Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Global central bank rodeo, Facebook’s phone, Dangerous tourism

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What to watch for today

It’s central bank day, as the world’s setters of monetary policy struggle to keep ahead of a soft global economy:

  • Start the day in Tokyo, with the first interest rate decision from Japan’s new central bank governor, Harujiko Kuroda, who faces the difficult task of ending deflation and may kick off a new bond-buying program.
  • Then to London, where observers expect a newly-empowered Bank of England to make no big moves before new governor Mark Carney takes over in July.
  • Next is Frankfurt, where European Central Bank president Mario Draghi is expected not to cut rates despite the mess in Cyprus, since they can’t go much lower than their current 0.75%.
  • Finally, US Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke speaks at an investors conference but, perhaps more importantly, so will his potential successor Janet Yellen; investors will be watching for clues on how long the Fed will keep up quantitative easing.
  • Relevant digression: Read an excerpt from Neil Irwin’s new book on how central bankers saved the world during the financial crisis.

More nuclear posturing in North Korea. After the regime blocked South Korean workers from the joint Kaesong industrial zone and announced its “final approval” for a nuclear attack on the United States, the US said it will move a missile defense system to the Pacific island of Guam.

Facebook unveils something, probably a phone. If you don’t understand why anyone would buy a Facebook phone, you probably don’t live in India.

Your bird flu questions, answered? Unlikely. Though we’re now at nine infections and three deaths, health experts are still trying to pin down the source of the contagion, previously unknown in humans, and how it spread.

While you were sleeping

A big step towards an AIDS vaccine. Scientists now understand more clearly how some immune systems evolve to fight the virus.

The IMF will give Cyprus €1 billion. The final details of the country’s rescue were revealed. Naturally, they include a big austerity package.

Did Deutsche Bank hide a $12 billion loss during the financial crisis? The Bundesbank is sending regulators to New York to find out.

Italy may not have a government, but it has a stock market. Moleskine became Italy’s first IPO of the year, suggesting that the country remains better at producing luxury goods than political consensus.

Pay as I say, not as I do. French former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac admitted to covering up a foreign bank account he allegedly used for tax evasion while cracking down on… tax evaders. This can’t help already unpopular President François Hollande.

The 40th anniversary of the first mobile phone call. While phones have shrunk, ring tones have only gotten more annoying.

Bad news ahead for US jobs? Payroll processing company ADP reported fewer hires in March than expected, which may bode ill for today’s data on unemployment insurance claims and Friday’s official jobs report.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on which Chinese firms are doing well out of bird flu fears: ”After officials reported more cases today, Chinese pharmaceutical and rice wine companies listed on the mainland saw their share prices jump. Even though there is no vaccine for the virus (part of the reason authorities are so worried) investors appear to be anticipating a run on medicines and rice wine, which is believed to prevent or even cure bird flu. Farmers have said that feeding their chickens rice wine make them more resistant to some forms of bird flu.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Abenomics is just a buzzword. As long as you assume none of it will work.

Bitcoin isn’t the future. No, the trendy digital cash won’t work for long, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.  

Does the US need to balance the budget… ever? Trying to figure out why balancing matters.

Conditions are right for a boom in M&A. One minor flaw: March saw the fewest deals since July 2009.

Surprising discoveries

The US Army accumulated $900 million in largely useless spare parts. That’s roughly the entire military budget of Serbia.

It’s illegal for 12-year-olds in the US to read the New York Times online. So if you’re a kid reading Quartz, you’re probably breaking the law too.

The optimal daily schedule involves 106 minutes of “intimate relations.” Hold all my calls.

These are the most dangerous tourist destinations. Western governments don’t want their citizens visiting.

Correction:  In yesterday’s Daily Brief we said Morocco was France’s largest trading partner. Wrong, although the converse is true.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, sites you read illegally as a child, and timings of your intimate relations to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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