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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Japan’s deflation, car sales crown, Kumbh mela, investor cats

By Matt Phillips
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Shirakawa speaks. All eyes will be on the Bank of Japan’s governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, as he speaks to a meeting of central-bank branch managers. After demands by prime minister Shinzo Abe that the BoJ pursue an aggressive anti-deflationary policy, Mr. Shirakawa has signaled that he is ready to work with the new government, though without getting into specifics. Reports are that it’s just a matter of time, however, before the BoJ sets a joint inflation target with the government.

Joe’s plan on guns. US vice president Joe Biden will present recommendations on ways to reduce gun violence, in the wake of December’s school massacre. They’re expected to include closing loopholes that allow many gun buyers to avoid background checks, which would have widespread support. President Barack Obama has promised to send broad proposals on tightening gun laws to Congress this month.  A political deal on tighter gun-control laws for the state of New York is also imminent.

Germany’s slowdown becomes more visible. GDP data for all of 2012 are expected to show a less-than stellar 0.8% increase as Germany’s vaunted export engine sputters along with the broader European economy. Roughly 71% of German goods were destined for other European countries in 2011.

Christmas—the official report. US retail sales for December will give a post-mortem on the all-important holiday shopping season. Consensus estimates are of a 0.2%  month-over-month gain. Early indications are that retailers resorted to deep discounting to lure shoppers into the stores.

A constitutional showdown in Egypt. The constitutional court will rule on whether the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, should be dissolved, in the latest stage of a power struggle between the Islamist parliament supporting president Mohammed Morsi and a judiciary more loyal to ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

While you were sleeping

More gains for the rebels in Mali. Despite French airstrikes aimed at driving them back, al-Qaeda-linked militants advanced on the ground in Mali, over-running the garrison town of Diabaly.

Toyota takes the crown back from GM.  The Japanese car maker beat General Motors in total global car sales in 2012. Germany’s Volkswagen also posted its best ever full-year sales, up 34% in the US and 25% in its largest market, China; in the US, it beat a record for cars sold that was set in 1970.

Nothing to discuss on the debt ceiling. President Obama reiterated that he won’t concede spending cuts in return for Republican agreement to raise the US debt ceiling, which will be reached at some point after mid-February. Not raising it could have consequences from delaying the delivery of Social Security to plunging the country into a new recession.

How do you organize 30 million people? Ask Harvard University, which has sent scholars to study the economics and logistics of the Kumbh Mela festival. The event, which has just begun, takes place once every four years, but this year is the “complete” Kumbh, which happens once in every 12. Some 8 million Hindu pilgrims were said to have bathed in the frigid waters of the River Ganges on the first day alone.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on the massive expansion of the global middle class. “The rising purchasing power of these new shoppers has retailers and market analysts, who have given emerging market consumers their own moniker of ‘the next billion,’ salivating. Multinational corporations have been trying to tap into the Chinese consumer market via tailoring goods to local tastes (‘hot pot’ flavored Lays chips or ‘green tea’ Oreos).” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The belief that China doesn’t consume enough is just wrong.

The US deficit problem really isn’t so bad.

The US debt limit should be abolished.

The largest structure ever observed in the universe is a quasar cluster.

Here’s the right way to evaluate teachers.

Everyone is still waiting for that “great rotation” out of bonds back into stocks.

Workers must be protected from robots.

Japan is right to break with economic orthodoxy.

Surprising discoveries

Herbert Hoover drank Long Island Iced Tea.

It is quite difficult to cry in space.

Cats can be excellent stock pickers. (They’re quite nimble.)

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, presidential drink recipes and dire forecasts about the debt-ceiling to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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