Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Twitter results, poor China growth, Bank of America’s error, coffee woes

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What to watch for today

Twitter tries to prove it has game. After gaining just nine million users in its first post-IPO quarter, Twitter has to assure investors that it can really grow when it reports first quarter earnings today. As ever, investors will also be looking for details about mobile advertising, especially in light of last year’s MoPub acquisition.

The European Union reveals its latest Russian sanction targets. The EU will make public today the 15 names that were added to the bloc’s blacklist against Russian politicians and companies yesterday. Those sanctioned will be subjected to asset freezes and travel bans.

Economic expansion for the UK. Analysts predict that the UK’s economy grew by 0.9% in the first quarter of 2014, inching up from the previous quarter’s 0.7% increase. The British pound traded against the US dollar at its highest level since 2009 yesterday on expectations the economy will expand.

A bevy of other companies release earnings. It’s a busy day for corporate results. Stocks to watch include eBay, Volkswagen, Spirit Airlines, LG, Deutsche Bank, Santander, Bristol-Myers Squibb, BP, and America Movil.

While you were sleeping

Bank of America dropped 6.3% on a stress test error. The bank suspended plans for a dividend increase and $4 billion in share buybacks after it discovered an error in the stress test it submitted to the Federal Reserve. The drop erased a gain in share price for 2014, and is a good argument for asking banks to hold more capital than they need for regular business.

Comcast agreed to sell customers to ease its merger. Charter Communications agreed to buy 1.4 million Time Warner Cable customer accounts for $7.3 billion. The deal is part of a plan to reduce the combined market share of Comcast and Time Warner Cable to less than 30%, making a merger between the two more palatable to regulators.

China’s provinces missed downgraded growth targets. 30 of 31 provinces and municipalities failed to meet growth targets for the year, even after targets were scaled back by the central government. Northeastern province Heilongjiang had the biggest shortfall, recording 4.1% growth against an 8.5% target. China’s expansion in the first quarter was the weakest in six quarters.

Alibaba bought in to Chinese online TV. Both Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital agreed to buy a $1.22 billion stake in Youku Tudou, a major online TV portal. The deal will mean Ma controls nearly one-fifth of the company, and is just one of many acquisitions Alibaba has made in the run up to its US IPO.

Samsung reported a second straight fall in profits. Weakness in flat screens and a maturing smartphone market were blamed for the 3.3% fall in operating profit in the first quarter 2014. The company predicted a strong second quarter, though, as World Cup fans buy new screens and phones for the tournament.

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani on how and why the internet’s biggest companies are breaking themselves into small pieces. “Last year, Facebook tried—and failed—to get Android users to use Facebook as the primary interface for their phones with the Facebook Home app. Now, instead of going big, Facebook is thinking small. At the end of January, the company released Paper, an app that improves the appearance of your newsfeed. More recently, the company said it will create a separate app for its popular messaging function, which is used by some 200 million people every month. And while not many people use them, Facebook also offers a camera app and a Poke app. The company just bought a company called Moves (paywall), which makes a fitness tracker app.” Read more here

Matters of debate

Pfizer’s AstraZeneca deal shows what’s wrong with the patent system. Pharma giants spend their time and money fighting over existing patents instead of investing in new research.

There’s a good reason international governments aren’t directly sanctioning Putin. His main pressure point isn’t personal wealth, it’s his personal legacy.

Rivaling Silicon Valley is easier said than done. New York’s tech scene has lots of money, but no breakout multi-billion dollar hit.

The job market is killing US mobility. Americans are moving far less than they used to, because new job opportunities don’t make it economically worthwhile.

Money creation should not be left to the government. So-called private money (mostly banks’ debts to their account holders) is a vital part of the economy (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Europe banned US apples. Their potential carcinogen risk is too high, the European FSA says.

Single CEOs are better for company growth. Unmarried bosses invest more in research and development and are prepared to make riskier decisions.

The internet is killing American bank branches. They’re closing faster than new ones are opening.

Your smartphone could be giving away your location. Even if you have your location settings set to ”Off.”

Ontario lost 851 million gallons of water last year. That’s 1,300 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of unaccounted-for H2O.

Even Starbucks can’t afford coffee anymore. The price of Arabica beans is up 90% this year, and Starbucks won’t buy more until the market stabilizes.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, imported apples, and coffee beans to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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