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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Syrian tensions rise, US house prices , German confidence, pricey cockroach powder

By Quartz Staff

What to watch for today

What’s next for Syria? UN inspectors are investigating the site of an apparent chemical weapons attack; US Secretary of State John Kerry said the regime’s use of chemical weapons was “undeniable” and a “moral obscenity.” Global markets were shaken by the possibility of military action (paywall), driving down stocks and boosting bonds, oil, and safe haven currencies like the yen.

US housing aims to extend a six-month winning streak. 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 cancel out rising mortgage rates.

Are rich people in the mood to shop? Tiffany’s 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

Confidence grew in Germany… The Ifo Institute’s business climate index for August exceeded expectations, showing an improvement from July and providing a positive sign that the recovery is gaining momentum.

…but not in Finland. Low orders, weak exports and growing stockpiles are putting pressure on manufacturers in the Scandinavian country, sending confidence to a seven-month low.

…and definitely not in India, where the rupee fell to a new low of 66.08 to the dollar despite open-market operations by the central bank.

Daimler went big in China. The company behind Mercedes-Benz said it would invest 2.7 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in production facilities in China as it tries to challenge Audi and BMW.

PetroChina’s bribery scandal. The Chinese oil giant’s shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange were suspended from trading (pdf), a move that may be linked to an investigation by China’s anti-graft unit (paywall) of PetroChina vice-president Wang Yongchun. The company is also reportedly mulling a management shakeup.

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.'”

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

Washington is facing a generational brain drain. Millennials are eager to change the world, but they don’t have any faith in politics.

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.

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.

Surprising discoveries

Ground-up cockroach powder is worth up to $89 per pound. Its use as a traditional Chinese medicine has spurred the creation of cockroach farms.

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

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.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, roach powder samples and canine brain teasers to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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