What to watch for today
Czechs get to choose their own president for the first time. Voting begins in the Czech Republic’s first direct presidential election (previous incumbents were chosen by parliament). The frontrunners to succeed the rabidly euro-skeptical Vaclav Klaus are former prime ministers Milos Zeman and Jan Fischer.
France to help Mali quash rebels. French president François Hollande is to respond to a plea from Dioncounda Traore, his Malian counterpart, for assistance countering Islamist rebels who captured the central city of Konna on Thursday. The UN Security Council meanwhile called for the “swift deployment” of international forces to push back the rebels.
Ireland’s turn to preside over the squabbling of the EU. Ireland takes over the presidency of the Council of the European Union for a term of six months. The cost of hosting the presidency is more widely known than the function of it: holding the launch event will cost Ireland €70 million.
Obama welcomes Karzai. US President Barack Obama meets Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss US troop withdrawal plans and subsequent US assistance.
While you were sleeping
Japan approved a ¥10.3 trillion stimulus… The new spending for the year ending in March involves construction projects, subsidies for corporate product development, and overseas acquisitions and loan guarantees for small companies. Funding will include new bond sales of ¥5 trillion ($56.2 billion). We recently analyzed Japan’s stimulus plans.
… while Abe grumbled at China. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said China was wrong to allow Japanese-owned shops and factories to be damaged in protests over a territorial dispute.
Chinese inflation reared its head in the cold. The consumer price index rose 2.5% from a year ago, driven by rising costs for vegetables and meat amid a harsh winter and up from 2% in November. The producer price index declined 1.9%, improving from November’s 2.2% annual fall and signalling pressure on profits may be easing for Chinese companies.
Infosys fights off the blues. India’s second largest software services group beat analyst expectations by keeping its fourth quarter profit flat at 23.7 billion rupees ($435 million). With the signing of new contracts, the company raised its revenue growth forecast for the year ending in March to 6.6%.
People got tablets for Christmas. US shipments of personal computers fell 6.4% in the fourth quarter, the first holiday season drop since 2001, despite a sales push for new models featuring Microsoft Windows 8. Global shipments fell 3.2% for the year.
Cyprus can’t get much junkier. Moody’s cut its rating on the Mediterranean country’s debt by three notches to Caa3, just two slots above the lowest grade possible, over its rising debt, growing need to recapitalize its banks and heightened risk of default.
Walmart India venture fires its fixers. Bharti Walmart, the US discount retailer’s Indian wholesale joint venture, and its sister company Bharti Retail have dropped about two dozen consulting firms who were helping secure the up to 51 licenses required to open each store around the country. Walmart is probing allegations of bribery involving the joint venture.
Closing the “gun show loophole”. US vice president Joe Biden said background checks for all gun buyers, not just those at stores, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips would be part of recommendations to president Barack Obama next week. Just as Biden was beginning his remarks, two people were shot at a high school in California.
The green card gives out the pink slip. American Express said it plans to downsize by 8.5%, cutting 5,400 jobs.
Jack Lew promises to clean up his signature. President Obama nominated his chief of staff Jack Lew, a man of famously squiggly orthography, to the post of Treasury secretary, one of whose jobs is to sign the US’s dollar bills. You can check out what your signature would look like if Lew wrote it.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve Levine with six geopolitical predictions for 2013. “Earlier this week, we presented the 14 rules of global events, a Quartz algorithm for making sense of international news and creating your own scenario of what comes next. Now, we apply the rules to some of the biggest issues of 2013 and take a stab at predicting what lies ahead. We do not claim divining powers, only a vantage point on the news based on history and the observation that events seem generally to follow a set of rules.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Apple is in the clear. Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that is one of Apple’s biggest manufacturers, is looking into allegations its staff accepted bribes in China. But America’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) only looks at bribes paid, not received.
Money does buy happiness. People with more money report higher well-being, at least up to the top 10% of earners.
The cheap smartphone is upon us. Apple was rumored this week to be working on a cut-price iPhone, and other smartphone makers that focus on higher-end markets are doing the same.
What constitution? The biggest problem with Egypt’s new constitution, which provides defenses against tyranny, is that it will probably be ignored.
Predictions for the next 150 years. Most likely for 2013: China’s Great Firewall won’t keep up with its citizens and Pinterest gets bought by Google. Most likely for 2062: You can choose your kids’ genes, world population peaks, and there’s a building over 10km (6 miles) high. And for 2162: We live to be 150.
The US Fed made more money than Apple and Exxon combined. Thanks to bond buying to support the economy, the US central bank earned $89 billion in profit last year, all of which goes to the Treasury.
South Korean weddings disappearing. The country of 49 million registered an all-time low 309,000 marriages last year.
You shouldn’t fear flying. You need to take about 5.3 million flights on average to be in a plane accident.
But maybe you should worry about being kidnapped. Kidnappings for ransom, a crime associated mostly with Latin America, is becoming common across the developing world.
Justin Bieber is a financial adviser. Bieber was named “best celebrity financial strategist” of 2012 and is promoting a prepaid debt card with BillMyParents.com—though with a net worth of over $110 million, he’s not the kind of guy who would use one.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, 2013 predictions and imitations of Jack Lew’s signature to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.