Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Ukraine war fears, South Korean ferry sinks, euro inflation wanes, drone selfies

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What to watch for today

War in Ukraine looks perilously close. Ukraine’s military response and Russia’s bellicose propaganda suggest that president Vladimir Putin could conceivably order his troops to invade. Meanwhile, armored troop carriers bearing the Russian national flag and the banner of pro-Russian separatists entered the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk, according to Reuters.

Economic tales from around the US. The US Federal Reserve releases its Beige Book, an anecdotal portrait of the US economy. Housing starts and industrial production are also due.

The end of tech’s slide. Google and IBM report first-quarter earnings that investors hope will staunch the recent, brutal tech stock sell-off. American Express and Tata Consultancy also post results.

While you were sleeping

Pressure mounted on the ECB. The inflation rate in the euro area was just 0.5% in March this year, compared with 1.7% a year earlier and 0.7% in February. The decline will fuel speculation that the European Central Bank needs to act decisively to avoid deflation.

Credit Suisse’s profits plunged, down 34% to a lower-than-expected 859 million Swiss francs ($976 million) in the first quarter. Its investment banking unit was the hardest hit.

Good news on jobs in the UK. Unemployment dropped to 6.9% in February, from 7.9% a year earlier. Wages rose 1.7% in the three months to the end of February—ending a string of almost four years in which prices rose faster than paychecks.

A South Korean ferry sank. More than three hundred passengers are unaccounted for and two are confirmed dead. The vessel, filled mostly with high school students, was bound for a resort island off South Korea’s southern coast before it capsized.

Chinese growth slowed… First quarter GDP rose 7.4%, compared with a 7.7% year-on-year rise in the previous quarter, due in part to a slowdown in the property market. The results beat expectations of a 7.3% rise, but the government will still be hard-pressed to meet its 7.5% annual target.

…and it promised to do better on currency reform. China vowed to push forward with the reform of its exchange rate mechanism, after the US questioned Beijing’s commitment to strengthening the currency. The yuan has been unexpectedly weak for several weeks.

Quartz obsession interlude

John McDuling on how more Americans may be moving to cities, hastening the death of shopping malls and logo clothing. “Both malls and (to some extent) the obsession with logos emerged in the first place due to the rise of the suburbs. Suburban developments were in many cases built around shopping malls, and  the homogeneity of the suburbs created a mentality that  “resulted in group think and concentration of brand interest.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Starbucks defines urbanity. In China at least, it can indicate how developed a city is.

The emerging middle class is at risk. A global slowdown and rising inequality could push up to a billion people back below the poverty line (paywall).

Aircraft black boxes should be designed to float. They do on military planes, so why not civilian ones?

Parental involvement in education is overrated. Setting expectations matters more than helping with homework.

Surprising discoveries

Infants cry to keep their parents from having sex. A new theory posits that crying forestalls the creation of an attention-stealing sibling.

What do you call a drone selfie? How about a “dronie”?

Parrots name their young. Chicks are assigned unique combinations of chirps and peeps that they use throughout their lives.

The most famous Thai food is Chinese. There is only one Thai ingredient in pad thai, which was popularized as part of a nation-building campaign.

Your veins are as unique as your fingerprint. They may be a more secure way of paying for things, because you don’t leave veinprints on everything you touch.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, pad thai recipes, and infant sleep strategies to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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