What to watch for today
The ECB holds it steady… The European Central Bank is expected to hold interest rates at 0.75% at a policy meeting. Spain and Italy also hold their first bond auctions of the year.
…while the BoE eases. The UK’s central bank could announce more monetary easing at its policy meeting.
America appoints a boring budget guy. President Barack Obama is expected to nominate his chief of staff Jack Lew as Treasury secretary. Lew, a debt expert rather than a Wall Street high-flyer, is “the boring man America needs now”, writes Quartz’s Matt Phillips.
Hugo Chávez’s inauguration, minus Hugo Chávez. Venezuela’s cancer-ridden president is too sick to attend the swearing-in today, having been re-elected last November. But he may be in his last days after 14 years of rule.
Diamonds are forever, or at least for another three months. Tiffany & Co. reports fourth-quarter earnings.
While you were sleeping
China’s shockingly strong exports. Shipments rose 14.1% in December from a year earlier, close to triple the pace economists expected and well above November’s 2.9% rise. The unexpected robustness lifted stocks and currencies in the region.
Yum apologized for China chicken problems. Sam Su, the chairman of the company’s China business and group vice chairman, said its KFC unit failed to change suppliers fast enough and had inadequate self-inspection processes after sales in the country fell following investigations of suppliers for excess antiobiotic use.
Growth strong at Fast Retailing. Asia’s largest clothing retailer posted a 24% rise in profit for the September-November quarter as overseas operating earnings rose more than 50%. The Japanese company raised its profit forecast for the year to Aug. 2013 by 2% to Y87 billion.
ArcelorMittal raised $4 billion. The world’s biggest steel producer raised $2.25 billion in a debt offering and $1.75 billion in a share sale to cut debt after its credit rating was cut to junk.
Chinese regulator queried Ping An sale. The China Insurance Regulatory Commission asked Ping An Insurance for more information about the planned sale of a $9.4 bilion stake in the company by HSBC Holdings to Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont. Speculation has risen that the deal is foundering.
India approves $2.3 billion bank aid plan. The cabinet approved plans to inject 125.2 billion rupees into nine or 10 state banks to help them meet capital adequacy standards and boost lending.
Tesco reported its best growth since 2010. The largest UK supermarket group reported domestic same store sales rose 1.8% in the six weeks to Jan. 5, almost twice the growth analysts expected. Sales at stores in Asia and the US grew much faster but revenues declined in the rest of Europe.
The not-so-much-Better Alternative Trading System. The stock-exchange operator BATS, the third largest in the US, discovered a programming error that caused more than 440,000 share trades since 2008 to be executed at a price below the required best available bid.
BlackRock bought Credit Suisse’s ETF unit. The US asset manager reached a deal to buy the business, which manages $17 billion in client funds, for an undisclosed price.
Indian gang rape suspects alleged police torture. Manohar Lal Sharma, who is representing three of the six men accused in the case, said in court that all of the suspects had been tortured by police. He told an interviewer that they had also been sexually assaulted.
Schmidt to North Korea: Get online. Transitting through Beijing after wrapping up a visit to North Korea, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said, “In my view it’s time now for them to start [making it possible for citizens to use the internet] or they will remain behind.”
Quartz obsession interlude
Gwynn Guilford on honest Abe. “Japan’s new leader, Shinzo Abe, has the toughest job in the world right now. Not only does he face another recession, near-zero interest rates, falling wages, deflation and the highest debt-to-GDP ratio (220%) in the world—he’s also vowed to reverse these trends. His approach has so far involved mainly bravado and the bullying of anything that stands in his way, including the country’s central bank, which he recently threatened to relieve of its independence… Japan’s churning cast of prime ministers have tried it all, and to little avail. But what they haven’t tried is everything all at once. That’s exactly what Abe’s now gearing up to do.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Predictions for Xi Jinping’s presidency are harmful. By imputing intentions and capabilities to China’s president elect when he has yet to take office or make policy, analysts can drive misguided expectations and miscalculations.
Global civilization is headed for collapse. Unless we can solve the problems related to shortages of food and energy sources, and the poisoning of the planet.
Phablets are taking over the world. The phablet is an extra-large phone that’s almost as big as a tablet, combining aspects of both. Apple refuses to make them, but not for long, writes Quartz’s Christopher Mims.
2013 will be the year of stagnation. Might as well get used to it: This year, both developed and emerging economies will have slower growth.
What Bernie Madoff and the European Union have in common: Ponzi schemes. ”In the private sector, when someone assumes new loans to cover earlier losses but still claims the money is well-invested it’s called fraud… In the public sector it’s called a debt crisis,” writes Mark Brolin for Quartz.
Decriminalize heroin. Legalizing and taxing drugs could eventually put illegal producers out of business, not to mention give governments new tax revenue, say researchers making an economic case for legalizing drugs.
US not spending any less on oil imports. Volumes are down, but projected spending as a share of GDP will be higher this year than during the 1973 oil crisis.
India’s informal economy has shrunk—relatively. In the first such study in nearly three decades, India’s National Institute of Public Finance and Policy has estimated that the underground economy represents at least 10% of the country’s GDP. The institute put the proportion at about 20% in a 1984 study. Mind you, the economy was a lot smaller then.
Americans love animals more than they hate financial crime. The US spends more on the Fish and Wildlife service than the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Embryo sharks sense danger. Scientists studying bamboo sharks, a species that hatches from eggs, found that even as embryos, they reacted to electrical fields mimicking the signal produced by approaching predators by wrapping their tails around their bodies and holding still.
New Zealanders eye the exits. A poll found that 3.5% of New Zealanders are looking to go overseas temporarily to find work and 1.9% are considering permanent emigration.
Google’s executive chairman and Kim Jong Il have something in common. They like to look at things.
Worst flu in America in more than six years. So says Google Flu Trends, which tracks diseases by what people are searching for on the web.
Mobile-home installer? Bad career choice. They have the highest unemployment rate in the US. The lowest: judges.
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