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Quartz Daily Brief—Bank job cuts, Microsoft earnings, North Korea targets US

By Naomi Rovnick
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

How many new Lumias did Nokia sell? The struggling mobile-phone maker’s fourth-quarter earnings are expected to show something of a comeback with strong holiday sales of Lumia smartphones, but it’s not yet clear how many of those were its recent, much-vaunted Windows 8 model—the key to any possible recovery against its rivals Apple and Samsung.

Microsoft and Starbucks also report quarterly earnings. Microsoft will reveal whether its bid to become cool and relevant again by selling tablets is working. Starbucks is expected to post (video) 10% earnings growth due to its super-charged expansion program.

Confirmation hearings for US secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will question John Kerry, Barack Obama’s nominee, who is expected to be easily confirmed.

While you were sleeping

North Korea vowed to target the US. After being condemned by the UN for its December rocket launch, the rogue state said it would carry out further launches and nuclear tests “targeted at the United States.” This marks a new level of aggression towards the US from Pyongyang.

Banks in Europe and Asia slashed jobs. Germany’s Commerzbank is cutting 6,000 jobs. Italy’s Unicredit will shed 1000. Chinese investment banks are dealing with a domestic IPO freeze by losing staff. Barclays looks set to to shrink its Asian investment banking unit, with Morgan Stanley doing the same. European banks are responding to the euro zone crisis. And global investment banks have never made much money in Asia, despite the hype about the region’s strong growth.

Japan posted its largest ever trade deficit for 2012, caused by falling exports to Europe and its spat with China over some uninhabited islands.

Chinese manufacturers continued recovering. Thanks to the government’s aggressive economic stimulus, mostly. HSBC’s flash PMI, which gauges manufacturing activity, rose to 51.9 in January compared to 51.5 in December. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on how Apple is being heavily outsold by an upstart competitor in China. “Where Coolpad seems to succeed is making phones that are good enough for China’s newly affluent who are still not all that wealthy. Average disposable income in 2012 was 24,565 yuan a year (about $4,000) for urban Chinese residents, the bulk of smartphone buyers. The Coolpad starts at 658 yuan while Apple’s iPhones start at 3,088 yuan.”

Matters of debate

How will the global economy do this year? The IMF updates its outlook.

North Korea’s plan to target the US is horrifyingThe rogue state isn’t just zany Tumblr fodder, you see. 

Japan’s new leader could be heading for a territorial spat with Russia. Shinzo Abe is demanding Russia return some disputed islands.

Drug addiction must be treated as an illness, says Sigrid Rausing, the sister of troubled Tetra-Pak heir Hans Rausing.

In praise of the language police. Why in the world of the internet, we need editors more than ever.

Surprising discoveries

Your garden is a potential war zone. British allotment gardeners are increasingly sabotaging each others’ patches and burning down greenhouses.

Don’t time your workers’ bathroom breaks. If you do it in China, you may have a revolt on your hands.

Davos may have stolen this year’s theme from Nassim Taleb, who hates Davos. 

Subway is being sued for making its sandwiches too short. Two customers of the sandwich chain say its “footlong” sandwiches aren’t, and that thousands, nay, millions of people are being short-changed by about 45 cents per sandwich.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, garden war stories, and sandwich measurements to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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