Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—bankers’ bonuses, pope’s farewell, BoJ, India’s budget, indie capitalism

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What to watch for today

The unknown is still unknown in Italy. Politicians try to figure out what next after former comedian Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement refused to back either the leftist coalition of Pier Luigi Bersani (whom Grillo dismissed as a “dead man talking”) or the rightists under Silvio Berlusconi.

A small but significant election in Britain. The Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats are allied in government but bitter rivals out in Eastleigh. A by-election there has turned into a vote on the popularity of the Conservatives, who fear an embarrassing defeat. Neither the Elvis Loves Pets Party nor the Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party are expected to make much of a dent.

Peace out from the Pope. It’s Pope Benedict XVI’s last day at work. The pontiff gave an emotional farewell speech yesterday in which he talked about the joys of the papacy. He also alluded to the scandals that have hit the church, saying “there were also moments in which the waters were agitated and the wind contrary.”

Troubled retailers report earnings. Barnes & Noble and Best Buy, which are both facing management-led buyouts, report income. 

While you were sleeping

So long, masters of the universe. Bankers in Europe will wave goodbye to fat bonuses. The European Parliament approved a compulsory cap on bonuses at 100% of annual salary. That could rise to twice annual salary but only with shareholder approval. Britain, where roughly 144,000 banking staff are employed in the City of London, isn’t happy but doesn’t have much choice.

RBS posted big full-year losses. The Royal Bank of Scotland lost £6 billion ($9 billion) in 2012. Like many other big British banks, a chunk of the losses came from compensating customers for mis-selling payment protection insurance.

Monti defended his record. Speaking in Brussels, outgoing prime minister Mario Monti said he had no choice but to cut the country’s budget and push through unpopular reforms. The political crisis over the election has already increased borrowing costs for Italy and could affect the rest of Europe.

India presented a Robin Hood budget. The finance minister, P. Chidambaram, raised spending by 16% while promising to cut the fiscal deficit from 5.2% to 4.8%. How? Through a one-year tax on the super-rich and on large firms, and higher duties on luxury goods such as yachts.

Kuroda was nominated as BoJ head. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, nominated Asian Development Bank president Haruhiko Kuroda as the next central bank head of Japan. He also nominated Kikuo Iwata, an academic, and Hiroshi Nakaso, already with the central bank, as deputy governors. The nominees must now be confirmed by parliament. In other news, Abe said Japan would restart some of the nuclear plants now lying idle if they pass new safety guidelines.

Jack Lew was confirmed as Treasury secretary. The US senate voted 71-26 in favor of appointing Lew. His first job: find a way to deal with $85 billion in budget cuts that kick in tomorrow.

Hacking: China is the victim here. The Chinese Defense Ministry denied it had anything to do with hacking US computers, arguing instead that its website has been attacked 144,000 times with more than 60% of those attempts coming from America.

Quartz obsession interlude

Ritchie King on what Apple and Google’s planned new headquarters say about them. “Last week, Google released an illustration of its next corporate campus, a complex of nine rectangular buildings, mostly adorned with green roofs, and all connected by a series of elevated walkways….  [Apple’s] design couldn’t be more different. It’s a single, circular structure that people have described as a doughnut or the touchwheel of an iPod and that Steve Jobs once likened to a spaceship.” You can look at them here.

Matters of debate

Americans aren’t at the center of the universe. But they may be the weirdest people in it.

To save the world, work for Wall Street rather than a charity. 

And if you go to Wall Street, be reckless. The system rewards risk and doesn’t punish failure.

Shrinking population is actually great news.

What on earth is indie capitalism? A “post-global, local economic phenom“, apparently. Sounds awkward.

The US is just as responsible for international crime, so stop blaming others.

Surprising discoveries

Scientists measure how fast a supermassive black hole spins for the first timeexplaining how it got so big.  

It’s easier to be a single parent on the island of Pohnpei than in the Western world

Physicist creates Oreo cookie separator, as part of “Cookies vs. Creme” campaign.

Dog-bites-man stories are so last season. Instead: dog shoots owner; the canine goes free.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, fantasy office locations and pictures of pistol-wielding pooches to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.