What to watch for today
The US might resolve its “fiscal cliff.” In the US, a night-time vote on Speaker John Boehner’s fiscal cliff “Plan B” is expected in the House of Representatives. If passed, the bill could be a path toward reconciliation, proving that Republicans will, as proposed previously, at least support higher taxes on million-dollar-plus incomes. If the bill fails, it will be much harder for Boehner to pass legislation to avoid America’s Jan. 1 austerity trigger that President Barack Obama and the Senate can accept. In some ways, the entire debate is a referendum on the future of America.
The National Rifle Association in the US will yield on gun laws in a press conference, or not. The NRA has a history of dodging the issue of gun control in the wake of America’s (numerous) mass shootings, but its actions in the wake of the most recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut might be different. The organization promised that today’s press conference would include a “meaningful contribution” to the solution to such tragedies.
The end of the world. Generally, the dates of projected apocalypses pass without incident, but in China, an eyebrow-raising 20% of those surveyed said today’s the day it all comes crashing down.
Important news that US companies want to bury. The Friday before the Christmas holiday season is traditionally a great time to announce news that you’d like to see disappear down the memory hole as quickly as possible. (See: NRA press conference.) On Monday Dec. 24th, markets will also have a shorter day to react to any news announced after they close on Friday.
While you were sleeping
The New York Stock Exchange will move to Atlanta, Georgia, sort of. The NYSE Euronext agreed to a sale to its Atlanta-based rival, the Intercontinental Exchange, for $8 billion. ICE is only 12 years old, and at its founding focused on energy commodities. ICE is paying a 38% premium on NYSE Euronext’s closing price Wednesday, and the company says it will explore an IPO for the Euronext portion of the business.
US grew faster than expected. The revised third-quarter numbers are out, and it turns out that the US grew at a rate of 3.1% annually, well above the 2% growth rate that many pundits said was the best one could expect. US housing values saw their first gain in 6 years, a 6% increase. At the same time, the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan are about to step on the gas. Could even more significant growth be ahead?
Google sold off Motorola Home for $2.35 billion. The set-top boxes made by Motorola Home were never a good fit for Google, which has its own smart TV solution to push. US firm Arris made the purchase, and Google will also take a 15.7% stake in the company.
Police bust down the door at Deutsche Bank yet again. The security guards at Germany’s biggest bank might as well give the police a key: for the second time in a week, authorities raided the bank in connection with witness tampering in an ongoing fraud investigation. If the charges stick, it could ultimately cost the €1.5 billion.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve LeVine names the eight most disruptive geopolitical events of 2012: “For Saudi Arabia, 2012 marked a year of growing apprehension as a frightening trend emerged: that by the end of the decade, according to mid-range forecasts, two new hyper-producers—Iraq and the US—will be pumping some 14 million barrels of oil a day, a 58% jump from today’s production levels. And that’s not even counting Iran, which is also likely to have resumed full-tilt production, churning out four million barrels per day (bpd), an increase of 1.3 million bpd from current production. All in all, OPEC will have much less influence over a world awash in oil.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
How luxury brands fail e-commerce 101. This company sold out of an $840 reindeer leather apron this holiday season, by re-introducing the one thing that’s usually missing from luxury brands when they move online: the human touch.
Did the human hand evolve for fighting? We’ve long been a pugilistic species, and the evidence is in our balled up fists, says science. Overall, violence has been declining for thousands of years, perhaps because we learned to use our hands for anything but combat.
Europe is giving up on Putin. The leader of Europe’s largest country has failed to undertake democratic reform, putting distance between Russia and the EU.
Americans love their guns. Always have, always will.
China’s cities are filling up with poor people. China has 160 million “rural migrants” who are banned by law from gaining the same benefits as residents of cities, and they provide the country with a significant portion of its labor supply.
Danes want to build a manned space rocket and give the plans away for free. In part of a larger trend of “open source” hardware, a pair of engineers and their 20 or so helpers want to make Denmark only the fourth country ever to launch a manned rocket into suborbital space.
The future of animal protein is mealworms. One kilogram of mealworm protein can be grown on just 10% of the land required to grow a comparable amount of cattle. When roasted, they taste “just like nuts or seeds.”
Facebook will let you spam people outside your network for just $1. Of course, the point is that if it costs you money to send a message, it’s probably not spam.
Africa’s mobile phone market grew forty-fold in just the past 10 years. The total size of the market is now greater than either the EU or the US.
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