Quartz Daily Brief – Europe Edition – US jobs report, Bank of England bashing, Chinese warships

November 2, 2012
November 2, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The US presidential candidates finish off their last four days of campaigning in the states that count the most. These are eight “swing states,” or the ones where the campaigns can imagine the vote going one way or the other: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin. Going into the last weekend of the long, two-year campaign, President Barack Obama appeared to have a slight edge in poll averages over his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. But most analysts say the election could still go either way.

Joblessness has been the No. 1 issue of the US presidential campaign. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics today will release the last jobs report before the Nov. 6 presidential election. The October figure will be announced at 8:30 a.m. EST. In September, the rate fell to 7.8% from 8.1% in August, its first month below 8% since President Barack Obama took office. Some analysts think the October rate will come in at 7.9%.

The US recovery from Superstorm Sandy is taking time. More than 4.6 million people in the Northeast were still without electricity and Consolidated Edison, the power company, said it may take (paywall) until Nov. 10 before the last customers are restored. Most customers, however, will have their power restored by the weekend, the utility said. New York City still only had partial subway service, and a major shortage of fuel for cars and generators throughout the region heightened hardships and tensions.

British banks’ bill for selling dodgy insurance is about to reach £10.8 billion ($17.5 billion). That should be the latest number when Royal Bank of Scotland reports results today, and should reveal it is setting aside around £400 million ($647 million) to compensate customers it mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) to. The Financial Times (paywall) tallied up provisions banks have made so far, with Lloyds Banking Group already having taken a £5.3 billion ($8.6 billion) charge. Between 2001 and 2010, the year sales of certain types of PPI were banned, the industry sold £34 billion of the insurance products. At least £6.5 billion of compensation has been paid already.

Nokia tries to recapture market share. The also-ran in the global smart-phone race today has the UK release of its third attempt to recapture prime market share. It’s the Lumia 920, which given the habits of critics will be at turns ripped to shreds and heralded as the second coming. Then there are those who simply declare it “a muscle car…a monster truck.” Next truck stop after the UK: the US on Nov. 11.

While you were sleeping

ExxonMobil is having trouble producing oil. The world’s largest publicly traded oil company, ExxonMobil said Nov. 1 that it produced 3.96 million barrels of oil equivalent a day in the third quarter of 2012, 7.5% less than in the same period last year. The decline comes as the company sheds its conservative image and pursues exploration in some of the world’s toughest places, including Kurdistan, the Russian Arctic and possibly even Afghanistan.

The Bank of England is ‘defective’, according to the chairman of an influential parliamentary committee. The tongue-lashing came after the central bank published three separate reviews on its performance. The reports said the bank handled most of its functions, from providing emergency funds to economic forecasting, badly. The central bank has also been criticized for going overboard on quantitative easing and handing the spoils of economic stimulus to the rich. The Old Lady is searching for new leadership. Qualified candidates are not exactly vying for the job.

Climate change is no longer on the sidelines of the US election. Fear of its impact has driven New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, arguably the country’s most influential centrist politicians, to a last-minute endorsement of Obama for re-election. Bloomberg had been refusing to back either candidate, but on Nov. 1 said that Hurricane Sandy persuaded him to back Obama.

The World Bank promised aid to Myanmar for the first time in 25 years. The $80 million grant marks a turning point for the former hermit kingdom’s relations with the rest of the world and shows it is making good progress with economic and political reforms. The government, however is still failing to address the deadly communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the west of the country.

Some Hong Kongers want British rule back.  The Chinese territory’s chief executive has urged members of the public to stop waving the British colonial era flag. Hong Kongers are usually not complementary about their former rulers, and the pejorative phrase “gweilo” (translated variously as ‘ghost man’ or ‘foreign devil’) is a a socially acceptable term for caucasians. But now they are venting their frustrations with high property prices and the territory’s extremely cramped living conditions on the Beijing government and the mainland Chinese.

Starbucks raised its profit forecast for its current fiscal year. The US coffee chain reported 10% revenue growth in Asia from cafes open at least one year, but a 1% drop in Europe on the same basis last quarter. It has upped the number of net new stores it plans to open worldwide during its new fiscal year to 1,300 from 1,200.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on why Apple, despite having surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable publicly traded company in the world, is now on the wane. “There is mounting evidence—of the sort that technologists understand but markets often miss—that Apple has lost the narrative that took it from death’s doorstep to world’s most valuable company by market capitalization. That doesn’t mean it’s about to fail—just that it’s not destined to keep on growing.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Why did China’s presumptive next leader, Xi Jinping, vanish in September? He had a chair thrown at him in a political meeting, and hurt his back, according to one report.

For those who still think talent is all about 10,000 hours, read this.

Russians may be headed for an official ban on smoking in public. What is taking the Chinese so long to act?

What’s that up in the sky over China? Is it a new, home-grown stealth jet? Take a look here for yourself.

Geniuses are often branded nuts before they are recognized. So where does Thomas Nagel fit in?

Surprising discoveries

Next week, passenger windows will not open in Beijing taxis.

The world’s most important economic cities have something in common when it comes to hurricanes—they are almost all located on vulnerable coasts.

China is becoming a world class military shipbuilder. And could be better than the US at building warships by 2030.

Scroll through and take a look at the two marauder ants.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, ant photos, and window crank reports to hi@qz.com.

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