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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Hong Kong’s eerie quiet, Euro zone inflation, China clears iPhone, curry brain food

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Greece remains on the hook. The country will meet with international creditors to discuss the terms of its public debt. Greek bond yields are on the rise after the government suggested that it may stop taking aid from the International Monetary Fund and avoid painful financial reforms.

Afghanistan lets the Americans stay just a little bit longer. Newly sworn president Ashraf Ghani will sign a deal allowing about 10,000 US troops to remain into 2015. On this, at least, Ghani and his bitter rival Abdullah Abdullah agree.

Out with the new Windows, in with the old. Microsoft unveils a new version of its operating system, codenamed Threshold. It rolls back many of the disliked changes of the previous version, which the world largely rejected, and aims to be more enterprise-friendly.

Will Walgreens bounce back in the fourth quarter? The US pharmacy giant missed earnings expectations in the third quarter after Obamacare and other external factors weighed on its profit margins. Investors will be looking to see if those problems have been solved.

US home values keep steady. The Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index isn’t expected to show massive gains in property values, so analysts believe that no news is good news.

While you were sleeping

Euro zone inflation hit a five-year low. Consumer prices rose by only 0.3% in September, as expected, a fraction of the ECB’s target of about 2%. Separately, German unemployment unexpectedly ticked higher in September, and the UK’s second quarter GDP growth was revised upward to 0.9%.

Apple finally got the nod to sell the iPhone 6 in China. Regulators approved the new smartphones for sale after mysteriously withholding a crucial license for several weeks. But if the price of gray-market iPhones is anything to go by, demand from the mainland is relatively muted.

Hong Kong’s streets are eerily quiet—for now. Pro-democracy protests—surely some of the politest ever—have turned the center of the city into a pollution- and car-free zone. The crowds are expected to swell this evening ahead of tomorrow’s National Day holiday, despite demands from Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader that they return home “immediately.” Follow the action here.

The EU detailed its tax case against Apple in Ireland.letter to Irish officials (pdf) about the country’s allegedly illegal aid to the electronics giant reveals the minutes of meetings between Apple and Irish tax officials, which the commission cites as proof that Apple and Ireland worked to “reverse engineer” financial results in order to lower the firm’s tax bill. The probe could saddle Apple with a multi-billion-euro fine.

Netflix is making an original movie, but it won’t come cheap. The video-streaming company will work with the Weinstein Company to produce a sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” the first of several films that will premiere simultaneously on Netflix and in Imax theaters. But shelling out for a Hollywood-scale production will be a heavy lift financially, since it will only provide a few hours of entertainment compared to an episodic series like “House of Cards.”

Manufacturing in China stagnated. The HSBC/Markit purchasing managers’ index, which measures activity at small- and medium-size businesses, was flat at 50.2 in September, just barely above the level that divides expansion from contraction. The government has made various attempts, largely unsuccessfully, to jump-start the economy.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on why China should leave Hong Kong alone. “Since Hong Kong is the global center for yuan trading, it is also a portal through which huge sums of liquidity flow, through both real and fake trade financing. China’s leaders don’t seem to actually understand how dependent their country’s financial system is on these ever-rising tides of liquidity coming in via Hong Kong. And they may not realize how easily a liquidity crisis could occur if, God forbid, they do decide to call in the tanks.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

ExxonMobil strengthened Putin’s hand against the West. After securing a temporary sanctions waiver, it discovered a massive Russian oil and gas field. 

Farm-to-table dining is broken. Consumers aren’t asking enough of small growers, says one of the movement’s most respected leaders.

Chinese tourists are the best. They love to buy expensive gifts, and it’s expected that 166 million travelers will spend $155 billion abroad this year.

Europe is a “slacker with low expectations.” Peter Thiel says the continent’s politicians kill technological progress with too much regulation.

Hamas = Islamic State = Iran = the Nazis. The world according to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Surprising discoveries

North Korea has a mobile phone etiquette guide. A surge in new users is resulting in more social gaffes.

The White House has had some shocking security breaches. Like the time a soldier landed a stolen helicopter on the lawn.

Kurdish troops are building tanks out of spare parts. They look like something straight out of Mad Max.

Curry might be good for your brain. A chemical in turmeric helped rats produce restorative neural stem cells.

It costs $2 billion a year to send drinking water to the International Space Station. And you thought Evian was expensive.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

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