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Quartz Daily Brief—US earnings, UPS/TNT, China smog

By Stephanie Gruner Buckley
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

US earnings season gets underway in earnest. Big banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and tech firms such as Intel, Samsung and GE are among those reporting fourth-quarter results this week. JP Morgan, which reports on Wednesday, Jan. 16, might release more information about its “London Whale” trading loss.

Smartphones for Myanmar. Six models from Taiwanese smartphone-maker HTC, specially modified for the Burmese alphabet, go on sale today, in a country where only 5% of people use a mobile phone of any kind.

Property stocks dive in Singapore. Government measures to curb speculation on the island’s sizzling property market have triggered what may end up being the biggest fall in property developers’ shares in more than a year.

High noon in Mali. French troops are intensifying their attack on Islamist rebels, who took control of a large swathe of the north of the country earlier last year. Other countries, including Britain and the US, have now joined with logistical support.

Peace talks over Colombia. Colombian government officials and FARC rebels will meet in Cuba for a second round of peace talks, as the end of a ceasefire looms.

Smog chokes China. The pollution cloud over southeastern China is expected to hang around for a couple more days. Beijing has issued its first-ever “orange alert,” meaning visibility is 200 meters (700 feet) or less; the US embassy measured pollution at a dozen times the World Health Organization’s safety threshold.

While you were sleeping

UPS bails on bid for TNT Express. The world’s biggest package delivery company had hoped to buy its Dutch rival to take advantage of its Asian and Latin American business. Following word from the European Commission that it would probably block the deal, UPS said it would abandon its €5.2 billion bid.

More violence in Greece. Shots were fired from a Kalashnikov automatic rifle early Monday morning at the building that houses New Democracy, the main party in Greece’s ruling coalition. The building was empty at the time. One of the bullets hit an office sometimes used by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. This is the latest in a series of violent attacks in Athens over the past few days, which have included strikes against the homes of prominent journalists, as well as firebombing of many political leaders’ offices over the weekend.

Hosni Mubarak not guilty, but may be guiltier. An Egyptian court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial for Egypt’s former president in the killings of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 revolution. The ruling wasn’t unexpected, for procedural reasons, and Mubarak could face a raft of new charges.

Markets are expecting some good news from China. Asian stocks (apart from Japan’s) and steel rebar futures are up on speculation that China will release higher GDP growth data on Friday, Jan. 18.

Shinzo Abe wants a “bold” central banker. Which is to say, one who will do what the Japanese prime minister tells him to, and aggressively fight deflation, when the current Bank of Japan governor retires in April. The yen fell to a two-year-low on Abe’s comments.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on a new way to divide the world: ”It used to be the Soviet Bloc versus the West. More recently, we’ve talked about emerging economies and advanced economies—BRICS versus the G7, if you will. But a new paper suggests another way of splitting the global community: Countries that manipulate their currency for an advantage in international markets, versus those that don’t.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The world needs 600 million new jobs by 2020. And the private sector, which provides 90% of the jobs in the developing world, will be the one to supply them, says a new report out today from the International Finance Corporation.

The world will also need some new ways to grow food. New research suggests that global warming will start to cause severe drops in staple crop yields over the next few decades.

Watch this US earnings season closely. Companies’ revenues will give a good indicator of how well the economy is recovering (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Fresh turbulence in the skies. The US Federal Aviation Administration issued a new warning to all airlines: beware of exploding coffee filters. Roughly a dozen cases have been reported.

China is about to out-green Germany. It will become the world’s biggest market for solar power this year—thanks partly to German help.

Junk food doesn’t just make you fat. It might also cause asthma, eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis, an eye disorder, according to new research on the diets of 181,000 children across 50 countries.

Waxing wipes out crabs. The fad for the “Brazilian” bikini wax among women (and increasingly its male counterpart, the “Bro-zilian”) is driving pubic lice towards extinction.

Starbucks faces Vietnamese coffee snobs. The coffee-house chain is about to open branches in Vietnam, but the locals think its coffee is too weak.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, and stories of exploding coffee filters to or hit “Reply” to this email. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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