Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—US votes, Siemens splits, Alibaba dazzles, Bollywood grows up

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What to watch for today

A price war for oil. The US Energy Information Administration releases its weekly update on US oil stockpiles. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg predict we’ll see a four-month high. Excess domestic inventory, combined with the Saudi price cut, has the potential to kickstart the American economy.

John Kerry’s stroll down the Champs-Élysées. America’s vice-president makes a quick pit stop in Paris to have a chat with French foreign minister Laurent Fabius. The two will discuss Syria, ISIL, the situation in Ukraine, and Iran’s nuclear program. Once that’s over, Kerry will jet to China for economic cooperation talks.

Siemens splits again. Sources that told Reuters the German conglomerate will lop off its $14 billion healthcare unit into a separate company. Earlier this year, Siemens divested itself of appliances (paywall), hospital IT, microbiology, and security.

Ludicrous domain sales. Website addresses such as,, and are expected to fetch millions of pounds at auction in London. alone might sell for as much as £20 million ($32 million). With digital advertising spend due to surpass TV advertising revenues in 2016 in the US, these prices may be cheap.

Numbers, numbers, numbers. Companies reporting financial results: CBS, Chiquita, Korean Air, Level 3 Communications, Marks and Spencer, Qualcomm, Tesla Motors, Time Warner, and Whole Foods. And as for economic data: US unemployment, Japanese wages, Portuguese unemployment, and services PMI for China, the UK, and the euro zone.

While you were sleeping

Alibaba dazzled investors. The Chinese e-commerce giant blew past expectations in its first post-IPO earnings report, with $2.7 billion in revenue for the quarter—a 54% increase year-on-year. It also added 28 million active customers in the quarter, bringing its total to 307 million‚ roughly the population of the entire United States.

Spain told Catalonia to stop the show. The Spanish Constitutional Court banned the province from holding a symbolic vote for independence on Nov. 9. This comes after the court’s Sept. 29 ban on an official independence referendum. It’s not the first time Catalonia has tried this, and likely won’t be the last.

America voted. Republicans were expected to win eight seats—and become the majority—in the Senate, while likely capturing nine seats in the House. Key policy questions in the balance included climate change, the legalization of marijuana, and abortion. Gay marriage, notably, was pretty much not an issue.

Facebook spilled the beans on more of its users. The social network said governments asked it for data on its users 34,946 times in the first half of 2014, a 24% increase on the second half of 2013. Facebook is adamant that it’d rather not be handing over this data, but local laws require it to.

SoundCloud scored its first big record deal. Warner Music will put an untold number of its tracks on the online music streaming service, and get paid whenever said tracks get streamed. A premium version of SoundCloud launches in 2015 that will let artists and DJs promote their work, so expect to see other labels make similar commitments.

Rolls Royce announced plans to cut 2,600 jobs. Most of the positions are within the company’s aerospace division. It’ll take 18 months to finish handing out pink slips, but once it’s done, the company says it expects to save £80 million ($128 million) a year.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips explains how to correctly read American employment data. “In September, the US labor participation rate fell to 62.7%, the lowest since the US economic malaise under president Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. That looks pretty bad. But to understand why this number is important, you have to understand what people think it says—and what it actually says.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Should America even hold midterm elections? There are lots of good reasons to abolish them (paywall), but there’s an argument that they’re good for democracy.

America is being irrational about Iran. Anger over the 1979 embassy hostage crisis is still affecting its policy.

The West doesn’t care about Ukraine. Putin’s invaded and no one has reacted.

Everyone will soon be able to buy artificial intelligence. It’ll be just another cloud service, like photo backups.

Europe’s central bank shouldn’t adopt quantitive easing. There’s no point, borrowing costs are already low.

Surprising discoveries

Women can now be Bollywood make-up artists. India’s Supreme Court has overturned a 59-year-old union ban.

Detecting cancer will soon become a lot less invasive. Just swallow a sponge tied to a string.

Computers are getting better at language. Japan’s NTT Labs has developed software that scores higher (paywall) on an English exam than your typical Japanese teenager.

Praising students is a bad idea. It can make them lazy.

Working odd hours is bad for your brain. Doing so for over a decade accelerates cognitive decline by 6.5 years.

Silicon Bay is bigger than Silicon Valley. There are more software developers in the Seattle area than around San Francisco.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, make-up tips, and English tests to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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