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Quartz Daily Brief—Halliburton, Apple’s child labor, Samsung profits, racy divorces

By Naomi Rovnick
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Halliburton falls in the fourth-quarter. The oil services company, an industry bellwether, is expected to report sharply lower earnings after being hit by a slowdown in US natural gas drilling, while its rival Schlumberger has fared better with more business in Asia.

More signs of a RIM-Lenovo tie-up? The Chinese computer company has been suprisingly candid in telling reporters it is taking a look at the struggling Blackberry maker. RIM has said it would consider “strategic alliances” but has not commented on Lenovo so far.

Czech elections, round two. The candidates in the two-day run-off of the Czech Republic’s first direct election for president are former premier Milos Zeman and foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, a pro-EU prince whose second-place finish in the first round surprised analysts. Voting starts at 2pm in Prague.

While you were sleeping

Samsung wiped the floor with its competitors. The Korean tech powerhouse posted a record quarterly operating profit—though its shares then dropped after it warned that a strong currency could cut its profits this year. As Quartz’s Simone Foxman writes, Samsung’s success has a lot to do with its being the anti-Apple.

Apple discovered a China supplier was employing children. Having expanded its audits of suppliers, Apple found one manufacturer was using child labor, while a further 158 factories it used didn’t audit their own suppliers. If other multinationals broadened China audits, what would they find?

UK economy in the doldrums. Britain’s fourth quarter GDP fell by a bigger than forecast 0.3%. A further contraction in the next quarter would push the UK into an unprecedented, triple-dip recession and bring it closer to losing its prized AAA credit rating.

Thailand won’t get into a currency war. The nation’s finance minister said that despite foreign investment inflows caused by the US Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing, it would not purposely weaken its currency and risk a repeat of the 1997 Asian crisis—when Thailand devalued the baht to boost its economy but left companies struggling to repay dollar-denominated debt.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on how the Post Office can save America. “With an exception of a few years in the 1830s when the government was able to expropriate enough native American lands and sell them off at inflated prices, the US has been in debt since day one….The debt is big… about 100% of economic output. A debt this large could very easily become problematic. Luckily, we think we’ve found one small part of the solution: America’s beleaguered Postal Service.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Cyber attacks are what businesses should be most worried about this year. 

Will the US see any peace dividend when it withdraws from Afghanistan? There may not be much, if you count the cost of health and psychological care for returning veterans.

Sending CEOs to prison doesn’t deter them from committing crimes. Not when the rewards are so high.

The Euro is here to stay and is set to strengthen, according to George Soros. 

China could block Korean reunification. Beijing might have plans to make the resource-rich hermit kingdom of North Korea its own “tributary province.”

Surprising discoveries

And you thought the Victorians were boring. A UK website has uploaded racy records of 17th and 18th century divorce cases.

By 2050, we could be flying from Europe to Australia in 90 minutes. Wait, haven’t we heard things like this a couple of times before?

Protons are smaller than scientists had thought. That has caused a burst of excitement among physicists.

If you think you’re good at multi-tasking, you’re probably wrong.

Americans buy mattresses designed for good sleep more than good sex. Or so investors seem to believe.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, and tips on multi-tasking to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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