabinet stepped down following weeks of unrest. Does Yanukovych really have “acute respiratory disease and a high temperature,” or is he heading for the exit?
Facebook launched a new app. Available February 3rd in the US, Facebook’s “Paper” will combine updates from your friends with news from the media in a slickly-designed, customizable app in the vein of Medium or Flipbook. Take a look here.
Amazon made a profit and still disappointed investors. Though revenue grew 20%, it was the slowest increase since 2009, and the fact that profit more than doubled didn’t mollify the markets; seems they’re too used to Amazon’s long-standing penchant for sacrificing profit for growth.
Libya sued Goldman Sachs for outsmarting it. Documents were released for a lawsuit that Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund filed last week. It accuses Goldman of showering the fund’s staff with gifts and smooth-talking them into “worthless” trades that netted Goldman a hefty profit.
Bad news for the Boston bomber. Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old accused of killing three people during the Boston Marathon last year. The federal government has executed only three people in the last 50 years; Tsarnaev’s backpack bomb was designated a “weapon of mass destruction.”
Good news for US growth. The economy expanded by 3.2% in the fourth quarter, buoyed by the country’s highest consumer spending in three years, and contributing to the country’s best second-half growth since 2003.
Quartz obsession interlude
Heather Timmons on life after banking in Hong Kong. “Rather than leaving Hong Kong in search of the next banking hot-spot, a growing number of finance pros have started businesses, from last-minute hotel booking websites to crowd-funding groups to organic farms. The career-hopping has helped push start-ups to 16% of new investments in Hong Kong last year, from 11% in 2010, Bloomberg reported today. In many cases, they’re going directly after their old employers’ business.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The one percent are freaking out. Global bank bashing and Obama’s push against income inequality are driving America’s wealthiest to mass paranoia.
The Super Bowl doesn’t boost the US economy. The multi-million dollar cash injection predictions are usually just hype.
China can’t let its housing bubble pop. If it does, the damage to household wealth and consumption would be devastating.
Stop listening to Tony Blair on the Middle East. He’s usually on the wrong side of history.
There are gay people in Sochi. Someone had better tell its mayor, who claimed there weren’t any.
The Seinfeld cast are reuniting. In the timeless words of George Constanza, “I’m back, baby, I’m back!“
The Cronut became the C®onut. Many bakeries worldwide have imitated the croissant-donut hybrid created in New York, but now nobody else can call it that.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Seinfeld quotes and alternative pastry names to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.