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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Obama in Mexico, interest rates in Europe, PMI in spades, life without the internet

By Leo Mirani


Published This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

The European Central Bank announces its latest interest rate call at 8.30 a.m. ET. Most analysts expect the ECB to cut rates from their current 0.75% level, already the lowest target the bank has ever set. But behind the scenes many are expecting even more, such as a measure to help small businesses access credit more cheaply.

Asian Development Bank’s annual meeting is the Davos of Greater Noida. From all over the world they’ve come, 4,400 delegates to the four-day confab just outside New Delhi, to discuss sustainable development throughout Asia. A report released by the ADB emphasized the importance of getting off fossil fuels, and the bank is announcing investments that put its money where its mouth is.

Cheap oil probably reduced the US trade deficit. As in February, it’s also likely that exports are up.

The top US securities regulator may discuss plans for money-market mutual funds. These funds are entirely unregulated, and newly sworn-in SEC chair Mary Jo White will have to explain why.

Obama is on his way to Mexico. Here’s everything you need to know about the visit.

Earnings today: Kraft, General Motors, AIG, and Kellogg.

While you were sleeping

PMI day. All six Asian countries in Markit’s survey are expanding manufacturing but three of the biggest—India, China and Taiwan—are growing more slowly than last month. At least they’re not in the eurozone, which fell from 46.8 to 46.7 (anything under 50 indicates contraction). Germany, France, Spain, and Italy all posted declines.

Shell’s CEO is retiring. Peter Voser will step down by the middle of 2014, a surprise move after only a few years with the company. Shell posted a 4% rise in first-quarter net profit to $7.95 billion.

North Korea sentenced an American to 15 year of hard labour. Kenneth Bae was found guilty of crimes against the state. It is unclear what exactly he did.

The EU is considering action against Bangladesh. The South Asian nation, still reeling from the Rana Plaza building collapse, may lose its preferential trade benefits unless it improves working conditions. The Pope called low wages there equivalent to slave labor.

Earnings out this morning: Profits at BSkyB were up 9% to £994 million ($1.5 billion) in the first quarter, and up 12% at Siemens to €1.01 billion ($1.3 billion), though the German engineering giant lowered forecasts. Bharti Airtel posted net income of 5.09 billion rupees ($95 million), well below expectations and its 13th straight quarter of declining income. BMW’s pre-tax profit was down 4.5% to 2.04 billion euros ($2.69 billion) while Asahi showed a loss of ¥1.62 billion ($16.7 million) down from a ¥1.62 billion profit last year.

Quartz obsession interlude

Sverre Rørvik Nilsen on how one of the best-performing, least-known hedge funds in the world trades entirely on models of human behavior. “Our hypothesis is that most of what happens in the markets during a single day is noise created by orders, rumors and other temporary influences and that there is no informational value in this. Unlike our other funds, we do not try to separate the signal from the noise but accept it for being just noise.…Time is instead spent on creating mathematical and statistical models meant to uncover short-term human behavior.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

UBS should stop trying to be a major investment bank. It would be better off slimming down further and behaving like a boutique.

Clothing company reactions to the Bangladesh building collapse are all over the map. Including, naturally, a lot of denial.

Altering our environment is essential to human survival. Not to be cavalier about environmental destruction, but “nature” hasn’t existed for a few thousand years now.

There was no way to predict the housing bubble. Everyone was being “rational” in the market.

Do law school rankings matter now that the law isn’t that attractive? Here, young graduate, are the 50 best law schools in the USif you dare.

How do you spend a year without the internet? This man found out.

Surprising discoveries

Britons and French would like to fire their governments. A new poll says François Hollande would lose to Marine Le Pen if the election were tomorrow, and David Cameron’s Conservatives are about to lose big in local elections.

The pope gets a papal neighbor. Benedict returns to the Vatican.

With a monopoly on human space flight, Russia acts like a monopolist. Want to fly to space? That will be an additional $5 million a seat, please.

A giant rubber duck is now sitting in Hong Kong’s harbor. What, that headline didn’t do it for you? Here are some pictures.

There’s a confab in Mexico for plutocrats and their sons.“There is nothing mysterious about it,” insists the world’s second-wealthiest man.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, and housewarming ideas for a two-pope household to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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