Playing Tetris can possibly help reduce flashbacks and PTSD, while knowing seven and a half things each day can only help you look like a smartypants. Here they are:
Thing One: Big Trouble In Big China: There's a moment in one of those cold-war-era thrillers (Hunt For Red October, maybe) where the Russians and Americans decide not to nuke each other because they realize they're not all that different after all; gosh darn it, they both love their grandchildren, right? It was just as Sting predicted. Today, the big scary American foe is China, but we're finding out it's not all that different from America, either.
Just like America, for example, China's banks are staggering under the weight of a bunch of bad debts, Reuters reminds us. China forced the banks to make these loans to pump up the economy, but now the economy is slowing down anyway, exposing the banks to losses. China has the cash to bail the banks out, but it could be expensive: "Such colossal government spending not only hurts state coffers," Reuters writes, "it risks fuelling inflation unless the central bank takes counter measures to soak up the extra cash." Trouble is, China's banks are still out there lending, including to first-time home-buyers, Bloomberg writes, in an effort to keep the property market afloat. This shouldn't end badly at all.
The other way China is like America is in its love for luxury tech gadgets, including the ultimate luxury tech gadget of them all, the iPhone. "I chose it just because it’s beautiful. I like the style," one happy customer tells Bloomberg, which points out that China accounted for a fifth of Apple's sales in the first quarter. Apple has barely scratched the surface of China, Reuters notes, but there are risks to building up their presence there. Not only is the economy getting a little shaky, but doing business in an emerging market can be complicated, as Walmart and the head of Morgan Stanley's real estate operations in China, who pleaded guilty yesterday to bribery charges, can tell you.
Thing Two: Rupert Murdoch, Mr. Magoo: If we learned anything from Keyser Soze and Uncle Junior, it's that appearing harmless and befuddled can sometimes get you out of trouble. Rupert Murdoch seems to have learned that lesson, based on his appearance yesterday before an inquiry into allegations of hacking at News Corp. John Burns of The New York Times writes that Murdoch came off more as a cuddly teddy bear than as a powerful captain of industry, exuding an aw-shucks charm. In his second day of testimony this morning Murdoch apologized for letting the hacking scandal balloon on his watch, saying he just didn't pay enough attention to his British tabloid newspapers.
Thing Three: Gentle Ben: The Fed yesterday stood pat, offering no new help for the economy, but also keeping its promise in place to hold interest rates near zero for years, possibly until late 2014. In a press conference, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke sounded dour enough about the economy to keep hope on Wall Street alive for another round of Fed stimulus. Also helping keep that hope alive was a collapse in durable-goods orders last month. Not good.
Thing Four: We Don't Get No Education: And a bad sign for the longer haul is that our children no longer are getting a better education than we are, report David Wessel and Stephanie Banchero of the Wall Street Journal: "Throughout American history, almost every generation has had substantially more education than that of its parents. That is no longer true. ... Without better educated Americans, economists say, the U.S. won't be able to maintain high-wage jobs and rising living standards in a competitive global economy."
Thing Five: Preying On The Weak: Ever wonder why people hate banks? Then you're just not paying attention. Case in point: The New York Times reports that banks are peppering low-income customers with high-fee "services," including expensive debit cards and high-interest-rate loans: "Some federal regulators and consumer advocates are concerned that banks may also be steering people at the lowest end of the economic ladder into relatively expensive products when lower-cost options exist at the banks or elsewhere."
Thing Six: Toxic Debt? We'll Take It: You probably know by now that toxic mortgage-backed securities nearly brought down insurance giant AIG and the entire financial system. What you may not know is that those mortgage-backed securities are awesome investments, or at least they must be, given how hard banks are scrambling to buy them, report the Wall Street Journal's Matt Phillips and Al Yoon: "With the Thursday morning bidding deadline looming, Credit Suisse AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. have joined forces in recent days, as have Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley and Nomura Holdings Inc. Two firms that have already have interests tied to securities, Barclays and the original underwriter, Deutsche Bank AG, are planning on bidding together as well."
Thing Seven: Revolt At GE: 'Tis the season for shareholder activism, which struck General Electric yesterday, the Financial Times reports: "In the latest sign of rising shareholder activism in the US, a proposal at GE’s annual meeting in Detroit on Wednesday to allow shareholders to make decisions about the company “by written consent” won the support of some 47.5 per cent of the votes cast."
Thing Seven And One Half: Mole Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: If you are a Fox News employee reading this, be warned: Fox does not play around when it comes to moles. The Internet-famous Fox mole Joe Muto, who has been filing fairly shock-free reports for Gawker, had his apartment searched and laptop and iPhone seized by the New York DA's office yesterday morning, at the behest of Fox, which accuses Muto of larceny and computer tampering because he allegedly downloaded some videos Fox didn't want us to see.
Calendar Du Jour:
8:30 a.m. ET: Weekly jobless claims for 04/21
10:00 a.m. ET: Pending Home Sales for March
Before market open:
Time Warner Cable
After market close:
Heard On The Tweets:
@EddyElfenbein: See Bernanke nonchalantly spinning a steel baton "Welly, welly, welly me bond droogies. Goin' to play with the bouncy uppies, are we?" $$
@zerohedge: Basically the Fed just admitted again that since it is powerless to prevent home wealth destruction, it will keep ramping stocks to offset
@LaMonicaBuzz: And ... scene. Another Fed press conference in which we learn not much more than we already knew. All in the holy name of "transparency."
@philizzo: Bernanke: Had a good discussion at the meeting on labor force participation; Can't wait to read it in 2018
@zerohedge: Screw this. When is the Jamie Dimon press conference?
-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Khadeeja Safdar.And you can follow us on Twitter, too: @markgongloff and @byKhadeeja