What to watch for today
The UK’s Parliament is dissolved. The House of Commons’ five-year term comes to an end as all political parties prepare for a general election on May 7. Polls show the Conservative and Labour parties are neck and neck.
A final push for an Iran nuclear deal. Negotiators from six countries and Iran are meeting in Switzerland to try to hammer out the framework for an accord over Iran’s nuclear program. Negotiators have reportedly come close to an agreement, but some thorny issues remain. A White House spokesman said the talks have a 50/50 chance of success.
US economic data. The US Commerce Department is due to release personal income and expenditure data for February, which is expected to show month-on-month growth of 0.3% and 0.2% respectively. The National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index is also expected to show a small rise in housing transactions.
Tension ahead of Nigeria’s election results. Votes are being counted in the close presidential race pitting incumbent Goodluck Jonathan against retired general Muhammadu Buhari, amid fears of vote tampering. A result isn’t due until Tuesday. Fitch downgraded Nigeria’s credit rating, citing political uncertainty.
Over the weekend
Japan’s industrial output fell the fastest in eight months. Output fell 3.4% in February, which was much worse than an anticipated 1.8% fall. A small slowdown was expected due to the timing of the Lunar New Year, but the rapid fall suggests domestic demand is much weaker than anticipated.
France’s right wing trounced its ruling Socialists. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party and its allies took 66 local councils out of 101 up for election, compared with just 34 councils won by left-wing parties, including current president François Hollande’s Socialist party.
Duty-free retailers agreed on a takeover. Switzerland’s Dufry agreed to pay €1.3 billion ($1.4 billion) for a majority stake in Italy’s World Duty Free, giving it control over a quarter of the world’s airport retail. Dufry paid a 22% premium on the average WDF share price over the past six months, and said it expects cost-cutting to save around €100 million per year.
Prada’s full-year profit fell. Net income at the Italian luxury goods brand fell 28% to €451 million ($490 million) in the year to the end of January, and was lower than an expected €468 million. Sales have suffered because of China’s corruption crackdown.
BYD predicted a surge in electric vehicle demand. The Warren Buffett-backed Chinese auto maker predicted its fiscal first-quarter profit will increase 12-fold compared with the same period a year earlier, on the back of greater demand for its new-energy vehicles. BYD made the announcement when it said full-year profit fell 19% in fiscal 2014.
Singapore’s founding father was laid to rest. Lee Kuan Yew was given a state funeral attended by world leaders, followed by a private family ceremony. About 1.5 million people paid tribute to Lee last week at various sites after he died on Monday.
Greece’s creditors considered yet another reform plan. This one will raise €3 billion ($3.3 billion) from greater privatization, higher taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, and steps to clamp down on tax evasion. Greece says it will run out of money sometime in April if its creditors don’t agree to release more bailout funds.
Quartz obsession interlude
Kabir Chibber on the sad, cautionary tale of Audley Harrison, the anti-Mayweather. “In 2000, Harrison won gold in the super-heavyweight category at the Sydney Olympics. His career looked set for great things. So how did Harrison go on to seven losses in a 38-fight career while Mayweather is currently undefeated at 47-0?” Read more here.
Matters of debate
“Religious freedom” laws are un-American. They contradict the very principles the country was founded on, writes Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Don’t worry about how much time you spend with your kids. Quality, not quantity, is what will make your kids happy and healthy.
The Millennial generation is getting old. Generation Z is coming, and they are curious, diverse, and driven.
Confidence is not about believing you’ll win. It’s about being comfortable with the fact that you might lose.
To persuade people, acknowledge their point of view. And 13 other secrets of really persuasive people.
World leaders’ passport details were leaked. A member of staff accidentally sent private details of the attendees of a G20 summit in Brisbane last year to the wrong person.
Half of urban North Koreans have a digital media player. The favored $50 “Notel” plays media from DVDs and USBs smuggled from South Korea.
The Church of Scientology owns some incredible real estate. The movement purchased over 60 buildings between 2006 and 2011 alone.
Tiredness can aid creativity. The mind needs to meander onto ideas that seem disconnected from the task at hand.
There’s a man who turns shoes into art. He describes himself as a “sneaker freaker.”