Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Buffett acquisitions, video game shortfalls, iPad mini marketing, LIBOR safe

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Apple and Amazon earnings. The two US tech giants report third-quarter earnings, with all eyes on Apple’s iPhone and iPad sales—although changes to its product line mean that any clues to future strategy could be more important than recent months’ performances. Amazon-watchers will be looking for signs that the company can continue its clip as “the best secular growth story in retail” heading into the holiday shopping season.

Weekly QE3 report card. The Federal Reserve’s “balance sheet,” a broad gauge of its lending to financial institutions, is published today. Economists and policy wonks scrutinize this weekly data to track whether liquidity injections are filtering through to the economy. US weekly jobless claims data are also due out,  and may provide evidence of whether QE3 is helping the economy to recover. Last week’s figures showed mild improvements.

Japan comes under pressure to crank up its money printing presses. The Japanese government said it would spend approximately $5 billion on stimulus measures to prop up the ailing economy. Analysts immediately called for the Tokyo government to spend more, arguing $5 billion will not make a big enough difference.

Will Syria keep a holiday truce? Syria’s government is ready for a ceasefire to honor the Eid al-Adha Islamic holiday, according to Moscow’s UN ambassador—a move that the UN Security Council said could become a first step toward ending 19 months of violence. Rebels remained skeptical.

While you were sleeping

US Treasury, Federal Reserve stuck with LIBOR. Christy Romero, the special inspector-general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), thinks the Treasury and the Fed should stop using the London benchmark rate to price TARP bailouts, as doing so could put taxpayer money at risk and undermine confidence in bank rescues. That was after British lender Barclays agreed to pay more than $450 million in fines to American and UK authorities to settle charges that some of its staff rigged the interest rate at the height of the financial crisis. Treasury and Fed officials defended continuing use of the embattled benchmark rate.

ANZ bank reported bonzer profits, gnarly outlook. The Asia-focused Australian lender has ridden the wave of Chinese economic growth well, and reported a record AUS$5.66 billion ($5.86 billion) in net income for the year to Sept. 30. But CEO Michael Smith said 2013 would be challenging.

Not so Super Mario. Shares in Nintendo, the world’s largest maker of video game machines and publisher of titles including the Super Mario series plunged after the firm cut its profit forecast because of falling demand for its handheld gaming devices and the strong yen. The rise of smartphone gaming is challenging makers of gaming consoles.

China sent ships to circle the islands that are the focus of its ongoing spat with Japan. In the latest flare-up of tensions over the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which China calls the Diaoyu and Japan calls the Senkaku, Beijing authorities have sent ships to patrol the area. Japanese authorities also reported an increase in Chinese air operations in the area. This followed inflammatory reports in China’s state-controlled media that claimed Japan “stole” the islands.

Tropical Storm Ofel lashed the Philippines. The Asian archipelago often falls victim to terrible storms. Two people are missing and thousands stranded, according to Rappler, the Phillipines’ most authoritative news website. Flights in and out of the country are being canceled.

Tech writers released their reviews of Microsoft’s new Surface tablet. The iPad competitor—and first tablet or computer ever made by Microsoft—got high marks for its hardware design, and optional covers with integrated keyboards. But reviewers criticized parts of the software interface.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zachary Seward, in an exclusive, on Apple’s latest advertising strategy for the mobile web“Apple’s iPad has until now been more popular with men, but the company’s initial marketing campaign for the new iPad Mini will focus on attracting women. Three people who sell advertising for media companies tell me that Apple is primarily buying space for iPad Mini ads in publications and on TV shows that cater to women.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

European countries need to shrink their “ridiculously large” banking sectors. Many European nations have arguably not dealt properly with the financial crisis. Their lenders remain too large—in terms of the value of loans on their books—and keep rolling loans over instead of helping economies deleverage, says Matt Philips of Quartz.

Budget cuts won’t help the US economy. As the fiscal cliff looms, policymakers should learn a lesson from Greece and the spiraling EU crisis—austerity won’t boost growth.

Parliamentary elections in Ukraine this Sunday are set to push the country closer to Moscow, eroding democracy and boosting instability, write Alexander J. Motyl and Rajan Menon.

Surprising discoveries

Lady Gaga, the fern. Biologists at Duke University have renamed 19 fern species with the genus “Gaga,” reportedly citing parallels between the plants and a green outfit the singer wore at the 2010 Grammys, as well as “the fern’s bisexuality and claw-like shape.”

Robotics researchers have built a new device to track soldiers, miners, and firefighters, even where satellites can’t find them. The tiny computer and sensors fit on the bottom of a boot and gauge location by measuring footsteps.

A South African film designer is asking people to send toenail clippings to China’s embassy in South Africa. The move is a protest against Chinese demand for rhino horn, which is used as a cancer cure in traditional Chinese medicine.

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