Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—sequestration nation, Swiss referendum, Chinese PMI, the grass on the other side

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What to watch for today

World ends today. OK, maybe it doesn’t end. But today is the deadline when “sequestration” officially takes effect in the US because of a lack of political agreement. That means $85 billion in automatic budget cuts, affecting everything from airports to the military. But what you should really worry about is March 27.

Will the Dow break its record? The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched closer to an all-time high on Feb. 28, then fell back again. All eyes will be on the US markets to see if they end the week on a high note after a rocky start over the Italian elections.

WPP reports full-year results. The world’s largest advertising group’s earnings are a pointer to the health of the global economy, and its shares rose 1.7% yesterday ahead of its earnings announcement today. Analysts expect revenues of £10.4 billion ($15.8 billion), up 3.6% from the previous year.

Hungary gets a new central banker. Prime minister Viktor Orban is expected to nominate his close ally, Gyorgy Matolcsy, to run Hungary’s central bank. Hungary is in the middle of its second recession in four years and a new bank chief is expected to try unorthodox measures to get growth going again.

The Swiss all vote on executive pay. The Swiss love a good referendum, and on Sunday they will decide whether executive pay should be set by shareholders. If passed, the measure will also put an end to lavish joining and leaving packages. Which raises the question: If ridiculous salaries and unabashed wealth aren’t safe in Switzerland, where are they safe?

While you were sleeping

Chinese manufacturing grew slower in February. The monthly purchasing managers’ index came in at 50.1, down from 50.4 last month due to weakening domestic demand rather than falling exports. (Any number over 50 indicates growth.)

Bradley Manning pleaded guilty to Wikileaking. The US soldier accepted 10 of the 22 charges against him, saying “the world would be a better place if states would not make secret deals with each other”. The idealistic Manning is facing at least 20 years in prison.

A result in Britain’s by-election. The Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats faced off for the first time since jumping into bed as coalition partners in 2009—and the Lib Dems came out on top. In a sign of their increasing unpopularity, the Conservatives finished third after the upstart UK Independence Party.

Groupon ousted its CEO. A day after Groupon reported dismal earnings, the online deals site announced it was firing founder Andrew Mason. True to his goofy self, Mason wrote a memo to staff saying he would be “looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40.” His board will be looking for a new, permanent CEO, but that might not solve Groupon’s problems.

US to give direct aid to Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that for the first time, the Obama administration would give “non-lethal” direct aid to Syrian rebels. Kerry met members of Syria’s opposition council and other world leaders who are trying to end the conflict.

US  economy did grow, but not by much. Revised GDP figures show the economy expanded by 0.1%, compared to the previous estimate that it shrank. But the economy is still fragile, especially given the political deadlock over budget cuts.Weekly applications for job aid fell, however, reflecting declining job cuts.

Quartz obsession interlude

Naomi Rovnick on why India’s wealth tax probably won’t work, because it has a tax treaty with Mauritius. “It is therefore popular for rich Indians to illegally park what what would otherwise be taxable income in Mauritius and later re-route it home via tax-free fake ‘foreign direct investment.’ […] The wheeze is so well established that Mauritius is the source of around 40% of foreign direct investment into India.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

While America slept, China got its groove on.

The world needs to act before Syria really threatens an already messed up Middle East.

Feminists should make more jokes

Don’t work on Wall Street. It could make you evil. (Yes, we know we told you the opposite yesterday.)

Will humanity flourish in outer space or become extinct?

Surprising discoveries

A Mexican marijuana cannon has been built to shoot pot over the California border

A Japanese woman born the year radium was discovered is the oldest woman in the world

Steel is the specialty dish at a sword swallowers‘ gathering.

Big in Japan. A self-stirring saucepan.

Scientists link the brains of rats in the first attempt at a real-life mind-meld.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, videos of flying pot or Andrew Mason sightings to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.