What to watch for today
Yanukovych reappears in Russia. Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych will give a press conference in Rostov-on-Don at 5pm Moscow time, after spending several days in hiding. The Swiss government is also set to issue a decree freezing Yanukovych’s funds.
US economic growth is pared back. The second estimate of fourth-quarter GDP growth is set to be revised down to 2.7%, after an initial estimate of 3.2%, on the back of lower retail sales, which dropped in January to an 18-month low. Consumer spending accounts for approximately 70% of GDP in the US.
India’s growth remains sluggish. We erroneously told you this was happening yesterday, but India reports its GDP today. Economists predict it will post growth of 4.9% for the last quarter of 2013—its fifth straight quarter below 5%, and a far cry from the 9% rate it had been used to.
Euro-zone jobs remain stagnant. If, as analysts expect, unemployment in the region remains unchanged this month, it will mark a whole year that the figure has been unable to duck under 12%. High unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, has been a big issue for many recession-riddled countries. At least it’s no longer rising.
While you were sleeping
Freddie Mac made a record profit. The US’s second biggest mortgage company posted a record full-year profit of $48.7 billion, a strong sign of recovery in the US housing market. Profit for the fourth quarter almost doubled to $8.6 billion, leading to a $10.4 billion dividend payment to the US Treasury, which bailed it out during the crisis.
Brazilian GDP beat expectations. Thanks to an increase in investments, the economy by 0.7% in the fourth quarter—more than double the 0.3% growth expected by analysts. The positive figure allayed fears of a recession, after a 0.5% contraction in the previous quarter.
The US redesigned its food labeling. Michelle Obama, working with the Food and Drug Administration, unveiled a plan to rejig the nutritional information on food packaging. The number of calories will be printed in bigger and bolder font, while serving sizes will reflect what people actually eat, rather than how much they should eat.
Everything was awesome for Lego. The toymaker grew revenues by 10% last year, and boosted profits by 9%, despite a decline across the toy market in general. The privately-held Danish company said it would look to boost its small presence in Asia and other emerging economies to offset stagnating sales in mature markets.
Blackstone took an interest in fashion. The private equity group agreed to buy a 20% stake in Versace (paywall) to help the luxury fashion house expand across emerging markets. Several private-equity firms vied for the deal, which values the Milan-based company at €1 billion ($1.4 billion) including debt.
Quartz obsession interlude
Heather Timmons and Adam Pasick on how Asia’s flagship airlines are losing airspace to low-cost carriers. “Specifically, Qantas is getting killed by competition from Virgin Australia, a fast-growing, money-losing budget airline controlled by three other so-called flag carriers—Air New Zealand, Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore Airlines. Qantas’s fate is being echoed across Asia and around the world, as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad expand into new territories, and low-cost carriers (LCCs) like Air Asia, Southwest, Easyjet, and Ryanair fight aggressive fare wars against their older rivals.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Taxing banks won’t make them less likely to fail. It will push them toward riskier assets and a sense of entitlement to bailout funds.
“Your an idiot” (sic) is the internet’s most internet phrase. “It is both a symbol and a symptom of our computer-reliant times.”
Bitcoin needs to learn from PayPal’s early problems. The lesson: Fraud attempts will keep happening and guarding against them costs money.
The phablet phase is over. Sometimes, the size does count.
George W. Bush is getting his own art exhibition. The presidential paintings will go on show in Dallas this spring.
This guy is going Jurassic Park on passenger pigeons. He’s trying to genetically recreate the species, which went extinct 100 years ago.
Dogs have no shame. All those finger wags and stern, disapproving looks? Total waste of time.
People still use landlines. Some of them would rather give up the internet than their home phones.