Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—European austerity, Samsung S4, gold prices, Xi’s the one

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The clash of austerity doctrines. EU leaders meet in Brussels today for a two-day summit. Some predict an ideological argument between Germany and France, after Germany yesterday presented its draft budget for 2014, which will eliminate new debt by 2015.

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? Much of the growth may be in under-served emerging markets, where smartphone-makers have been making a belated but strong push.

Lots of numbers from the US. Wholesale prices are expected to have risen 0.8% in February, weekly unemployment figures will go up marginally, and the current account will, to nobody’s surprise, stay in deficit.

While you were sleeping

Australian unemployment figures sprung a sweet surprise. The Australian economy created nearly 72,000 jobs in February, leaving forecasts of rising unemployment in the dust and killing hopes of an interest-rate cut. It was the fastest job growth in more than a decade.

Xi Jinping officially became the president of China. Xi was appointed head of the Communist Party late last year but was only rubber-stamped as president today by a highly choreographed vote of 2,952 to 1. Li Keqiang is expected to be elected prime minister tomorrow by a similar margin. In the meanwhile, here’s a list of Xi-related puns to use over the next decade.

Gold is the new Libor. The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission is looking at how whether the spot prices for gold and silver are being manipulated in London. No formal investigation has yet been opened.

Bank of Japan nominees moved a step closer to confirmation. Japan’s lower house of parliament approved prime minister Shinzo Abe’s nominees, Haruhiko Kuroda, Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso. Abe will have a tougher time getting his men through the upper house, where the ruling coalition does not enjoy a majority, when it votes tomorrow. The largest opposition party has said it will vote against Iwata as a deputy governor.

Google is killing off a small but much-loved product. In what it called “a second spring of cleaning,” Google announced it would shut down several services including Google Reader, a tool to scan thousands of websites for news. Earlier in the day, CEO Larry Page that 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, revealing the broad sweep of the company’s ambitions for the mobile web.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on how China’s new first lady, Peng Liyuan, could help make over the leadership’s fusty image. Peng, a former pop idol, is being deployed as a diplomatic asset alongside her husband, Xi Jinping. “Peng is praised as being humble and friendly. 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.

The time of the email sign-off has passed. They’re unnecessary and awful.

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. It once took the cardinals nearly three years to make a decision. Another time, there were three popes at once.

Cellos are people too. Or not, according to Delta, which stripped away (paywall) a cello’s air miles—and its owner’s too.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, spare air miles, and “best wishes” to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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