What to watch for today
A close eye on the Bank of Japan. Analysts expect no change in monetary policy, after data on Monday showed that Japan had (just about) crawled out of recession. But they’ll be watching to see if the governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, has given up on his target of getting to 2% inflation a year from now.
The UN Security Council meets on Libya. The UN’s top governing body holds an emergency meeting to discuss Egypt’s request for the UN to form a coalition to intervene in the country. Egyptian planes bombed ISIL targets in Libya after ISIL beheaded 21 Coptic Christians who were Egyptian citizens.
Greece caves, somewhat. Greece will reportedly ask for up to six months’ grace on its lending agreement—as distinct from the country’s troubled bailout program, which expires on Feb. 28 (though we suspect the distinction is semantic.) The Greek government is showing signs of weariness in its fight with creditors.
Barack Obama speaks on extremism. The White House is hosting a three-day summit to discuss non-military strategies for fighting terrorist groups. Republicans have been criticizing the president for refusing to directly link terrorism to Islam.
Russia reports retail sales and unemployment for January. The US will also release its industrial production figures, and the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve release minutes of their last policy meetings.
While you were sleeping
The Ukraine truce was falling apart. Russian-backed rebels were reported as having taken over the town of Debaltseve, despite a supposed ceasefire agreement. The Ukrainian government says they haven’t, though it admitted that the rebels took several soldiers prisoner. Both sides missed a deadline under the truce to pull back.
Sacred French Sundays came under attack. After parliament rebelled, the French government pushed through by decree a package of economic reforms that will, among other things, allow shops to stay open on more Sundays. The reforms are meant to spur the economy and help France avoid sanctions that the European Commission is threatening to impose on countries whose budgets break EU limits.
UK inflation hit record lows. It dropped from 0.5% year-on-year in December to 0.3% in January, as oil and food have become cheaper. With elections in three months, the government is happy that consumers have that spending power, but fears of deflation are creating a headache for the Bank of England.
The US said it would start exporting armed drones. Despite controversy about selling lethal autonomous weapons to other governments, the US has finally allowed it. Officials said buyers would face strict conditions, and be reviewed for “human rights, regional power balance, and other implications.”
Dominique Strauss-Kahn probably got off the hook. A French prosecutor called for acquittal for the former IMF managing director in his pimping trial in Lille, France, after several prostitutes dropped their charges against him in a civil suit. Here are some shocking quotes from Strauss-Kahn during his trial.
Alexei Navalny also avoided the worst. A Russian court upheld a suspended 3½-year sentence for one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics, on charges of fraud widely seen as politically motivated (paywall). But the court ended Navalny’s house arrest and denied prosecutors’ requests to jail him for 10 years. He’s planning a big protest in Moscow on March 1.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve LeVine asks whether the oil price plunge is really just a blip. “No one predicted that many of the presumptions underlying our understanding of basic geopolitics and economics were about to be shaken fundamentally. So, should we now believe some of the oil industry’s main luminaries when they say, as they did at Davos last month, that the price turbulence we are currently witnessing is merely another of history’s usual cyclical busts, and that nothing fundamental is different?” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Don’t be so shocked about the weekend’s shootings in Denmark. The country is not as multicultural as it seems (paywall).
Get ready for $10 oil. The price has a long way to fall before most major producers chicken out and stop pumping.
There could be four separate financial crises in emerging markets this year. That’s double the long-term average.
Hate crimes are too hard to prosecute in the US. The Chapel Hill murder of Muslim students proves this once again.
Life on Earth is a billion years older than we thought. Some rocks told scientists that life could have thrived 3.2 billion years ago.
The “paleo diet” is a fiction. Early hominids ate just about everything.
Midnight snacks may be bad for your brain. In mice, eating late disrupted sleep patterns and hurt the ability to learn and remember.
There’s an aggressive HIV strain in Cuba. It develops into full-blown AIDS in less than three years; other strains take 10 years.
Remove an unwanted tattoo… with cream? A new invention promises to fade ink and erase regrets, all without the painful laser.