What to watch for today
The EU Court of Justice gives quantitive easing its blessing—or not. When the European Central Bank enacted the Outright Monetary Transaction (OMT) program in 2012, Germany objected to the idea of using ECB money to buy sovereign bonds. Today we’ll find out whether or not OMT broke the law, despite it never being used.
Charlie Hebdo’s special edition. Some 3 million copies, including translations in English, Arabic, and Spanish, will be available. Normally the French satirical magazine does a print run of about 60,000 copies. On the cover: the Prophet Muhammed.
A Malaysian Islamic bank mega-merger falls apart. The combination of CIMB Holdings and RHB Capital, which would have created the world’s largest Islamic bank, is likely to be canceled. (The boards of each bank meet today to decide.) Shares in CIMB, run by the brother of Malaysia’s prime minister, have slumped since a preliminary deal was announced in October.
Japan’s military heavy budget. The country’s cabinet is expected to approve this fiscal year’s budget, with Bloomberg reporting that defense spending is set to make up 5% of the national budget . It’ll be the third straight year the military budget has increased; China still spends three times more on defense.
Hong Kong’s chief executive gives his annual address. It’s been an eventful 12 months for CY Leung, between the Occupy protests, skyrocketing real estate prices (paywall), and pressure to increase competitiveness. Early polls show the public still has low expectations for anything impactful being said.
While you were sleeping
Oil dropped—again. Prices are down nearly 60% since peaking in June 2014. US crude futures for February touched $44.20 per barrel at one point and WTI fell below $45. This latest drop came after the UAE’s oil minister reiterated that OPEC has no plans to cut production, despite the pain.
European countries now get the final say on GM crops. Bucking its usual habit of making all member states abide by the same rules, the European Parliament ruled that countries can decide whether to grow or ban genetically modified crops. (The new law doesn’t apply to GM animal feed.) Some countries are likely to introduce bans, but Britain is saying it will fast-track approvals.
Amazon signed Woody Allen. The famous filmmaker will make his first television series for the online retailer’s streaming service. Details remain scant, but a season of 30-minute episodes is expected to air in the US, UK, and Germany.
Germany’s leaders marched for religious tolerance. Both chancellor Angela Merkel and president Joachim Gauck took part in a gathering in the country’s capital to promote tolerance for Muslims (link in German). The event was organized in response to rallies by the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident, especially Monday’s, which saw 25,000 people march in Dresden.
Ryanair got a little more luxurious. The budget airline with the penny-pinching reputation said it will start testing in-flight entertainment and possibly wireless internet this year. The latter might even be free—though heavily subsidized by ads. Ryanair flew 86.4 million passengers last year, beating its closest rival EasyJet by more than 20 million.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve LeVine on what will be the story of the year. “The key new conclusion that market analysts are reaching is that this oil price plunge is unlike previous ones. For one thing, it could last a lot longer, they say, because shale oil differs fundamentally from conventionally drilled petroleum. When an oil company drills offshore, for instance, there can be a five-year to a decade-long time lag between exploration and actual production. But with shale oil, the time lag can be just 12 months.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Greece can learn a lot from Brazil and Argentina. It’s facing the same issues Brazil saw in 2002 and Argentina saw in 2001, and it needs to make sure its access to markets isn’t eviscerated.
Libya is going to be the West’s next major problem. Just 300 miles away from Europe, ISIL is already setting up camp there to train soldiers, and no one is paying attention.
France needs to focus on the Muslim youth. They feel abandoned society (paywall), which makes them susceptible to extremists who offer even a hint of acceptance and friendship.
The US is crazy. An American traveling abroad is bound to hear the questions: Why don’t you believe in climate change? Why are you opposed to national healthcare? Why is education so expensive? Are you asleep, America?
David Cameron wants to destroy the internet. Or at least see Britain’s internet become something more akin to what you’d find in Syria, or China, or Russia.
A record 97 skyscrapers were built in 2014. More than half of them were built in China.
Free speech doesn’t apply to Charlie Hebdo jokes. A French comedian who said “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly”—a play on Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibal, the man who took hostages at a kosher supermarket in Paris—is being investigated for “defending terrorism.”
There’s an easy way to get rid of invasive species of plants. Call a man named Brian Knox and he’ll pull up to your property with 70 hungry goats.
Fake cops cost real money. An audit shows that the US is spending about $300 million every year on the salaries of police officers in Afghanistan who may not actually exist.
Correction: In yesterday’s email, we said ex-Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych was toppled in 2013 and that Interpol accused him of embezzlement. Yanukovych was actually toppled in 2014, and Ukrainian officials are the ones accusing him of embezzlement.