Your Evening Briefing
The Bank of England ramped up its hawkish rhetoric, warning that an interest-rate hike could happen within months if the British economy performs as officials expect. The central bank’s monetary policy committee voted 7-2 to hold its benchmark rate at 0.25 percent—a decision predicted by all of the 59 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. But with an eye to inflation, the bank said data paint a “slightly stronger picture than anticipated,” which could augur a rate increase earlier than expected in 2018. —Andy Reinhardt
Saber-rattling returns. After a pause in rhetoric from North Korea, the isolated Asian nation leapt back into the fray with a provocative threat to use nuclear weapons to sink Japan into the ocean and turn the U.S. into “ashes and darkness.” The comments came in the wake of new UN sanctions against North Korea and amid reports that the regime is preparing another intercontinental ballistic missile test.
Assad endures. After six years of civil war, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s political survival is all but assured. His government is in control of most of Syria’s major cities and Islamic state is on the defensive. But he’s now a much weakened figure and Syria is fractured into volatile fiefdoms. Its citizenry is ravaged, its infrastructure decimated, and its insurgencies likely to smolder even after the conflict officially ends.
Unicorns in the desert. As Gulf nations intensify their efforts to diversify away from oil, there’s been a surprising boom in technology startups, especially in Dubai. According to Bloomberg calculations, more than $3 billion has been raised from Middle Easterners for tech investments in the region over the past year. On its face, the Gulf is fertile territory for startups, but entrepreneurial culture is little known and there’s undoubtedly the risk of failures ahead.
The business of war. Eastern European arms exporters are capitalizing on turmoil in the Middle East. As conflicts swept across the region in the wake of the Arab Spring, demand surged for bullets, assault rifles and guided missiles from countries including Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Arms exports have helped support growth in the east, and with low-level conflicts still burning in the Middle East, demand is likely to continue.
A swipe at counterfeiters. The Bank of England rolled out a new £10 note on Thursday, and it’s packed with the most cutting-edge tech yet to appear on U.K. bills. The notes have no fewer than eight visible security features, including two holograms, to deter counterfeiters. The new “tenners” feature an image of 19th-century author Jane Austen on the reverse side, replacing Charles Darwin—and an image of Queen Elizabeth II, of course, on the front.
Bordeaux châteaux. The famous French wine region is in the midst of a revival and a tourism boom, with a speedy new train link from Paris and a high-tech wine and culture museum. Now the celebrated wine châteaux, whose doors were long shut to tourists, have unveiled dazzling wineries designed by big-name architects. Have your pick of these opulent locales for lunch, dinner, or even an overnight stay.
Compiled by Andy Reinhardt and Leila Taha