US inflation, Guptas raided, robot skiing

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Markets walk a tightrope on US inflation and VIX data. The US consumer price index is expected to show a slight downtick, 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.

Boris Johnson offers a Brexit valentine. In London, the British foreign minister will deliver a speech that sets out a new vision for post-Brexit Britain, as the government tries to win over people who voted to remain in the EU. It will be the first of six “Road to Brexit” speeches over the coming weeks.

Cisco Systems is about to turn a corner. At least, analysts are feeling optimistic that the networks company will return to quarterly revenue growth after six straight quarters of declines.

While you were sleeping

Police raided the home of a powerful family with ties to Jacob Zuma. The elite Hawks unit swept into the Gupta family compound in Johannesburg. The Gupta brothers are believed to have corrupt links with the embattled South African president. Meanwhile, Zuma still hasn’t stepped down despite expectations that he would this morning.

Donald Trump’s lawyer said he paid Stormy Daniels out of his own pocket. Michael Cohen told the New York Times that he had paid $130,000 to porn actress (paywall) Stephanie Clifford—who claimed she had an affair with Trump—in the run up to the 2016 election. Cohen said that he wasn’t reimbursed for it, but wouldn’t say if Trump had been aware of the payment.

The Israeli opposition called for Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation. Israeli police on Monday recommended charging the prime minister with bribery, over allegations he took expensive gifts from wealthy businessmen. Netanyahu then went on TV to accuse the police of conducting a witch hunt, and vowed to keep leading the country.

Punjab National Bank uncovered fraud to the tune of $1.8 billion. India’s second-largest state bank said it had detected fraudulent and unauthorized transactions at a single branch in Mumbai—that’s the equivalent of eight times its 2017 net income. Other banks are also likely to be affected.

Germany ended 2017 on a high. The juggernaut economy reported 0.6% growth in the fourth quarter from the year before and 2.2% overall in 2017 (paywall). As expected, robust exports powered the growth—the Federal Statistics Office said household consumption was more or less flat.

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 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 grasping 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).

Surprising discoveries

Robots had their own Winter Olympics in South Korea. Eight teams sent autonomous humanoids down a 70-meter ski slope, with very mixed results.

South Korea bankrolled North Korea’s trip to the Winter Olympics. Seoul signed off on $2.64 million to cover personnel costs for hundreds of North Koreans.

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.

The Amazon molly can clone itself without any male DNA. The all-female fish species is upending how scientists think about asexual reproduction.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Valentine’s Day messages, and atom pics to 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 Jill Petzinger and edited by Lianna Brinded.