Asian stock markets were subdued on Monday, as tensions in Ukraine kept investors cautious amid an absence of catalysts as several markets remained closed for the Easter holiday. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched down 0.1 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.3 percent on the back of a weaker yen. Share markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt are closed for the Easter holiday.
Across Spain, the message is hard to miss in office windows showcasing offers: banks want to lend to small companies again. After gorging on property lending in the run-up to a financial crisis, banks are looking to revive high-margin loans to businesses as the economy emerges from a prolonged slump and bond-trading income slumps. A fight to win over clients will likely squeeze the margins many hope to make from lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are typically charged higher interest rates than larger, less risky businesses. "The big challenge will be that banks will be competing for the best SMEs, but we need to see lending to the rest of the economy in order for the banks to increase their recurrent revenues," said Rui Croca, analyst for European banks at ratings agency DBRS.
In June 2011, when customers of now-bankrupt bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox agitated for proof that the Tokyo-based firm was still solvent after a hacking attack, CEO Mark Karpeles turned to the comedy science fiction novel "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy". During an online chat, Karpeles moved the equivalent of $170 million in bitcoin at today's market rates - the virtual equivalent of a bank manager flashing a wad of cash in a wallet to establish credit. The gesture - with a sly wink to the "geek" culture Karpeles believed he shared with many of his 50,000 customers at the time, including an interest in coding, Japanese manga comics and science fiction - succeeded. By moving 424,242 bitcoins, Karpeles, then 26, evoked the random number, 42, described as the "meaning of life" in Douglas Adams' sci-fi novel.