Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Luxembourg’s Amazon aid, Schlumberger’s job cuts, Carrefour’s sales bounce, smart shoes

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What to watch for today

Goldman Sachs reports results. Investors are eager to see how the American investment bank performed during the fourth quarter, especially as legal fees have eaten into earnings at rivals.

Fallout from the Swiss franc fracas. A few retail foreign-exchange brokers have been pushed into insolvency thanks to the large and unexpected moves in the Swiss franc yesterday. “I would be astonished if we did not see more casualties,” an analyst told Bloomberg.

Cuba-US relations warm up. New US rules that ease travel and trade restrictions between the two countries kick in today. Earlier this week, Cuba freed the last of 53 political prisoners identified in a deal with Washington.

Another try at peace in Ukraine. A meeting to revive a shaky ceasefire will be held in Minsk between representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

The credit raters weigh in. Fitch will provide its latest assessments on the sovereign debt of Germany and Greece, Moody’s will run the rule over Ireland, and Canada’s DBRS will offer its opinion on the UK’s creditworthiness.

While you were sleeping

Luxembourg was accused of illegally lowering Amazon’s tax bill. European Commission investigators said they believe Luxembourg’s actions qualify as unfair state aid (paywall) that artificially lowered the online retailer’s tax bill. The commission’s preliminary conclusions (pdf) mean that the EU may try to claw back taxes from Amazon. The company and country deny wrongdoing.

BP’s Deepwater Horizon penalty was capped at $13.7 billion. A US district judge set the upper limit of the settlement at around $4 billion less than expected. The lower figure came after the judge deemed the spill smaller than the US government had previously claimed.

Carrefour topped revenue estimates. The world’s second-largest retailer by sales reported €22.6 billion ($26.3 billion) in revenue for 2014, up 2% from 2013. The group reported a 3.1% rise in like-for-like sales, with the fastest growth in Brazil; like-for-like sales in China fell 7.8%.

European car sales rose for the first time in seven years. Total industry sales rose to 13 million in 2014, up 5.4% over the year earlier. Volkswagen and Renault’s value-conscious models saw the biggest jumps in deliveries.

Oilfield jobs were slashed. Schlumberger, the world’s biggest oil services company, said it would cut 9,000 positions, or about 7% of its workforce, thanks to falling demand for its drilling technology and equipment. The US company also took a $1.77 billion charge to fourth-quarter earnings.

Facebook partnered with a Chinese browser in India. The social network teamed up with UCWeb, a Chinese mobile browser popular in developing countries. UCWeb users, which make up about one-third of India’s mobile users, will now get live Facebook notifications when they are browsing. The partnership comes as Facebook appears to be exploring ways to reach more Chinese internet users.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on the shocking move by Switzerland’s central bank. “Currencies aren’t supposed to move like this. Certainly not currencies like the Swiss franc, long considered a safe, stable store of value. But a shock move from the Swiss National Bank today—we’ll explain in a minute—pushed the franc up, way up, in early trading today. The knock-on effect is roiling a wide range of markets.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The pope should put his money where his mouth is on climate change. He should divest fossil fuels from the Church’s $8 billion investment fund.

Uber is not part of the sharing economy. It’s old-fashioned capitalism.

TV shows are making us smarter. Complicated plot lines are good for society, if not good for vegging out.

Mario Draghi has no more excuses. The European Central Bank president has been given the green light to enact quantitative easing, so he’d better do it.

Tunisia is still on the brink of disaster. Reforms haven’t eradicated high unemployment and corruption, the factors that led to the country’s revolution.

Surprising discoveries

Emoji designed to offend. “Emo Emoji,” a set of digital stickers, contain an “I can’t breathe” cartoon featuring Barney, the purple dinosaur.

Glitter mail is way too popular. Less than 48 hours after it went live, has stopped taking orders, due to overwhelming demand.

Inactivity is worse for you than obesity. Being thin doesn’t make you healthier if you’re also idle.

Beijing’s subway has an electronic library. Riders can scan a QR code to read an ebook from the National Library.

Social media is a stress reducer for women. Pew says women who share more online are 21% less stressed.

Smart shoes will soon be a thing. German researchers built footwear that generates energy from walking.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Chinese ebooks, and futuristic footwear to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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