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Quartz Daily Brief – Americas Edition – Election, ExxonMobil, Britain’s bungling banks, mistress Monopoly

By Naomi Rovnick
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The US election campaign gets back under way for the final sprint. The campaign took a break during Hurricane Sandy, and on Oct. 31, President Barack Obama had an unusually friendly tour of flooded New Jersey with one of his chief critics, state governor Chris Christie. But he returns to the campaign trail today, including a speech in Las Vegas. With just five days left to voting day, expect some of the most heated rhetoric of the tight campaign.

Retailers count the cost of Sandy. According to this Goldman Sachs report, successful and privately-held fast food chain Five Guys Burgers may be badly affected, with 72% of its restaurants concentrated in East Coast states. Publicly-listed firms also looking vulnerable include Dunkin Brands and Rite Aid Corporation.

Don’t take today’s US jobs report too seriously. Jobs are the single biggest issue in the election, and tomorrow sees the release of the crucial datum that could swing the outcome, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) new jobs figure for October. Today, however, sees the ADP employment report, a private survey that always precedes the BLS report by one day. Expect the media to make a hullaballoo about it, but pay no attention; the ADP and BLS numbers can diverge by as much as 100,000 jobs in either direction, and it’s the latter report that counts for political purposes. Consumer confidence numbers for October are also released today and should show improvement.

How well is ExxonMobil doing? The largest publicly-traded oil company reports its quarterly earnings. The company is a bellwether for the industry as a whole. Expectations are for lower year-on-year earnings than in 2011. But the company has missed analyst estimates for three straight quarters, and the market will look for an indication of how it intends to increase production.

Will they or won’t they cancel the world’s largest marathon? New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the 42-year-old New York Marathon with its 47,000 runners will go on as scheduled on Nov. 4. Registration of runners is scheduled to begin on Nov. 1. But there is pushback from city residents and runners themselves. For one thing, critics wonder about diverting the attention of emergency crews from service surrounding the cleanup of the city following Hurricane Sandy. Despite Bloomberg’s statement, organizers are still waiting for the official city go-ahead.

And some essential links for our readers in and around New York City. These will help you figure out your commute today.

While you were sleeping

Much of New York City remains without power. The New York Stock Exchange was one of the few buildings with electricity in Lower Manhattan on Oct. 31, as trading resumed after a two-day closure because of Hurricane Sandy. More than 6 million people were still without electricity, according to US officials. Some subway service and two of New York’s major airports reopened, but water on the runways kept La Guardia Airport closed, and more than 19,000 flights overall had been canceled.

British banks kept making shareholders pay for their own bad judgment. Lloyds posted third-quarter losses after taking a massive £1 billion hit to cover costs related to selling clients insurance they didn’t need. Meanwhile, Barclays may have to pay $470 million to settle fines imposed for allegedly gaming US energy markets. This is a fresh scandal, unrelated to the Libor-rigging allegations Barclays paid $450 million to settle. Standard Chartered was also recently penalized by the US government for doing business with Iran. It seems there is a case for heightened regulation of British banks.

Panasonic’s chief said ”we are losers“ while forecasting a $9.6 billion full-year loss. Japanese bosses can go overboard with self-flagellating apologies. But this one was warranted. Kazuhiro Tsuga, the new president of Panasonic, said the once-mighty Japanese electronics giant is now part of the industry’s “loser group”, squeezed out by the marketing might of Samsung and Apple. Announcing interim results, Panasonic said its full year loss could be ¥765 billion ($9.6 billion). Unsurprisingly, the company plans to restructure its business.

Chinese manufacturing is either growing, or shrinking less slowly. China’s official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) showed the manufacturing sector of the economy was expanding again, with a reading of 50.2 for October (readings above 50 indicate expansion). The official figures stated that manufacturing activity had been contracting for the previous two months. But most China-watchers set greater store by the independent PMI produced by HSBC, which recently showed contraction for the 12th month in a row—although it did indicate that the pace of contraction had slowed. Either way, China’s slowdown seems to be slowing down.

But the crash in commodities prices signals the outlook for China is not too rosy anyway. Standard & Poor’s Total Return Index of 24 raw materials slumped 4.1% in October, the biggest monthly loss since May. Economic growth in China, the world’s biggest consumer of most commodities from copper to cotton, has slowed for seven straight quarters.

Manufacturing continues to deteriorate in Britain and Greece. In Britain, PMI data showed sharp export declines and rising concerns about job losses in October. A bright spot: consumer demand both domestically and abroad was up last month. Greece continues to be a total disaster with export orders falling at the steepest rate since early 2009.

Quartz obsession interlude

Mitra Kalita on why, despite the mania over the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy, she is loyal to her Blackberry. ”I’m the kind of woman Apple wants: a working mother who makes most household-purchase decisions and who views her phone as an extension of self. And yet every time the tech giant puts on a grand product ‘unveiling,’ I feel a bit like the kid who sits alone at lunch. I’m the last one hanging on, it seems, to my BlackBerry.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Did New Yorkers have to sit there and see their beloved subways flooded? Nope. If only they had built their city differently.

Nigeria and Norway produce about the same volume of oil each day. From there, the two countries diverge on topics ranging from the flying habits of their rulers to how they distribute their oil revenue. The main difference—accountability.

The Euro will never recover from its current state of depression, argues Jeremy Warner in the Daily Telegraph, because of  ”very tight monetary conditions” and “lockstep austerity.”

Apart from divorces, battles over lucrative patents may be the most bitter and unseemly cases of legal contention on the planet. Since invention is only rarely a sole endeavor, the debate centers not only on covetousness, but on doubts about ownership. Take this example of a device invented for closing wounds: should it have been granted a patent?

The geopolitics of candy is flat.

What do epileptic seizures, financial crises and fishery collapses have in common? That is the task of complexity theory to figure out.

Surprising discoveries

Tycoons should probably stick to giving their mistresses designer goods. Hong Kong billionaire Samuel Tak Lee is embroiled in a lengthy London court case where he denies giving a masseuse two West London hotels as a gift. Was this the most extravagant game of Monopoly ever?

Why are rhinos generally arthritic? Evolution suggests it is a byproduct of their very indestructibility.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, is haunted, according to far-flung lore. Therefore, it keeps a paranormal concierge on staff. She is Lisa Nyhart.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin has a new presidential limousine to beat anything 007 Daniel Craig will show up in.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, patent disputes, and snazzy automobile photos to

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