Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
European leaders agree to cut the EU budget. It’s looking likely that for the first time in the bloc’s history the EU will reduce spending from its previous budgetary period. When a summit of European leaders winds down today the EU is expected to announce a revised budget of €960 billion ($1.3 trillion) for 2014-2020, a drastic reduction from the €1.03 trillion optimistic eurocrats previously proposed. The EU budget represents a mere 1% of European GDP.
Mass migration for Chinese New Year. Starting this weekend, 200 million Chinese are expected to travel for the new year, and “for some, this means entire days on standing-room only trains.” The Lunar New Year is one of the country’s biggest shopping seasons, and retailers are ready with serpent-themed merchandise (like a snake-skin covered Bentley) to ring in the year of the shé. Meanwhile, Rio de Janeiro gears up for Carnival.
Shutdown on the US East Coast. A “historic” blizzard, also known as a Nor’easter, that’s perhaps “the worst of all time” is likely to render America’s Northeast inaccessible. If power lines go down, the effects of the disaster could linger for weeks. That sounds kind of familiar…
Tunisia looked set to go off again. Thousands of people are expected to clog streets and squares in Tunisia’s cities for a second day as the country’s largest trade union called a general strike. Tunisians tired of an increasingly religious government blame the ruling Islamist party for the assassination of opposition leader Shokri Belaid.
While you were sleeping
Japan had its smallest current-account surplus in 30 years. Coming on the back of a record trade deficit, Japan’s current account—which measures the balance of trade together with investment income and cash transfers—is still in the black, but only just. If it goes into deficit, financing Japan’s punishing load of government debt will become harder.
China had some good news for the world. January numbers for Chinese exports and imports surged beyond expectations, pointing to growing consumption both in China and the rest of the world. Analysts said the demand couldn’t be explained away by the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday, which boosts sales around this time.
France pledged to support Peugeot. The ailing automaker, which had to write down assets by about €4 billion ($5.3 billion) and is expected to post heavy losses when it reports earnings next week, may find a savior. France’s budget minister said in an interview this morning that the company “must not disappear” and that the government would do whatever it takes to save it.
Boeing got off the ground. Late yesterday, the Federal Aviation Administration, an American regulator, granted Boeing permission to conduct test flights of its beleaguered 787 Dreamliner. Boeing hopes that fresh data on the performance of the temperamental lithium-ion batteries, two of which caught fire within a week of each other grounding the entire fleet, will help it isolate the problem.
Quartz obsession interlude
Why Chinese companies get away with such transparent accounting dodges. “What unites the alleged fraud at Caterpillar’s Chinese subsidiary, Siwei, with the methods described by Gillis are their simplicity. While Enron hid its losses by conducting derivatives transactions with its own off-balance sheet vehicles and Bernard Madoff went to extreme lengths to conceal his Ponzi scheme with a purported “split-strike” trading strategy, corrupt Chinese companies often inflate sales by fabricating deals and inventing false customers.” Read more from Quartz’s Naomi Rovnick.
Matters of debate
France is a financial mess and no alternative to German austerity. France’s nanny state is headed for a sovereign debt crisis.
Why is S&P the only ratings agency being sued for its role in the financial crisis? Could the US Justice Department be using it as target practicebefore going after Fitch and Moody’s too?
Is Asia casting off its dependence on the West? Changes in how much is being shipped where suggest it’s so.
How to make it big in America. Being a second-generation immigrant helps.
Need a boyfriend for Chinese New Year? Rent one. This seems improbable in a country with a sex ratio as skewed as China, but fake boyfriends can be had for as little as $8 an hour.
Peanut allergies are more common than ever in rich countries in the West, but not Israel. The key appears to be ongoing exposure to small amounts of the stuff from infancy.
Climate mystery solved. Why are cities even hotter than climate models predict? It’s the direct heating effects of our enormous use of energy.
Online dating in the US. Atlanta is ranked the best US city to find love online.
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