Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—North Korea armed and ready, an S&P 500 record, looming doom for OPEC

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What to watch for today

North Korea’s rockets are on standby. The US flew two stealth bombers from Missouri to South Korea and back in a show of force against Kim Jong-un’s sabre-rattling, prompting North Korea to raise its military readiness.

US consumer checkup. Updates on personal income and consumer confidence are due.

Good Friday. Pope Francis will lead services at the Vatican. Financial markets are closed in Hong Kong, Europe and the US.

Thai economy numbers.  Current account, trade balance, and foreign reserves are due for one of southeast Asia’s hotter economies.

While you were sleeping

Abenomic indicators. Household spending in Japan was up 0.8%, performing better than the expected 0.2%. Unemployment also fell. On the flip side, industrial output unexpectedly fell 0.1%, suggesting a bumpy start to Shinzo Abe’s stimulus plans.

More gloom for South Korea. Industrial output in South Korea also dipped unexpectedly last month, down 0.8% from January. The government announced yesterday that it was preparing a package of stimulus measures.

India broke a new record. Its current-account deficit hit an eye-watering $32.6 billion, or 6.7% of GDP, in the last quarter of 2012, up from $20.2 billion the previous year and from $22.3 billion in the third quarter.

Nothing happened in Italy. More specifically, the center-left coalition couldn’t form a government. Now it’s up to president Giorgio Napolitano to figure out another option, which could include naming an outsider to run a technocratic government similar to that of previous prime minister Mario Monti.

Cypriot bank runs didn’t happen. There were long lines, but relatively few overt signs of panic. The country’s foreign minister said, somewhat optimistically, that capital controls would probably last a month.

The S&P 500 hit a new record. It beat the closing high set in 2007, even though its most important stock, Apple, has been a real slacker lately.

BackBerry? The troubled smartphone maker posted a profit in its fourth quarter.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine on why Russia and OPEC could be looking at a tough next decade if oil demand craters as much as some expect. “The result of this for the countries would be intensified Arab Spring-style political volatility, as governments cut back on social spending and other sweeteners to the population. As for industry, some smaller oil companies currently living off the fat of the land would vanish, and Big Oil at best would seriously shrink. Countries like gas-rich Qatar would be winners; Saudi Arabia, reliant on oil, would be in trouble.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Seriously Cyprus, get out of there. Why the island nation should leave the euro zone immediately. And let’s face it: The Cyprus “crisis” was phony.

Somebody should make a video game out of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

Bitcoin bugs. The 21st-century cousins of goldbugs are proliferating, as some argue that the electronic currency is the world’s last safe haven, and its total value tops $1 billion.

The short view. Looking for a market to bet against? May we direct your attention to France.

What happens to Chinese tycoons who fall out of favor? They go missing.

Surprising discoveries

Wei up. The number of Chinese government Weibo accounts was up 250% in 2012.

Synergies. Wal-Mart apparently wants its customers to deliver packages to other customers.

The Nazis had absurd rules for jazz musiciansFor instance, “Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality.”

Why helium is like mortgages. The helium market doesn’t work without the active involvement of the US government.

North Korea isn’t the least-visited country in the world. It’s number 16.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, bitcoins, and North Korean travel plans to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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