Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Irish debt, miner corruption, more Basel, life on mars

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What to watch for today

American retail sales due. An indication of how US consumers have dealt with a higher payroll tax.

Day two in Vatican City. The first vote to name the next pope turned up black smoke, meaning that deliberations will continue today. See who you think fits best with your beliefs (so to speak) on the Guardian’s cool pope-picking machine.

Basel banters about banks. Members of the Basel Committee of banking supervision will meet in Basel, Switzerland. Debates about the amount of leverage banks should be allowed to take could be at the top of their agenda.

US Democrats propose a budget. The White House’s response to the Republican proposal on March 12 will be balanced, but not balanced.

Obama talks cybersecurity. A day after it was revealed that several high-profile Americans, including Michelle Obama, have had their personal information posted online, the president will meet security experts to discuss minimum standards.

While you were sleeping

Euro-zone industrial production fell more than expected in January. Factory production dropped 0.4% from December, another sign that economic recovery is painfully slow.

Inditex profits went up 22%. The Spain-based retailer and owner of the wildly popular Zara clothing stores posted full-year profit of €2.36 billion ($3 billion). But last-quarter earnings were unable to meet forecasts for the second time, something that weighs heavily after three years of smashing expectations. It might just be getting harder for Inditex to surprise investors.

Cathay Pacific’s profits plunged 83%. High fuel prices, weak demand and an altogether lousy mood pushed the Hong Kong-based airline’s profits down to $118 million from $709 million the previous year.

Ireland got back in the game. The Irish debt agency announced its intention to test the bond markets for the first time since 2010, when it was forced to accepted a bailout. It is expected to issue a 10-year bond this week.

BHP Billiton got pulled up for “tea money.” The world’s largest miner is being investigated by American and Australian agencies for bribing East Asian officials.

The two Sudans came to an agreement on oil. South Sudan will start pumping oil through Sudan again, more than a year after a spat over fees shut down the South’s daily 350,000-barrel output.

Some respite for Boeing. America’s Federal Aviation Administration gave Boeing the go-ahead to start testing a new battery for its grounded 787 Dreamliner airplane. If all goes well, the aircraft should be back in commercial service by June. In more good news, the company is also discussing a $15 billion deal to sell 170 planes to RyanAir, Europe’s largest low-cost airline.

Quartz obsession interlude

Simone Foxman on why emerging markets are more likely to have female central bankers: “With an economy largely based on oil and natural resources, Russia is desperate for demand-driven growth and innovation. Although the country has opposed UN resolutions that advocate harsher penalties for violence against women, Putin’s choice of Nabiullina should make recessionary Europe and even the slow-growing US reexamine their own gender-skew.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Have the Republicans learned anything? Analyzing their latest budget plan.

The New York Times is too soft on Carlos Slim. But the paper will soon have to write more about the monopolist Mexican billionaire who is also its second largest shareholder.

Why markets should be freaking out over Italy. Be cynical, for a change.

Who won the Iraq war? With soaring exports, it looks like it may have been Turkey.

Surprising discoveries

Was there once life on Mars? NASA scientists in charge of a rover examining the red planet’s surface say that they found chemicals in a rock harvested from a dry lake bed that would have been conducive to life. “You could have drank the water that flowed,” said the mission’s chief scientist.

Killer dolphins on a sex romp (perhaps). Three dolphins (possibly) trained by the Ukrainian navy to (maybe) assassinate divers are (unsurprisingly) unaccounted for after a military exercise—but they might just have gone to look for mates.

Let them eat LBOs. Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, will allow entry into its buyouts for as little as $50,000 (paywall).

Can a taco save America? Only the Doritos kind.

Hack attack. Hackers stole and published credit reports—including social security numbers, addresses, credit card and banking details—of US celebrities and the heads of the FBI and Los Angeles police.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, high-profile credit reports, and sightings of semi-fictional oversexed dolphins to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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