Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Obama’s speech, US retail, Euro zone output, Japan’s GDP, SocGen, Pepsi v. the pope

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

US retail sales data for January. Investors get a snapshot of how consumers are feeling and whether an increase in US payroll taxes, which went into effect in January as part of the fiscal cliff deal, made people spend less. Reports from chain stores suggest it didn’t.

While Japan’s GDP figures for Q4 2012 will encourage Abe. With forecasts of 0.4% growth, Japan may emerge from its third recession in five years. Apparently it has something to do with the cold weather.

Cisco Systems reports after the close of trading in New York. Look for evidence of John Chambers’ strategic shift away from hardware toward data management for governments and large corporations. John Deerea bellwether for the agriculture sector, reports this morning.

The Financial Times turns 125. The pink ’un was established in 1888 to serve as a friend to the “honest financier and the respectable broker”. This was before the US housing bubble, obviously.

While you were sleeping

The euro zone released so-so industrial production data. Industrial production in the 17-country euro zone rose 0.7% in December from the month before, after falling three straight months through November. However, the sector was still 2.4% lower compared to the previous year.

… Meanwhile the Bank of England said the British economy is set for a “slow and sustained recovery” for next three years and economic output is unlikely to reach pre-financial crisis levels until 2015.

European banks lost money and cut jobs. It’s been an ugly year for Société Générale and it’s getting worse. The French bank bled red in Q4, posting a net loss of €476 million ($641 million) compared with profits of €100 million the previous year. Next door, ING said it would slash another 2,400 job from its retail business, in addition to 2,700 cuts already planned. The downsizing will save the Dutch bank €270 million annually.

India’s trade deficit grew larger. Exports grew by 0.8% in January compared to the same period last year, the first positive figure in nine months. Imports grew substantially faster at 6%, widening the trade deficit from $17.6 billion to $20 billion.

Obama promised action on the economy—and much more besides. The American president’s state of the union address was anything but unambitious. Obama said he would reduce the US stockpile of nuclear weapons, bring back half of America’s troops from Afghanistan within the next year, create jobs for the middle class, raise the minimum wage, and start negotiations for a free trade deal with the EU.

Quartz obsession interlude

The Vatican could take a lesson or two from beverage companies, Tim Fernholz writes. “Look at it this way: 75% of Catholics are outside of Europe, but there has never been a pope from outside the continent. Meanwhile, PepsiCo, which sells 47% of its product in emerging markets, has an Indian-born CEO. Indra Nooyi got the job because of her long experience as an executive at the company, but the importance of her national background and experience in global business was lost on no one.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Bubbles schmubbles. The historical record of monetary policy that’s too tight is a lot worse than policy that’s too loose.

Japan is pulling a Ponzi by trying to coax investors into stocks.

Do electric cars work as advertised? A war of words between Elon Musk of Tesla and the New York Times.

No, there isn’t a currency war. Central banks are just doing their jobs.

Is the secular bear market coming to an end? Some people do think so.

Surprising discoveries

A Serbian man lives in a tomb. (Mind you, so do half a million Egyptians.)

An Italian journalist scooped the world on the pope’s retirement because she understood Latin.

Wrestling is out of the 2020 Olympics. It will now have to compete for a slot with, among others, karate, wakeboarding and the Chinese martial art of wushu.

The Cosby sweater is back. As its popularizer, Bill Cosby, put it, “the knit woolen things that look like the sheep were different colors or fell in some paint, right?”

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