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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Global growth outlook, Japan holds steady, Samsung guidance cut, Stradivarius overrated

By Adam Pasick

What to watch for today

An outlook on the global recovery. Global finance leaders convene in Washington for the International Monetary Fund’s twice-annual meeting, and the IMF is set to rachet up global growth estimates amid signs of recovery in developed economies. But don’t get complacent: Larry Summers believes the world economy is as troubled as ever.

La Quinta names its price. The budget hotel operator, 63% owned by Blackstone, is set to price its IPO shares between $18 and $21 to raise more than $780 million when it floats on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. La Quinta is the third hotel chain taken public by Blackstone in the last six months.

Cheap aluminum costs weigh on Alcoa. Analysts expect the aluminum firm’s earnings per share to have dropped by half over the past year, largely dragged down by low prices (paywall) and oversupply. Investors will be looking at the health of the company’s individual units and whether Alcoa is maintaining its market share.

The US narrows the wage gap. President Obama will sign executive actions prohibiting federal contractors from penalizing employees who discuss pay, and requiring them to submit salary data, including breakdowns by gender and race, in an attempt to make pay more transparent and fair.

While you were sleeping

The Bank of Japan kept it steady. As expected, the central bank opted to maintain its existing monetary target of adding 60-70 trillion yen ($616-719 billion) to its balance sheet per year. Separately, Japan’s current account swung to a 612.7 billion yen ($5.93 billion) surplus for February—the first in five months.

Samsung cut its guidance. The electronics manufacturer expects a quarterly profit of 8.4 trillion won ($7.96 billion), less than the 8.5 trillion analysts were expecting. That would be its second consecutive decline, due most significantly to slowing growth in smartphone sales.

Uber is branching out to bike deliveries. The car service app is hiring couriers in Manhattan for a delivery service, according to VentureBeat, in another sign that the company wants to become an urban transport and logistics giant.

The US warned China over currency manipulations… A senior official at the US Treasury Department said the recent depreciation of the Chinese yuan could raise “serious concerns” if it meant Beijing was moving away from market-based exchange rates.

…And ran out of high-skill visas in less than a week. A year’s worth of US H-1 B visas were snapped up in less than five days, bolstering claims by the tech industry that the country’s immigration policy is outdated and hurting the economy.

Eli Lilly and Takeda were ordered to pay $9 billion. A US jury found that that they hid the cancer risks of their diabetes medicine Actos. Takeda was ordered to pay $6 billion, and Eli Lilly $3 billion.

A boutique coffee start-up got acquired. Online coffee subscription service Tonx was purchased by San Francisco Bay-area Blue Bottle Coffee, which is flush with $26 million in venture capital and tech industry investment. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Quartz obsession interlude

John McDuling on Silicon Valley’s latest obsession: education. “Venture capitalists are pouring funding into new technologies for a trillion-dollar industry in the US that could be ripe for disruption: education. Education technology startups attracted $1.25 billion in funding in 2013, according to analysis by CB Insights, and the boom has grown in 2014, with ed tech companies attracting nearly half that amount ($559 million) during the first quarter alone.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The global economic recovery is just an illusion. The IMF could be missing key indicators.

Food stamps are corporate welfare. At companies like Walmart, US taxpayers underwrite food sales as well as payroll costs.

Big data is a big load of hype. It’s a helpful analytical resource, but it’s not all its cracked up to be (paywall).

South Korea’s female president hasn’t ended sexism. Her new plan to name and shame companies might work, though.

Putin isn’t invading Ukraine; he’s sabotaging it. The Russian president is using territorial threats and financial leverage to assert his dominance.

Surprising discoveries

The Stradivarius is overrated. In a blind playoff, accomplished violinists rated the sounds of newer instruments more highly than old ones.

San Franciscans are tipping over Smart cars. It’s like cow-tipping for mayhem-minded urbanites.

Tomorrow’s star investors are 6th graders in North Dakota. They trounced university students in a stock market contest.

The world’s most hated font got a makeover… Comic Sans, meet Comic Neue.

…And this new font could make driving safer. Using Burlingame on car instrument displays makes information easier to process, so drivers can spend more time looking at the road.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, coffee start-up pitches, and safer fonts to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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