Quartz Daily Brief—Iran icebreaker, US debt deadline, JP Morgan’s billion legal bill, ugly iPhones

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Engaging with Iran. US secretary of state John Kerry and his counterparts from five other major powers will meet with the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, setting the ball rolling on a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

US recovery picks up pace. The second and final revision of the second quarter’s GDP is likely to show that the economy grew at a 2.7% annual rate, up from a prior estimate of 2.5%. Pending home sales however are expected to decline marginally in August.

Taiwan’s currency worry. The central bank is poised to leave benchmark rates unchanged at 1.8%, but the focus will be on what it has to say about the strong capital inflows that have pushed its currency to 4.5-month highs. Strong currency hurts exporters, who account for almost two-third’s of Taiwan’s GDP.

Earnings kickoff. Athletic gear maker Nike’s first-quarter earnings are projected to rise 24% from the same period last year. The report could be seen as the official start of the US earnings season, since Nike has replaced Alcoa, which traditionally kicked off the season, in the Dow Jones index. Swedish apparel maker H&M could report higher revenues (paywall), but margins could drop as much of the sales were driven by discounts.

While you were sleeping

The US could run out of money in three weeks. US treasury secretary Jack Lew told lawmakers that unless the debt ceiling is raised, the US will not have enough funds to cover daily obligations by October 17.  Meanwhile the US senate voted to move forward with a spending bill to prevent a government shutdown due on Oct. 1.

JP Morgan’s legal bill may top $11 billion. The largest US bank is reportedly in discussions (paywall) with regulators to settle investigations related to mortgage-backed securities by paying $7 billion in fines and $4 billion in relief to consumers.

But ICAP’s bill is a mere $87 million. US and UK regulators fined ICAP, the world’s biggest inter-dealer broker, and charged three former employees, for their role in rigging Libor, the benchmark rate used to price trillions of dollars worth of products such as derivatives.

US corporate bonds had a record month. With companies rushing to take advantage of low interest rates, the total amount of investment-grade debt issued in September is on track to surpass the $136.6 billion (paywall) record set in November 2012.

The US economy had a decent month. Both durable-goods orders and new home sales increased slightly in August, rebounding from declines in July. The net worth of households and non-profit groups increased by $1.34 trillion in the second quarter, a 1.8% increase from the previous three months.

Barclays to pare its wealth-management business. In an attempt to rein in costs, the UK bank will reduce the number of countries in which it offers its private banking  services from 200 to 70 by 2016. Credit Suisse announced a similar move on Tuesday (paywall).

Quartz obsession interlude

Heather Timmons on what losing the Alibaba IPO might mean for the venerable Hong Kong stock exchange. “Is Hong Kong really the financial gateway to China? Or will increasingly muscular moves from the mainland and competition from New York and Singapore result in high-flying companies like Alibaba bypassing Hong Kong altogether?” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Janet Yellen’s lack of financial experience is a serious drawback. A Fed chair’s grasp of finance and risk is as important as the ability to understand macroeconomics.

Latin America’s middle-class mirage. Personal incomes are being boosted by state subsidies and transfers, at the expense of investment in transport, security, and utilities.

Bill Gates should follow Steve Ballmer out of Microsoft. Gates’ track record as chairman is patchy. It may be in shareholders’ best interest for him to move on.

Smartphones are changing supermarket shopping. As smartphones make shoppers less impulsive, advertisers will grow louder and more intrusive.

Surprising discoveries

The iPhone’s ugly older brother. The earliest prototypes of the iPhone were tablet-sized devices, with thick cables running into Macs.

Wealthy Chinese are far richer than Beijing thinks. Chinese researchers estimate that the total undeclared income in China was $1 trillion in 2011, or 12% of GDP.

An Alaskan airport had to put up barricades because of Apple Maps. The app directed motorists to a runway instead of the parking lot.

A deadly earthquake created a new island. The 7.7 magnitude earthquake caused a 100-foot high and 200-foot wide island to form in the sea off Pakistan’s coastline.

Bored of living on Earth? This interactive map lets you explore other habitable planets in the Milky Way.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, iPhone prototypes, and undeclared income to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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