Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Google disconnects Motorola, Bernanke’s last taper, Amazon results, condiment wars

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What to watch for today

Amazon primed. The online retailer is expected to report fourth-quarter profits of $318.9 million, up more than two-fold from a year earlier, on strong holiday sales and membership programs like Amazon Prime. Take those numbers with a grain of salt, though—Amazon misses estimates about half the time.

Google seeks a new path. The search giant is set to unveil its earnings on the heels of reports from Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo, and a wave of major acquisition activity (buying robots, thermostats, and AI; selling Motorola) in its hardware business.

Can the US economy keep up its growth spurt? Fourth-quarter GDP is expected to show 3.2% growth year-on-year, thanks to strong consumer spending. Some analysts are punting for over 4%, though, following the previous quarter’s 4.1% annualized increase.

While you were sleeping

Google conceded that it’s not great at making smartphones. The search firm is selling handset maker Motorola Mobility to China’s Lenovo for a fraction of the price it paid in 2011. But profits were never the point of the acquisition—it was about putting pressure on Samsung.

Chinese manufacturing shrank. The purchasing managers’ index fell below 50, the threshold that divides contraction from expansion, for the first time in six months. Stocks across Asia slipped on the news.

Bernanke’s last taper. The US Federal Reserve reduced its bond-buying stimulus by another $10 billion a month, as expected. But the era of Ben Bernanke, who steps down as Fed chairman on Friday, is far from over.

Philippine GDP was stung by Haiyan. The devastating typhoon pushed the country’s fourth-quarter economic growth down to 6.5%, from 6.9% the previous quarter, but that was better than most analysts expected.

Pimco went to its management bench. The bond fund promoted four managing directors, who will join two others to fill the shoes of Mohamed El-Erian, its outgoing CEO.

Facebook had a great fourth quarter. Net earnings were up eightfold year-on-year, to $2.6 billion. And for the first time, mobile ads accounted for over half the company’s revenues, a good sign given that users are moving to mobile.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on the markets’ curious indifference to an impending Chinese financial disaster. “The financial media were buzzing yesterday after a BofA/Merrill Lynch report called the Jan. 27 bailout of a 3 billion yuan ($465 million) investment product in danger of going bust a ‘Bear Stearns moment.’ […] If you accept that analogy, the implication is that China’s ‘Lehman moment’ —the equivalent collapse of a much larger bank or investment product—is nigh.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The American dream is dead. Social mobility hasn’t improved in the last 50 years, and income inequality has increased.

Higher education isn’t worth it. The cost of college is soaring, but its content is growing weaker.

Estonia has a lot to teach the world. Its tech-savvy government is a leader not only in digitizing citizens’ information, but also in protecting their privacy.

Europe might be better off leaving Ukraine to Russia. Even if a pro-European government takes over in Kiev, it might find the EU’s bailout terms too onerous to handle.

Surprising discoveries

Mayonnaise is America’s favorite condiment. Take that, ketchup.

Japanese scientists found a “game changer” in stem cell creation. All blood cells need is a quick dip in acid.

The president of Northwestern University predicted online education, with surprising accuracy, in 1934.

How to eat first-class airport lounge meals for a year. And pay nothing for it.

It takes 42 gallons of water to produce a slice of pizza. And more than seven times that for a chocolate bar.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, favorite condiments, and ideas for getting free meals  to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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