Quartz Daily Brief – Americas Edition – US jobs report, Nokia’s new smartphone, 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 8:30am 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.

While you were sleeping

Nokia tried to recapture market share. Today marked the UK launch of the also-ran in the global smart-phone race’s third attempt to recapture prime market share. That attempt is called the Lumia 920. There is not much being said about it by UK bloggers yet, so it is probably not the next iPhone 5. But it has had some good reviews. Mashable quite likes the camera but said other smartphones’ pictures were sometimes better. 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.

Wipro reported unexpectedly good earnings, apparently because it gave its managers more freedom. The Indian IT services outsourcer reported profits that topped analysts’ expectations. This was surprising as Indian outsourcers were viewed as vulnerable to US and European customers cutting back on new projects. Indian publisher Mint said Wipro’s gains came from motivating managers better by emboldening them to make more decisions. Employees in high-end technology and manufacturing firms seem to do well when they are not working within strict hierarchies.

British banks’ bill for selling dodgy insurance topped £10 billion ($16 billion). Royal Bank of Scotland has revealed it is setting aside £400 million ($647 million) to compensate customers for selling them unnecessary loan insurance. British banks have so far allocated more than £10 billion to cover costs related to mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI). 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. Meanwhile, RBS reported a £1.4 billion ($2.2 billion) quarterly net loss.

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.

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.

And don’t miss this talking elephant. South Korea doesn’t only have Gangnam Style to be proud of. It’s more than a one-trick country when it comes to novelty acts.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, ant photos, and window crank reports to hi@qz.com or hit “Reply” to this email.

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