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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Vietnam-China face-off, BofA’s $4 billion mistake, Samsung’s “Midas” exits, the pollen vortex

By Richard Macauley

What to watch for today

Vietnam presses China to withdraw. Hanoi released videos of Chinese ships firing water cannons and ramming Vietnamese vessels near an oil rig that China has established near a disputed island chain in the South China Sea, and said that Beijing’s move violates international law.

Barclays slashes jobs. Barclays is expected to announce 15,000 job cuts, 70% of which will be in the UK. The investment banking division will take the biggest hit, after its income fell 28% last quarter.

UK and EU interest rate decisions. The Bank of England is set to keep interest rates at a record low of 0.5%, despite concerns over soaring house prices. The European Central Bank is likely to push off quantitative easing yet again, ignoring calls to counteract deflation.

News Corp struggles with the decline of print. As Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper and book publishing empire reports earnings, investors will be looking for how well it’s dealing with an ongoing downturn in advertising, circulation, and subscription revenues.

Tony Hayward may be Glencore Xstrata’s next chairman. Hayward, the CEO of BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will reportedly take on the new position at the global mining giant and step down from his position as Genal Energy CEO.

While you were sleeping

Janet Yellen is worried about Russia and housing. The Federal Reserve chief outlined “geopolitical tensions” (read: the Ukraine crisis) and the slowing housing sector as two prominent risks for the US economic recovery. Yellen also reiterated the central bank’s plans to keep interest rates near zero for the foreseeable future.

Bank of America explained a $4 billion mistake. Chairman Charles Holliday insisted BofA wasn’t “too big to manage” after a miscalculation in the bank’s required capital reserves forced it to suspend a planned dividend increase. The mistake was spotted by a low-level staffer in a routine financial report.

Tesla disappointed shareholders. Shares in the electric car manufacturer dropped 7% after CEO Elon Musk said operating margins would increase only slightly this quarter. Work on the company’s battery factory will begin next month, leaving the company with negative free cash flow in 2014.

Samsung replaced its mobile design chief. Chang “Midas” Dong-hoon, the architect of the company’s flagship Galaxy smartphone line, stepped down following a tepid reaction to the latest Galaxy S handset, which raised fears that Samsung has lost its golden touch.

Toshiba eyed Alstom’s power grid unit. The Japanese firm plans to make an offer on the unit, which brings in $5.2 billion in annual sales, if General Electric’s acquisition of the French firm is successful, according to the Nikkei newspaper.

Employment in Australia stabilized. The number of employed people rose by 14,200 in April, beating a Bloomberg median estimate of 8,800, while the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8%. The positive news will be a boost for the central bank, which has kept interest rates at a record low of 2.5%.

Quartz obsession interlude

Max Nisen on the four problems that irritate Amazon but threaten Alibaba’s existence. “Included in Alibaba’s highly anticipated IPO filing was a reminder that despite the benefits and wealth it has reaped from China’s massive population, being a Chinese corporate giant—particularly one based on the internet—isn’t a walk in the park. In its filing, Alibaba reminded investors of some of the unique issues it faces. These are challenges that any company operating in China has to deal with, but since Alibaba gets nearly all of its revenue from China, and likely will for some time to come, they present several major threats.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The rich should have more children to combat inequality. Dividing wealth among more kids would spread inter-generational wealth transfers more widely.

It’s time to check the phrase “check your privilege.” Just because someone’s white and male doesn’t mean they should be apologetic.

Putin is doing wonders for the US economy. He’s scaring investors out of Russia and into low-risk US government debt. 

A book is more than the sum of its printed words. Annotations in the margins of physical books aid the exchange of ideas.

Buying a home is still worth it. Renting is looking increasingly attractive, but don’t be fooled—it has its own risks.

Surprising discoveries

Friday the 13th is more common than you think. In fact, the 13th of each month is more likely to be a Friday than any other day of the week.

Chinese online shopping could soon be worth more than Swiss GDP. It’s set to double in size by 2016.

The “pollen vortex” is coming. The US’s particularly harsh winter is gone, but a more allergenic summer is yet to come.

You could get way more compensation from flight delays. You guessed it: There’s an app for that.

The inexorable rise of Godzilla. As skyscrapers have gotten taller, Godzilla has kept pace.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, antihistamines, and Godzilla trivia to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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