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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US GDP shrinkage, Costco results, galactic mergers, your brain on porn

What to watch for today

Cold weather shrinkage of the US economy. After an initial estimate of 0.1% growth for first-quarter GDP, analysts expect revised data to show the economy actually shrank by 0.6%. That would be the first quarterly contraction in three years, but it can probably be put down mostly to a shockingly frigid winter.

Raytheon gets a bump from global tensions. The US defense contractor is likely to tell investors it expects growing concerns over cyber security to boost its income. A stabilizing US military budget, falling pension costs, and the likelihood of more foreign contracts are also making investors optimistic.

Daniel Loeb joins Sotheby’s. The activist investor and two others proposed by Third Point, his hedge fund, are likely to be elected to the auction house’s board (paywall), after persuading the company to postpone its annual shareholder meeting to accommodate their nominations.

Palestinian politicians join forces. Gaza’s Hamas movement and Fatah, which runs the West Bank, will create a unity government, headed by Palestinian Authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah. PA president Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah will visit the Gaza Strip for the first time since 2007.

While you were sleeping

Japan retails sales plunged after a sales tax hike. Sales in April fell by 13.7% from the previous month—faster than the 11% fall forecast by a Bloomberg survey. The worse-than-expected drop puts extra pressure on prime minister Shinzo Abe, who hopes to raise the sales tax again soon.

Higher costs hurt Costco. The discount retailer recorded profits of $473 million for its third quarter, up from $459 in the same period a year earlier, but earnings per share of $1.07 fell short of analysts’ expectations. Operating expenses and total revenues both rose 7%.

The Philippines’ GDP lagged. The effects of Typhoon Haiyan dragged economic growth down to 5.7% (paywall) in the first quarter, from 6.3% in the final three months of 2013.

Malaysia Airlines flight 370 isn’t where authorities suspected. The missing airline is not in the area of the Indian Ocean search teams have spent two months combing over, Australian investigators said. The search has been called off for about three months until investigators can provide a more accurate idea of where the plane might be.

Iranian hackers are stalking the US. A three-year campaign targeted military contractors, politicians, diplomats, lobbyists, and journalists, according to a security firm’s report, in a possible retribution for the Stuxnet virus that crippled Iran’s nuclear program.

China’s obese population is catching up to the US. Some 30% of the world population is overweight, according to a new study in the Lancet, and more than half of the world’s obese population lives in 10 countries.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine on the cold logic behind Elon Musk’s $5 billion gamble. “Elon Musk is placing an enormous bet on the world’s largest lithium-ion battery plant—a $5 billion, 10 million-square-foot “gigafactory” that would make enough battery packs to power 500,000 electric cars a year. That is four times the number of electric cars of any brand bought around the world last year, and a whopping 21 times Tesla’s own 2013 sales. In addition to betting on this monumental sales boost, Musk is hoping an inventive rival won’t eclipse his battery technology and render the gigafactory instantly obsolete. But the deck may be at least partly stacked in Musk’s favor.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Piketty owes his readers some answers. Mistakes are inevitable, but he needs to say more about his conclusions.

China’s territorial provocations are a clever strategy. Beijing is showing its neighbors they can’t rely on the US for protection (paywall).

The corner shop is still king in India. Try as they may, major retailers can’t get Indians to buy fresh produce from their stores.

Brazil will win the World Cup… The number crunchers at Goldman Sachs say so, and so do Bloomberg’s.

…And England won’t. Especially if it comes to penalties: “England couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo,” says Stephen Hawking.

Surprising discoveries

A galactic merger is in the works. The Milky Way and Andromeda will eventually join up—but not for about 2 billion years.

San Francisco’s attempt to catch bike thieves backfired. Leaving “bait bikes” only entraps the poor, locals say.

Domestic dads raise ambitious daughters. Girls whose parents divvy up housework are more likely to defy gender roles in their professional lives.

This is your brain on porn. Heavy users have differences in their brains—though it’s unknown whether watching porn is the cause or the effect.

Nigeria is the most smartphone-addicted country, plus findings from dozens of delightful charts about global internet usage.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, pro-ambition parenting tips, and World Cup predictions to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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