Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Actavis-Forest talks, Peugeot’s China bailout, Thai protest gunfight, sea unicorns

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What to watch for today

A pharmaceutical deal in the making. Irish drugmaker Actavis is in talks to buy US rival Forest Laboratories for as much as $25 billion (paywall). Investor Carl Icahn owns a little more than 11% of Forest shares.

Venezuela’s opposition returns to the streets. Opposition leader Leopoldo López, blamed by the government for violence in recent protests, says he will turn himself in—but only after his supporters march in Caracas.

Brazil appeases investors. Central bank president Alexandre Tombini delivers his year-ahead outlook, and will have to convince investors of his commitment to a 4.5% inflation target.

Iran pulls up a seat. Six world powers and Iranian negotiators reconvene in Vienna for nuclear talks, after last month’s interim agreement. Despite initial optimism, a permanent solution still may be out of reach.

Coca-Cola seeks a pop. Its rivals reported lower soft drink sales last quarter, but Coke could buck the trend when it reveals earnings—and perhaps more clues about its 10% stake in Green Mountain Coffee.

While you were sleeping

A three-headed auto deal. Dongfeng Motor Group and the French government will each inject 800 million euros ($1.10 billion) into PSA Peugeot Citroen, creating an awkward ménage à trois with the  family that has run the company for 214 years.

Thailand’s crisis reached a new low. Gun battles between demonstrators and police killed three and wounded dozens as security forces tried to clear government buildings that have been blocked for weeks. Separately, an anti-corruption agency filed formal charges against prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Pakistan pledged to privatize. Prime minister Nawaz Sharif detailed plans to raise at least $1.9 billion from asset sales this spring, including the auctioning of mobile licenses and the split of a major government airline.

European auto sales stayed perky. New car registrations rose 5.5% annually in January, marking the fifth straight month of increases.

Japan tweaked Abenomics. The Bank of Japan maintained key interest rates after disappointing fourth-quarter GDP numbers, and doubled the scope of two loan programs (paywall) that were set to expire. But consumers aren’t playing along.

A rare Indian telecom takeover. Bharti Airtel, the country’s biggest mobile operator, has reportedly agreed to buy its smaller rival Loop for $110 million, in a deal that could signal a long-awaited wave of consolidation in the world’s second-biggest telecom market.

Alcoa is saying goodbye to Australia. The aluminum producer will close its Australian smelter and mills in August, wiping out a tenth of the nation’s aluminum output, due to rising costs and competition from China.

China yanked out the liquidity rug. The central bank unexpectedly siphoned off 48 billion yuan ($7.9 billion) from money markets (paywall) by shelving bond purchase agreements—likely an attempt to rein in credit after a huge run-up in shadow bank lending.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on Europe’s rising number of Euro-haters. “Insurgents from the political fringe have always been better represented in the European parliament than at the national level, thanks to low turnout and the perception that votes for the obscure, distant institution present an opportunity to protest without serious consequences. But what’s different this time around is that the rightwing insurgents seem serious about teaming up (pdf), which would give them more clout in the parliament.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The war in Syria is a blot on human history and represents a setback for civilization, argues Stephen Hawking.

Loneliness is a deadly disease. And we aren’t treating it nearly enough.

Obama’s presidential library should be in the cloud. The first digital president deserves more than a physical museum.

Cease-fires make conflicts worse. Both sides use the breaks to regroup and plan their next stage of attack.

Mecca can save Indonesia’s economy. Hajj funds, propped up by the nation’s Muslim pilgrims, could lessen a damaging reliance on offshore financing.

Surprising discoveries

Abba’s ridiculous costumes were a tax break. The Swedish pop stars could deduct the cost of their outfits, but only if they were too outrageous to wear on the street.

A British university built a fake pub. They’re trying to find out why people get drunk.

Prisons’ biggest smuggling problem. Smuggled cellphones are used to plot escapes and conduct illegal activity from behind bars.

Sea unicorns exist. Meet the one-toothed, one-horned whale known as the monodon monoceros.

Financial trading is stressful. Market volatility increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which reduces the appetite for risk (paywall).

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Abba costumes and illicit burners to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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