What to watch for today
South Africa’s state of the union. President Jacob Zuma’s address coincides with South Africa’s 20th year of democracy and comes three months before national elections. He is facing accusations that his African National Congress party is failing to provide basic services.
PepsiCo’s profits lose their fizz. America’s growing distaste for sugary drinks is taking its toll, and the drinkmaker is expected to post a 7.7% decline in earnings. Even worse for Pepsi, Coca Cola is doing just fine.
India may tighten the reins on executives. The Securities and Exchange Board of India will consider a proposal to require public companies to justify high salaries, limit directorships, and implement a whistle-blower policy.
Rio Tinto digs itself out of a hole. The iron ore miner is expected to boost its annual dividend by 8% with the cash from a $2 billion cost-cutting plan. After a $3 billion loss in 2013, it’s set to report a 32% increase in second-half profits, to $5.49 billion.
While you were sleeping
Lenovo’s strong results. The Chinese hardware maker’s profits rose 29% in the third quarter as smartphone and tablet sales soared and even PCs did well, despite a shrinking global market. CEO Yang Yuanqing pledged to recoup losses from the pending acquisition of Motorola’s smartphone business and IBM’s servers “in a few quarters.”
Australia’s jobless rate increased. The January unemployment rate climbed to 6%, the highest in a decade, and with major automakers Toyota, Ford, and General Motors closing their factories, it’s likely to get worse.
South Korea held rates steady. For the ninth straight month, the South Korean central bank maintained interest rates at 2.5%, despite a below-target inflation rate. Its economy looks increasingly insulated from collateral damage of slowdowns (paywall) in China and other emerging markets.
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. Society doesn’t recognize the less attractive as a marginalized group that suffers injustices.
Who started the First World War? Almost 100 years later, experts can’t seem to agree.
Video games are following the TV model. Instead of releasing big blockbusters, the new thing in game design is episodic releases.
Black History Month misses the point. Celebrating a few heroes disregards the everyday experience of black people in America.
Earth has expensive taste in cars. A 25-ft sinkhole swallowed eight rare vintage Corvettes at a Kentucky museum.
Vietnam wants to build the next Silicon Valley by creating new ideas, not just assembling electronic components.
Google is renting an airport for its robots. It comes with an enormous NASA hangar.
Syria’s insurgency is being fueled by escaped Iraqi convicts. The aftermath of “Operation Breaking the Walls.”
Eccentric style makes people think you’re successful. A bow-tie or a handlebar mustache can boost your social status.