What to watch for today
The European Central Bank explains itself. The ECB is unlikely to unveil additional stimulus measures after the meeting of its governing council, having cut its benchmark interest rate to zero last month. But president Mario Draghi will be keen to convince the markets that the bank still has more cards to play if growth and inflation remain weak. The euro tends to swing wildly whenever “Super Mario” speaks, so investors are on edge.
Barack Obama visits the UK. The US president is expected to encourage Britain to stay in the European Union, ahead of a referendum on the issue in June. His packed itinerary includes a press conference with prime minister David Cameron and lunch with Queen Elizabeth, whose 90th birthday is today.
Dilma Rousseff visits New York. Brazil’s embattled president heads to the US for a signing ceremony for the Paris climate agreement hosted by the UN, in the midst of impeachment proceedings back home. While she’s traveling, vice president Michel Temer—whom Rousseff has accused of leading a coup against her—is in charge.
Microsoft tries to maintain its momentum. The software company reports quarterly earnings (paywall) amid a dramatic resurgence under CEO Satya Nadella. Analysts expect higher profit and revenue as cloud-computing services offset weak PC sales.
While you were sleeping
An explosion at a chemical plant killed three in Mexico. A further 136 were injured and hundreds evacuated as toxic fumes engulfed the port city of Coatzacoalcos following the blast at a state-owned Pemex facility. The cause of the blast is unclear.
Mitsubishi’s offices were raided and its shares suspended. Japanese officials raided an office at the car company after it admitted cheating on fuel-economy tests for more than 600,000 cars. Another day of heavy selling triggered a halt in trading in Mitsubishi’s stock in Tokyo; analysts say the scandal could cost the company over $450 million.
Volkswagen set aside $10 billion to resolve claims. Speaking of errant car companies, the German auto giant said it will use the money to resolve US government claims and private lawsuits by American car owners over the diesel vehicles it engineered to cheat pollution controls. VW will reportedly buy back up to 500,000 cars under a deal in the works with American regulators.
Indonesia worried about a surge in piracy threats. The country’s security minister said it is at risk of becoming the “next Somalia” after a spate of kidnappings in its waters, targeting key shipping arteries that carry $40 billion worth of cargo every year. Piracy on the seas is in decline overall, but the resulting relaxation in security measures could encourage a resurgence.
SABMiller raised a glass to a strong first quarter. Beer sales were up 4% and revenue by 7%, with healthy growth in Latin America and Africa offsetting weaker sales in Europe and North America. This was likely the brewer’s final earnings report as an independent company, as AB InBev is close to clearing the final antitrust obstacles in its $100-billion takeover of its former rival.
Quartz obsession interlude
Lily Kuo on how a satirical Instagram sharply parodies the “voluntourism” phenomenon. “Savior Barbie highlights a point that advocates and experts working on the continent have been observing for years—well-intentioned but naive volunteerism (or “voluntourism”) is at best ineffectual and at worst harmful to the developing countries it’s meant to serve.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Racial profiling of American muslims is the new normal. The recent Southwest Airlines incident is just the tip of the iceberg.
Megacities, not nations, are the world’s dominant social structures. By 2025, there will be at least 40 of them.
Saudi Arabia is wielding a $750-billion weapon against America. It has threatened to divest all its US assets if a 9/11 lawsuit goes forward.
In Afghanistan, drone strikes now outnumber warplane attacks. The US Air Force’s unmanned aircraft fired 56% of missiles used in 2015.
Fewer people eat chocolate, so Hershey’s is turning to meat jerky. Flavors will include black cherry barbecue.
Researchers created a metal foam that pulverizes bullets. It works like bubble wrap, collapsing air pockets upon impact.
3D-printed parts will make airplanes friendlier to the environment. New, lighter components are set to reduce fuel consumption.
London has $248 billion in underground gold. The sprawling vaults contain a fifth of all gold held by the world’s governments.