Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Lenovo-IBM server deal, NSA snooping illegal, China PMI slips, placebo naps

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What to watch for today

Spain re-emerges from purgatory. The country exits its European bailout after 18 months, freeing it up to borrow money on the bond markets again. But its sky-high unemployment rate keeps getting worse, climbing to 26% in the fourth quarter.

Existing US home sales for December, a particularly bad month for jobs, will be closely watched after home sales showed a sharp decline in November.

Reading the tea leaves on Starbucks. Analysts expect weak growth in the Americas to counter-balance expansion elsewhere, and will be looking for insight into its worryingly complex mix of products. McDonald’s and Microsoft also serve up quarterly results.

While you were sleeping

Lenovo agreed to buy IBM’s low-end server business for $2.3 billion as it expands beyond PCs and smartphones. The purchase by a Chinese firm faces a likely US national security review that could delay the acquisition or even scuttle it entirely.

Watchdog panel finds NSA snooping illegal. A US government privacy oversight agency ruled in a lengthy report that the program to collect billions of American phone records should end.

Microsoft’s data protection pledge. Breaking ranks with other tech firms, Microsoft said that foreign users could choose to keep their data on servers outside the United States (paywall). However, that may not matter as much as it seems.

China’s factory output is shrinking. The flash HSBC purchasing managers’ index for January slipped to 49.6, below the critical 50 level that separates expansion from contraction, as the economic slowdown hit small firms first.

Europe PMI climbed, thanks to Germany. The euro zone flash PMI rose to a higher-than-expected 53.2 from 52.1 last month, as Germany hit a 31-month-high. France’s still-contracting manufacturing sector improved slightly, to 48.8.

Kiev is a battlefield. Thousands of protesters in a barricaded temp encampment set tires on fire (paywall) as they demanded that president Viktor Yanukovich call for snap elections.

Rouhani wants to “normalize” relations. Iran’s president told the World Economic Forum in Davos that his government’s priority is “constructive engagement with the world.”

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani and David Yanofsky on the looming rush for new internet domain names. ”The coming deluge of new domains… will affect everybody who uses the web. What’s less certain is whether it is strictly necessary. Proponents argue that it will benefit people and businesses (small ones especially) by giving them more addresses to choose from. Critics call it a massive land grab by both entrepreneurs and some of the world’s most powerful internet companies..” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Silicon Valley doesn’t have to be hated in San Francisco. Conflict over gentrification could be eased if tech industry employees engaged with their communities.

Predicting the best asset class of the year is a mug’s game. And people keep playing it, though it probably loses them vast amounts of money.

Something weird is going on with Obamacare. The millions of Americans without health insurance aren’t signing up for it nearly as eagerly as they should be.

India has had a lost decade, and it’s entirely prime minister Manmohan Singh’s fault.

Surprising discoveries

Take a placebo nap. You don’t have to sleep well to feel rested—you just have to think that you did.

Aristotle would have been a web genius. The Greek philosopher knew how to make things go viral: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Sloths aren’t just lazy, they’re gross. Poop-eating moths live and die in their fur, creating an “algae garden” that sloths find delicious.

Vikings: They’re just like us. The social networks in Norse sagas are quite similar to today’s.

Another step towards the bionic body. A Harvard spin-off company is testing man-made tracheas.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, placebo nap prescriptions and sloth hygiene tips to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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