From Microsoft's US$3 trillion foray to "Barbie" Oscar snub reactions – Here are today's Headlines

Microsoft briefly crossed the US$3 trillion market value mark for the first time on Wednesday.

From Microsoft's US$3 trillion foray to "Barbie" Oscar snub reactions – Here are today's Headlines
Executive Chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corporation, Satya Nadella, speaks during a talk about Microsoft's vision for AI at Chatham House, in London, Britain, January 15, 2024. REUTERS/Anna Gordon

To start off, we're looking into:

Microsoft briefly hits US$3 trillion

The backstory: In the artificial intelligence (AI) race, Microsoft is taking the lead for market dominance, especially with its investment in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. Last year, Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, made big moves by investing billions in AI, including tools like ChatGPT, which gave Microsoft an edge over its rivals. Using OpenAI's technology, Microsoft upgraded its main products and Bing search engine to compete with Google.

On the other hand, Microsoft-rival Apple has faced challenges – lower demand in China post-COVID, increased local competition from Huawei and a dip in iPhone sales due to some reported Chinese government restrictions. Also, in December, Apple faced a temporary ban on selling its newest Apple Watch models in the US because of a lawsuit over patents.

More recently: Surprisingly, Microsoft briefly secured the position of the world's most valuable publicly traded company in January after trailing behind Apple for a decade.

The development: Microsoft briefly crossed the US$3 trillion market value mark for the first time on Wednesday, becoming the second company to do it. It stands as the world's second most valuable company, just behind Apple. Click the link here for more.

Equinix-Nvidia AI team up

Equinix Nvidia AI team up
A NVIDIA logo is shown at SIGGRAPH 2017 in Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The backstory: Founded in 1998 in Silicon Valley, Equinix has become a global leader in connecting digital ecosystems. The company strategically spreads data centers around the world to keep up with the rising need for reliable digital infrastructure.

Nvidia has been a key player in graphics processing units (GPUs) since 1993. With the booming demand for deep-learning artificial intelligence (AI) models, Nvidia's GPUs are now prized in the tech community, briefly pushing its market value past US$1 trillion last year. It's worth noting that its GPUs are the powerhouse behind advanced AI like ChatGPT, contributing to a shortage as other tech giants rush to integrate similar AI technology.

The development: On Wednesday, Equinix and Nvidia said they’ve teamed up to bring Nvidia supercomputing to businesses. Now, companies can own their own AI systems instead of renting them from big players like Amazon or Microsoft. It's a game-changer because it will let companies have better control over their data. Click the link here for more.

The EU’s EV transition

A view shows model Mission X of Porsche, a German automobile manufacturer, displayed during an event a day ahead of the official opening of the 2023 Munich Auto Show IAA Mobility, in Munich, Germany, September 4, 2023. REUTERS/Leonhard Simon/File Photo

The backstory: In 2020, the EU set a goal of becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, with plans to decrease car emissions by 55% from 2021 and phase out the sale of new combustion-engine cars by 2035. But, the high upfront cost of electric vehicles (EVs) is one of the reasons many were discouraged from making the change. To counter this, several European countries’ governments have introduced subsidies to lower the cost of EVs. 

More recently: On Thursday, at an event in Singapore, German carmaker Porsche introduced its second EV, the Macan, about two years late after dealing with software issues. But this comes just as the EV market is cooling off. For example, Elon Musk’s Tesla has recently been cutting its prices and indicated slower growth for this year. Other manufacturers are also scaling back their EV output.

The development: On the sidelines of Thursday’s event, Porsche CFO Lutz Meschke said that Europe’s plan to phase out the sale of new combustion-engine cars by 2035 could be pushed back, as there’s lots of talk surrounding the topic because of a decline in EV orders. EU consumers have been turned off by consistently high EV prices, a lack of reliable charging networks and the pullback of EV incentives, like subsidies. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

White rhino IVF

white rhinoceros
A 3D model of a 70-days-old southern white rhinoceros foetus is displayed during a press conference, following the world's first successful embryo transfer through the gut into a southern white rhinoceros female cow, which is a breakthrough for a team of international scientists in their work to save the northern white rhino from extinction, at Tierpark Zoo in Berlin, Germany January 24, 2024. The world's only two known northern white rhinos are living in Kenya. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Due to poachers killing northern white rhinos for their horns, this subspecies is close to extinction, with the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, dying in 2018. Only his mate and offspring, two naturally infertile females, Fatu and Najin, are still alive and under 24-hour armed protection at a conservation reservation in Kenya. But the first successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment in their southern counterpart could save the northern white rhino from going extinct.

A team of international researchers from BioRescue, a collection of companies backed by the German government that aims to stop extinctions, had their first success in September 2023 after transferring two southern white rhino embryos into a surrogate. Sadly, the father and 70-day pregnant mother died after contracting a rare unrelated bacterial infection, but this gave the group proof that this method could work. 

Thomas Hildebrandt, the BioRescue project head and professor at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, told The Guardian: “This little baby is the proof of everything … the sperm injection, the fertilization, the liquid nitrogen, the thawing – this was never done before for rhinos. All of it could have failed.” Click the link here for more.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks rose on Thursday due to strong economic growth and positive corporate earnings reports.
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks closed higher on Thursday, building on recent gains and optimism about China's economic moves.

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In the US: Tesla fell over 12% after disappointing Q4 results and a caution about revenue growth in 2024.
  • IBM gained 9.5% with better-than-expected adjusted earnings and revenue.
  • In Hong Kong: Chinese tech leaders and Tencent gained over 3%.
  • Real estate giant Longfor Group surged 8.1%, Country Garden rose 5.9%, and China Resources Land gained 5.7%.

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In Hong Kong: No major events are anticipated in China this week. 
  • In the US: US GDP grew at 3.3% in Q4, beating economists' 2% forecast.
  • Inflation eased, with a 2.7% rise in the price index, down from 5.9% last year.

📅To check out our economic calendar for this week, click here.

More headlines ...

📰Middle East update: Since mid-November, the Yemen-based Houthis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea in what they say is in support of Hamas in its war against Israel in Gaza. This has caused major disruptions to international supply chains, increasing freight costs as companies avoid the dangerous route. After warnings from the US and airstrikes on Houthi targets by the US and UK over the last two weeks, both countries sanctioned four senior Houthi militants on Thursday after the group said that it would continue with the attacks. 

🛥️Philippines-Vietnam Coast Guard deal: In November, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the country had approached Vietnam and other neighbors about a separate code of conduct for the South China Sea, which is under several competing territorial claims from countries in the region, including China. Now, officials have said that, in a visit from President Marcos to Vietnam next week, the two nations will agree to boost their Coast Guard cooperation in the area, which is an important waterway for fishing and global trade. Analysts have said this move might not sit too well with China. 

👜"Dior bag scandal": In South Korea, it's illegal for public officials and their spouses to receive gifts worth more than 1 million won (US$748) at one time, or a total of 3 million won (US$2,244) within a fiscal year. But spy camera footage released late last year allegedly shows a pastor gifting a Christian Dior bag to First Lady Kim Keon Hee, which has become known by local media now as the "Dior bag scandal." This incident threatens the prospects of President Yoon Suk Yeol's party for the elections in April, and voters are expecting an explanation for what happened. 

📉Price of lithium plunges: Due to the decrease in demand for electric vehicles (EVs) in China, lithium miners are cutting costs and retracting plans for expanding production, as the price of the battery metal has plummeted by over 80% in the last year. Mining in Australia makes up 40% of the world's supplies, and politicians and execs are worried that the country's miners will feel the ripple effects of the decline in lithium demand. 

👮‍♂️Italy discovers massive fraud: On Thursday, Italian police said they found a tax fraud of €1.7 billion (US$1.9 billion) that was laundered through Chinese shadow banks. According to a seizure order reviewed by Reuters, 64 of the 85 suspects are Chinese nationals. The suspects allegedly created fake invoices and received payments to Italian banks that were then transferred to Chinese banks as payment for imports that were also made up. Then, the money was returned in cash by couriers to the customer who made the first payment, according to the police statement. Officials blocked 1,569 bank accounts and ordered the sequester of 140 companies believed to be linked to the false invoices in the ongoing investigation.

✂️Microsoft job cuts: According to an email to staff reviewed by Bloomberg, Microsoft will cut 1,900 jobs (8% of its 22,000 gaming workers) from video-game divisions, including Activision Blizzard, which it bought for US$69 billion late last year. In line with this, Blizzard is also canceling a survival game, codenamed Odyssey, and letting go of its President Mike Ybarra and Chief Design Officer Allen Adham, the company's co-founder. 

📱App Store overhaul: Apple customers in the EU will be allowed to download software outside the App Store for the first time starting in March because of strict antitrust regulations enforced by the bloc's Digital Markets Act. But Apple still intends to challenge these regulations through the EU courts. Customers will be able to use alternative payment systems and easily choose a new default web browser, which has been two common complaints from developers and lawmakers. This means Apple will be paid only 17% commission on app sales, down from up to 30%, but it doesn't plan to change its commission structure outside of the EU. 

🤝China-Singapore visa deal: From February 9, Lunar New Year's Eve, citizens from China and Singapore can travel and stay visa-free for up to 30 days in both countries. The agreement was signed on Thursday, according to CCTV. 

👑Miss Japan controversy: A Ukrainian-born model, Karolina Shiino, who has lived in Japan for over 20 years, was crowned Miss Japan this week. But it's sparked a debate on social media about what it means to be, and look, Japanese because, although Shiino is a naturalized Japanese citizen, she looks Caucasian. Shiino expressed her gratitude in her acceptance speech, remarking that she feels she has been accepted as a Japanese person.

Miss Japan
Source: Instagram/@karolina0824

🤮Fried toothpicks, anyone?: Videos of people eating deep-fried starch toothpicks with powdered cheese for seasoning have gotten thousands of likes and shares on TikTok and Instagram. On Wednesday, South Korea's food ministry urged people not to eat them as they haven't been deemed safe by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. 

🎾Queen Wen win: Zheng Qinwen, aka "Queen Wen," has become the first Chinese finalist in a decade at the Australian Open after defeating her Ukrainian opponent on Thursday. She's set to face defending champion Aryna Sabalenka this weekend.

Zheng Qinwen
China's Zheng Qinwen practises ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia January 11, 2024. REUTERS/Edgar Su

✈️Hong Kong tourism numbers to increase: By the end of 2025, Hong Kong's tourism numbers will to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to a data analysis system created by Hong Kong Polytechnic University, following the headway made by other places in the Greater Bay Area, like Macau.

🎬Reactions to "Barbie" Oscar snubs: "Barbie" was one of the highest-grossing films of 2023 and earned an Oscar nod for best picture. But, star actress Margot Robbie and director Greta Gerwig were passed over for nominations in their respective categories, which has a lot of people riled up, especially because male lead Ryan Gosling was nominated for best supporting actor. Gosling has expressed that "there is no Ken without Barbie," and he's disappointed by the snub of his co-star and the film's director. Fans of the film have had mixed reactions on social media, with some saying it's ironic in relation to the film's message about feminism and patriarchy.

Quiz Time!

What luxury carmaker just revealed its new EV on Thursday?

  1. Lamborghini
  2. Aston Martin
  3. Porsche
  4. Land Rover

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Written and put together by Joey Fung, Alisha Khan and Christine Dulion

**The answer to the quiz is [3]