What to watch for today
The Goldman Sachs report card. Investors are eager to see how the firm—the fifth largest bank in the US by assets—performed during the fourth quarter and full year 2014 given that its rivals have taken quite a haircut due to legal fees.
Cuban relations with the US open up. New US rules to ease travel and trade restrictions between the two countries kick in today. The most anticipated will allow American travelers who qualify under a dozen broad authorized categories to visit the country without a license. And they’ll be allowed to use their credit and debit cards on the island with no spending limit. Earlier this week, Cuba freed the last of 53 political prisoners.
Another try at peace in the Ukraine. A meeting to revive a shaky ceasefire will be held in Minsk between representatives from Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republic, after an attack earlier this week left 12 dead.
The credit raters weigh in. Fitch is going to provide its latest assessments on the sovereign debt of Germany, Greece; Moody’s is going to rate Ireland; and DBRS will offer its opinion on the UK.
While you were sleeping
Two died in Belgium after an anti-terrorist raid. The raid by Belgian police, which took place in Verviers, a town roughly 70 miles from Brussels, left two suspects dead and a third seriously injured and in the custody of authorities. The raid was reportedly part of an effort (paywall) by the Belgian police to crack down on extremists known to have fought in Syria. Belgium has also raised its terror threat level to three out of four.
Target pulled out of Canada. The big box retailer will shut down the 133 stores it has in the country, after calculating that the venture wouldn’t be profitable until 2021. The closures will require letting go of 17,600 employees. Target’s Canadian launch two years ago led a pack of US retailers opening stores there, including Nordstrom, Saks and J. Crew.
Citigroup and Bank of America’s suffering. Thanks to restructuring and punishing legal fees, Citigroup’s $17.81 billion in earnings last quarter disappointed Wall Street, which expected the bank to rake in $18.51 billion. Similarly at Bank of America, revenues fell to $3.1 billion in 2014’s final quarter, from $3.4 billion a year ago. It’s the first earnings season since regulators in the US, UK, and Switzerland slapped five major banks with $3.4 billion in fines for tampering with foreign exchange markets.
Elon Musk threw $10 million at safeguarding artificial intelligence. The founder of Tesla and SpaceX donated $10 million to address potential ethical and legal risks of artificial intelligence, as computers come to rival humans’ cognitive abilities. The funds will go to the Future of Life Institute, a research organization focused on the issue.
BP cut hundreds of jobs in the North Sea. The oil giant said it will axe 200 jobs and 100 contractor positions in the North Sea, where it currently employes 3,500 people. It’s the latest in a series of cuts by energy companies including ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and Shell, as oil prices continue to drop while industry costs remain high.
Quartz obsession interlude
Jason Karaian on the shocking move by Switzerland’s central bank. “Currencies aren’t supposed to move like this. Certainly not currencies like the Swiss franc, long considered a safe, stable store of value. But a shock move from the Swiss National Bank today—we’ll explain in a minute—pushed the franc up, way up, in early trading today. The knock-on effect is roiling a wide range of markets.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Mario Draghi has no more excuses. The president of the European Central Bank has been given the green light to move forward with quantitive easing, so when the ECB meets again next week, QE better be the star of the show.
It’s time to talk to North Korea about its nukes. Given that sanctions haven’t mitigated (paywall) North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, it’s time to act on its recent offer to stop testing them on the condition that the US doesn’t conduct military exercises in South Korea.
Obesity and poverty are inherently linked. Vegetables, nutritional education, and super foods aren’t within the grasp of the poor.
Tunisia is still on the brink of disaster. High unemployment and corruption, the same factors that lead to the country’s Jasmine revolution, are back, despite reforms.
Inactivity is worse for you than obesity. Being thin and idle doesn’t make you healthier than someone who’s overweight and active, according to a 12-year study from the University of Cambridge with over 300,000 participants.
There’s an underground library in Beijing. The city is offering citizens on certain subway routes the option of reading e-books provided by the National Library by scanning the QR code in the carriage.
Social media is a stress reducer for women. Pew says women who are active users of Twitter, use email, and share two photos a day are 21% less stressed out than less-connected women.
Smart shoes will soon be a thing. German researchers have built two wearable electronics that can fit in a sneaker and generate energy from the motion of walking.