Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—European optimism, PetroChina bribery scandal, Syria saber-rattling, a dog who understands grammar

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What to watch for today

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.

Talking tough on Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed to hold his former dinner companion Bashar al-Assad accountable for the “undeniable” use of chemical weapons. Meanwhile UN inspectors were finally allowed to visit the site of an attack in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, after sniper fire hit their convoy during a first attempt.

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.

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 the wealthy 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

William Ackman bailed out of JC Penney. The hedge fund manager sold his entire stake after his bid to overhaul the US retailer failed. JC Penney’s shares have fallen 32% since January.

PetroChina bribery scandal. The Chinese oil giant said that its shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange would be suspended from trading (pdf) pending an announcement from the company, which may be linked to an investigation by China’s anti-graft unit (paywall) of PetroChina vice-president Wang Yongchun.

Billabong wiped out. The surfwear maker said its annual net loss more than tripled to A$859.5 million ($777.8 million) as sales slid in the US, Europe and its home turf in Australia, and called its core brand worthless

Japan’s Fukushima takeover. The country’s trade minister said that the government would take the lead in a contaminated water cleanup after Tepco “essentially turned it into a game of ‘Whack-a-Mole.'”

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.

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.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on why the market for 3D printing will triple in the next five years. “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 using cheap, effective 3D scanners. This technology will also enable 3D faxing (should anybody want it) and the democratization of fine art.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The “Smart Manager Theory” is a farce. Steve Ballmer didn’t kill Microsoft; that epitaph will probably be earned by his successor.

Doctors should bill for conversations about dying. With “care planning,” you get what you pay for.

The malaise in British living standards will decide the next election. But neither politicians nor voters realize how little can be done (paywall).

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

Surprising discoveries

Meet the world’s smartest dog. A border collie named Chaser understands more than 1,200 nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions.

Texas is converting paved roads to gravel. It doesn’t have the money to repair the roads damaged by 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.

Your Facebook friends can change your credit score. Companies are using social network connections to determine creditworthiness.

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

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, and canine IQ tests to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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