Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Hitting the BRIC wall, crying for Argentina, unsubtle Korean diplomacy

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What to watch for today

A big week for the global economy begins. Surveys getting at the pulse of the Asian, European, South American, and US manufacturing sectors all come out today. Numbers from China were not very encouraging, even though its manufacturing index hit an 11-month high, and Russia and India did even less well. 

A new, tougher regulator for Britain’s banks. The Financial Conduct Authority takes over from the Financial Services Authority. Post-Libor, the FCA seems set on being both more aggressive in pursuing malfeasance and more inventive about how to find it. Wide-ranging changes to Britain’s welfare state also kick in today.

Is Argentina heading for default? The country is in a standoff with a US court that ordered it to pay the full $1.3 billion it owes to a subset of its bondholders. With an instalment of the money due on Sunday, Argentina could end up in arrears today unless there’s a last-minute compromise.

It’s April Fool’s Day. The pranksters in Mountain View have announced Google Nose, Gmail Blue, and the end of YouTube. And also, thanks to Easter, it’s a holiday in much of Europe.

Over the weekend

India’s supreme court ruled against Novartis. In a landmark verdict, the court decided that cancer drug Glivec does not deserve a patent. The decision is a victory for makers of poor patients and generic drugmakers, but it will damage India’s reputation for defending intellectual property rights.

Things got hairier on the Korea peninsula. Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s president, promised swift retribution should it be attacked by the North. The US flew F-22 fighter jets over South Korea yesterday as a not-so-subtle response to Pyongyang’s not-so-subtle declaration of war on Saturday.

Nomura went on a hiring spree. The financial-services firm recruited 650 fresh graduates, more than it has for the past four years, indicating renewed confidence in the economy. A quarterly business-confidence survey from the central bank also showed  (paywall) increased levels of optimism.

More bad news from Italy’s oldest bank. Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena has quietly admitted that customers have pulled out “a few billion euros” in deposits in the wake of awful fourth-quarter results and an ongoing fraud investigation.

Bird flu returned. A new deadly strain was found in Shanghai, from a virus not previously known to infect humans.

Airlines went up, down, and around. Qantas and Emirates celebrated their new alliance by flying two A380s over Sydney as bookings in Australia’s flag-carrier went up. Spring Airlines, a Chinese low-budget carrier, suspended expansion to Japan over political squabbles, while the outgoing chief of Air France-KLM complained about (paywall) the unfair advantages of state-supported airlines from the Gulf.

Myanmar’s press got every so slightly more free. Privately run newspapers have returned to newsstands after decades, and the Associated Press and Japanese broadcaster NHK opened bureaus.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on the one reason a Facebook phone, due to be unveiled this week, might make sense: “Facebook, with its experience in making customized Android phones and its many deep connections with carriers in emerging markets, will be perfectly positioned to start offering customers an all-in-one text, calling and social networking experience that could make sense in a way that it doesn’t, presently, in rich countries.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Can China’s Lenovo beat Apple? Close, but no cigar.

Trouble in Egypt, thanks to currency shortages. As food prices skyrocket and big cities experience electrical blackouts, economists say there’s a shortage of hard currency.

Be sceptical when big executives take pay cuts. They’re not as painful as they sometimes seem.

Is there a real-estate bubble in Brazil? It has the fastest-rising housing prices in the world. 

No one really needed Cyprus. There are plenty of other tax havens.

Surprising discoveries

The Chinese are running out of places to bury their dead. Fortunately, there’s plenty of sea.

Protesting a Google Doodle. Some Americans wanted bunnies or Jesus on Google’s homepage on Easter Sunday, not labor hero Cesar Chavez.

Greenland just had an election. And the result means China should be concerned.

The Senate barbershop where you can get “the John Kerry.” 

Procurement fights over the best airline toilet. It takes top tech to stand up to passengers who flush dentures, underwear, and blankets (paywall).

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, weird things found in airline toilets, and your funniest April Fool’s pranks to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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