Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Russia slows, Europe holds steady, Japan inflates, the 1% freak out

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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. Her mission: Wind down the Fed’s stimulus without damaging the economy.

Russia’s slowing growth. Analysts predict that Russia’s economy expanded by 1.5% in 2013, the weakest growth in four years. The country relies heavily on oil and gas exports, which suffered from low demand due to Europe’s economic woes.

Kerry’s Ukraine talks. The US secretary of state is set to meet with Ukrainian opposition leaders at a security conference in Munich. President Viktor Yanukovych is currently on “sick leave.”

Mexico’s interest-rate decision. Most expect no change from the Bank of Mexico meeting, but policymakers will somehow have to find an answer to rising inflation, which hit 4.6% this month.

Thailand braces for elections. Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government is pressing forward despite the risk of violent clashes with protesters who have vowed to disrupt Sunday’s vote. Here’s how it could all play out.

While you were sleeping

Euro zone inflation edged down to a paltry 0.7% in January—less than half the European Central Bank’s target—and unemployment held steady at 12%. The news could prompt an interest rate cut next week.

Fashion’s back in fashion. Luxury goods firm LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s shares surged after sales of high-end apparel and leather goods rebounded in the fourth quarter.

Michael Bloomberg’s encore. The ex-New York City mayor will reportedly be named as a special UN envoy on cities and climate change.

Detroit creditors: Separate but equal? The bankrupt city is planning to divide its unsecured creditors into pensioners, who would get cash, and general obligation bondholders, who would receive paper, reports the New York Times.

Japanese inflation sped up. Prices rose 1.3% in December, a shot in the arm for the Bank of Japan’s goal to reach 2% inflation, but stubbornly falling wages made things tough for consumers.

The year of the horse began. Asians marked the lunar new year with fireworks and dancing dragons. In China, hundreds of millions of people traveled home for the celebrations, making air pollution even worse.

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. Bank bashing and Obama’s push on income inequality are driving America’s wealthiest to mass paranoia.

The Super Bowl doesn’t boost the US economy. Predictions of multi-million dollar cash injections are usually just hype.

China can’t let its housing bubble pop. The damage to household wealth and consumption would be devastating.

Puerto Rico got a back-door bailout. A crucial excise tax to attract corporate dollars to the island was actually billed to  the US Treasury (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

South of the border, Blockbuster lives. There’s still a thriving video-rental market in Mexico.

The gynecologist will see you now, sir. The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology relaxed its ban on male patients.

The Seinfeld cast is re-uniting. In the timeless words of George Constanza, “I’m back, baby, I’m back!

16 months adrift in the Pacific. An emaciated Mexican man finally made landfall in the Marshall Islands; he reportedly survived by eating turtles, birds and fish, and drinking their blood. 

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Seinfeld quotes and castaway diet fads to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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