Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Pain in Portugal, tension in Korea, bird flu ripples

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What to watch for today

Portugal decides what to cut. Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho plans to slash health and education spending to meet deficit targets imposed by the EU, ECB and IMF, after a constitutional court rejected more than €1 billion in proposed public worker pay cuts.

Corporate earnings season begins. US firms start reporting their first-quarter results, beginning with Alcoa after the close of trading. Earnings for the S&P 500 are expected to contract for the first time since 2009. Weak US economic data are also anticipated this week.

Cameron pushes EU reform. The British PM flies to Madrid and Paris to make his case for reshuffling the European Union. Continental critics have accused him of seeking an “a la carte menu” of sovereign powers. He meets Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Blackstone pays Dell a visit. It looks increasingly likely that the group will trump Michael Dell’s $24.4 billion buyout offer, but the company still has to deal with billionaire Carl Icahn’s proxy fight (paywall).

Over the weekend

Australia and China agreed on direct currency trading. The Australian dollar is the third currency after the US dollar and the yen to trade directly with the increasingly robust Chinese yuan. The deal, to be announced in Beijing on Tuesday, will deepen Australia’s ties with its largest trading partner.

China wants North Korea to ease up. Chinese President Xi Jinping warns North Korea to stop holding the world hostage. South Koreans suspect a fourth nuclear test is being prepared, and the US is delaying a missile test of its own while preparing a counterpunch if North Korea attacks.

Greek bank merger suspended. National Bank’s plan to acquire Eurobank has been put on hold until the lenders can be recapitalized.

Abenomics got a gold star. IMF boss Christine Lagarde applauded the recent success of Japan’s monetary policy, but there’s still more to come (paywall) in Shinzo Abe’s economic makeover. Meanwhile, the Nikkei hit a multiyear high.

Your business is safe with China. Xi tried to allay fears (paywall) about intellectual-property theft and discriminatory practices against foreign firms.

Venezuela heated up pre-election. Henrique Capriles, who will face Chavez’s chosen heir, Nicolás Maduro, brought hordes of supporters to the streets of Caracas. Maduro has promised a curse will befall those who don’t vote for him.

Bird flu ripple effects. Beijing cracked down on pigeons and Shanghai’s McDonalds cut the price of McNuggets as the H7N9 toll hit 21.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve Le Vine on the fate of the shale industry if fracking fails: “A US industry-environmental coalition says it has established a gold standard for safety and transparency in shale gas drilling, which has triggered public protests on both sides of the Atlantic….Only, it hasn’t. While the initiative, announced Mar. 21, goes some distance toward easing worries about hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking,” as it’s commonly known), the method used to drill shale gas and oil, it misses what should be the key point: transparency.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

At Michelin, it’s not cute to have a spare tire. The company makes employees pay for being too fat (paywall). The Michelin Man must be facing a hefty fine.

China is the Jeff Bezos of industrial production. It’s happy to lose money on investments to fulfill its larger goals.

Blame Paul Krugman for bitcoin: It all goes back to his 1998 column on babysitting co-ops.

Good deeds are a sign of fraud. At least according to famed short seller Jim Chanos.

Beyond the 1%. America’s biggest economic story is the growing gap between the labor market and the stock market.

Surprising discoveries

Terminator is coming. His name is PETMAN, he’s a robot, and he wears camo.

Here’s to the predictable ones. The most frequently highlighted passages in business books are exactly what you would expect.

An intelligent wardrobe could replace retirement homes.

Throw pillows are the best way to save retailer JC Penney.

A 14-year-old golfer is playing the Masters. And he’s from Guangzhou.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, and Chinese McNugget coupons to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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