Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—Cyprus says “όχι”, Britain’s budget, Microsoft probe, three’s a trend

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What to watch for today

Cyprus in limbo. Banks and the stock market in Cyprus will remain closed, possibly until March 26, after its parliament said no to the plan for a one-time tax of all bank accounts in return for a system-wide bailout. The government and international bodies will continue to discuss potential solutions to the crisis—including intervention by Russia. But with the ECB saying it will continue to provide liquidity to Cyprus within existing rules, it’s crisis averted—for now.

More gloom for Britain. Remember the glory days of 2010 when George Osborne, Britain’s finance minister, thought his country’s debt would begin to fall by FY 2013-14? It is now that year, and Osborne will have to acknowledge in his country’s “bleakest budget in years” (paywall) that Britain’s debt is rising, growth will be slower and much more pain will be needed. Expect heckling.

Steady as she goes from the Fed. US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke will announce the new discount rate, but expectations are it will remain unchanged at 0.25% in order to continue to bolster the US economy.

Barack v. Bibi. In his first tour of the Middle East as a second-term president, Barack Obama will face a skeptical Israeli public and prime minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. One former US presidential adviser calls it a relationship “doomed to dysfunction.” Obama will also visit Palestine and Jordan on the four-day trip.

While you were sleeping

Authorities look into Microsoft bribery claims. The US Justice Department and the SEC have opened an investigation into whether Microsoft employees and agents offered kickbacks to secure deals in Italy, Romania and China.   

The aviation industry continued its Asian pivot. With $1.8 billion sitting around after a share sale last year, Japan’s ANA is looking to markets in South Asia and South-east Asia for growth, according to its president-elect, Osamu Shinobe.   

Boeing’s turn to land a big order. On the heels of a massive deal for its rival Airbus, Boeing signed a provisional 175-plane, $16 billion contract with Ryanair.

A state takeover of the world’s biggest solar-panel maker? China’s embattled Suntech appointed a new president, Weiping Zhou, formerly of state-owned Wuxi Guolian Development, a first sign that the Chinese government may step in.

I’ll see your YouTube and raise you a DailyMotion. Yahoo is in talks to buy 75% of DailyMotion, a popular video-sharing site owned by France Telecom, for $300 million. That would give Yahoo a sticky, time-wasting site, greater visibility in Europe, and something to tout as cool. Take that, Google.

Quartz obsession interlude

Parag Khanna and Ahmed el Hady on the one thing horsemeat balls and see-through yoga pants have in common: logistics. “Each week brings new revelations in the scale of the European horse meat scandal and yesterday came news of faulty, too-sheer yoga pants, but there is a common theme: the complexity of untangling the supply chains of producers, distributors and vendors spanning a dozen countries.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

“Special” cases like Cyprus are shattering investors’ faith in Europe. Just because markets aren’t reacting yet doesn’t mean they won’t.

But let’s be contrarian. Two reasons why the Cyprus depositors levy was a good idea 

The “Amazon of China” won’t go public this year. 360buy would be foolish to risk it.

JC Penney should go private before it runs out of cash. The ailing US retailer’s largest shareholder, hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman, should act before other big investors make for the exits.

Surprising discoveries

The US minimum wage is about three times too low. If it had kept pace with productivity since 1960 it would be $22 an hour, not $7.25.

What do scrappy start-ups and the world’s biggest spy agency have in common? They all use Amazon Web Services. It’s cheap, easily scalable and apparently secure enough for the CIA.

Tourists shy away from India. A growing sense that the country is not safe is hurting the country’s tourism industry.

Bad news comes in threes. Half of all shipping containers departing the port of Los Angeles are empty, half the things online advertisers think they know about you could be wrong, and less than half of all Americans have saved more than $25,000 for retirement.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any updates, comments, and threesomes of bad news (especially if it relates to Cyprus) to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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