Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—China slumps, Europe expands, Mandela’s will, year of the horse fight

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

India auctions its airwaves. The government could raise 11,300 crore rupees ($1.8 billion) in its third round of spectrum auctions. Eight telecom companies, including Vodafone, will bid for bandwidth after weak initial rounds.

Ukraine’s president gets back in the game. After a four-day sick leave due to an acute respiratory infection, Viktor Yanukovych returns to face protestors have been calling for his resignation.

Doritos Locos tacos vs. Chinese fried chicken. Yum! Brands’ quarterly results will balance the success of its US-centric Taco Bell business against the struggles of its China-dependent KFC restaurants.

Mandela’s last testament. Amid squabbling by the late anti-apartheid leader’s relatives, the disposition of his trusts and other assets will be revealed by South Africa’s constitutional court.

Over the weekend

China’s slump deepened. The official factory purchasing managers’ index fell to just above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction, and services PMI also declined. Meanwhile rival economies in India, South Korea, and Japan are showing signs of growth.

Europe’s growth strengthened. Factory output across the euro zone improved 54.0 in January from 52.7 the previous month, bolstered by Germany and hindered by France. The UK cooled off slightly, from 57.2 to 56.7.

Ryanair’s price war update. The budget carrier posted a big quarterly loss but said improved ticket bookings were evidence that it’s winning a bruising fight against rival airlines. Markets agreed, sending its share up 6%.

Thailand’s disrupted elections. The government claimed victory but protesters forced hundreds of polling stations to close on Sunday. Parliament will almost certainly not have enough members to convene, creating a political limbo.

Lloyds promises gender equality. The partially state-owned lender said it would hire 600 female managers and resume dividend payouts.

Spain rallied for the right to choose. Protesters rallied against a government-backed bill that would limit abortion to instances of rape and serious health risks, rolling back the existing law that allows it during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Hedge funds filed a lawsuit against Porsche. The automaker’s chairman and another board member could be forced to hand over €1.8 billion ($2.43 billion) in damages for allegedly misleading the market (paywall) about a failed 2008 Volkswagen takeover bid.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died. The most admired actor of his generation, who bagged an Oscar in 2006 for his role in Capote, was found dead of a suspected heroin overdose at the age of 45. What might have been his finest performance may never be seen.

Seattle and Budweiser won, Denver and mass transit lost. The Seattle Seahawks cruised to an easy 43-8 victory over Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. In an evening of softer, fuzzier ads (which weren’t all ads), Anheuser-Busch InBev won the web but the first “mass transit bowl” was labeled an epic fail.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on why banks aren’t selling their non-core assets as fast as they should be. “[I]t’s harder than it should be to purchase these otherwise unwanted assets. [One] reason, investors say, comes down to the people working in the banks’ non-core units. Once these workers sell the assets they’re charged with disposing of, they’re out of a job. Thus, they drag the sales process on for as long as possible. For banks, this means that their balance sheets are weighed down by dud debts longer than strictly necessary, which consumes scarce capital and management attention.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Bitcoin’s mood swings are over. The cyber currency’s price was pretty stable in January so people should take it more seriously.

The gender wage gap isn’t as bad as you think. US president Barack Obama said the average American woman earns $0.77 for every dollar a man makes, but the pay difference is actually around five cents.

China’s military is weaker than it looks. But its enemies shouldn’t get complacent—that actually makes China more dangerous.

Surprising discoveries

Mauritania is slavery’s last stronghold. Up to 20% of people are enslaved in the vast Saharan state; slavery was only outlawed in 1981.

Vegetables are the third-most popular Super Bowl food. They even beat chicken wings.

Be wary of that missed call. Crooks are using the “one-ring” scam to get people to call expensive premium phone services.

South Koreans are the world’s biggest boozers. They drink twice as much liquor as Russians.

Year of the horse fight. An ethnic group in southern China and southeast Asia holds brutal horse-on-horse bouts to celebrate the lunar new year.  

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, football facts and South Korean cocktail recipes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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