Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Boris Johnson offers a Brexit valentine. In London the UK foreign minister will deliver a speech that sets out a new liberal vision for post-Brexit Britain, as the government tries to win over people who voted to remain in the European Union. It will be the first of six “Road to Brexit” speeches over the coming weeks, including two by prime minister Theresa May.
Germany releases its fourth-quarter growth estimate. The world’s fourth-largest economy is expected to have ended 2017 on a high note, with exporters taking advantage of the strong global recovery and shoppers opening their wallets as unemployment levels hit post-reunification lows. Inflation data for January will also be released.
Markets walk a tightrope on US inflation and VIX data. The US consumer price index is expected to show a slight downtick—rising 1.7% in January from a year ago versus 1.8% in December—but any surprises could trigger another big market sell-off. Separately, monthly options will expire for the closely watched CBOE Volatility Index, making bigger swings more likely.
While you were sleeping
Israeli police recommended charging Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery. The prime minister might be indicted over two separate allegations: receiving expensive gifts from wealthy businessmen and a scheme to guarantee positive coverage from the country’s biggest newspaper. The attorney general’s office could take months to consider the recommendation.
Japan’s economy recorded a decades-best growth streak. It expanded for an eighth-straight quarter to finish 2017, the longest streak since its late-1980s heyday. That said, the annualized pace of 0.5% missed expectations of 0.9% and was much slower than the revised 2.2% of the previous quarter.
Punjab National Bank reported a $1.8 billion fraud at a single branch. India’s second-biggest state-run bank said it had detected fraudulent and unauthorized transactions—the equivalent of eight times its 2017 net income—in one of its Mumbai branches. It said other lenders might have been affected as well.
North Korea’s figure skaters electrified the Olympics. Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik recorded their personal best score while performing to a Jeff Beck cover of “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles. They now have a chance to compete for the gold in the freestyle event tomorrow—but aren’t expected to medal.
Toshiba appointed an outsider as its CEO and chairman. Nobuaki Kurumatani, a former executive of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, will take the helm from Satoshi Tsunakawa, who will become chief operating officer. Traditionally becoming Toshiba’s chief is prefaced by decades of service to the conglomerate, which has been hit by scandals and record losses.
Denmark’s Prince Henrik died in his sleep. The French-born husband of Queen Margrethe was 83 and spent his final days at Fredensborg Castle, north of Copenhagen, rather than the hospital where he’d been following an illness that began during a trip to Egypt.
Quartz obsession interlude
Dan Kopf on the foolish strategies people use to pay down credit card debt. “The best way to pay off credit card debt is simple. If you can’t pay the full balance for all the cards, pay the minimum monthly payment for each, and then devote the rest to repaying the card with the highest interest rate. Following this rule, you incur the least interest and save the most money. Very few people do this.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
“Smart cities” are a pipe dream. Gadgetry won’t necessarily make urban living more affordable or resilient.
Nobody knows what’s causing stock meltdowns. Understanding why something happened in the market is only slightly easier than understanding the meaning of life.
South Africa’s political crisis could taint an entire continent. If the nation fails to recover, cynicism about Africa will spread across the rest of the world (paywall).
A scientist captured an impossible photo of a single atom. The award-winning image shows a glowing strontium atom suspended in a web of lab machinery.
China banned touching penguins in Antarctica. Ill-mannered tourists have been flocking to the continent.
An all-female fish species is challenging how scientists think about asexual reproduction. The Amazon molly has figured out how to clone itself without any male DNA.
A small town in Washington still uses wooden money. Tenino’s Depression-era wooden banknotes can be spent in town, but most are hoarded by collectors.
Robots had their own Winter Olympics in South Korea. Eight teams sent autonomous humanoids down a 70-meter ski slope, with very mixed results.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, wooden currency, and atom pics to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Steve Mollman and edited by Alice Truong.