What to watch for today
Will Cristina Kirchner put her foot in her mouth again? Argentina’s president has one more day of a state visit to China to sign investment deals. Yesterday she tweeted something rather offensive about her hosts and seemed unrepentant afterwards. Look out for more examples of her diplomatic prowess.
Gazprom holds an investor meeting in Singapore. As Western sanctions bite, the Russian state-owned natural gas producer has also said that it will use its upcoming listing in Hong Kong to allow mainland Chinese investors to buy shares, using the recently opened Stock Connect link between Hong Kong and Shanghai.
John Kerry lands in Ukraine. The US secretary of state will meet Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, for an update on the fighting in the east. Earlier this week, reports emerged that the US was preparing to provide Ukraine with weapons for its war with pro-Russian separatists. Obama’s soon-to-be defense secretary agrees it should.
Twitter makes its case to Wall Street. The social network needs to show investors some progress after a bumpy few months, but they’re expecting growth in both revenue and users to slow down. If it can’t pleasantly surprise them on those two scores, it will probably try to puff all the cool things it’s launched recently.
The day in numbers. Companies reporting earnings include: Twitter, LinkedIn, News Corp, Dunkin’ Donuts, GoPro, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cemex, Takata, Volvo, and Daimler. As for economic data: US trade balance, Indonesian fourth-quarter GDP, and German factory orders, and the Bank of England keeps interest rates at 0.5%.
While you were sleeping
General Motors shared the wealth. Despite spending $4.1 billion in 2014 on recalls, the US auto giant’s profit rose by 91% last quarter (paywall), thanks largely to higher margins in North and South America. The company will pay 48,000 hourly workers a $9,000 bonus, and boost next quarter’s dividend to investors.
Wizz Air laid the groundwork for an IPO. The Hungarian budget airline carrier is smaller than both Ryanair and EasyJet, but it carried 15.8 million passengers in 2014, up 17% from the previous year. It plans to raise €150 million ($171 million) when it floats shares worth 20% of the company in London this quarter.
Lenders put the squeeze on Greece. The European Central Bank said it will no longer take Greek government bonds as collateral from Greek banks, thus putting the onus to help them on Greece’s central bank. EU officials dropped hints that Greece could run out of money within three weeks unless it plays ball with its creditors.
The US unveiled a net neutrality plan. The top US communications regulator announced a plan to ensure equal treatment of digital traffic by regulating the internet as a common carrier. The move, expected to be approved on Feb. 26, will likely anger telecom firms but please companies such as Netflix and Facebook, open internet activists, and president Barack Obama.
Jordan vowed “punishment and revenge” after executing two prisoners. In response to ISIL burning alive a Jordanian pilot it captured in Syria, Jordan hanged two Iraqi jihadists—including the would-be suicide bomber, Sajida al-Rishawi, whom ISIL had demanded in a hostage swap.
Staples made the Office Depot deal official. The cash-and-stock deal valued at $6.3 billion will merge the two US chains to create an office supplies giant. The deal, expected to close at the end of this year, values Office Depot at $11 per share. The reason it’s happening: Amazon.
Quartz obsession interlude
Lily Kuo on how China is backsliding on human rights. “Last year, China detained at least 940 Chinese citizens working on human and civil rights—a 72% increase from the year before, according to new data from the advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders. The figure demonstrates what critics say is a worsening government crackdown on the country’s civil society.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Cyberterrorism is a government myth. The US is spreading fear of hackers to justify hacking its own people.
The US unemployment rate is a big fat lie. The head of Gallup is furious with the media for parroting a data point—5.6% unemployment—that includes too many caveats to list.
Nigeria’s army is useless. Underfunded, undertrained, and sometimes unwilling to their job, the troops that are supposed to fight Boko Haram simply aren’t doing it.
Farming now does more climate damage than deforestation. The good news is deforestation is slowing down; the bad news is agricultural pollution is growing.
Some Japanese soldiers are serious Star Wars fans. An army brigade built a gigantic snow sculpture of Darth Vader and his stormtroopers.
A new device can tell you instantly if you’ve been hacked. It spots tiny changes in how a computer draws power when it’s under cyber-attack.
Nap time is making a comeback. The University of East Anglia in the UK is the first university in the country to introduce a nap room.
Brain damage can be remarkably specific. A stroke made a 94-year-old Chinese woman forget her Chinese, but she can still speak English.
Student loans cause stress. Remarkably, it’s taken until now for a scientific study to establish it.