What to watch for today
Mining giants of the world, unite! Glencore, the world’s largest commodities trading firm, will almost certainly be eating the whole of mining firm Xstrata, and the bill will come to $31 billion. In addition to voting on the merger today, shareholders will vote on whether to spend $200 million on retention bonuses. If the merger is approved without bonuses, the deal could backfire.
EU meets to decide how much to prolong Greece’s agony. At a meeting of the finance ministers of the 17 euro-zone nations in Brussels, options for postponing Grexit will be discussed, including lowering rates on the country’s bailout loans. A decision last week to give the country until 2022 instead of 2020 to bring its debt-to-GDP ratio down to 120% has frustrated the International Monetary Fund, whose head, Christine Lagarde, says she will come to the talks “patient and resilient.”
The US reports new housing starts. Today’s numbers are likely to be somewhat lower than September’s four-year high of 872,000, but later this year the trend could turn positive, due to record-low mortgage rates and improvements in the labor market and consumer sentiment. Yesterday’s data on sales of existing homes and earnings from Lowe’s, a home-improvement firm, gave cautiously optimistic signals that the housing sector, a big driver of the US economy, is continuing to recover.
While you were sleeping
The Dow jumped like it was stung. The composite index went up 200 points, its biggest gain in months. Apple’s stock shot up 7%, and better than expected housing reports, as well as rumors of a possible resolution to the fiscal cliff, also helped.
Intel’s current CEO is putting himself out to pasture. Intel boss Paul Otellini is retiring next spring, and his eight years as CEO were marked by a 37% decline in Intel’s market cap. It’s an opportunity for the company to shake things up, and Quartz’s Christopher Mims argues that its next CEO should come from Israel. This has to do with the fact that Israel is also where Intel is most vulnerable to rocket attacks.
Brits want to abandon the EU. It’s not terribly scientific, but an Observer newspaper poll of Her Majesty’s subjects shows that 56% want to exit the EU before Greece does.
Shadow banking: We have met the enemy, and he is us. The shadow banking industry is now $67 trillion in size, and regulators want to do something to reign in its constituent parts, including money-market mutual funds and off-balance sheet investment vehicles. Since “shadow banking” is a catch-all term, odds are, some of your money is involved.
Twinkies prove hard to kill. US snack company Hostess, maker of the Twinkie and other nostalgic but not very nutritious American snacks, has agreed to mediation with its union, after announcing that it would go into liquidation over an irreconcilable conflict between the company and labor. Meanwhile, Canadian company Saputo has the rights to Twinkies north of the border, and could fill the breach should the world supply of Twinkies prove to be at risk.
Quartz obsession interlude
Quartz’s Tim Fernholz asks whether the markets are being a little too optimistic about the chances of a timely resolution to the fiscal cliff. What could finally make them lose their cool? “Perhaps Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who can decide whether tax withholdings should be at their pre- or post-fiscal cliff levels in the new year, depending on how likely a deal looks. If he chooses post-cliff, and people immediately feel the bite of higher taxes in their paychecks, it could spur fears of recession and a sell-off that would, at last, scare Washington into action.”
Matters of debate
Why Wal-Mart is so worried about holiday labor strikes. The mega-retailer filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in an attempt to head off a strike of workers this Friday Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year in the US. It’s a sign the resolutely anti-union company is taking the strike threat seriously. For a company that’s all about low prices, an organized workforce could represent an existential threat.
Cheer up, GOP. The US media has been flush with stories about why no Republican will ever be elected president ever again (we exaggerate, but just a bit), but these concerns could be overblown. It’s a political party, after all, and politicians will be nothing if not flexible in the face of a changing, less-white constituency.
Obama in Myanmar. In a historic visit to a country only recently ruled by a military junta, the US president visited the country’s largest city, avoiding the “soulless” capital established by its dictators.
How to end the Israel/Gaza conflict. This is what a cease-fire brokered by a pragmatically pro-Gaza Egypt looks like. A less likely outcome: a peace brokered by Bill Clinton. And here’s the story of the conflict, in numbers.
With friends like these, Microsoft Surface doesn’t need enemies. Oprah has been tweeting in support of Microsoft’s new Surface tablet—from an iPad.
Love bonus. In China’s version of Silicon Valley, the Chengdu cloud computing company will give employees a bonus of $180 for falling in love with a coworker, and between $80 and $160 for falling in love with a worker at a rival tech company.
With friends like these, Australia doesn’t need enemies either. In the 1980s, Australia’s intelligence service spied on the US to obtain codes to enable a radar that could detect enemy aircraft, after US officials refused to hand them over.
Greeks flee cities. Greeks are retreating to ancestral villages to live as they might have in the 19th century.
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