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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Facebook’s growth, Starbucks’ profits, Japan stimulus, Icelandic elves

By Lauren Davidson

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Japan’s economic future. It’s unlikely that the Bank of Japan will change its economic stimulus program when it releases its semi-annual monetary policy update today, but investors will be looking out for whether the central bank still thinks it can reach its 2% inflation target—without additional easing steps—by March 2016.

European jobs. Recent signs of recovery in Europe, such as Spain’s emergence from recession, could bode well for the euro zone’s September employment data. But most expect the bloc’s jobless rate to remain unchanged at 12%, dangerously near the high of 12.1% it reached in May.

Exxon Mobil’s earnings. The energy giant, which was the world’s most valuable company until Apple knocked it off the top spot, is expected to post a 15.6% profit decline from a year ago, on 7% weaker revenue. Lower oil prices have hurt Exxon’s profits, as has its struggle to find new projects to replace thinning supply in its oil wells.

Franco-Russian diplomacy. French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will discuss trade and the Syrian crisis with Russian president Vladimir Putin and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. Ayrault will also broach Russia’s heavy-handed reaction to dozens of Greenpeace activists who were arrested after protesting Russia’s energy exploration in the Arctic.

While you were sleeping

Facebook posted a blowout profit. The social networking company’s shares soared in after-hours trading after it beat analysts’ expectations, posting almost-doubled profits on 60% stronger revenue compared to a year earlier. Despite a slight drop in mobile users, Facebook reported growing advertising sales.

Starbucks’ grande earnings. The coffee shop giant grew profit 29% to $668.9 million in its fiscal fourth quarter, on revenue of $3.8 billion. Starbucks said that contributed to its having the best fiscal year in its 42-year lifetime. Starbucks shares dropped as its profit forecast fell short of analysts’ expectations.

No change from the Fed. The US Federal Reserve will keep its $85 billion a month bond-buying program in place in light of the US’s continued sluggish economy. Weaker home sales and a drop in consumer confidence due to the government shutdown suggest that tapering could still be a ways off.

Obamacare mea culpa. Kathleen Sebelius, the US Health and Human Services head, apologized for technical glitches that marred the launch of the website for Americans to sign up for health insurance under the new Obamacare program. Obama’s top health official promised to have the problems fixed by Nov. 30.

Press oversight for Britain. The granting of a cross-party royal charter on press regulation in the UK paved the way for the creation of a new media regulator. The measure, controversial for its encroachment on journalistic freedom, came in the wake of the UK phone-hacking scandal. A trial of former News Corp. employees in connection with that scandal kicked off in London on Wednesday.

Adios, recession. Spain recorded its first quarterly economic growth since 2011, with GDP rising 0.1% in the July-September period, ending a nine-quarter contraction.

The NSA allegedly infiltrated tech giants. Following revelations that the US National Security Agency snooped on world leaders, new documents leaked by former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden showed that the NSA has tapped into Google’s and Yahoo’s data centers, meaning it potentially has access to hundreds of millions of user accounts.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on messaging apps’ sky-high collective valuation of $48 billion: “Outsized valuations for tech companies are back with a vengeance. If you thought Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram (which at the time had 16 employees) was an eyebrow-raiser, you might be shocked to hear that companies like Pinterest and Snapchat are now estimated to be worth four times as much.” Read more here

Matters of debate

The word “successful” is meaningless. It’s steeped in capitalist and elitist values and ignores a pluralist society that actually has varied and competing ideals.

Living longer will make us more sexist. Not only does ageism affect older women more than men, but older people ensure that traditional values remain in society.

Facebook should buy BlackBerry. The social network needs its own smartphone, and BlackBerry comes with patents, loyal customers and a messaging platform.

Flood insurance is a scam. Wealthy vacation-homeowners along valuable coastlines should pay for themselves, not rely on others.

Surprising discoveries

Hearing the words “Wall Street” makes you selfish. Researchers found that college students were much more likely to act selfishly during an experiment when they were told it was called “Wall Street Game” rather than “Community Game.”

Icelanders believe in elves. The creatures are so embedded in Iceland’s folklore that a majority of the population believes in their existence.

Ashton Kutcher is now a product engineer at China’s Lenovo. Perhaps the Hollywood actor picked something up while starring in the recent Steve Jobs movie.

Airlines globally are set to make $42.6 billion this year from pricey optional services such as baggage checking and onboard meals. That’s up almost 90% from 2010.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, suggested Facebook acquisition targets, and favorite elf folklore to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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