Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
US election day has finally arrived. Voters across the country will cast ballots starting early in the American morning and until 8pm Pacific time (4am on Nov. 7, London time). Pre-election maps and polls leaned towards a slim victory for incumbent Barack Obama. Republican challenger Mitt Romney suggested earlier this year that financial markets would sink if investors thought Obama would win. However, John Stoltzfus, at Oppenheimer Investment Strategy and Research, writes, “The market will soon be free from the impediments of election uncertainty… We expect a relief rally could develop after the election to celebrate the outcome of the election regardless of which party wins.”
Puerto Rico tries to decide what it wants to be. Does the US Commonwealth in the Caribbean want to be an American state, totally independent, or something in-between? As Americans go to the polls today to choose their leader, Puerto Ricans, for the fourth time in 45 years, are trying to choose their destiny.
Did Bo Xilai’s wife (or someone else) murder an MI6 informant? The Wall Street Journal reports that Neil Heywood, the British consultant who died a year ago in mysterious circumstances in Chongqing, was passing information to Britain’s secret service. Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, was convicted of Heywood’s murder in a dubious trial. Back in March, the Journal reported that Heywood was working for a British private intelligence firm, Hakluyt. Other reports suggested he was a so-called “white glove“, who helped rich Chinese politicians and their families move money out of China.
While you were sleeping
France tries to get competitive. French President François Hollande’s administration responded in part to a report criticizing the country’s lack of competitiveness by unveiling measures to bolster the country’s sluggish industrial sector with tax incentives. The measures fall short of the shock therapy urged by the report (French), led by former EADS chief Louis Gallois. The report says France must reform labor markets to keep pace with successful Germany and rapidly reforming Italy. A report by the IMF seconded these concerns.
Greek workers protest austerity—again. Greek public-sector workers started a 48-hour general strike in Athens today, paralyzing traffic and crippling ferry services while raging against a €13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) package of austerity cuts on which parliament is due to vote tomorrow. The reforms could cut public sector pensions by 15%, chop retirement bonuses by 83%, and raise the retirement age from 65 to 67.
Chinese spies are stealing secrets from the US military, a congressional panel claims. Chinese intelligence agencies and hackers use increasingly sophisticated techniques to access US military computers, according to the draft of an annual report from Congress. The report said Chinese agencies are “relentless” in their efforts to “blind or disrupt US intelligence and communications satellites, weapons targeting systems, and navigation computers.” This comes not long after the House Intelligence Committee accused Chinese network companies Huawei and ZTE of threatening US interests.
UK factories did badly. Manufacturing activity increased less than economists expected in September, renewing fears that the UK’s economic recovery might be short-lived. The country’s central bank meets tomorrow, and may decide to expand its already unpopular economic stimulus, which critics say mostly benefits rich people.
BMW reported turbo-charged profits, slowing outlook. The luxury carmaker beat expectations with third-quarter net profits rising by 16%, fueled by strong sales in China and a 9% rise in the number of vehicles sold. But chief executive Norbert Reithofer said in a statement: “Like the rest of the sector, we are now beginning to feel some headwind.” BMW says it’s still on track to hit sales records this year with its BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce brands.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve Levine on how Sandy undermined the case for American energy independence: “In the US, both major political parties have more or less fixed on the idea of making North America an independent energy island that would satisfy all its own oil and gas needs, and export what it feels like to the rest of the world. The notion is that the US will be far less vulnerable to chaos abroad if its fuel logistics system is self-contained within the country. That is, you can have both—independence, and the ability to tap into foreign markets in a pinch. The problem with that argument is that logistics systems are built and optimized methodically and over time. In a competitive crisis in which numerous nations are after the same fuel, it would be high risk to rely on the ability to jump into the market and satisfy the fuel needs, say, of the entire US East Coast.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Donald Trump’s hair, Rick Perry doing the butter churn, or Michele Bachman chowing down on a huge corn dog? What were the best images of the entire presidential campaign?
Japan’s giants are stumbling. Can they survive? They are facing the same deterioration in core markets as their American challengers faced 20 to 30 years ago.
Bank mergers during the financial crisis may not make sense in retrospect. Then again, maybe some of them do.
Intel’s chips are losing relevance. The chips that power the iPad and iPhone may soon be good enough for desktop computers. Intel will find that difficult to process.
Self-serving US regulators are targeting foreign banks in a “self-financing, self-aggrandising business model” that aims to keep regulators employed by collecting cash to fund future inquiries.
Indian troops have spotted more than 100 UFOs near the Chinese border in the last three months. The unidentified flying objects—yellowish spheres—apparently lift off the Chinese side of the border, hover in the air for three to five hours, then disappear.
Britain’s Prince Charles could count Vlad the Impaler as an ancestor. At least, that is what the Romanians say. Though it is unlikely that Vlad, who inspired the Count Dracula legend, made organic jam.