Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US GDP, Ukraine’s IMF deal, Brookstone bankruptcy, post-crisis Monopoly

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What to watch for today

A read on the US economy. Unusually nasty weather probably hurt the economy in the first quarter of 2014, but analysts are optimistic about revised fourth-quarter figures, which are expected to show 2.7% GDP growth, from an initial estimate of 2.4%.

The president meets the pope. Barack Obama makes his second visit to the Vatican, where he and Pope Francis will discuss a range of issues, from anti-poverty proposals to contraception.

Japanese retail sales up. February data are expected to show consumers spent 3.6% more than in January, which would be the seventh consecutive monthly rise. A new sales tax will come in to effect on April 1, after which it is expected the figure will drop somewhat.

Microsoft brings Office to the iPad. In his first major appearance as Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella will unveil a version of the company’s Office software for the iPad. Avoiding Apple products is thought to cost Microsoft $2.5 billion a year—but is the change too little, too late?

GameStop plays on. Analysts expect a good quarter for the video-game retailer, thanks to new console releases from Sony and Microsoft. But its crucial used-game sales now face daunting competition from WalMart.

While you were sleeping

Ukraine got a preliminary IMF deal. The International Monetary Fund agreed to a $14-18 billion bailout that would eventually lead to $27 billion in assistance over the next two years. The deal still needs to be approved by the IMF’s board next month.

Brookstone is preparing for bankruptcy. The gadget seller will file for bankruptcy protection (paywall) as part of a plan to be acquired by specialty retailer Spencer Spirit Holdings, according to the Wall Street Journal.

H&M missed expectations. The world’s second-largest retailer posted a pre-tax profit of $542 million, well short of expectations, due to bad weather, poor economic conditions, and heavy investments in its online store.

UBS suspended FX traders in New York, Singapore, and Switzerland, according to Bloomberg, as the bank investigates currency-market manipulation.

KFC hit the reset button in China. Yum Brands announced an “unprecedented” overhaul of the chicken chain’s menu, branding, and design in China, which accounts for half the brands sale. Chinese KFC restaurants have struggled recently due to concerns about food safety.

More possible signs of MH370. Satellite pictures showed 122 objects floating in the Indian Ocean where the Malaysia Airlines plane is thought to have crashed. One piece is roughly the size of a wing, but naval search teams have yet to actually find anything.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on why it’s worth spending $1 billion each year to eradicate polio. “While trying to eradicate polio is more expensive up front, trying to merely keep it under control will be more expensive in the long run. Polio affects mainly children and in one in 200 cases, it leads to irreversible paralysis that requires life-long care. Eradicating polio in the US is estimated to have saved some $220 billion since 1955. An economic analysis (pdf) by infectious-disease experts estimated that by preventing some 8 million cases of polio paralysis from 1985 to 2035, the GPEI will create net gains of $40 to $50 billion, mostly in the developing economies.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

We’re stuck with coal. So carbon capture and storage may be the only way to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Smart drugs could be bad for our brains. Prioritizing functionality over creativity and individuality has its downsides.

Oculus shouldn’t have sold out to Facebook. The virtual reality company’s early investors aren’t happy.

The US could use oil prices as a weapon against Russia. It would require Saudi help, but that’s not out of the question.

We’re not in a tech bubble—yet. Crazy as some recent valuations look, the volume of IPOs is a lot smaller than in 1999-2000.

Surprising discoveries

Put on your thinking cap. Applying mild electric currents to the medial-frontal cortex makes it easier to learn.

Gunshot victims enter suspended animation. A new technique cools them down for surgery, then brings them back to life.

Monopoly: post-crisis edition. New optional rules from Hasbro look remarkably similar to the Fed’s easy-money policy.

Extra caffeine, hold the coffee. Energy drink sales have grown 5,000% in 15 years.

A social media coordinator for your special day. Live-tweeting your wedding—plus Vine, Instagram, and a custom hash-tag—will run you about $3,000.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, subprime Monopoly rules, and wedding hashtags to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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