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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Obama’s middle-class plan, S&P’s ratings ban, Netflix’s bumper numbers, Indian tiger comeback

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Russia’s would-be ruble savior starts work. Dmitry Tulin takes over as the central bank’s head of monetary policy after his predecessor was shunted aside, and will try to rein in the free-falling ruble. Tulin has seen worse: He was deputy head of the bank right after the Soviet Union fell apart.

Davos, day one. Some 2,900 high-flying business and government leaders—only 17% of them women—are gathering for the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to discuss a wide swath of topics. Here’s our full, searchable, sortable participant list.

Microsoft’s new operating system. Microsoft will provide more details on Windows 10 as it attempts to demonstrate its relevance in a world dominated by smartphones and tablets. The company is also expected to introduce a new web browser, and may also tease new a phone-laptop hybrid (paywall) aimed at corporate users.

Data, data, data: The Bank of Canada updates its growth and inflation forecasts, the Bank of England releases minutes from its last meeting, and Brazil’s central bank may raise its benchmark interest rate to 12.25%. American Express and eBay are due to report quarterly earnings.

While you were sleeping

Obama vowed to fix the modern American economy. The US president outlined ways to help the middle class and combat income inequality, including provisions to subsidize community college and child care. “We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said in his agenda-setting State of the Union address.

The Bank of Japan slashed its inflation forecast. The central bank said prices will rise just 1% in the fiscal year beginning in April, after forecasting 1.7% growth just three months ago. As expected, the bank kept the base interest rate at 0% and maintained its 80 trillion yen-per-year ($676 billion) bond-buying monetary stimulus.

Standard & Poors faces a ratings ban. The US Securities and Exchange Commission plans to stop the company from rating mortgage-backed securities for one year, according to Bloomberg. The penalty would be the the toughest action taken against a ratings agency in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Netflix smashed expectations. Its earnings were 60% higher than Wall Street expected, as the number of international users surged. The company said its worldwide expansion would be complete in two years, eventually operating in 200 countries, from 50 currently.

Alibaba is getting into life insurance. The Chinese e-commerce conglomerate wants to buy shares in the state-run New China Life Insurance, according to Reuters, which cited Shanghai Securities News. Alibaba was also involved in a $4.7 billion share purchase of China’s second-largest insurance company Ping An last month, leading some speculate the company is planning to make a major move to disrupt the country’s financial sector.

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani offers a peek at the likely tech stories of the year. “January may be coming to a close, but the flood of predictions, forecasts, and prognostications for the year ahead hasn’t abated. Among the dross however is the annual list of predictions from GP Bullhound, a boutique investment bank that specializes in tech companies. The bank is worth listening to: As a dealmaker straddling start-ups and large firms, it sees trends as they’re happening. And its record of predictions from 2014 is more hit than miss.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Obama’s State of the Union was one for the ladies. New policies could help many women re-enter the workforce.

It’s great to see men worry about balding. It’s a rare display of male insecurity.

Disruptive technology is killing the American dream. The next round of workplace automation will hollow out the middle class.

China needs to stop harassing foreign companies. Premier Li Keqiang could use his visit to Davos to offer some reassurance.

Surprising discoveries

Facebook knows when you break your resolutions. This is the week it tends to detect people giving up on the gym.

India’s tigers are multiplying. The population rose by 30% between 2010 and 2014.

In the Central African Republic, a grenade is cheaper than a can of Coke. The weapons sell for a dollar or less.

Buying a patent can spring you from prison in China. There’s a legal loophole that reduces inventors’ sentences.

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