Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Texas explosion, G20 meet-up, tech titans report, Britain’s weather woes

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What to watch for today

Tech titan results. Analysts expect Microsoft to report a jump in first quarter revenue even though PC shipments are the lowest they’ve been in 19 years. Google’s revenues are expected to hit $14.2 billion, up from $8.1 billion a year ago, and IBM is expected to report better sales in emerging markets.

Boston Bomber spotted? US authorities have identified a suspect in Monday’s attack that killed three people and injured over 100. Investigators studied video footage of a man leaving a bag at the site of the explosions. Separately, police arrested a man suspected of sending letters containing ricin to the White House and the Senate.

G20 nations get together. Finance ministers from the world’s 20 biggest economies start a two-day summit in Washington. Top of the agenda: monetary easing.

Italy’s stalemate might end. Italy’s parliament is voting on a successor to president Giorgio Napolitano, who will have to broker between the deadlocked coalitions headed by Pier Luigi Bersani and Silvio Berlusconi. Reports suggest that Franco Marini, an 80-year-old former trade unionist, is the likely compromise candidate. Others think it’s time for a woman to take charge.

Other earnings to follow: Pepsi, Morgan Stanley, Verizon, L’Oreal, and América Móvil.

While you were sleeping

An explosion ripped through a fertilizer plant in Texas. At least 100 people have been injured and many are feared dead after a blast leveled several residential buildings. This guy caught it on camera (warning: disturbing content).

Britain blamed the weather for shrinking consumer spending. Retail sales fell 0.7% by volume in March, slightly worse than an expected 0.5% contraction, as an unseasonably cold spring kept shoppers at home.

American drinkers helped Diageo. The world’s largest sprits maker suffered from slow business in emerging markets but grew sales 4% thanks to strong demand in the US. SABMiller sold more lager than expected in Africa, Asia and Europe, but reported a shortfall in Latin America.

Japan’s trade deficit deepened. The weak yen pushed up the price of imports, resulting in a $3.7 billion shortfall for March.

Nestlé’s sour year. Cold weather affected its ice cream business, Middle East distribution fared poorly after its Syrian factory was destroyed, and consumers grew generally suspicious because of the horsemeat scandal.

Bad news on bird flu. China suspects the H7N9 virus, which has infected 82 people and killed 17, can betransmitted between humans.

Quartz obsession interlude

Anna Codrea-Rado on the evolution of business jargon: “Before the late 1990s, no one was using the phrase “business model.” Or at least, it hardly appeared in written form. The phrase has since morphed, subtly but quickly, from an abstract theoretical term to one with animate, even living connotations. This linguistic shape-shifter has the capacity to tell us something about the idiosyncrasies of business language.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Twitter followers don’t equal credibility. Thinker, speaker, and totally made up internet avatar Santiago Swallow collected over 80,000 Twitter followers in four days for only $68.

Europe’s recovery could take a decade. German central banker Jens Weidmann says the worst of Europe’s debt crisis is not over (paywall).

Did Turkey and Kurdistan sign a secret oil deal? The agreement, reportedly reached last month, would get oil directly from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey in defiance of Baghdad.  

Psy’s second hit is really just a commercial. Mobile phone game Candy Crush Saga got several seconds of airtime in the Korean rapper’s new song “Gentleman,” along with several other product placements.

Reinhart and Rogoff’s defense doesn’t hold waterThe economists’ rebuttal to a paper criticizing their claim that debt hurts growth is flimsy.

Surprising discoveries

China’s president takes taxis. Xi Jinping chatted with Beijing cabbie Guo Lixin about smog, and gave him 30 yuan ($4.85) for a 27 yuan fare.

A government website had the best design of the year. Unobtrusive and quietly efficient, Britain’s won the annual award from the London Design Museum.

A Thai soft drink is beating out Pepsi. In the largest soda market in Southeast Asia, Coke is still king but Est is no. 2 (video).

Painkillers can treat existential dread. A study found that Tylenol may alleviate fear and anxiety brought about by pondering the inevitability of death (and watching David Lynch films).

Whiz kids are dying out. Millennials are the least entrepreneurial generation, and the trend is accelerating.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, fake Twitter personalities, and thoughts about death to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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