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, prompting North Korea to raise its military readiness. But as long as this factory remains open, war is unlikely.
US consumer checkup. Updates on personal income and consumer confidence are due.
A government for Italy? President Giorgio Napolitano will try to create a functioning government when he meets party leaders today. Pier Luigi Bersani admitted failure in shoring up support for his proposed center-left coalition yesterday.
Gas will get cleaner. The EPA will introduce new rules cutting the amount of sulphur in U.S. auto fuel. The Obama administration says it will add a penny a gallon to the cost of gasoline; the oil industry says it will be more like nine cents.
Good Friday. Pope Francis will lead services at the Vatican. Financial markets are closed in Hong Kong, Europe and the US.
While you were sleeping
Hollande found another way to tax the rich. When courts told the French president he couldn’t impose a 75% tax rate on those earning more than 1 million euros, he announced he will instead make companies pay the rate on salaries over a million. Suave.
The yuan hit a 19-year-high. The Chinese currency breached the 6.21 yuan mark against the dollar today.
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 set 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.
Amazon got social. The online retailing behemoth bought Goodreads, a social network for book lovers.
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
Somebody should make a video game out of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.
The short view. Looking for a market to bet against? May we direct your attention to France.
China’s status as a low-cost labour market is ending. Workers sniff at pay raises less than double their current wage.
Dogs in strollers mean trouble. Pampered pooches in Singapore and Hong Kong are symptoms of a demographic time bomb.
The Nazis had absurd rules for jazz musicians. For instance, “Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality.”
What happens to Chinese tycoons who fall out of favor? They disappear.
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.