Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—HSBC’s profit plunge, Greek reform due, Oscar rundown, speed TV

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What to watch for today

Greece applies for a loan extension. Greek ministers will present creditors with a list of reforms that need to be approved in order for it to receive a four-month extension on its loans. Failure to agree on reforms would likely once again kick off talks of a Grexit.

Insight into the US property market… Low interest rates ought to mean healthy demand for property, but today’s data on existing home sales is likely to show a slight fall in home purchases in January, compared with December’s figures.

…And a peak into its broader economic health. The Chicago Fed’s national activity index (paywall) is expected to show that US economic growth is still healthy, which might cause some analysts to suggest interest rates could rise sooner rather than later.

More severe weather in the US. Schools will be closed and flights grounded from California to Texas, thanks to an arctic front carrying bitter cold and snow.

Over the weekend

HSBC’s profit fell 17%. The UK bank’s pre-tax profit was $18.7 billion in 2014, down from $22.6 billion a year earlier and well below the $21.5 billion expected. HSBC responded to a report that CEO Stuart Gulliver held a Swiss bank account, saying he declared all his earnings to UK tax authorities.

Honda’s CEO stepped down. Takanobu Ito will be replaced by the car maker’s managing officer, Takahiro Hachigo, in June. Honda has issued massive recalls of models using Takata airbags in recent years, and its Fit hybrid, in recent years. 

Hollywood celebrated its own. The 87th Academy Awards were a politically-charged evening. Winners include Whiplash (for cinematography), Patricia Arquette (for best supporting actress), and Birdman (for best picture). Check here for the full rundown.

Apple plans to build two data centers in Europe. The technology company said it would spend €1.7 billion ($1.9 billion) on centers in Ireland and Denmark. Both will run entirely on renewable energy to provide online support to tools such as Siri and iTunes.

Valeant made its biggest acquisition yet. The Canadian pharmaceuticals giant will pay $10.1 billion in cash for Salix Pharmaceuticals, best known for making a drug to treat irritable bowel syndrome. Valeant, which tried to buy the maker of Botox last year, recently said it would slow down its acquisition spree and pay down debt.

Prada fell short of expectations. The Milan-based luxury goods maker reported €3.55 billion ($4 billion) in revenue in 2014, down 1% from a year earlier and below an expected €3.57 billion. Prada blamed a global slowdown in demand for luxury goods for its lack of sales.

US dockworkers ended a nine-month strike. US labor secretary Tom Perez negotiated an end to the strike that reduced productivity at some ports by almost half, and led to spoiled goods and a shortage of french fries in Japan.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on how China’s island-building spree is about more than just military might. ”The Spratlys are more strategic than they are substantial; under international law, the archipelago could have exclusive claim to the bounteous fishing grounds in the surrounding seas, and to the potentially oil-rich seabed.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

It’s sexist to ask “Who are you wearing?” on the red carpet. Actresses grilled about their outfits don’t get asked about their careers.

Not giving the Oscar to Boyhood is an epochal travesty. Birdman is terrific, but Boyhood is a masterpiece.

Don’t make goals, make habits. Goals only make you feel like you’re not good enough yet.

Robot workers are creating human jobs. The president of one robotics firm says the industry needs more skilled workers to develop and operate them (paywall).

Lenovo doesn’t deserve consumers’ trust. Installing adware on its laptops is not only annoying, it is unsafe.

Facebook was right to spend $19 billion on WhatsApp. Messaging apps are central to all smartphone use.

Surprising discoveries

Russia is producing anti-Western chocolates. A new line of confections mocks the West’s sanctions against the country.

Cable companies speed up their TV shows to fit in more ads. Doing so can cut minutes from each episode to make room for more ads.

Reddit tricked Google. Users got Google’s algorithm to show a picture of a potato when people searched for “gaming console.”

Americans aren’t studying European languages. But the availability of Chinese, Arabic, and Korean classes is increasing.

Someone bought Warren Buffett’s old car for $122,500. A customized 2006 Cadillac DTS sold for $115,000 more than its model-expected resale value.

America is looking for a humane way to execute people. Botched lethal injection rates are rising.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, custom Cadillacs, and Putin candies to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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