What to watch for today
Italy’s prime minister visits the White House. Matteo Renzi will sit down with US president Barack Obama to discuss the global economy, ISIL, and Libya—and try to absorb some of Obama’s economic and political mojo.
France’s National Front holds an emergency meeting. Marine Le Pen will convene the far-right party’s executive body to discuss her father (paywall), party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, after he downplayed the impact of the Holocaust yet again. The elder Le Pen could be kicked out of the party, which his daughter has tried to take into the mainstream.
General Electric reports earnings. Investors are waiting for an update on the conglomerate’s plans to sell off its financial assets, as well as the impact of low crude prices on its oil and gas equipment business.
Volkswagen’s leadership crisis update. The German automaker’s board met yesterday to discuss a rift between chairman Ferdinand Piech and CEO Martin Winterkorn, and the will issue a statement on the outcome of the meeting on Friday, according to Reuters.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank meet. The institutions kick off a three-day confab to discuss euro zone growth, Greece, Ukraine, and China’s new Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. The AIIB is seen as a direct challenge to the US-led World Bank’s pre-eminence, and it has signed up many US allies in Europe and Asia.
While you were sleeping
Bloomberg’s ubiquitous trading terminals went down. The company’s data, trading, and communications network, widely used by banks and traders, experienced a substantial outage of more than an hour during the European morning. Service has been restored for some users, but others are complaining of persistent problems.
British employment levels hit a record high. The number of employed people rose by 248,000 in the three months to February, the largest jump in almost a year, sending unemployment to its lowest rate since July 2008.
Almost 9,000 people fled anti-immigrant mobs in South Africa. Armed police have been deployed in the city of Durban to prevent further clashes, and charity groups are providing aid to those driven from their homes. Five people were killed in Durban, including one 14-year-old, in violent clashes on Thursday.
China is building another airstrip in disputed waters. Satellite images published in IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly show construction of a runway on a reclaimed island close to the Philippines—one of a number of new Chinese construction projects in disputed waters in the South China Sea. According to Jane’s, the new runway could reach 3,000 meters, which is enough to accommodate military planes.
Lafarge agreed to sell US assets worth $450 million. The France-based cement producer will sell plants across the US to Summit Materials. The sale, designed to appease antitrust regulators, is conditional on Lafarge successfully merging with its Swiss rival Holcim create the world’s biggest cement company.
Quartz obsession interlude
Marc Bain on the high price of cheap clothes. “Fashion is a dirty business, and the process of dyeing and finishing textiles is a particularly filthy part of it. It uses a lot of energy and water, as well as toxic chemicals with disturbing side effects such as causing hormone imbalances in wildlife. These chemicals can easily end up in a mill’s wastewater, contaminating nearby lakes and rivers.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Chinese bureaucracy has become “ridiculous.” Few would argue, but this time it’s coming from premier Li Keqiang (paywall).
Mutual funds are trusts in disguise. Institutional ownership of airlines and other sectors has hurt competition and consumers.
The US president’s spouse should get a salary. Being the First Lady (or First Husband) is a serious job.
Is capitalism making us stupid? Economic and political forces are ruthlessly exploiting our cognitive biases.
Europe’s case against Google misses the point. Markets regulate companies better than governments ever could (paywall).
Teens prefer vaping to cigarettes. Some 13% of US teenagers use e-cigarettes, versus only 9% who smoke the old-fashioned way.
Yoda was found in a 14th-century French manuscript. A striking historical coincidence, this likely is.
Cameras may soon power themselves. Researchers created an image sensor that can also harvest solar energy.
Your next trackpad could be a press-on fingernail. The unobtrusive interface is controlled by sliding your finger over your thumbnail.