Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Pope Francis I, Ping An, and the Australian job market

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What to watch for today

Australian unemployment. Analysts expect Australia’s unemployment rate to have risen to 5.5% in February.

The state of Chinese insurance. Ping An, a large and growing insurance and financial services conglomerate, reports earnings. Last month a company controlled by Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont was cleared to buy a 15.57% stake in Ping An from HSBC.

Rate decisions in Switzerland and Norway. The latest in monetary policy news from two of Europe’s safe havens.

Volkswagen earnings. The German automaker announces fourth-quarter results. It’s already told investors that its net profit was up 41% in 2012, even as it used cheap debt to expand into new markets.

Samsung’s hot new phone. The Korean electronics giant will launch its Galaxy S4 phone in New York City. The previous version, the S3, was the world’s best-selling smartphone before the iPhone 5 came along; can Samsung reclaim that crown?

While you were sleeping

Habemus Papam Franciscum Primum. Cardinals chose Jorge Mario Bergoglio, until now the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and an Argentine cardinal, as the first pope in over a millennium to hail from outside Europe (though his parents were Italian). For more on the new Catholic leader, check out our “official” Pope Francis I baseball rookie card.

Bad news for Europe. Data released Wednesday showed industrial production in the euro area falling by 0.4%, worse than analysts expected.

Zara not so zippy. Inditex, the parent company of the Zara stores, reported less-than-stellar earnings. The fast-growing retailer’s profits grew at the slowest pace in five quarters.

Back to the races for Ireland. Ireland issued its first 10-year government bond since it received a bailout from the European Union and IMF in late 2010. Demand for the bonds far exceeded expectations, suggesting the country will probably be able to fund itself adequately even after it receives the last of the bailout money later this year.

Android + Chrome = ? Andy Rubin, the head of Google’s Android mobile operating system team, has stepped down. Sundar Pichai, head of the Chrome web browser and Chrome OS project, will add Android to his portfolio. This could signal a forthcoming fusion between Android and Chrome OS, which could ultimately be a big money-maker for Google.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on how China’s new first lady, Peng Liyuan, could help make over the leadership’s fusty image. “Peng is praised as being humble and friendly—the wife of a composer she worked with says the first lady wears plain clothes and would come over to listen to music and talk about art—as well as bold: Peng is a World Health Organization ambassador for AIDS, a touchy subject in China. Yet some suspect a calculating side.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

“Two drunks” and a financial crisis. Is it even possible to separate governments and banks?

A business model based on refurbishing companies. Why Blackberry could be a good bet for Lenovo.

Profiling the new pope. Due diligence on Francis I.

Surprising discoveries

The science of papal smoke signals. Believe it or not, it’s now pretty high-tech.

European men die young. Life expectancy is 7.5 years shorter for European men than women.

Weird facts about papal conclaves. One time, it took the cardinals nearly three years to make a decision. Another time, there were three popes at once.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, stolen credit reports, and oversexed dolphin sightings to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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