Everything is less than zero, except for the number of things you need to know each day, which is seven and a half. Here they are:
Thing One: Sharp Gas Pains To the list of things that bring constant misery to all of humanity, all the time, forever, it's looking like we should go ahead and add gasoline prices. So, by one common tally, that brings us to death, taxes and gasoline prices. Actually, there are things that cause a lot more human misery than these stupid things, but these are the things people for some reason seem to complain about a lot.
And complain about them they did to some Washington Post poll-takers, the WaPo reports. It seems one President Obama is not nearly as popular as he was just a month ago, despite all the extra jobs these days, because gas prices have gone up a little bit because Obama absolutely refuses to call the Magic Gas-Price Wizard. So America is suddenly all, OH-HO, WE'LL SHOW YOU, WE'LL VOTE FOR RICK SANTORUM, HE'LL FIX EVERYTHING.
But Obama is not just gonna sit back and take this, he is today going to run around town showing everybody a report he wrote about how oil imports are down by ONE MILLION barrels per day, as we frack and drill our way to energy independence, Reuters writes. But even that is not enough to bring gas prices down. Apparently other people in the world use oil and gas, too, annoyingly, and they're keeping the price up. Gah, take the bus, other countries!
Actually, come to think of it, the price of gasoline would be much less of a world-shattering issue if we had decent public transportation, like Europe. But then it's un-American to even think like that.
Thing Two: March Mortgage Settlement Madness. That crackle of electricity you feel in the air is not the start of the NCAA basketball tournament, but the arrival, any second now, of the $25 billion mortgage-foreclosure settlement between the U.S. government, the states and the biggest mortgage-servicing firms. We at The Huffington Post have been waiting on this thing for like a month, and it seems like actual documents will finally arrive today. According to an early read of said documents by the Wall Street Journal, banks will get some help bearing the financial pain of the settlement, which appears to confirm some of our worst fears about it. The Obama administration will argue that this kinder, gentler approach brings the most help to homeowners.
Thing Three: Not-So-Stressful Tests Speaking of taking it easy on the banks, the Federal Reserve is due this week to reveal the results of its latest round of bank stress tests. Lo and behold, the banks are going to be shown to be doing just fine, the New York Times writes! Which is what happens when you have an IV of free government money flowing into your veins all the time. In fact, the banks are going to be so hale and hearty they will probably double their dividends and other payments to lucky bank shareholders, the Financial Times writes.
Thing Four: China Cools Off: While we've all been watching Europe melt down, the world's second-biggest economy, China, has been quietly running off the rails. The latest evidence of this came this weekend, in the form of data showing China's trade balance falling into deficit, following Friday's report of slower business and retail spending, factory production and prices. This is FANTASTIC NEWS for financial markets, though, because it means Chinese officials are going to open up their money spigots a little wider to get the economy moving again, Reuters writes.
Thing Five: Meanwhile In Europe: All's well that ends well in the Old Country today, Bloomberg writes, as EU finance ministers meet to congratulate each other on a job well done, write a 130 billion euro check to Greece and then have a big laugh when France's finance minister spills a tray of beers all over Germany's finance minister. Freeze frame, play theme music, roll credits. Actually, get ready for the ugly sequel, Reuters writes, as the latest Greek bailout only delays the inevitable disaster down the road.
Thing Six: Rich Man, Poor Man: Billionaire Kenneth Griffin, founder of the Citadel hedge fund, has given millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes, including those Krazy Koch Brothers. But he feels his money "voice" still isn't loud enough, he tells the Chicago Tribune. The "ultrawealthy" "actually have an insufficient influence," he sobs. (h/t Ben White)
Thing Seven: Ishtar On Mars: Disney apparently threw $350 million down the sinkhole that is "John Carter," in order to make happy its promising director, Andrew Stanton, the New York Times writes. Apparently he is now a little less promising, as his movie is massively stinking up the place, raising comparisons with the ultra-expensive, ultra-terrible, ultra-money-losing "Ishtar."
Thing Seven And One Half: Bracketology Schmacketology: It's that time again, where American productivity grinds to a halt as millions of office workers mildly break local gambling ordinances by wagering on the NCAA college basketball tournament. The tourney field was announced yesterday, and CNN/SI's Luke Winn has some stuff you might want to think about when filling out your bracket. Or you could just randomly pick names based on how pretty their uniforms are. That is equally likely to win your office pool.