Quartz Daily Brief—UK banks in disarray, US net neutrality, decriminalizing adultery, Vatican B-school

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What to watch for today

US regulators vote on net neutrality. Consumer advocates want the FCC to reclassify the internet as a public utility, while telecoms want to keep it lightly regulated. The odds appear to favor the former camp.

The only oil company that’s still doing nicely. Analysts expect Argentina’s YPF to announce an almost 100% increase in fourth-quarter profit, thanks partly to the fact that the Argentine government sets oil prices.

The US reports on inflation. Analysts will be looking for any sign the consumer price index is once again on the rise, as a means of determining how soon the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates. But low oil prices are likely to keep prices down for now.

US clothing retailers take a look in the mirror. Gap, J.C. Penney, and Kohl’s are expected to reveal solid sales growth for the end of 2014.

While you were sleeping

RBS retreated from the world. The state-owned UK bank plans to quit 25 countries, and also offload a large portfolio of North American loans to Japan’s Mizuho Bank for $3 billion. RBS has racked up losses of £12.5 billion ($19.4 billion) over the last two years.

Standard Chartered cleaned house. The scandal-plagued bank announced a “comprehensive package of changes” to its board, including the replacement of CEO Peter Sands with former JPMorgan executive Bill Winters. John Peace will step down in 2016 as chairman of the UK-based, Asia-focused lender.

Morgan Stanley atoned for the financial crisis. The bank reached a settlement with the US government, agreeing to pay $2.6 billion  for selling dodgy mortgage-backed securities in the lead-up to the crash. Morgan Stanley cut its 2014 earnings by $1.35 a share—the fourth time in five quarters it has retroactively reduced earnings.

Anheuser-Busch InBev missed its targets. The world’s largest brewer reported fourth-quarter core profits of $5.1 billion, up 5.6% from a year earlier but short of expectations, as sales volumes in the US—InBev’s largest market—shrank 0.6% last year. The brewer announced a $1 billion-dollar buyback and predicted better sales this year.

Asia’s richest man turned in impressive results. Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong real estate company reported a net profit of HK$53.9 billion ($7 billion) for 2014, up 53% on the year and ahead of expectations. The Hong Kong billionaire’s Hutchison Whampoa infrastructure firm more than doubled its profit to HK$67.2 billion thanks to asset sales.

Help is on the way for the Chinese economy. The government announced tax breaks for small businesses, and premier Li Keqiang said the country needs an active fiscal policy to aid growth. The central bank’s newspaper also called for more monetary easing in the form of lower bank reserve ratios to counter the risk of deflation.

South Korea finally stopped imprisoning adulterers. The overturn of a 50-year-old law sent condom shares skyrocketing, but may not do much to reverse the country’s dangerously low birthrate.

Quartz obsession interlude

Manu Balachandran on the lawyer challenging India’s anti-gay law by suing a sex-toy company. ”‘I am not against homosexuality,’ Joshi told Quartz. ‘There is a lot of confusion. Companies are selling products which are used for same sex activity, but at the same time, Indian government says such acts are illegal.'” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Rudy Giuliani is Donald Trump without the hair. Like Trump, he periodically surfaces to spew venom at the president.

London has a fancy bridge fetish. Proposals for a pedestrian Thames crossing are eye-catching but ridiculous.

China is fertile breeding ground for ISIL. Beijing’s restrictive policies towards its Muslim population increase the chance of radicalization.

The junk food era is over. Consumer mistrust and the return of real cooking spell doom for Big Food.

We need black superheroes for the post-Ferguson era. They could fight the legal system itself.

Surprising discoveries

The Vatican wants priests to go to B-school. Pope Francis is trying to close a budget shortfall and clean up the church’s finances.

A dwarf planet is shining two mystery lights at a NASA probe. Ceres’ bright spots might be caused by frozen volcanoes.

KFC plans to sell edible coffee cups. They are made of wafer, sugar paper, and heat-resistant white chocolate.

The propensity to save may be genetic. A study comparing identical and fraternal twins found a 33% variation in savings rates.

Indonesian miners make $11 a day harvesting sulfur from volcanoes. It’s as dangerous as it sounds.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, ridiculous bridge designs, and surplus sulfur to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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