Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Bernanke testifies, tech and finance earnings, PayPal’s quadrillion dollar error

July 17, 2013
July 17, 2013

What to watch for today

Ben Bernanke delivers his semiannual monetary policy report to Congress. Investors are awaiting any word about when the Federal Reserve will taper its bond buying stimulus program (paywall). Here are three things to watch.

A steady second quarter for finance. Bank of America is expected to report a 4% increase in profits, aided by the recovery in the US housing market. American Express is also forecast to report improved earnings and revenue. Of special interest will be cardholders’ spending and payment trends, and any progress on the company’s efforts to rein in costs.

A cloudy second quarter for tech. IBM could post muted earnings due to weakness in international markets, which account for nearly 25% of the company’s sales. Intel too may disappoint investors as falling sales of PCs dent demand for its chips. EBay is expected to report strong earnings on the back of steady revenue growth at its PayPal online payments division (quadrillion-dollar errors notwithstanding, see below).

A crucial austerity vote in Greece. The Greek parliament will vote at midnight local time on a new round of austerity that involves unpopular measures like the overhaul of the country’s civil services. The package must be passed for Athens to access the first tranche of the $8.7 billion worth of bailout loans approved last week. Workers unions went on a 24-hour strike on Tuesday to protest the proposed measures.

While you were sleeping

Barclays fined $487.9 million for energy market manipulation. The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the bank and four former traders rigged markets in the Western US from November 2006 to December 2008.

China’s wheat crop failed. A combination of frost and too much rain will force the country to ramp up imports, and possibly spur even more food industry M&A activity.

Ford vs Japan. The automaker’s top executive in Washington blasted the deliberate weakening of the yen ahead of Japan’s joining of Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, saying Tokyo had taken inadequate steps to open up its domestic market to foreign companies.

British unemployment falls. The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in June fell for the eighth consecutive month and at the fastest rate in three years.

EU credit card fee cap. A draft European Commission plan would limit lucrative card transaction fees, trimming billions of euros in revenue from EU banks.

Putin sanguine about Snowden asylum. Russia’s president said he didn’t think relations with the United States would be adversely affected if his government grants the request of the NSA leaker living in Moscow’s airport.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on why Nintendo faces an existential crisis on its 30th anniversary. “When the original Nintendo Entertainment System was released, nothing else at its price point was fast and responsive enough to create a gaming experience that was as satisfying. Thirty years later, even a $40 Android tablet can run Angry Birds. We are surrounded by high-resolution screens and fast hardware, in our phones, tablets, soon, even our watches, and Nintendo can either figure out how to create compelling experiences on these devices, or it can continue to shrink along with the market for dedicated gaming hardware.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Trust the Germans on the dangers of a surveillance state. The Gestapo and the Stasi taught them a tough lesson.

Mexico’s self-defense groups are doing what the government can’t. The urge to disband and disarm these armed vigilantes should be put on hold until Mexico can shape up its security sector.

Don’t blame Obamacare for the shift toward part-time jobsThe trend goes back much further.

San Francisco’s transport strike epitomizes the US inequality problem. Americans distrust unions and consider the poor greedy.

Reforms in Myanmar are only skin deep. The military is still very much in charge.

Surprising discoveries

The Three Gorges garbage patch. The enormous dam on the Yangtze has produced a huge area of floating household refuse.

Instagram is Kuwait’s hottest business platform. The photo-sharing service is becoming popular among local entrepreneurs selling everything from makeup to sheep.

A low-tech mosquito deterrent. A simple electric fan can outperform chemicals and bug zappers.

A PayPal error in your favor. EBay’s electronic payments company accidentally credited a user with a quadrillion dollars.

Lettuce is making us sick. Once a sacred sex symbol, the raw leafy greens are now the perfect conduit for foodborne illnesses.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, mosquito deterrents, and Yangtze Garbage Patch Kids  to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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