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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—HSBC chooses London, ASEAN in California, Play-Doh power

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Barack Obama hosts an ASEAN summit. The US president brings together Southeast Asian leaders for a two-day meeting in California. Trade and China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea will likely be major talking points.

Central Europe meets on migrants. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland will meet today to discuss a “backup” border-control plan, ahead of an EU meeting later this week.

High hopes for Reckitt Benckiser. The British household goods giant is expected to report higher profits for 2015 despite the strong pound, thanks to cost-cutting and price increases.

It’s Presidents Day in the US. Stock markets will be closed for the holiday, as will most banks and all public schools.

Over the weekend

China’s trade data was even worse than expected. Exports fell by 11.2% in January compared to a year earlier, while imports dropped by 18.8%. Analysts expected both figures to drop by less than 2%.

Thailand and Japan released GDP data. Japan’s economy shrank by 1.4% in the fourth quarter, compared with a year earlier. In Thailand, GDP rose by 2.8% compared to a year earlier, beating analysts’ estimates. A government stimulus likely helped that figure.

The pope slammed Mexico’s wealthy. While celebrating Mass in the Mexican town of Ecatepec, Francis told attendees that deep inequality and the violence of the drug trade were causing pain, bitterness, and suffering among the poor.

California capped its gas leak. Engineers have finally staunched a leaking gas well four months after it was discovered. It had put 96,000 tons of methane into the air.

Cuba returned an American missile it received “by mistake” two years ago. The missile did not contain explosives, but uses advanced targeting technology the US feared might be shared with the likes of North Korea and China.

Quartz obsession interlude

Heather Timmons on HSBC deciding against a return to Hong Kong. “HSBC has reviewed its headquarters location every three years, and top executives often held a move back to Hong Kong out as a real possibility. But the Chinese government, which under president Xi Jinping has conducted a brutal crackdown on free speech, human rights, and his political opponents, appears to have spooked the bank’s board yet again.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The solar boom is looking like a bubble. Government subsidies have been propping up the market.

Texting is changing relationships. Having the same texting style as your partner can be crucial.

Hillary Clinton deserves blame for Syria. Her intransigence “led to the failure of [Kofi] Annan’s peace efforts in the spring of 2012,” argues economist Jeffrey Sachs.

Surprising discoveries

Water scarcity affects over four billion people a year. A new study finds that water shortages are a bigger deal than previously thought.

Hijab Barbie is Instagram’s latest style star. The account was created by 24-year-old Haneefah Adam.

Cultural Revolution-era China revered the mango. The fruit developed a cult of its own after Mao Zedong gave 40-odd mangoes to enthusiastic revolutionaries.

You can get millions of academic papers for free. A website that pirated 47 million of them has sprung up anew after being closed down.

Play-Doh is more popular than ever. The clay-like craft toy has reported double-digit revenue growth three years in a row.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, mangoes, and Play-Doh to on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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