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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—EU Summit, BP exits Russian venture, GE Earnings and Merkel’s traffic light blazers

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

More uncertainty for ailing European banks. EU leaders said they would have a single banking supervisor operational in 2013, a decision some called procrastination rather than progress, and means direct bailouts of banks could be further delayed. Germany’s Angela Merkel won an argument that European funds should not be used to rescue failing lenders until the new regulator is up and running (to which France objected). The outcome is good news for taxpayers in the short term, but bank shareholders and employees now face many months of uncertainty. Merkel expressed her increasing confidence about winning through the colour of her jacket. Today’s blazer is green. Yesterday’s was amber.

From Russia with cash. BP’s board is set to decide whether to take an offer of more than $25 billion from Kremlin-backed Rosneft for its 50% stake in its troubled TNK-BP Russian joint venture. BP had fallen out with the four oligarchs who own TNK over the future direction of the business. The Russian billionaires became cross last year when BP attempted to strike a side deal with Rosneft, securing a London High Court injunction so that deal could not go ahead. It will be interesting to see how the TNK owners and Rosneft get along as partners.

Economic indicators: houses and burgers. Two more clues will shed light on one big question: is the US economy really recovering? Data on existing home sales are expected to confirm or debunk the growing idea that US housing markets are rebounding; while McDonald’s third-quarter earnings may offer some color on consumer spending.

GE reports earnings, looks pleased with itself. The US-based conglomerate is expected to report continued double-digit gains in income, led by its energy, aviation, and transportation businesses—although it expects to take a hit in Europe, still a key part of its operations.

While you were sleeping

“Read my ships: go away,” China and Japan say to each other in islands spat. The Beijing government sent naval ships to the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which the two Asian superpowers are fighting over, according to Chinese state media. State news agency Xinhua, in what sounds like fighting talk, said navy and patrol ships were being sent to the islands to sharpen “their response to emergencies in missions to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime interests.” A few days ago, Japan was showcasing its naval might with a big, celebratory display of its best boats.

Who’s irresponsible now? Wall Street executives have turned the tables on Washington, sending a letter that asks the White House and US Congress to act more responsibly in steering the country clear of the fiscal cliff.

US regulators fined Chinese billionaire for insider trading. Zhang Zhirong, a shipping and property tycoon and China’s 48th richest man, according to Forbes, has agreed to pay $14 million to settle allegations by the SEC that he and other unidentified traders bought shares in Canada’s Nexen on insider information that the company was about to be acquired by Chinese oil trader CNOOC.

British MPs castigated financial regulator over disastrous RBS-ABN merger. Over in Britain, different factions of the establishment are still blaming each other for the 2008-9 banking crisis. A parliamentary report out today says Britain’s Financial Services Authority, which is about to be scrapped and replaced by two new watchdogs, should have prevented RBS from buying its Dutch rival back in 2007. RBS received a £45 billion taxpayer bailout the following year. Maybe politicians could also try to foresee financial disasters before they happen.

Syria’s spiral continues. The Syrian military escalated its crackdown on rebel fighters, with military planes flattening a mosque and apartment buildings, killing more than 40 people. A global human rights group meanwhile reported that more than 28,000 Syrians have been “forcibly disappeared” since the conflict began last year.

Quartz obsession interlude

EU leaders are debating in Brussels, but the next big crisis is likely to be in Spain. Our Euro Crunch obsession turns to Madrid, where “bad bank loans, skyrocketing debt, and a deepening recession spell bailout. So what is Spain waiting for?” Quartz’s Stephanie Gruner Buckley asks. With the IMF forecasting the nation’s debt burden will reach 90% of GDP by year’s end—and markets expecting a request for EU aid any day—the game may be up. For those wondering if Spain’s troubles spell the beginning of the end, ask David Yanofsky’s and Gruner’s magic EU Eight Ball, which tells you why the euro zone will—or won’t—fall apart. (Hint: Try it on your phone.)

Matters of debate

The coming fiscal cliff—in Afghanistan. The future of Afghanistan depends less on a draw down of foreign troops than on the new economic order that will emerge once hundreds of billions in foreign aid money dries up, Matthieu Aikins writes.

What’s the best way to measure Myanmar’s economy? Long walled off to the world, Myanmar is now undergoing an investment boom, with one small problem: nobody seems to know how big the economy is. Japanese researchers are suggesting that night-time satellite images of the country may offer a clue.

Surprising discoveries

Your neighbors can see what you name your wi-fi network. So why not send them a message? Real network names collected by the BBC include “stop slamming the door!!!” “shut the barking dog up no. 7” and, more than once, “icanhearyouhavingsex.”

Killing time while writing that dissertation? It’s not always easy for scientists to explain their PhD research in layman’s terms. So Science magazine asks them to explain it in interpretive dance moves.

Skipping breakfast really does make you want donuts. Neuroscientists find that when you miss a meal, the brain primes you to seek higher-calorie food, so you don’t just want to eat more—you want to eat worse.

The moon was formed when a planet smashed into earth. This is in fact an old theory, which has gained fresh support from two new studies.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, predictions of what BP will do with its Russian cash bonanza and information about any other top politicians who speak to us in colour coded clothes to hi@qz.com.

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