IMF doom and gloom, JPMorgan earnings, Icelandic pirate poets

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

South Korea’s parliamentary election. President Park Geun-hye’s Saenuri Party is expected to win, capitalizing on fears about North Korea. But the party has lost some sympathizers due to infighting.

The EU wrestles with digital privacy. A temporary US-European data agreement has been in place since February, allowing US companies to move data across the Atlantic without violating EU privacy laws. But skeptical European regulators are set to oppose the so-called “privacy shield,” according to Politico.

JPMorgan Chase reports its earnings. Analysts expect to see the first year-over-year profit decline in five quarters, in part because of low market volatility that makes it hard to find profitable trades. Tesco also reports its annual results, turning a profit for 2015 after a staggering loss the year before.

While you were sleeping

The EU proposed new rules against tax dodging. Large companies would have to publish “country-by-country” financial data, as opposed to just disclosing business activity within the EU. Officials, seeking to recouping some of the €50-70 billion euros in lost annual tax revenues, strengthened the plan in the wake of the Panama Papers leaks.

Oil prices dented Saudi Arabia’s credit rating. Fitch Ratings downgraded the country’s credit rating from AA to AA- as it faces record deficits due to low oil prices. The country is cutting back on everything from fuel subsidies to construction contracts, but that likely won’t be enough.

The IMF is feeling gloomy. The organization cut its global growth outlook to 3.2%, warning of further economic instability due to political upheaval, terrorism, growing income inequality, and China’s slowdown. Myanmar is predicted to have the world’s fastest-growing economy this year, with a GDP growth target of 8.6%.

Stephen Hawking and some tech billionaires want to visit the stars. The British physicist, along with investors including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, announced a plan to send thousands of tiny robots to Alpha Centauri. The “nanocrafts” would use solar sails powered by Earth-bound lasers to make the trip in about 20 years.

North Carolina’s governor backtracked on an anti-LGBT law. Republican Pat McCrory said he would water down key parts of the controversial law, which removed LGBT discrimination protections and banned transgender people from public restrooms. The move comes after corporations, including PayPal and Deutsche Bank, curtailed expansion plans in the state.

Quartz markets haiku

A production freeze
between Saudi and Russia?
Oil was up, stocks too

Quartz obsession interlude

Ian Kar on why Airbnb just acquired a team of blockchain and bitcoin experts. “If Airbnb can figure out a way to make its user profiles immutable and universally readable, they could become a trusted form of digital identity, a bit like the profiles that credit bureaus create for individuals. If these identities can be exported to other platforms … they could become hugely valuable.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

There’s one major perk of globalization that only applies to rich people. It’s the ability to move freely around the world.

Going cashless makes it easy for Big Brother. Unlike paper money, electronic payments leave a trail of breadcrumbs for snooping governments.

Alibaba is buying its way into southeast Asia. By acquiring companies like the online retailer Lazada, it’s taking the easy road to global expansion.

Surprising discoveries

The FBI is offering a reward for stolen Warhols. The bureau will pay $25,000 for information about purloined Campbell’s Soup prints.

Shanghai will dock your credit score if you don’t visit your parents. Parents can also sue their kids for neglect.

“The Hum” is a mysterious noise heard around the world. Several mass murderers have blamed it for their crimes.

Marine algae is the new bubble wrap. The jelly-like substance agar is also used in Asian desserts.

A pirate poet could become Iceland’s new prime minister. Birgitta Jonsdottir of the Pirate Party isn’t sure she wants the job.

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