Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—The UK recovers, Japan holds steady, Samsung profits down, Stradivarius overrated

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What to watch for today

An outlook on the global recovery. Global finance leaders convene in Washington, DC for the International Monetary Fund’s twice-a-year 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 later this week. La Quinta is the third hotel chain Blackstone has taken public in the last six months.

Cheap aluminum costs weigh on Alcoa. Analysts expect the aluminum firm’s earnings to have dropped by half over the past year, dragged down by low prices and oversupply (paywall). 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 breakdowns by gender and race, in an attempt to make pay more transparent and fair.

While you were sleeping

The UK extended its recovery. British manufacturing output was up 1% in February versus the previous month, and up 3.8% from the same period last year. Overall industrial output, including energy generation and oil production, rose 0.9% on the month and 2.7% on the year.

China and the US traded barbs. Chinese defense minister Chang Wanquan told his US counterpart Chuck Hagel that “China can never be contained” and slammed China’s rivals for undermining regional stability. Hagel literally wagged his finger at China for taking unilateral actions in the East China Sea.

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 in February—the first in five months.

Samsung cut its guidance. The company expects a quarterly profit of 8.4 trillion won ($7.96 billion), its second consecutive decline due to slowing growth in smartphones. The tough competitive environment means that more cost cuts are likely.

Nokia got cleared a major hurdle in the sale of its mobile phone business. Chinese authorities gave their consent for the $7.4 billion sale to Microsoft, after earlier European and US approval. Nokia expects the sale to be completed this month.

Australia and Japan agreed on a trade deal. Japan will raise its duty-free quota on Australian cheese and lower duties on beef; Australia will cut tariffs on Japanese white goods, cars, and electronics. It took seven years to negotiate the deal.

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

“Shut-up culture” is destroying free speech. There are fools and people who believe hateful things, but it won’t kill us to let them talk.

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 it’s cracked up to be (paywall).

South Korea’s female president hasn’t ended sexism. Her new plan to name and shame companies just 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

China is drilling holes in the roof of the world. Oil and gas explorers are tapping the Tibetan Plateau.

There are more than twice as many registered Indian voters as there are people in the US. That’s more voters than in the six next-largest democracies combined.

The Stradivarius is overrated. In a blind trial, 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.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Stradivarius double-blind tests and most-hated fonts to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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