Quartz Daily Brief—European optimism, Syria saber-rattling, debt ceiling, drone archaeology

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

US home prices set to rise for the 6th straight month. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller report is expected to show a robust increase in home prices in June, as strong demand and limited supply canceled out rising mortgage rates.

Confidence grows in Europe. The Ifo Institute’s business climate index for July is set to edge higher (paywall), adding to the optimism surrounding the recovery in the euro zone. However, consumer confidence in the US is expected to decline in August.

South Africa on the mend. The country’s GDP is likely to have grown 3.3% in the second quarter, after a lackluster performance in the first three months of the year. A pickup in manufacturing and retail is driving the rebound.

Are wealthy Americans in the mood to shop? Tiffany expects an uptick in second quarter earnings, but the real focus will be on what the luxury retailer has to say about the level of optimism among its customers.

While you were sleeping

John Kerry talked tough on Syria. The US secretary of state said the US would hold the Bashar al-Assad regime accountable for the use of chemical weapons, though it hasn’t yet decided how. A few hours earlier, UN inspectors were finally allowed to visit the site of the attack in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, after sniper fire hit their convoy on a first attempt.

Stock-exchange rivals joined hands. The merger between BATS Global and Direct Edge will create the second largest stock-exchange operator in the US after NYSE Euronext. The merged entity will operate four exchanges and command roughly 20% share of the stock trading volumes in the US.

Bleak signs for Russia’s economy. The economy ministry cut its 2013 growth outlook for the second time this year, to 1.8%, as weak industrial output and slowing investment outweighed the benefit of high crude prices. The forecast for 2014 too has been sharply reduced.

The US set a date with the debt ceiling. The country will hit its borrowing limit again in mid-October, said Treasury secretary Jack Lew, meaning Congress has to agree to raise it so the government doesn’t grind to a halt. Here’s a reminder of the chaos that looming deadline caused last time around.

JP Morgan loses a top lawyer. The co-head of litigation, Michael Coyne, is leaving the bank at a time when it is facing at least seven separate probes from the the US justice department. Coyne will join Union Bank, a San Francisco unit of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on why the market for 3D printing will triple in the next five years. “3D printing will explode in 2014, thanks to the expiration of key patents. Soon, you won’t have to master the (challenging, time-consuming) task of learning how to model things in 3D, because you’ll just be copying them from the real world usingcheap, effective 3D scanners. This technology will also enable 3D faxing (should anybody want it) and the democratization of fine art. The materials with which you can 3D-print something continue to multiply—the latest is plain old printer paper, not to mention human tissue.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China has way too much coal. 40% more than the combined weight of all humanity, in fact, which will push prices lower and debts of steel companies higher.

Don’t expect US growth to pick up soon. The country has spent five years unwinding excess borrowing, but it’s got another five years to go.

Watch out for the emerging middle classes. They were promised prosperity, and as slowing growth in emerging markets threatens it, they’ll come out on the streets and get mad.

Surprising discoveries

Peru is using drones to save its history. Archeologists are using them to protect ancient ruins, and survey and map sites.

Texas is converting paved roads to gravel. It doesn’t have the money to repair the roads damaged by trucks servicing the oil drilling boom.

Burning Man is the new golf. The hedonistic festival in the deserts of Nevada has become a hotspot for CEOs, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to network.

Spying on your restaurant staff makes them work harder. A study finds that thefts go down, and they concentrate on making customers spend more.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, drone photos, and deals overheard at Burning Man to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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