What to watch for today
The final UK showdown. Prime minister David Cameron faces his main opponent, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, in the fourth and final debate (paywall) before the May 7 election. Recent polls suggest Cameron has a slight lead with 35% of the vote; Miliband is just three points behind.
Elon Musk unveils two gigantic batteries. Tesla has already let the cat out of of the bag: the company will sell one battery that can power homes and another “utility-scale” battery for companies.
Will the Bank of Japan push the stimulus button? Inflation is expected to come in below the country’s target of 2%. The central bank has indicated that it will back off and hope for the best, though “Abenomics” boosters are urging additional measures.
NASA crashes a spaceship into Mercury. The Messenger spacecraft was supposed to circle Mercury for one year gathering data, but NASA extended its mission by three years. It’s now running out of fuel after 11 years in service, and projections show it should smash into the planet today.
Earnings. Companies set to open the books include: Air France, Airbus, BNP Paribas, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, ConocoPhillips, Expedia, Exxon Mobil, LinkedIn, Royal Dutch Shell, Sony, STMicroelectronics, Viacom, and Visa.
While you were sleeping
A socialist US senator is running for president. Independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist,” and could appeal to those on the progressive left who believe Hillary Clinton is too moderate. Sanders supports universal healthcare, and has also championed income equality and higher taxes on the rich.
Ben Bernanke scored another job. The former Federal Reserve chairman became an consultant for bond giant Pimco, where he will “contribute his economic expertise to the firm’s investment process.” He has also taken a job with the hedge fund Citadel.
Salesforce is considering a buyout offer. The cloud-based business software firm is working with bankers as it weighs a takeover bid from an unnamed suitor, according to Bloomberg. Microsoft and Oracle are among the potential acquirers, in what would be one of the biggest software deals ever.
Baidu’s switch to mobile dented its bottom line. The Chinese search engine’s switch to mobile led to a first-quarter net income of 2.4 billion yuan ($400 million), down 3.4% from a year earlier but slightly better than an expected 2.3 billion yuan. Mobile search numbers are growing, but they bring in less revenue than traditional web searches.
Perrigo rejected Mylan’s takeover offer. The Netherlands-based generic drugmaker’s unsolicited bid involved a mixture of cash and shares worth $34.1 billion. Mylan is trying to buyits Ireland-based rival to avoid being snapped up by another generic drug maker, and is expected to increase its offer.
Brazil jacked up interest rates. The central bank increased its benchmark rate to 13.25%, from 12.75%, marking its fourth raise in five months. The move is aimed at curbing inflation and encouraging investor trust in the economy.
The iPhone boosted Taiwan’s GDP. Exports and manufacturing related to the iPhone 6 helped Taiwan’s economy grow 3.5% in the first quarter from a year earlier, in line with expectations. In the future, however, demand for the iPhone is predicted to plateau, with analysts predicting a slowdown in growth.
Quartz obsession interlude
Shelly Banjo parses Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letter. “Amazon is now a mega-corp comprising an e-commerce company, a hardware and device maker, a government services provider, a cloud computing and marketing company, a transportation and logistics outfit, a lender, a payment processor, and a warehouse operator. As we learn from this year’s letter, it’s also an educator (it now offers continuing education classes in its warehouses) and is fast-becoming a media magnate.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Free-trade policies hurt US workers… Bernie Sanders argues that they encourage the outsourcing of middle-class jobs.
…But are good for US businesses. Asia’s own gigantic middle class is too good an opportunity to pass up.
Let David Cameron finish fixing the UK. Michael Bloomberg says he rarely endorses candidates, but he’s making an exception for Britain’s upcoming election.
Indonesia needs to fix its drug policies. Aside from the recent executions, prison populations are soaring and HIV/AIDS is spreading.
Greece should study Argentina—but not follow its lead, which saw the lower middle class suffer the most (paywall) after a default.
The Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor won’t work on tattooed wrists. The watch may not even acknowledge you’re wearing it.
A Columbian reporter sent himself death threats. He didn’t want to lose his government bodyguards.
You’re more likely to have leprosy than you realize. Plenty of asymtomatic people carry the disease.
Corpses can glow in the dark. Post-mortem luminescence is caused by a mold known as ”honey fungus.”
Lake Michigan is so clear you can see shipwrecks from the sky. It’s too cold for algae to cloud the water.
Correction: Yesterday, a link in our Matter of Debate entitled “We are all suckers for credit cards” took readers to the wrong destination; here is the article.
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