Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Amazon, Santa’s little helper. The online retailer’s fourth-quarter earnings should show a spike due to the holiday shopping season. But while analysts expect revenues to climb 28% year-on-year, they think profits will fall 26% as Amazon continues to invest in growing its business for the long haul. They’ll also be looking out for news about the company’s foray into advertising.
Japan’s unenthusiastic consumers. December 2012 data on retail sales are expected to show a sluggish 0.3% rise, which would give another small boost to prime minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-growth and pro-stimulus policies.
The Federal Reserve kicks off a two-day pow-wow. At the Fed’s last monthly meeting, some members of its Open Markets Committee questioned whether continued quantitative easing to stimulate the economy might have unintended consequences. But the Wall Street Journal’s Jon Hilsenrath (the journalist most likely to have an ear inside the Fed) writes that the Fed will likely keep buying bonds, “keep[ing]…the spigot” of easy money open.
Barack Obama outlines his immigration plan. The US president will present his much-awaited plan a day after senators from both sides of the aisle put forward similar proposals, which would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants—as well as foreign students studying for certain high-level degrees—in exchange for more stringent controls of the border between the US and Mexico.
While you were sleeping
Capital returned to the PIIGS. Nearly €100 billion in private money returned to the European countries hardest hit by economic pressure—Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, suggesting increased confidence in official efforts to end Europe’s financial crisis.
Is Yahoo turning the corner? The internet company reported its second set of quarterly earnings since Marissa Mayer became CEO, marking the beginning of the end of the former Google exec’s honeymoon period, and the news was good—earnings of 32 cents per share, beating expectations of 28 cents.
Caterpillar shrugs off the Siwei fiasco. The heavy-machinery maker’s earnings took a $580 million write-down after its discovery that managers at Siwei, part of a Chinese firm it bought last year, had cooked the books. But its earnings of $1.04 a share were still better than forecast after the write-down. The company, whose worldwide operations make it a a barometer of sorts, fears weak growth in 2013 but expects to find opportunities in China and the United States.
Europe’s largest budget airline beats the odds. Ryanair announced better-than-expected results, predicting full-year profits of €540 million—putting it ahead of most of its competitors and on a path to take over Europe’s skies.
French and African troops seize Timbuktu. It’s a headline that seems more at place in the 19th century than the 21st; but the French military intervention against Islamist insurgents in northern Mali continues with the seizure of roads and the airport in Timbuktu.
Quartz obsession interlude
Christopher Mims on why America’s elite universities may not be admitting future leaders, like New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. “All colleges want to be ranked as highly as possible. Rankings are calculated using a methodology that relies on factors such as the test scores of the students it admits, its retention rate, its graduation rate, its academic reputation, how much money it has… but not the quality of the graduates it produces. In short, the rankings evaluate the past performance of a college’s students, but not their future.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Is killing people ever not wrong? A Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan asks whether the killings he carried out there can ever be ethically justified.
What’s the point of the European Union? If the euro zone becomes more tightly integrated, the argument for a wider EU starts to vanish.
Boeing will find it hard to overcome the Dreamliner fiasco. People have become too used to products, including planes, that work well first time.
A perfect storm is brewing in the debt market. Too much debt chasing too-low yields could set the stage for a blow-up.
Iran may have sent a monkey into space, or maybe it’s just lying.
Sea foam blanketed beach towns in Australia after last week’s tropical cyclone.
The secret lives of North Koreans. Britain’s ambassador from 2006-08 describes his time there.
Old Navy is actually considered stylish in super-cool Sweden.
Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting this year will be capped off with a five-kilometer run.
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