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Quartz Daily Brief– Americas Edition — Spain's budget, high-frequency trading, and what, exactly, does Myanmar have to sell to Americans?

GOOD MORNING QUARTZ READERS IN THE AMERICAS!

WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR TODAY

Grades come in for the US and the UK. The latest GDP numbers coming out today are a quarterly referendum on the economy at large, and, deserved or not, on the policies of President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron. Opposition parties will have sharpened their swords. US Republicans favor cuts in federal spending. But the UK’s coalition government might increase spending in its bid to stimulate the economy.

More Euro austerity gloom. Greek strikes and Spanish demonstrations have shown these countries aren’t taking kindly to austerity policies. The euro has hit a two-year low, with a corresponding fall in oil and metals prices. Now General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen are reportedly getting cold feet over deepening their alliance. And it looks set to be misery all round at the Paris Motor Show, as French carmakers forecast bad times ahead. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy today unveils his government’s 2013 budget plan, which will be watched for indications that Spain is prepared to request a bailout from the euro-zone fund.

Japan ratchets up anti-China rhetoric. Pre-election campaigning in Japan may degenerate into a panda bashing contest. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said Japan will refuse to budge in the country’s spat with China over the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The dispute is hitting commerce. Nissan and Toyota are cutting production in China over worsening demand. Expect more fighting talk from Noda. He is set to call a national election. But Japan’s opposition, which just chose a nationalist new leader, is gaining popularity by talking tough on China. This cannot be good for China-Japan trade.

In Cyprus, the French, German, and British defense ministers discuss a potential merger between defense giants EADS and BAE, apparently as a sideline to an informal summit happening on the Mediterranean isle. Here’s what’s on their agenda.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

Chinese industrial companies’ profits dropped for a fifth straight month in August, in yet another sign that businesses there are looking green around the gills. Net income for the sector as a whole fell 6.2 % compared to August 2011. Perhaps not coincidentally, Sichuan province in southwestern China announced plans to spend ¥3.67 trillion ($582 billion) on thousands of GDP-boosting infrastructure projects by 2013. That’s almost as much as the United States’ $700 financial crisis bailout, its magnitude signifying how seriously Chinese officials are taking warnings of an economic slump.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the UN to end its “paralysis” over Syria. That was after Syrian rebels struck a military compound in Damascus, bombing the building and setting it on fire before battling soldiers in the streets, a major incursion into the nerve center of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Thailand’s economy continued to weaken, with the local currency, the baht, hitting a two week low. Foreign investors have been pulling cash out of Thailand’s stock market because the nation’s export growth is decelerating. Local media have blamed the slump on slowing demand from Europe.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE:

Simone Foxman defends high-frequency trading: “Outsiders have claimed that the high-speed race to execute the fastest trades in opaque markets set off market disasters like the May 6, 2010, flash crash and a $440 million trading loss that crippled Knight Capital Group earlier this year. Insiders are concerned that high-speed trading could get out of hand, causing markets to collapse at an inconceivable speed. Limits on how fast orders can be executed—essentially, a promise by trading firms to honor the price they offer on a trade for a minimum time—are one common proposal for limiting market risk. Yet the data show that, for the most part, HFT benefits long-term investors.” Read more here.

MATTERS OF DEBATE:

The case for taxing capital more than labor. As labor becomes globally fungible, the only hope for government revenue is taxing capital. (No it isn’t!)

The state of our prediction problem. Steve LeVine interviews Nate Silver about forecasting the future, Big Data and the “wishful thinking” of Ray Kurzweil.

How social dynamics determine success. A more erudite way to say, “you didn’t build that.

Do import sanctions against really poor countries matter? The US has announced it will end its ban on imports from Myanmar. But as the beyondbrics blog points out, the country formerly known as Burma needs a serious amount of investment and development before it gets into a state to sell anything to international trading partners.

SURPRISING DISCOVERIES:

There are up to one million new species in the Antarctic Ocean. A 70,000 mile expedition revealed the abundance of unknown microscopic creatures, far more than estimates allowed.

Will the salvage of the cruise ship that ran aground in Tuscany last winter be the most spectacular in the history of seafaring? Der Spiegel reports.

Also on the calendar today: Japanese unemployment and price level statistics are released. In 1909, the first Model T rolled off production lines; and, in 1938, the Queen Elizabeth Ocean liner first set to sea.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, and thoughts on high-frequency trading to hi@qz.com.

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