Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—EU-US trade, Benedict speaks, failing companies, one-man bank

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Euro area GDP data for the fourth quarter. Keep an eye on how Germany fares. Until recently the monetary bloc’s largest economy had seemed to shrug off the worst of the European slump.

François Hollande visits India. Expect discussions of big defense contracts. France’s Dassault is in the midst of finalizing a delicate, $12-billion deal to sell India 126 fighter jets. 

General Motors reports earnings. Expect strong sales in its profitable trucks segment, which has been bolstered by high farming incomes and rebounding US construction.

Japan’s fourth-quarter GDP data arrives. The economy shrank at a 3.5% annual rate during the third quarter. 

No new monetary policy from Japan. The central bank announces its decision today, but no changes are expected under the outgoing governor, Masaaki Shirakawa.

Nor from South Korea. Exporters could lose out from Japan’s efforts to weaken the yen, since they compete with Japanese exporters; but the central bank governor has said it’s too early to start lowering interest rates to juice the economy.

While you were sleeping

Pope Benedict spoke up about his resignation. In his first appearance since the announcement, the pope said he chose to quit ”in full liberty for the good of the church.”

Nuclear inspectors returned to Iran. International Atomic Energy Agency officials want access to a military site in Parchin, south of Tehran, where some believe Iran has carried out tests on triggers for atomic weaponry.

Euro-zone industrial production did better than expected. Output in the 17-member monetary bloc rose 0.7% in December, but that only reversed a revised 0.7% fall in November.

Peugeot Citroen did worse than expected. Europe’s second biggest carmaker posted a €5 billion ($6.74 billion) loss for 2012.

US retail sales growth slowed in January. Everyone is wondering whether the payroll tax hike is going to pinch spending.

California manhunt ends with charred remains. Officials believe they belong to fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner, who is thought to have killed three people, including a police officer. Dorner had published a manifesto on Facebook in which outlined plans to kill the families of police officers. The remains must still be positively identified.

EU-US free-trade deal would be “the largest ever.” Following President Obama’s mention of an EU-US trade pact in his State of the Union speech on Feb. 12, EU Commission head José Manuel Barroso said it would be a global “game-changer.”

Chinese tourists are avoiding Tokyo. Traditionally a holiday destination for lunar new year, the Japanese capital has seen fewer Chinese tourists, and department stores are feeling the pinch.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gina Chon asks whether some companies just can’t be saved. “JC Penney at one point seemed to be adapting to a changing world. But now it increasingly looks like yet another desperate attempt to prolong a failing brand. To be fair, clothing stores in general are being hit by weak US retail sales, which rose by only 0.1% in January. And under Johnson’s vision, redesigned JC Penney outlets are doing better than older models. But the company’s decision last month to bring back coupons may be too late for customers who left and are not coming back.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Obama should start a hedge fund. His stock-market comments in early March 2009 nearly called the bottom of the market.

More college graduates = faster economic growth. The US government should help people get degrees.

Europe shouldn’t just hop into bed with the US in a free trade deal. It will be bad for Europe, and for global free-trade agreements in general.

Elected governments in countries facing sluggish growth should spend the cheap cash central banks are handing to them.

Taxes in emerging markets are too damn low.

Surprising discoveries

The dog that went to Mass after his owner died has also gone on to his own heavenly rewards.

The banks that sliced and diced mortgages into mortgage-backed securities lied to buyers about terrible those mortgages were. Yes, but now there is evidence.

Russia’s stock market fared far better than America’s for 50 years. The 50 years after the end of the US civil war in 1865.

Everyone wants to be Polish. Foreigners are lining up for citizenship.

There’s a one-man bank in the tiny southern German town of Gammesfeld.

Why some people use *asterisks* rather than italics for emphasis. It wasn’t the internet that started the trend, but Charlie Brown in Peanuts*Sigh*

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