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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Obama’s middle-class plan, S&P’s ratings ban, Samsung drops Qualcomm, Davos prognostications

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

What to watch for today

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. And here’s what to keep a close eye on:

  • Al Gore talks climate change with Pharrell. The former US vice-president will appear alongside pop star Pharrell Williams, who is also the “creative director” of Bionic Yarn, which produces durable textiles from recycled plastic.
  • Will Petro Poroshenko check out early? The Ukraine president said he would return home from Switzerland today after fighting in eastern Ukraine grew more intense. It is not yet clear whether Poroshenko will deliver his keynote, originally scheduled for 2.30pm GMT.

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.

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’s agenda-setting State of the Union proposed ways to help the middle class and combat income inequality, including provisions to subsidize community college and child care. Obama told the GOP-controlled Congress to “turn the page.”

Dalian Wanda bought into Spanish football. The commercial property giant’s owner Wang Jianlin paid €45 million ($52 million) for a 20% stake in Atletico Madrid, which won Spain’s La Liga championship last year but is saddled with heavy debts. Wanda, which has been expanding overseas as China’s property market cools, is the first Chinese company to invest in a major European football club.

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.

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.

Samsung dropped Qualcomm chips from its next smartphone. Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon chip overheated when Samsung tested it in its latest Galaxy S handset, according to Bloomberg. Samsung’s next version of the phone, which could reach the market as soon as March, will instead use Samsung’s own chip.

Quartz obsession interlude

Heather Timmons on why US jobs won’t be coming back from China. ”Manufacturing employment is still nowhere the levels of the 1980s and 1990s, and there’s no reason to think it will ever regain those heights again. For starters, there are plenty of other low-cost manufacturing destinations competing with China for low-skilled manufacturing work, including Vietnam and Bangladesh.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The ECB’s quantitative easing plan will fail. So says the man who predicted the financial crisis.

America needs Fresh Off The BoatCritics are stumbling over themselves trying to discuss the TV show’s Asian-American issues.

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.

College sororities should serve alcohol. They would offer a safer alternative to sexual assault-prone fraternity parties.

Surprising discoveries

Amazon changed the price of the Bible over 100 times in five years. Its pricing algorithms swung between $8.49 and $16.99.

Davos predictions aren’t always wrong. Here’s a round up of who got what right last year.

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

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.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Al Gore/Pharrell duets, and broken resolutions to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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