What to watch for today
Iraqi exit polls. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s incumbent prime minister, is expected to secure a third term when the country votes in its first election since the withdrawal of US troops. However, even if Maliki wins the vote, forming a government could be tricky.
The Fed buys fewer bonds. The Federal Reserve’s policy-making committee is expected to announce a $10 billion cut to its monthly bond purchasing program (paywall). The Fed is predicted to end its bond-buying by autumn, essentially weaning the economy off of a stimulus in place since 2008.
Harsh weather hampers US growth. A brutal winter has taken its toll on the US economy, which is expected to have grown 1% in the first quarter of 2014 (paywall), compared with 2.6% in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Facebook unveils a mobile ad strategy. CEO Mark Zuckerberg will explain how he plans to make more money from the social network’s mobile users at a developer conference. This may involve allowing advertisers to place highly targeted ads on non-Facebook apps using data from Facebook users’ behavior.
While you were sleeping
The French government wants to keep Alstom French. France’s economy minister said he told General Electric he would entertain “alliances, not absorption” in any deal for Alstrom’s energy arm. Alstom said Wednesday it was reviewing GE’s all-cash offer for its energy business, leaving the door open for a competing bid for Siemens.
Royal Dutch Shell’s earnings fell. First-quarter net profit dropped 44% from a year ago, to $4.5 billion. The fall is largely due to a $2.9 billion charge against European and Asian refineries, where profits are expected to shrink. Oil and gas production for the quarter was down 4%, but Shell’s share price jumped at the news.
Daimler’s first-quarter earnings nearly doubled. The luxury vehicle maker reported a 95% rise in first-quarter earnings, as net profit rose to €1.1 billion ($1.5 billion). High demand for new models such as the Mercedes-Benz CLA sedan were a big driver, but profit margins still disappointed analysts.
UK and US consumers are feeling great. In the UK, April’s consumer confidence index measure hit the highest level since June 2007. Confidence among US consumers, meanwhile, rose sharply in the first quarter of 2014.
China’s GDP forecast was revised down… The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, one of China’s most important think tanks, revised its expectation for 2014 GDP growth to 7.4%, from 7.5%.
… but it may still unseat the US this year. China may overtake the US to become the largest economy in the world this year, based on purchasing power parity, far quicker than previously expected. China’s economy was 87% of the US in 2011, based on PPP, a World Bank unit said, up from 43% in 2005.
Quartz obsession interlude
Lily Kuo on China’s attempts to hide just how bad its income equality has become. “Turns out the gap between wealthy and poor Chinese may be much larger than the government has said and also a good bit wider than that of the US. According to a new study from the University of Michigan, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (NAS), China’s Gini coefficient is now around 0.55. That’s higher than the official released number last year of 0.474 and higher than America’s most recently released number of 0.477. (The coefficient, a common measure of income inequality, ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 representing the most equal society.)” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Doctors need to defy bureaucrats. “Damn the mandates,” filling in forms is not the most valuable use of a highly-trained surgeon’s time (paywall), says a surgeon.
For capitalism to work, learn accounting. Before we can discuss financial accountability of countries or companies, everyone should know double-entry bookkeeping.
A high number of guards and firefighters is a sign of an unequal society. They’re wasting productive time guarding other people’s wealth.
Robots are coming for your jobs. Our interactive infographic lets you know whether you’re at risk.
A tech-stock crash is a good thing. ”A reduction of euphoria reflects a return to reason.”
Android will conquer the US. Now that Apple has taught people how to use smartphones, Android’s trickier customizability is no longer off-putting.
New software will make bitcoin crime even easier. “Dark Wallet” protects user information far more than previous wallets already do, making it great for money laundering.
Heartbleed has been used to hack cyber-criminals. The virus has been used by authorities to investigate secret web forums used by attackers.
How to get ketchup out of the glass bottle. The physics of fluids are complicated but the solution is simple: Give the bottle some hard shakes with the lid still on.
Breast-milk banks are popping up all over the place. There will be 22 in the US and Canada by year-end that dole out screened, pasteurized breast milk.