What to watch for today
Republicans battle it out. In the last debate before the Iowa caucuses, presidential frontrunner Donald Trump will spar against Sen. Ted Cruz, who narrowly leads in the crucial early voting state. Trump is under fire from the Republican establishment; Cruz may face tough questions about an undisclosed loan he received from Goldman Sachs.
How do you solve a problem like North Korea? Defense officials from South Korea will lobby their Chinese counterparts to rein in Pyongyang, which conducted what it said was a hydrogen bomb test last week. South Korea has said China should not “allow the situation on the Korean peninsula to deteriorate further.”
Bank earnings continue. Citigroup is expected to announce a small increase in revenue but a big jump in earnings from last year, when it set aside $3.5 billion for litigation and other charges. Wells Fargo is expected to report the relatively flat earnings despite an uptick in revenue. PNC, US Bancorp, and BlackRock also report quarterly results.
While you were sleeping
Fears of another European emissions scandal. Here we go again? French anti-fraud agents raided Renault testing and certification facilities, sending the company’s shares down more than 20%. Renault said investigators “found no evidence” of cheating devices like the ones used by Volkswagen.
Brown-Forman cashed in on Southern Comfort. The Kentucky spirits company sold Southern Comfort and another premium liqueur, Tuaca, to Louisiana-based Sazerac for $544 million. Southern Comfort—once beloved by Janis Joplin—has lost market share in recent years as other flavored whiskeys, such as Sazerac’s Fireball, have become popular.
Minority actors were shut out of Oscar nominations. For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Pictures chose an all-white list for its best actor and best supporting actor awards. Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film The Revenant earned 12 nominations in total, followed by Mad Max: Fury Road with ten.
JP Morgan Chase had a blockbuster quarter. The biggest US bank by assets pulled in $5.43 billion in quarterly profit, a 10% increase over the same quarter last year and well above analysts’ expectations. Despite the rosy results, CEO Jamie Dimon warned that large sectors of the global economy look shaky: “Hopefully this will all settle down and is not the beginning of something really bad.”
International track and field may be just as dirty as FIFA. A year-long investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency revealed that the sport’s governing body suffers from “systemic corruption.” Perhaps the most damaging revelation: numerous officials who blackmailed athletes who failed drug tests.
Quartz obsession interlude
Tim Fernholz on a stakeout aimed at the world’s wealthiest crooks. “What are corrupt government officials and drug cartels to do with their ill-gotten cash? All too often, according to US officials, the answer is to buy expensive real estate through an anonymous shell corporation.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Is saving the planet a legal defense? Activists charged with blocking a trainload of shale oil say they did it to stop climate change.
A luxury handbag is a better investment than the stock market. The Hermès Birkin has a better long-term return than the S&P 500.
Hollywood refuses to celebrate female protagonists. Unless they’re victims, or choosing between male suitors.
Scientists are building Facebook for whales. Facial-recognition software will help measure their dwindling populations.
Germany has an app to help refugees fit in. Ankommen (”welcome” in German) helps immigrants find a job and learn language and customs.
“Spermbots” could solve male infertility. Micromotors attached to sperm can help them reach the egg.
A missing woman from 1974 is a hit on Spotify. Connie Converse recorded some stunning songs before she disappeared.
Three little girls performed an insane song-and-dance routine at a Donald Trump rally. “Cowardice / Are you serious / Apologies for freedom / I can’t handle this.”