What to watch for today
South Africa talks a good game. President Jacob Zuma’s state of the union address coincides with South Africa’s 20th year of democracy and falls just three months before its national elections. He will have to answer to widespread protests about his party’s success as well as strikes in the mining sector.
PepsiCo’s profits fizzle. America’s growing distaste for sugary drinks is taking its toll on PepsiCo, which is expected to post a 7.7% decline in earnings per share to $1 (excluding one-time events), on revenues of $20.16 billion. Too bad for PepsiCo that Coca Cola’s doing just fine.
India mulls tackling corporate corruption. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) will consider a proposal to protect shareholder interests that would require public companies to justify high executive pay, limit the number of directorships one person can hold and implement a staff whistle-blower policy.
Rio Tinto digs itself out of a hole. The iron ore miner is upping its annual dividend by 8% to $1.81 today; the company is banking on cash from a $2 billion cost-cutting spree. After a $3 billion loss in 2013, it’s set to report a 32% second-half profit jump to $5.49 billion.
While you were sleeping
The Bank of England rewrote its strategy. The central bank upgraded its 2014 growth forecast from 2.8% to 3.4% and said it could start to raise interest rates as soon as one year from now. Governor Mark Carney said it would rely on 18 measures of business activity rather than the previous 7% unemployment rate target.
Fitch vouched for Egypt’s economy. The rating agency said Egypt’s debt outlook has stabilized due to political and economic improvements, after taking the country off negative watch last month. It cited the new constitution and increased investment inflows, but warned that ”serious tensions remain.”
The Boston Bomber faced the iron fist. A US federal judge ruled that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial will begin Nov. 3, rejecting his defense’s request for more time. Tsarnaev will plead not guilty to 30 charges, of which 17 could result in the death penalty.
America dumped the debt limit. The US Senate agreed to lift the ceiling on America’s debt for another year, voting 55-43 to ensure the US does not default on its $17 trillion-plus of debt. All that’s needed now is president Barack Obama’s sign-off.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve LeVine on how Big Oil’s bad news is good news for developments in energy technology. “The central element is capital spending. In 2013, the five companies spent a collective $169 billion trying to discover new oil, develop fields, and build big projects. That was $27.3 billion, or about 20%, more than they spent in 2012 on the same endeavors. It also was almost identical to the $30.9 billion drop in profit in 2013. When you factor in the price of oil—crude averaged about $108 a barrel in 2013, compared with $111 the prior year—you get even closer. The higher cost of finding and developing new oil projects is in fact almost entirely responsible for Big Oil’s profit misery last year.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
It’s tough being ugly. Beyond being oppressive, society doesn’t recognize the ugly as a marginalized group that suffers injustices.
Who started the First World War? Almost 100 years later to the day, top academics can’t seem to agree.
Video games are following the TV model. Instead of releasing big blockbusters, the new thing in game design is gradually released episodes.
Black History Month misses the point. Celebrating a few historic heroes disregards the everyday experience of black people in America.
The Loch Ness monster could be dead. For the first time in almost a century, no sightings of the aquatic legend have been recorded in a year.
Earth has expensive taste in cars. A 25-ft deep sinkhole swallowed eight rare vintage Corvettes at a Kentucky museum.
Vietnam is building the next Silicon Valley. The South Asian country wants to create the ideas, not just the components.
Shoppers spend more when they’re warm. There’s a strong correlation between physical warmth and emotional warmth.
Non-conformist style makes people think you’re successful. Donning an eccentric bow-tie or growing a beard can boost your social status.