Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—Cisco reports, NBC sale, Apple magic, Cosby sweater

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

US retail sales data for January answer a key question. Which is: Did an increase in US payroll taxes, which went into effect in January as part of the fiscal cliff deal, make people spend less? Reports from chain stores suggest it didn’t.

Euro-zone industrial production for December. It was down three straight months through November.

Société Générale reports. It’s been an ugly year for the French bank.

Cisco Systems reports too, after the close of trading in New York. Look for evidence of John Chambers’ strategic shift away from hardware toward data management for governments and large corporations.

The Financial Times turns 125. The pink ‘un was established in 1888 to serve as a friend to the “honest financier and the respectable broker“. This was before the US housing bubble, obviously.

While you were sleeping

Obama promised action on the economy—and much more besides. The American president’s state of the union address was anything but unambitious. Obama said he would reduce the US stockpile of nuclear weapons, bring back half of America’s troops from Afghanistan within the next year, create jobs for the middle class, raise the minimum wage, and start negotiations for a free trade deal with the EU.

Comcast to buy NBCUniversal. The US cable giant will buy the 49% it doesn’t already own from GE for $16.7 billion. The deal also involves the sale of NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters, for which the show “30 Rock” is named, along with its New Jersey headquarters for an additional $1.4 billion. GE is planning to be rather generous with the cash it will earn.

The US Treasury posted a monthly surplus for January. It’s the first time in five years, thanks to higher tax revenues (yes, that payroll tax again). And also the first time in five years that the deficit for the whole year is likely to be less than $1 trillion.

CNOOC got a step closer to buying Nexen. China’s state-owned oil and gas producer cleared the last major hurdle on its way to buying Nexen, a Canadian energy major, as US regulators approved the $15.1 billion purchase. Canadian and British regulators had already approved the deal, which will be China’s biggest overseas acquisition, suggesting it’s learned a thing or two about navigating touchy political feelings.

Tim Cook told a technology conference that Apple can still “create magic.” He also said that David Einhorn’s lawsuit over the tech giant’s cash hoard is a “silly sideshow,” and that visiting an Apple store makes him feel like he’s taken Prozac. (We wish we were so easily pleased.)

Quartz obsession interlude

The Vatican could take a lesson or two from beverage companies, Tim Fernholz writes. “Look at it this way: 75% of Catholics are outside of Europe, but there has never been a pope from outside the continent. Meanwhile, PepsiCo, which sells 47% of its product in emerging markets, has an Indian-born CEO. Indra Nooyi got the job because of her long experience as an executive at the company, but the importance of her national background and experience in global business was lost on no one.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Bubbles schmubbles. The historical record of monetary policy that’s too tight is a lot worse than policy that’s too loose.

Japan is pulling a Ponzi by trying to coax investors into stocks.

Do electric cars work as advertised? A war of words between Elon Musk of Tesla and the New York Times.

No, there isn’t a currency war. Central banks are just doing their jobs.

Is the secular bear market coming to an end? Some people do think so.

Surprising discoveries

A Serbian man lives in a tomb. (Mind you, so do half a million Egyptians.)

An Italian journalist scooped the world on the Pope’s retirement because she understood Latin.

Wrestling is out of the 2020 Olympics. It will now have to compete for a slot with, among others, karate, wakeboarding and the Chinese martial art of wushu.

The Cosby sweater is back. As its popularizer, Bill Cosby, put it, “the knit woolen things that look like the sheep were different colors or fell in some paint, right?”

Best of Quartz. Read our most popular recent stories.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, ’80s sweaters, and suggestions for new Olympic sports to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.