Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Markets surge on Fed surprise, UK retail weakens, GE prenatal marketing

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What to watch for today

“London Whale” settlement due. Authorities in Washington and London could announce fines for JP Morgan’s $6 billion trading debacle as early as today. Some reports say the U.S.’s biggest bank will be forced to pay more than $900 million in fines.

Analysts grill Microsoft. The software giant will have to answer questions on its search for a new CEO and the Nokia acquisition at its first analyst meeting in two years (paywall).

Gloomy earnings reports. Packaged-foods company ConAgra, which cut its full-year earnings outlook (paywall) earlier this month, is likely to report muted earnings due to weakness in the consumer foods segment. Pharmacy chain Rite Aid’s losses are likely to narrow, but the focus will be on the latest takeover rumors.

While you were sleeping

Markets skyrocket after the Fed’s “no taper” surprise. The US Federal Reserve’s delay in scaling back its bond-buying stimulus program sent Asian stocks and currencies surging. European markets have also advanced. Here are four reasons why the Fed held its fire.

UK retail sales cool off in August. Sales volume fell 0.9% last month, versus an expected 0.4% rise, on cooler weather and lower consumer spending on food.

Japan real estate declines eased. In a sign that deflation may be lessening, a government survey said nationwide land prices dropped 1.9% in the year to July 1, compared to a 2.7% decline the year before. Prices have fallen for 22 straight years.

Lufthansa will split a record order between Boeing and Airbus. The German carrier is set to buy 59 wide-body jets for $19 billion, its biggest-ever purchase as it overhauls an aging fleet.

Greek unemployment fell for the first time in four years. A quarterly jobless rate of to 27.1% isn’t much to be sing about, but it’s down from 27.4% the previous quarter.

Syria said destroying its chemical weapons could take a year. President Bashar al-Assad said scrapping the stockpiles is “a very complicated operation, technically,” that will cost about $1 billion. He continued to maintain that rebels were behind a deadly Aug. 21 attack.

Singapore police arrested 14 people in a soccer match-fixing probe. Authorities swept the city-state and detained 12 men and two women accused of being part of a crime syndicate that rigged games.

Egyptian security forces clashed with gunmen near Cairo. Police and soldiers stormed a militant stronghold, and a senior police officer was killed.

Quartz obsession interlude

Ritchie King on how Americans have been losing health coverage. “The big dump of data from the US Census Bureau yesterday shows that a higher portion of Americans had health coverage in 2012 than in 2011, but it was a minor uptick: 84.6% as opposed to 84.3%. The overriding trend is that the number of uninsured Americans has been growing faster than the population at large. That is, except for two age groups: children under 18 and those between 18 and 24.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Janet Yellen is the Fed chair the economy needs. She supports monetary easing to juice growth, opposes sharp deficit reductions, and favors tougher regulations to prevent bubbles.

Grand Theft Auto V highlights game makers’ moral obligations. How evil should video games allow us to be?

A shorter working week is good for both the economy and society. Part-time workers are more productive hour-for-hour, and can be better parents and citizens.

Why international adoptions are failing. Older children are a growing share of adoptees, and they have a harder time adjusting to new families.

Fighting brain drain kills innovation. If you keep talented people from leaving jobs, it’ll be even harder to find talented employees to fill jobs.

“A Republican tax plan that doesn’t suck.” Utah Senator Mike Lee’s proposed tax reform plan pays for a middle class tax cut with a tax increase on the wealthy.

Surprising discoveries

GE’s prenatal marketing. A tiny logo on sonogram photographs is giving expectant parents a “primal” brand experience.

Market bubbles are an artifact of the brain. New research suggests that they’re driven by a biological impulse to predict how others will behave.

Designer insects join the fight against pests. Genetically modified insects could soon be preventing their natural counterparts from ruining olive crops in Spain.

Snakes in space. European researchers are exploring the feasibility of sending snake-like, highly-maneuverable robots to explore other planets.

Mooncake indicators. Customers in Vietnam aren’t buying many of the mung bean-filled pastries, a sympton of weak consumer spending; in China, extravagant offerings have been reduced due to a government anti-graft push.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, insect designs, and moon cake data to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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