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Richard Drew / AP

China's holdings fall to lowest levels since 2010

The latest evidence that China is working hard to drive up the value of its currency is new data showing that the PRC sold $66 billion in U.S. Treasuries in November.

Selling of dollar-denominated assets drives up the value of China's renminbi relative to the dollar, and also encourages Chinese citizens to keep their wealth in the country.

Why it matters: Countries like China don't buy American debt to exert control over the U.S., as politicians like to claim, but to manage their domestic economies. As China continues to try to rebalance its economy away from exports to consumer spending, expect its holdings to continue to fall.

Stock analysts are trading positive coverage for access

So says the Wall Street Journal, which published a front-page expose on the relationship between securities firms' research departments and the companies they cover.

In 2003, regulators reached a $1.4 billion settlement with Wall Street firms, after it was revealed that analysts were giving positive coverage to companies in exchange for investment banking deals.

The new game in town is leveraging "buy" ratings to secure face-to-face meetings for securities firms' clients with corporate executives. These meetings are a valuable means for investors to better understand the equities they are buying, and so they are loyal to brokers who can lend this access.

CSX's big day

The biggest winner in trading Thursday was railroad shipping firm CSX, which skyrocketed more than 23% after news of activist interest in the company, led by railroad executive Hunter Harrison.

Why it matters: CSX isn't the poster child of an underperforming company that needs an outside investor to shake it up — the stock is up more than 620% since 2003. Investors jumped on the stock due to the belief that Harrison would agitate for CSX to merge with one of its rivals.

Like other major industries in America, freight rail has seen tremendous consolidation over the past 30 years. A regulatory and public relations battle over whether the country should tolerate further consolidation and higher prices in freight rail will be just a preview of similar debates in other industries.

Go deeper

Updated 29 mins ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Technology

The smart city comes of age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city.

Why it matters: How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound.