Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—China oil, Pakistan agreement, JPMorgan hacked, Lego novels

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What to watch for today

A close look at Chinese hydrocarbons. CNOOC and PetroChina report half-year earnings. Analysts will be watching for any hints that CNOOC, the country’s biggest offshore oil and gas explorer, has to drop about the politically volatile South China Sea.

The future of Dollar General’s dollars. While sales are expected to rise, investors may be more interested in what the US discount chain plans to do next, after Family Dollar rejected its takeover bid in favor of smaller rival Dollar Tree.

Carry on Erdogan. After 11 years as Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be sworn in as president—theoretically it is a more ceremonial role, but with the obliging Ahmet Davutoglu as prime minister, he should be able to stay in control of the country. In other words, we can expect more of this.

A Pakistan agreement nears. Pakistan’s military and prime minister Nawaz Sharif might be close to making a deal (paywall) following nearly two weeks of protests in Islamabad calling for his resignation. The deal would see Sharif hand over control of security policies and foreign policy (paywall) to the military. Opposition leader Imran Khan insists he’s not leaving until Sharif steps down.

While you were sleeping

Did Russia hack US banks? The FBI is investigating a hacking attack in mid-August that lifted data from JPMorgan and at least four other banks, Bloomberg reports. The sophistication of the attack suggests the hand of a government, but cyber-criminals have not been ruled out.

Alibaba’s earnings fed IPO excitement. The Chinese e-commerce firm reported a 46% jump in year-on-year revenue to $2.54 billion. In the quarter that ended June 30, Alibaba’s profit nearly tripled. These are strong numbers ahead of Alibaba’s highly-anticipated US IPO, which could exceed $200 billion.

A third front emerged in Ukraine. Ukraine said that activity by Russian forces in a southeastern border town amounted to an invasion (paywall). This stealth counter-offensive has quickly erased hopes for the road map to peace that presidents’ Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin discussed late Tuesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also wants an explanation.

More horrors from the Islamic State. Pictures found on social media show the militants executing Syrian soldiers captured at Tabqa air base, which IS took at the weekend. The US has been gathering a coalition to fight IS, but it won’t act without allies. A bipartisan group of US lawmakers want a vote on whether military action should go ahead. The UN said both IS and Syria are committing war crimes.

Tough times for Qantas. The national Australian air carrier posted a record loss of US$2.65 billion (paywall), after a worse-than-expected writedown.

Oil majors beat a retreat from Nigeria. A consortium of Shell, Eni and Total is selling $5 billion worth of oil assets to domestic buyers, among them one of the most frequently “bunkered” oil pipelines in the world. (It’s the practice of punching holes in the pipeline and stealing the oil that leaks.)

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on Argentina’s bizarrely strong stock market. “Yes, economically, the country is a mess. With dwindling foreign reserves and threadbare credit that prevents it from borrowing, Argentina has turned to devaluation to finance itself. The result is a nasty case of stagflation. GDP growth is just barely puttering forward. Private estimates of inflation hover around 40%, according to the Eurasia group. And yet, Argentina’s equity market—as measured by the Mercado de Valores de Buenos Aires, or Merval, has surged 77% this year through yesterday’s close.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The US shouldn’t team up with Bashar al-Assad against the Islamic State. Western support for a Shia dictator would make matters far worse.

The Putin era may be over sooner than you think. The Russian president has bitten off more than he can chew in Ukraine.

The idiocy of the $49,000 apple pie exemplifies why crowd funding will fail. The more money raised, the dumber the crowd gets.

The Ukraine crisis validates Russia’s bad rap in Hollywood. In good times, the US film industry never “adapted to Moscow’s friendlier face.”

Social science has an existential problem. Telephone surveys are becoming less accurate, because people don’t answer the telephone anymore.

A good psychic can be worth visiting. When they’re not trying too hard to predict the future, they can give good advice.

Surprising discoveries

Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a little girl. Her creators think it very important that you know this.

If Britain were a US state, it would be the second-poorest. In GDP per capita terms, only Mississippi is poorer.

An 11-year-old translated a 1,000-page American epic. He rendered scenes from the novel Infinite Jest in Lego.

A panda may have faked its pregnancy for preferential treatment. Other pandas in Chinese zoos have been known to do this to get more buns and bamboo.

It’s good if kids are slow learners. Finding learning hard means better learning.

Proof that London property prices are nuts. An “uninhabitable” 900-square-foot apartment is on the market for £595,000 (nearly $1 million), and someone’s already offered more.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, novels rendered in Lego, and affordable real estate options to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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