Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Google OS, Swiss Re, euro zone gloom, QE debate, Winter Olympics

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What to watch for today

Has Meg Whitman rescued HP? PC maker Hewlett-Packard reports first quarter earnings today, a chance to see whether Whitman has stabilized the company after mass firings and $17 billion in write-downs last year.

Consumers, LBOs, Hurricane Sandy. Wal-Mart’s fourth-quarter earnings, expected to rise 9%, should shed some light on the state of retail around the world, while those of private equity firm Carlyle Group could do the same for the seeming boom in leveraged buyouts. Insurer AIG, bailed out by American taxpayers and now on a profitable rebound, will shed some light on the costs of Hurricane Sandy.

A new Chrome OS. Google is on a roll. After yesterday’s public announcement of the (frankly awesome but also slightly creepy) Google Glass project, it is reportedly launching a touchscreen OS for its Chromebooks today. That may not sound terribly exciting but it means Google is taking on Microsoft’s Windows 8 (and also its own Android OS). Let the battle begin.

Chesapeake’s CEO, off the hook, presents his last earnings report. An internal investigation found that Aubrey McClendon was not guilty of any intentional misconduct in taking out massive loans to buy stakes in the energy company’s wells. Profits are expected to have dipped in today’s Q4 results.

Also to be announced: December’s retail sales figures for Mexico; US consumer prices, expected to have risen just a bit in January as well as manufacturing activity surveys, initial unemployment claims, and existing home sales data.

While you were sleeping

Qantas doubled its profits. The Australian airline made A$111 million (US$114 million) after tax in the six months to December, compared to A$42 million the previous year. Qantas slashed loss-making long-haul routes and got an injection of cash thanks to refunds from Boeing for a cancelled order of Dreamliners. Qantas shares surged on the news.

Swiss Re gave its investors a pleasant surprise. The world’s second-biggest reinsurer will pay out $2.8 billion to shareholders in the form of a special dividend of 4 Swiss francs ($4.31) and by raising normal dividend from 3 to 3.50 Swiss francs.

More eurozone gloom. Services and manufacturing both contracted more than expected in January. At least part of the blame can be shouldered by the euro’s appreciation.

Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4. Kind of. A two-hour-long presentation introduced hacks to a new controller, games in development and some specs but there was no sign of the actual box. Or the price. Or a release date more specific than “holiday 2013.”

The great QE debate caused markets to retreat. Global markets nosedived this morning after yesterday’s release of minutes from a January meeting of US Federal Reserve policymakers, which showed divisions over how long to continue purchases by the central bank.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve Levine on China’s smart bid for the US electric car industry. “Chinese firms are buying control of a string of struggling US electric-car and battery makers—tarnished trophies of America’s exuberant but so far disappointing foray into the industry. But while critics assert that the Chinese shopping spree reveals the failures of US energy policy, it actually says more about how some of the world’s biggest fortunes of the last three decades have been earned: namely, thanks to a sharp eye for an unrecognized bargain.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Is Google becoming a cop’s best friend? How the search engine solves crime.

What Sweden’s right wing has in common with America’s Tea Party. Xenophobia is the same in every language.

Why the biggest US banks are riskier than you think. You can’t trust their accounting if they keep so much risk off their balance sheets.

Your homepage doesn’t matter. Sorry, Yahoo.

Surprising discoveries

A new planet! It’s called Kepler 37b and it’s the smallest yet, about the size of our moon.

Most drug overdoses in the US are caused by legal drugs. What to do about addictive painkillers?

“Unlimited voice, texting and data for $20 a month.” So what’s the catch?

Russia is spending $50 billion on the winter Olympics and not everyone is happy about it. In comparison, Canada spent about $6 billion to host the 2010 winter Olympics. The Games in London cost just under $15 billion.

Economic forecasters always think growth is around the corner. And lately, they’re always wrong.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, nostalgic screenshots of homepages and Panglossian forecasts to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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