Venezuela’s cryptocurrency, HSBC’s earnings, creepy drones

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Venezuela opens sales of its state-backed cryptocurrency. President Nicolas Maduro’s government says it will launch pre-sales of the “petro,” a digital currency backed by oil reserves. The US has warned potential investors that buying it could violate sanctions.

Changing of the guard at HSBC. The banking giant will report its latest earnings on the last day of work for group chief executive Stuart Gulliver, who will be replaced by John Flint, head of retail banking and wealth management. The bank’s results will set the tone for the first trading day in Hong Kong during the Year of the Dog.

Big-box retailers open their books. Walmart and Home Depot will report fourth-quarter earnings, with analysts looking to the bellwether companies as gauges of the health of the US economy. Walmart’s fight against the inexorable spread of Amazon will also be a talking point, while rising interest rates will be top of mind for investors in Home Depot.

Germany’s SPD votes on a deal with Merkel. The center-left Social Democratic party will start a vote among members on whether to join another “grand coalition” with chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU. Nearly 500,000 SPD members will vote by mail on the matter—if “yes,” Germany gets a government after six months of limbo; if “no,” then fresh elections may loom.

While you were sleeping

Trump said he is open to stricter gun checks. The US president is “supportive” of improved federal background checks for firearms purchases, the White House said Monday. Trump met with Senate majority whip John Cornyn about a bipartisan bill to introduce more thorough checks, amid growing calls for action after Wednesday’s shooting at a high school outside Miami, which killed 17.

Deutsche Bank started another round of job cuts. Germany’s largest bank began axing at least 250 jobs in its corporate and investment banking units, according to Bloomberg. The total could rise to over 500, coming in the weeks before bonuses are awarded.

KFC ran out of chicken. The fast-food chain had to close over 600 stores in the UK after it changed delivery companies and experienced “operational issues.” The company said it wasn’t clear when it would be able to restock stores. “The chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurants,” KFC said on Twitter.

Israel signed a huge gas deal with Egypt. Israel’s largest gas fields will supply around 64 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Egypt over the next 10 years. The deal, worth $15 billion, represents a significant step towards deeper economic ties between the regional rivals.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on China and Europe’s rocket envy. “When SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket debuted this month, China’s aerospace community was mostly envious, noting that their equivalent rocket, the Long March 9, would not be ready for another decade. One story in state media observed that ‘to put it more bluntly, this time the Americans showed us Chinese with pure power why they are still the strongest country in the world.’” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Has Sweden’s cashless society gone too far? Shops, restaurants, and even banks are lauded for going digital-only, but this risks excluding vulnerable groups who still rely heavily on cash.

Our treatment of animals is stalling human progress. Making ethical personal choices is harder than fighting for institutional change—and our values could stagnate accordingly.

Why India must, but won’t, let go of state-owned banks. Despite stress on the economy from failing lenders, the government is reluctant to give up useful political tools.

Surprising Discoveries

Measles has made a comeback in Europe. Despite setting a record low in 2016, reported cases of the disease jumped by 400%, hitting Romania, Italy, and Ukraine hardest.

Armenia produces the most chess masters per capita. Since 2011, children have taken compulsory chess classes in school.

One Ethiopian priest climbs an 800-foot cliff each day to reach his church. The frescoes of the country’s medieval, rock-hewn churches are believed to keep caretakers from falling.

Gibson is playing the bankruptcy blues. The iconic guitar company abruptly lost its CFO, and may have trouble repaying hefty debts this year.

Samsung patented a drone you control with your eyes. The screen would respond to face and eye movement, which sounds a little creepy.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, opening chess moves, and wailing guitars to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Mike Murphy and Susan Howson and edited by Jason Karaian.