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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Alibaba-Apple flirtation, Softbank’s India expansion, China’s train merger, rotten-egg comets

By Richard Macauley

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The Fed prepares to close the taps. The US Federal Reserve is convening today and tomorrow and will discuss the end of its quantitative easing asset-purchase program; in July, the Fed said QE would end in October. New data from Germany (and Europe in general) may affect its decision.

Air France jobs fly away. De Telegraaf reports (link in Dutch) that the directors of Air France-KLM will hold a meeting to discuss cost cuts. The group’s 2014 profit, due out Wednesday, could be down as much as half a billion euros ($636 million) due to two weeks of strikes.

Marvel tries to delight its fans. The next cinematic installments of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and other popular franchises may be announced at a ”secret” event in Los Angeles. One rumor: Benedict Cumberbatch will play the lead in Dr. Strange.

A trifecta of US economic data. Durable goods orders, the Case-Shiller housing indices, and the Conference Board’s consumer confidence data will give a snapshot of the US economy.

Earnings galore. Just a few of the companies reporting today: Air China, AMC Entertainment, Corning, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Level 3 Communications, Marriott International, Pfizer, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

While you were sleeping

Apple and Alibaba flirted over e-payments. Alibaba CEO Jack Ma said at a Wall Street Journal conference that he would be “very interested” in a partnership the newly launched Apple Pay service; “We’re going to talk about getting married later this week,” Apple CEO Tim Cook replied. But both companies are subject to intense scrutiny from Beijing, which has tried to protect the market share of its massive state-owned banks.

Japan’s richest man became a big player in India’s online economy. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son has invested $627 million in India’s Snapdeal, an Alibaba-like marketplace, and is leading a $210 million investment in Ola, an Uber-like taxi service. Son was also an early investor in Alibaba, and reaped massive profits from its IPO.

UBS and Standard Chartered braced for more fines. UBS reported a 32% increase in third-quarter net profit to 762 million Swiss francs ($803 million), despite booking 1.8 billion Swiss francs for legal provisions due to a forex trading probe. Standard Chartered—currently preparing for its second major fine from New York regulators in two years—reported a third-quarter operating profit of $1.5 billion, down from $1.8 billion a year ago.

BP’s profit sank. The oil giant’s third-quarter underlying earnings fell 18% to $3.04 billion (paywall). Sanctions against Russia, low oil prices, and a massive payout for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill made for low expectations; analysts had only projected earnings of $2.93 billion.

Japanese shoppers rediscovered their wallets. Retail sales growth accelerated for the third straight month in September, which may make it easier for prime minister Shinzo Abe to push through another sales tax increase. Sales grew 2.3% in September from a year earlier, higher than a predicted 0.6% increase.

China will merge its two biggest train makers. CNR and CSR will combine to more effectively compete for international rail contracts, sources told Bloomberg. The merger, ordered by China’s state council, will create a $26 billion company that has recently won contracts to expand Boston’s subway and build bullet trains for Macedonia.

Quartz obsession interlude

Brian Browdie on the US economy’s relationship with gasoline. “Prices at the pump have dropped 18 cents in the past two weeks, to an average of $3.08 per gallon, their lowest level in four years. That should stimulate the economy, if what’s past is precedent. Every cent the price of gas drops in a year adds $1.4 billion to the economy, according to estimates. But that could be changing.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Chinese democracy would be a nightmare for the world. The communist party is keeping virulent nationalism in check.

The post-Obama era has begun. Democrats have started distancing themselves from the US president.

Millennials are the cheapest generation. Forget big cars and houses—they want small, affordable, and different.

Being an expert hurts your creativity. Too much knowledge makes you close-minded.

Google’s dominance in search is over. It’s time for Larry Page to find a new one-trick pony.

Surprising discoveries

You should gamble on an empty stomach. Research subjects had a better grasp of the odds when they were hungry.

Table tennis stars can throw tantrums, too. A Chinese tournament winner was stripped of $45,000 in prize money after he trashed the arena.

Space smells disgusting. The 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet is giving off an odor of rotten eggs and horse pee.

Chocolate reverses memory loss. But only in older people, so put down the candy bar.

Reminder: Get a 50% discount on our Next Billion conference in New York on Nov. 5 using the code QZBRIEF.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, table-tennis tantrums, and interstellar deodorant to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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