Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Russia releases preliminary GDP figures. They should indicate whether the economy is picking up steam after the stagnation that began in 2014, when oil prices tanked and the West imposed sanctions. The economy shrank 0.4% last quarter from a year earlier, which was less severe than analysts had expected.
India publishes trade statistics. Gold imports more than doubled in October, and they’re predicted to climb even higher in November in the wake of the government’s attempt to flush out illicit cash hoarding.
South Korea, Japan, and the US discuss Pyongyang. Representatives from the three countries meet in Seoul to flesh out plans for new sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear program. The UN security council passed a resolution in November to target coal sales.
While you were sleeping
Donald Trump picked Rex Tillerson for secretary of State. There’ll be resistance to the ExxonMobil CEO’s appointment, due to his close relationship with Russia. Trump also postponed a planned Dec. 15 press conference explaining how he’ll separate himself from his businesses; now it will be in January. This gives the Electoral College, which votes Dec. 19 to confirm his election, a legitimate reason to vote him down, ethics lawyers say.
UniCredit announced a radical overhaul. Italy’s largest bank will sell off around $17.7 billion in bad loans (paywall) and slash 14,000 jobs—to save $1.1 billion in personnel costs—in an attempt to raise capital and return to profit by 2019. It has also offloaded Bank Pekao, its Polish unit, and yesterday announced it was selling its asset-management business, Pioneer Investments.
Asahi bought itself a beer. Or $7.8 billion worth of beer, to be precise. The Japanese brewer will buy five eastern European brands, including Pilsner Urquell, from AB InBev in what is its biggest foreign acquisition to date. AB InBev had agreed to sell the brands in order to get clearance for its own $100 billion takeover of SAB Miller.
Narendra Modi took the sparkle out of De Beers. The Indian prime minister’s decision to pull 500- and 1,000-rupee notes out of circulation to try to choke the country’s black economy has caused a “temporary slowdown” for the diamond giant in lower-value rough diamonds (paywall). Overall, however, the company said sales were higher than during the same cycle a year ago.
Venezuela closed its Colombia border to fight currency smuggling. The 72-hour shutdown will help it fight “mafias” smuggling hard-to-find cash, said president Nicolas Maduro. The move comes after the inflation-ravaged country yanked its largest-denomination bill—now worth just $0.02—from circulation.
Quartz obsession interlude
Gwynn Guilford on the brewing war between Donald Trump and Janet Yellen. “A Trump boom that boosts US economic potential by spurring business investment will not necessarily be dangerously inflationary, all else being equal. However, as employment and investment rise, prices will inevitably rise—even more so if Trump raises trade barriers as promised.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The vegetarian revolution is nigh. Innovative new veggie burgers will make it easier to admit that factory farming is horrible.
“Female” bots are the opposite of futuristic. They represent a badly outdated version of womanhood.
Exchange-traded funds need to be carefully scrutinized. Investing pioneer Jack Bogle says ETFs have radically changed the way (paywall) the stock market works.
Mozart outsold Drake and Beyoncé in 2016. The composer moved more CDs than anyone thanks to a massive box set.
“Emoji translator” is a real job. A London translation firm is advertising for the role.
Christmas is a merry health hazard. Regulators have compiled a list of Yuletide injuries, many related to holiday decorations.
New York City is facing “persistent flooding.” If sea levels rise 1 ft (30 cm), 60 sq miles (155 sq km) could be underwater by 2050.
LinkedIn is the best place to find experienced Santas. The social networking site for job seekers is chock-full of holiday hopefuls.
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