What to watch for today
Uneasy New Year’s Eve preparations around the world. After a year of brutal terror attacks, major cities are trying to protect against potential attacks on large crowds. Festivities were cancelled in Brussels. In London, Scotland Yard cancelled annual leave for all 2,000 armed police officers, following reports that extremists may be planning to attack a major European city. And fearing a repeat of last year’s deadly stampede, Shanghai authorities have also cancelled traditional celebrations.
Markets ring their final bells of 2015. Markets in Europe are closing early; US stock markets are keeping normal trading hours and the US bond market shuts at 2 p.m. ET. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is on track to ring in 2015 right where it started (paywall) in the worst year for the US stocks since 2011. In Europe, London’s FTSE fell 4.6% while the German DAX gained 9.6%; China’s Shanghai index finished up around 9.4% in a turbulent year that saw a market crash.
The last US unemployment data of 2015. Unemployment claims for the Christmas week should be in line with previous averages of around 270,000. President Barack Obama ends the year with the unemployment rate at a seven-year low.
While you were sleeping
Nasdaq announced the first blockchain-based share sale. Bob Greifeld, chief executive of Nasdaq, said the transaction (paywall) “marks a major advance in the global financial sector.” The technology is the foundation for Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies is seen by financial firms as a way of making payment systems faster and cheaper.
The US indicted a friend of the San Bernardino shooter. Enrique Marquez, 24, faces potential charges for allegedly providing Syed Farook with two assault rifles used to kill 14 people in last month’s attack. He is also accused of conspiring to commit other attacks with Farook.
BP evacuated its North Sea oilfield. Production has shut down at the Valhall oilfield and more than 220 staff were evacuated over concerns that an unmanned barge could collide with the drilling platform.
China released the relatives of a Uighur activist from jail. Authorities have freed Shawkem and Rexit Hoshur, brothers of Washington-based journalist Shoret Hoshur, more than a year after they were first detained. The unexpected news comes days after a French journalist was denied a visa renewal in China after reporting human rights abuses against Uighurs.
Two bombs killed 16 in Syria. The explosions, which were set off in two restaurants in a Christian neighborhood of the Kurdish city of Qamishli, have been labelled “terrorist attacks.” The bombs, which injured 35, follow a series of Islamic State attacks against Kurdish regions in recent weeks, as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has become one of the strongest partners for western forces fighting the extremist group.
Quartz obsession interlude
Jason Karaian on Europe’s year from hell, in 12 short verses:
Matters of debate
This is how to succeed at keeping your new year’s resolution. Resolve to get a little better at something you already do.
It’s still better to be fat and fit than thin and unfit. Just being fat won’t kill you.
Airline luggage fees are actually pretty good deals. Travelers should be paying even more per bag.
Belgian police reportedly had an orgy during the manhunt for the Paris attackers. It apparently happened during the city’s terror lockdown.
Microsoft didn’t tell a thousand Hotmail users they were hacked by China. Instead, it told users to change their passwords.
Crows may be smarter than chimpanzees. At least when it comes to using tools.
Neurosurgeons are experimenting with hypnosis as an alternative to anesthesia. Modern patients may benefit from old-fashioned trances.