Quartz Daily Brief—Americas 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 the drugmaker 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.

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.

The US service sector hopes for some good news. The Institute of Supply Management releases its gauge of activity for April. Services have been much wobblier than manufacturing in the past year, and growth has slowed.

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 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 tensions in Ukraine and 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.

Swatch has a problem with Apple’s iWatch. The Swiss watchmaker has lodged complaints with trademark authorities that Apple’s highly anticipated wearable device is too similar to its own “iSwatch” label.

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 role; he founded the company in 1943.

Indonesia’s economy grew at the slowest rate in five years. GDP rose by a less-than-expected 5.2% in the first quarter (paywall), after the economy was hit by a ban on domestic companies exporting unprocessed minerals.

Japanese lawmakers went to Beijing to mend ties. A bipartisan delegation from Tokyo willl meet high-level Chinese officials in an attempt to repair a diplomatic rift caused by a dispute over the control of islands in the East China Sea.

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

AI may be humanity’s biggest mistake. The birth of artificial intelligence could be the biggest event in 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.

Surprising discoveries

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

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

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.

More pollution means cheaper beer. Jing-A Brewing’s “Airpocalypse IPA” is priced according to Beijing’s air quality index.

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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