Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US-Afghanistan security deal, Mixed euro signals, Baidu founder climbs the rich list

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What to watch for today

Mexico returns to growth—just about. Mexico’s economy is expected to expand 0.7% after the country’s first contraction in four years. It has suffered from the sluggish US economy and a dip in remittances from Mexicans abroad, more of whom are going home.

Afghanistan votes on a US security deal. US troops will be allowed to remain in Afghanistan after 2014 with immunity from Afghan’s courts if the Loya Jirga, Afghanistan’s grand council, signs the deal today. The bill will still need an okay from parliament.

Can Target hit the bullseye? Analysts expect Target to post third quarter earnings per share of $0.63 on revenues of $17.36 billion—and investors will be watching the US retail chain’s same-store sales, which were weaker than expected in the last quarter, climbing just 1.2%.

Pandora plays music to shareholders’ ears. The online radio service is set to report earnings of 6 cents a share for the third quarter, up from 5 cents last year, on revenues of $177 million. Expectations are high after Pandora said its October listening hours grew 18% from the same month in 2012.

While you were sleeping

Mixed signals in Europe. Manufacturing strengthened, with the purchasing managers index rising in November for a fifth month to 51.5 from October’s 51.3, led by Germany. But the services PMI fell to 50.9 from 51.6, well below expectations, as it was dragged down by less business activity in France.

Europe and China are talking trade. Ministers gathered in Beijing for a summit to try to patch up a testy relationship after recent disputes over Chinese solar panels and European wine. The EU is likely to push for greater access to China’s financial sector.

The Bank of Japan held steady. Policy rates and an asset-purchasing program were unchanged as the bank said Japan’s economy “has been recovering moderately” and “exports have generally been picking up.” Japan’s main stock index rose to its highest level since May, with investors feeling optimistic about the Bank of Japan’s remarks.

Baidu founder is now China’s second-richest man. Robin Li’s net worth advanced to $11.9 billion thanks to rising shares in his search engine company; he now trails only Wang Jianlin, founder of property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group.

Chinese workers protested outside a Nokia plant. Hundreds gathered outside a factory in Southern China, angry about new contracts they were forced to sign after Microsoft bought Nokia’s mobile phone unit.

Quartz obsession interlude

Ritchie King on the uncomfortable racial preferences of online dating.“All men except Asians preferred Asian women, while all except black women preferred white men. And both black men and black women got the lowest response rates for their respective genders. Perhaps most surprising is that among men, all racial groups preferred another race over their own.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Rob Ford makes Canadians look less boring. Some north of the US border may actually be enjoying the Toronto mayor’s shenanigans.   

Microsoft and IBM killed patent reform. Big software firms lobbied against a program designed to ward off patent trolls because it would hurt their bottom lines.

We need nuclear power to tackle climate change. Japan’s broken promise to meet emissions targets shows that alternative energy—unlike nuclear—is no match for fossil fuels.

Pop music has a race problem. White performers like Macklemore and Lorde profit from tone-deaf critiques of hip hop.

Surprising discoveries

Kazakhstan is spending its oil money on trains. The Central Asian nation is betting that expanded rail networks and world-class locomotive factories will pay dividends in the years to come.

A sky-high solar chimney. Per Lindstrand, the man who flew across the Pacific in a balloon with Sir Richard Branson, wants to build a 1 kilometer (0.6 mile)-high inflatable solar chimney to generate energy in remote areas.

A Samsung-paid-Apple-with-nickels hoax is going around. It would take 2,755 tractor-trailers to deliver $1 billion in nickels—not to mention more than the world’s entire supply of 5 cent coins.

TV that snoop on their owners. An LG customer says the company is collecting data from customers every time they change the channel, even if they opt to disable data sharing.

Ancient DNA revelations. Tests done on the body of a boy buried in Siberia 24,000 years ago shows he shared genes with living Native Americans.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, creative solar contraptions, and ancient DNA theories to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day. 

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