What to watch for today
Ukraine may get a loan. The IMF could rush through a bailout package for Ukraine, which is seeking $15 to $20 billion as foreign exchange reserves dwindle. The deal is contingent on subsidy reform and Ukraine’s interim government agreed to raise domestic gas prices by 50%. Also, the UN General Assembly will hold its first open meeting on the crisis in Ukraine.
A final reading on the US economy. Unusually nasty weather probably hurt the economy in the first quarter of 2014, but analysts are optimistic about revised 4Q 2013 figures, which are expected to grow 2.7%, up from an initial estimate of 2.4%.
President meets pope. Barack Obama makes his second visit as US president to the Vatican, where he and Pope Francis will discuss a range of issues. Obama is expected to get the pope’s support for his anti-poverty proposals, but they may clash on contraception.
Microsoft brings Office to the iPad. In his first major appearance as Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella will unveil a version of the company’s Office software for iPad. Avoiding Apple products is thought to be costing Microsoft $2.5 billion a year. But is the change too little, too late?
GameStop plays on. Analysts expect a good quarter for the video-game retailer, as new console releases late last year are likely to have sent consumers shopping for new games. But used-game sales are central to GameStop’s business, for which it now faces competition from WalMart.
While you were sleeping
Investors weren’t too sweet on King’s IPO. Shares in King Entertainment, the maker of Candy Crush Saga, fell more than 15% on their first day of trading after debuting at $22.50 a share, which dragged down Asian tech companies on Thursday. The recent rush of IPO filings is seen as a good thing—but it’s also allowing investors to be picky with what they buy.
Russia upped its troops near Ukraine. 30,000 military personnel are now stationed on Russia’s border with Ukraine—10,000 more than last week. US president Obama said they have a right to be anywhere on Russian soil, but said that Russia’s move was calculated.
Bank of America agreed on a $9.3 billion settlement. The bank settled claims that it sold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac faulty mortgage bonds. Former chairman Kenneth Lewis will also pay $10 million and is barred from leading a public company for three years, in a settlement over the bank’s advice on Merrill Lynch & Co.
Citigroup got slapped by the Fed. The US Federal Reserve unexpectedly rejected the bank’s $6.4 billion share buyback plan, citing “sufficient concerns regarding the overall reliability of Citigroup’s capital planning process.” The Fed also rejected buyback plans from RBS and HSBC.
More possible signs of MH370. Satellite pictures from a French defense firm showed 122 objects floating in the area the Malaysia Airlines plane is thought to have crashed. One piece, at 75 feet, is roughly the size of a wing but search teams are yet to actually find anything of note.
Kim Dotcom launched a political party. The MegaUpload founder and alleged copyright pirate started the Internet Party in New Zealand. The party will promote job creation in the tech sector, while pushing for privacy and high-speed internet.
Smog insurance got banned. China barred insurance companies from paying customers that are hospitalized as a result of smog.
Russia looked east to annoy the West. Moscow is considering a trade agreement with Egypt as part of a Middle East expansion bid to capitalize on US tensions in the region (paywall). Meanwhile Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who visited Moscow last month, resigned as Egypt’s military chief and announced his candidacy for president.
Quartz obsession interlude
Tim Fernholz on why it’s worth spending $1 billion each year to eradicate polio. “While trying to eradicate polio is more expensive up front, trying to merely keep it under control will be more expensive in the long run. Polio affects mainly children and in one in 200 cases, it leads to irreversible paralysis that requires life-long care. Eradicating polio in the US is estimated to have saved some $220 billion since 1955. An economic analysis (pdf) by infectious-disease experts estimated that by preventing some 8 million cases of polio paralysis from 1985 to 2035, the GPEI will create net gains of $40 to $50 billion, mostly in the developing economies.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Smart drugs could be bad for our brains. Prioritizing functionality over creativity and individuality has its downsides.
Oculus shouldn’t have sold out to Facebook. The virtual reality company’s early investors aren’t happy.
The US could use oil prices as a weapon against Russia. It would need Saudi help, but that’s not out of the question.
We’re not in a tech bubble—yet. Crazy as some recent valuations look, the volume of IPOs is a lot smaller than in 1999-2000.
Journalism shouldn’t come after commercial considerations. So thinks New York Times boss Mark Thompson, who disapproves of Bloomberg’s approach to news in China.
Elevator chat is the precursor to Twitter. It’s a bit like how the office water cooler was the precursor to instant messenger.
“Suspended animation” is now a real thing. Doctors are testing a new technique on gunshot victims near death, who are cooled down for surgery, then brought back to life.
You can now play post-financial-crisis Monopoly. New “optional rules” from the game’s maker, Hasbro, look remarkably similar to the Fed’s easy-money policy.
Guess where your caffeine’s coming from. In the US, coffee sales have doubled in 15 years, but energy drink sales have grown 5,000%.
You don’t need a wedding photographer—you need a wedding social media editor. For $3,000, this concierge will live-tweet your big day, as well as updating Vine and Instagram—all with a bespoke hashtag.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, subprime Monopoly rules, and Internet Party slogan suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.