Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Lloyds floats TSB, China-Vietnam naval clash, UK services surge, heavy metal economics

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What to watch for today

European Union leaders try to stem the skeptic tide. Leaders of the 28 member states meet in Brussels to discuss their response after Euroskeptic parties claimed some 30% of European parliament seats.

Egypt’s final day at the polls. Voting closes at 1pm ET and results are expected just hours afterwards. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former army chief who ousted Mohamed Morsi last year, is widely expected to win.

US consumers rediscover their pre-crisis mojo. Consumer spending makes up 70% the economy, so it’s a good sign that consumer confidence is expected to climb to its highest point since early 2008.

South Africa’s economy slumps. Economic growth is set to drop to 0.2% in the first quarter of 2014, the slowest pace in nearly five years, putting more pressure on newly re-elected president Jacob Zuma to boost South Africa’s prospects.

A blue-chip tech conference kicks off. The three-day Re/code confab will feature onstage interviews with the CEOs of Microsoft, Netflix, Comcast, Wal-Mart, and Twitter. Executives from Apple and Beats are expected to be interrogated about reports of a possible $3.2 billion tie-up.

While you were sleeping

A Vietnamese fishing boat sank in disputed waters. Vietnam said one of its vessels was rammed by a Chinese fishing boat and subsequently went under. China claims that the Vietnamese vessel in fact rammed a controversial Chinese oil rig, which has heightened tensions in the region and triggered deadly riots in Vietnam.

China got tougher on US tech firms. State-owned banks are being told to replace high-end IBM servers with a local brand, Bloomberg reported. The move comes after Microsoft’s Windows 8 was barred from government official use, and state-owned companies were advised against using US tech consulting companies.

Britain’s service sector is going strong. Activity in the service industry, which accounts for 75% of British GDP, rose for a fourth consecutive quarter, and confidence hit its highest level since 1998.

Lloyds is selling its retail banking unit. Beginning next month the banking group will float 25% of its TSB business, which has 4.5 million retail customers, and will sell the remainder by end of 2015. The EU ruled that Lloyds must create more competition after receiving a UK bailout in 2008.

Foxconn bought into a telecom company. The Taiwanese manufacturer that assembles the iPhone and other devices acquired a $388 million stake in Taiwanese mobile carrier Asia Pacific Telecom, in a move away from low-margin contract manufacturing and into more lucrative consumer markets.

Nigeria knows the location of 300 abducted schoolgirls. The country’s military said it will not use force to get them back (paywall) if doing so endangers the girls. It has been seven weeks since they were abducted by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

Wal-Mart’s board came under fire. The mega-retailer needs more independent directors (paywall) to handle a foreign-bribery probe, and must link executive pay more closely to performance, according to corporate advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services.

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani on why Apple’s latest “cheap” smartphone release in India is baffling. “A big driver of smartphone usage in India is the consumption of audio and video, mostly Bollywood songs and films… In the absence of a removable card, iPhone users must make do with the phone’s on-board memory. While the people who buy iPhones and the folks who fill up their SD cards tend to fall in different demographics, an eight-gigabyte device doesn’t leave very much space for video content—however it’s been obtained—after users are done downloading Facebook, WhatsApp and a few games.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Fast food companies should stop advertising to minorities. Black and hispanic youth are more at risk from diet-related illnesses than their white peers.

The US should dismantle China’s Great FirewallDenying visas to those responsible (paywall) for internet restrictions would be a good start.

Business cards are here to stay. The physical mementos of face-to-face meetings are more valuable than ever. (paywall).

Narendra Modi’s government could mark a new beginning. The cabinet is more female, less wealthy, and almost entirely educated on home turf.

Ukrainians are more European than the French. While France was voting for the far-right anti-EU party, Ukraine elected a pro-Europe president.

Surprising discoveries

Ants are more efficient than Google at processing information. The insects’ search results follow a chain of pheromones to a food source.

How to use social media to hack a BMW. With a username and a few hacking tricks you can lock drivers out of their cars.

The longest-ever commercial is for brisket. The 13-hour-long ad shows meat being smoked…and smoked…and smoked.

Trees and fungi are free-market capitalists. The two plants act like buyers and sellers, with fungi playing tree clients off against each other.

Heavy metal music is an economic indicator. The soundtrack of alienation is most popular in affluent countries.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, marathon meat ads, and death metal playlists to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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