Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Odessa unrest, China slows further, EU update, meditating bankers

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What to watch for today

Pfizer gets a quarterly check-up. Investors will want to know how Pfizer will grow—and continue to rival Merck—should it fail to buy out AstraZeneca. Analysts expect a 7.8% rise in earnings on a 10.6% drop in revenues.

South Africa’s unemployment worsens.
The jobless rate is expected to edge up from 24.1% to 24.2%, highlighting the biggest concern for young voters ahead of Wednesday’s election.

An update on the EU’s economic prospects. The European Commission publishes its spring forecast, which covers 2013 to 2015 and includes data on key economic indicators such as GDP, inflation, employment and public debt for the EU’s 28 member states and countries vying for candidacy.

Next steps in the hunt for the MH370. Leaders from Malaysia, Australia and China refuse to give up on the search for the missing airplane. They meet in Canberra to plan next steps, including deployment of assets and how to engage with the victims’ families. Additional underwater search equipment will installed in the coming week.

Over the weekend

Unrest in Odessa… Pro-Russian militants stormed a police station and released almost 70 detained activists, just days after 40 pro-Russian protestors died from a fire that started during a clash with pro-Kiev counterparts.

…As big banks turned their backs on Russia. Amid escalating tensions in Ukraine and increasing sanctions on Russia, US banks have been slowly but surely pulling out of the region (paywall). In the first quarter of this year, Citigroup cut its exposure to Russia by 9%, JPMorgan Chase by 13% and Bank of America Merrill Lynch by 22%.

China’s manufacturing continued to slow. The final reading for the HSBC/Markit purchasing managers’ index was 48.1 in April—up from an eight-month low of 48 in March but still marking a contraction in manufacturing for the fourth consecutive month. Export also slipped back into contraction after a slight bump in March.

The world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund switched banks. Norges Bank Investment Management, a Norwegian oil fund with an $865 billion portfolio, ditched JP Morgan in favor of Citigroup (paywall). Norges, one of the world’s largest investors, holds an average of 1.3% of every listed company globally.

Ikea’s founder flat-packed it in. It emerged that Ingvar Kamprad, the Swedish furniture giant’s 88-year-old founder, retired from all formal roles (paywall) at the company in December. Although he hasn’t been CEO since the ’80s, Kamprad has maintained a prominent position since founding the company in 1943.

UK’s Labour party demanded a closer look at Pfizer’s bid. Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband urged the government to launch a probe into whether Pfizer’s proposed takeover of AstraZeneca is in the UK’s national interest. Although the company rejected Pfizer’s latest bid on Friday, a successful deal would be the biggest takeover of a UK company by a foreign firm.

Correspondents lapped up Obama’s jokes. President Obama entertained his crowd at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner with a slew of self-deprecating digs and jokes at others’ expense. For example: ”These days the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me—which means orange really is the new black.”

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on why humanity’s penchant for building bigger is a waste of money. “Between $6 and $9 trillion dollars—about 8% of annual world-wide economic production—is currently being spent on projects that individually cost more than $1 billion. These mega-projects (including everything from buildings to transportation systems to digital infrastructure) represent the biggest investment boom in human history, and a lot of that money will be wasted.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Developing artificial intelligence may be humanity’s biggest mistake. Creating AI could be the biggest event in human history, says Stephen Hawking, but it might also be the last.

Binge-watching TV facilitates complex storytelling. Viewers don’t have time to obsess over unrealistic plot lines when the next episode is only a click away.

Mexico’s energy reforms are flawed. In their current form, the proposed reforms “will function as little more than a checking account for the nation’s politicians.”

Sky-high valuations are bad news for startups. If the IPO market sours, there are few other options for financing and exits.

Inequality is likely, but not inevitable. Society has found ways to beat common illnesses and fix physical ailments; it can do the same with inequality, too (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

The Wu-Tang Clan has a bigger vocabulary than Shakespeare. An analysis
plots the wordiness of rappers against the Bard and Herman Melville.

The lifespan of white goods is falling. They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

The wealth of your country determines your happiness. Living among the wealthy has both upsides and downsides.

London’s bankers are turning to meditation. Practicing “mindfulness” (paywall)  helps you react rationally to events.

The world’s most popular sport is terrible at statistics. Moneyball changed the way baseball is played, but soccer doesn’t seem to have caught on.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, soccer stats, and meditative techniques to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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