Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—French austerity, US-Iran diplomacy, $9.8 billion chip deal, robots and wages

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What to watch for today

A time for belt-tightening in France. The government will present its 2014 budget, having revised its projections of the deficit and economic growth rate after the International Monetary Fund warned they were too optimistic. France’s business confidence index is out too, and is likely to have remained downbeat in August.

Mixed signals from the US economy. Durable goods orders in August are expected to have fallen 0.5% from July, due to a decline in aircraft orders. New home sales probably rebounded last month after plunging in July by the most in three years.

UN inspectors will hunt for more clues in Syria. Investigators who left the country when US air strikes seemed imminent will return to look for more proof of chemical weapons use. The team will also gather evidence from an alleged chemical attack in northern Syria in March.

Bed Bath & Beyond rides the US housing recovery. The home-furnishings retailer reports second quarter earnings, which are projected to rise. Investors will also pay close attention to the company’s efforts to fending off competition from online retailers like Amazon.

While you were sleeping

Obama sounded cautiously optimistic on Iran. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, the US president said recent overtures by Iran could provide a basis for a deal over Iran’s nuclear program, but warned that “conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions.” Meanwhile the Iranian delegation turned down the US’s offer for a meeting between Obama and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, saying it was “too complicated”.

A $9.4 billion merger created a global chip giant. Applied Materials, the world’s largest chipmaking-equipment supplier, agreed to acquire Tokyo Electron in an all-stock deal. Applied Materials shareholders will own 68% of the new entity.

JP Morgan may cough up $3 billion to settle probes. The bank is reportedly negotiating (paywall) with the US Justice department to settle over half a dozen investigations in one go. But even if the deal goes through, the bank will still face criminal investigations by federal prosecutors.

The US housing recovery decelerated. The Case-Shiller 20-city home price index increased at 12.4% year-on-year in July, barely more than the previous month. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s data also showed house price gains taking a breather. But the cooling off might be welcome to prevent a boom-and-bust cycle.

Kenya proclaimed victory over al-Shabaab. President Uhuru Kenyatta said security forces killed five militants and captured 11 others in the standoff at the Westgate mall in Nairobi. But it’s not clear if the four-day operation is completely over.

Quartz obsession interlude

Todd Woody on why the number of killer thunderstorms could jump 40% by 2070. “In a first-of-its-kind study published yesterday, scientists at Stanford University have linked climate change to the increasing frequency of such super storms. By 2070, the number of severe thunderstorms, which often spawn deadly tornadoes, could increase by 40% in the eastern US, according to the computer model developed by the Stanford scientists.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Angela Merkel’s re-election is a disaster for Greece. It will mean crushing austerity unless a leftist Greek government is elected to power.

47% of American jobs could soon be done by robots… Only those jobs that require creative and social intelligence will be safe from computers of the futures.

…but don’t blame them for falling wages. A statistical study shows that most of the last 25 years’ drop in US workers’ pay is due to trade, not automation.

Time to delete your LinkedIn account? Why LinkedIn’s policy of sending their marketing emails through personal email addresses is inherently abusive.

Healthcare providers of the future will be like Walmart. Information technology will lower costs and drive consolidation.

Surprising discoveries

Amazon is not the bookstore-killer it is made out to be. Independent bookstores are, in fact, growing in the US.

The CIA’s non-human spies. In the Cold War, the US intelligence agency trained ravens to retrieve objects, pigeons to warn of enemy ambushes, and cats to eavesdrop on conversations.

A strip club is suing Oracle. The San Francisco establishment wants the software giant to pick up a $33,540 tab racked up by one of its employees.

No, do not dunk your iPhone. A spoof Apple ad claimed that iOS 7 will make the smartphones waterproof. Some users fell for it.

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