What to watch for today
Viktor Yanukovych reappears in Russia. The ousted Ukrainian president will give a press conference at 5pm Moscow time. The Swiss government is 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.
India’s growth remains sluggish. We erroneously told you this was happening yesterday, but India actually reports its GDP today. Economists predict it will post fourth-quarter growth of 4.9%—its fifth straight quarter below 5%, and a far cry from the 9% rate it was once used to.
Euro-zone jobs remain stagnant. Analysts expect unemployment to remain unchanged, which would make a whole year that the figure has been unable to duck under 12%. High unemployment, particularly among youths, has been a big issue for many recession-riddled countries, but at least it’s no longer rising.
Rio Carnival opens. Two million people per day are expected to walk the streets of Rio de Janeiro during the annual festival. Historically the event has been well-managed, but with the World Cup less than four months away, people will be watching closely for clues about Brazil’s safety and tourism efforts.
While you were sleeping
Crimea’s airport was briefly seized. Armed—but by all accounts very polite—men arrived at Simferopol International Airport and asked security to leave before looking for Ukranian troops. When none were found they left. Meanwhile, John Kerry warned Russia to back off.
Japan growth: not so shabby. Consumer prices, industrial production and the labor market all showed improvements (paywall), bolstering evidence of recent growth.
EBay rebuffed Icahn. Founder and chairman Pierre Omidyar rejected the activist investor’s proposal to split off eBay’s payment business, saying it was an old idea that the board considered and discarded.
Freddie Mac made a record profit. The second-biggest US mortgage company’s fourth-quarter profits almost doubled to $8.6 billion, leading to a $10.4 billion dividend payment to the US Treasury, which bailed it out during the financial crisis.
Brazilian GDP beat expectations. Thanks to an increase in investments, the economy grew by 0.7% in the fourth quarter—more than double the 0.3% growth expected by analysts, and allaying fears of a recession.
The US redesigned its food labels. Michelle Obama, working with the Food and Drug Administration, unveiled a plan to change 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.
Janet Yellen threw up her hands over bitcoin. The online currency cannot be controlled or regulated in any way by the US Federal Reserve, the central bank’s chairwoman told Congress (paywall), describing bitcoin as a “payment innovation that is taking place entirely outside the banking industry.”
Quartz obsession interlude
Heather Timmons and Adam Pasick on how Asia’s flagship airlines are losing out 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
Breastfeeding is overrated. A study finds no statistically significant health benefits for children who were breastfed, when compared to their bottle-fed siblings.
Taiwan is toast. After a few more decades of Chinese ascendancy, Taiwan’s only hope may be Hong Kong-style autonomy from the mainland.
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. Fraud attempts will never end, and guarding against them costs money.
SEC employees’s uncanny timing. Research suggests they are suspiciously good at offloading stocks just ahead of SEC investigations.
George W. Bush is getting his own art exhibition. The presidential paintings will go on display 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.