Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Libya kidnapping, Chinese stocks horror, UAE dergulates gas, robot baseball umpires

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What to watch for today and this weekend

US energy company results are due as they struggle with cheap oil. Analysts expect lower quarterly revenues for Exxon Mobil and Chevron, due to low oil prices. The share prices of both companies have tumbled significantly this year.

The United Arab Emirates deregulates gasoline. On Saturday (Aug. 1), the UAE will be the first country in the Persian Gulf to remove transport-fuel subsidies. Prices are expected to jump, but the government says it will prevent inflation by clamping down on the prices of other consumer goods.

Puerto Rico’s debt payments are due. The US territory must deliver $58 million in so-called “moral obligation” bond payments on Saturday, but recent statements from government officials suggest that may not happen. Analysts say default could lead to a financial crisis (paywall) on the island.

While you were sleeping

Philae found something special on a comet 300 million miles from here. In its most recent dispatch from the comet 67P—which it landed on last November—the European Space Agency’s Philae lander has found compounds that are known to be the building blocks of life.

British Airways’ parent reported a bumper quarter. IAG reported a second-quarter operating profit of €530 million ($580 million), up 40% from a year earlier on cost cuts and better profit at its Iberia unit. The company, close to boosting its North American offerings via the purchase of Ireland’s Aer Lingus, maintained its €2.2 billion full-year forecast.

Four Indians were kidnapped in Libya. The university teachers were taken at a checkpoint in Sirte, a city close to the capital of Tripoli, according to the BBC. It is so far not clear who kidnapped the teachers, and no ransom has been made—but ISIL’s involvement is feared.

Carrefour reported a rise in profit. The global supermarket company said first-half operating income was €726 million ($795 million), beating estimates and up 1.3% from a year earlier. That suggests the company is largely delivering on its strategy of revamping its stores; growth in Brazil and Spain grew by 7.1%

China’s stocks ended their worst month in six years. The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 15% in July, the worst of more than 90 global benchmarks tracked by Bloomberg. That’s despite incredible amounts of government stimulus, which has been only occasionally successful at propping up prices.

Japan’s consumer prices crept upwards. Excluding food, they increased by 0.1% in June from a year earlier, despite a 2% drop in household spending. The 14th drop in 15 months presents a challenge to the central bank’s attempts to raise inflation levels to 2%; Japan’s jobless rate also ticked up in June from a multi-year low in May (paywall).

Taiwan’s GDP growth hit a three-year low. Second-quarter economic growth fell to just 0.6% from a year earlier, far below expectations of a 2.6% increase, and lower also than first-quarter growth. That drop was triggered by a manufacturing slowdown, as well as falling demand for electricity and gas.

Quartz obsession interlude

Dan Frommer on Spotify’s resilience after the debut of Apple Music. “So far, two things are clear: Apple Music was a bit rushed, and Spotify, the leading independent streaming service, is doing just fine… Of course, nobody knows the longer-term impact Apple Music will have on Spotify or the streaming market. Apple has more money, but Spotify may be too big to squash.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Warren Buffett is a feminist hero. He quietly funded a birth control revolution in the US.

Retire early, but don’t leave the working world completely. You’ll be happier if you remain working a little.

The US should treat all criminals like white-collar criminals. Job training and shorter sentences result in less recidivism.

US professional soccer is a retirement home for European stars. Call it the Beckham effect.

Surprising discoveries

“Angry Birds” is still the most-purchased iOS app. It has topped Apple’s daily list of paid apps a record 311 times.

Uber complaints are increasingly handled in the Philippines. That’s a turnaround for a company that once took pride in having locals respond to issues.

A computer successfully umpired a professional baseball game. It called strikes and balls, all without the aid of a human.

The end of invasive colonoscopies may be near. Scientists are developing x-ray pills that can instead be swallowed.

Your typing tempo is a dead giveaway. It creates a unique profile based on your keystroke patterns.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, keystroke scramblers, and organic comet compounds to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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