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Dow on track for historic Q1 comeback

IN THE NEWS TODAY

U.S. stock futures were searching for direction on this last trading day of the first quarter, as investors looked ahead to several Fed speakers. The Dow rallied to new 2016 highs on Wednesday. (CNBC)

The Dow is poised to close out the first three months of the year in the green, after the worst start ever to a year. The Dow's quarterly comeback was its biggest reversal since 1933. (CNBC)

U.S. oil prices were on the decline this morning, hitting their lowest levels in more than two weeks, on renewed worries of global oversupply. But crude was on track to post a strong quarterly gain. (Reuters)

With all the stock and oil volatility this year, gold has been the beneficiary, with prices heading for their best quarter in close to 30 years. The precious metal was modestly higher this morning. (Reuters)

The dollar index, against a basket of major currencies, which has jumped sharply over the past two years, was poised for a sizable first-quarter decline. The dollar was also under pressure this morning. (Reuters)

A new Wisconsin poll shows GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz leads national front-runner Donald Trump in advance of the state's Tuesday primary. In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders in Wisconsin narrowly leads national front-runner Hillary Clinton. (NBC News)

After saying he believes there should be punishment for women who undergo abortions if the procedure were outlawed, Trump walked back the comment, saying in a statement, the person "performing this illegal act … would be held legally responsible, not the woman." (CNBC)

New guidelines from the FDA could expand women's access to an abortion-inducing pill in several states that have sought to limit its use, including North Dakota, Ohio, and Texas. (USA Today)

Tesla (TSLA) is set to stream its new Model 3 debut this evening. With a starting price of $35,000, the electric vehicle will sell at a relative discount to the Model S, which starts between $60,000 and $70,000, depending on the version. (CNBC)

The new iPhone SE ships today, a week after Apple (AAPL) began taking orders. The SE features a smaller 4-inch touchscreen, and a smaller starting price tag of $399. The smaller iPad Pro, which starts at $599, also ships today. (USA Today)

General Electric (GE) in 1996, with Jack Welch at the helm, passed on buying Apple for just $2 billion, former top lieutenant Bob Wright reveals in a new book. Apple was valued at more than $600 billion — more than GE's market capitalization. (New York Post)

Sundar Pichai, head of Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google unit, was handed a pay package valued at $100.5 million early 2015, even before he was elevated to become CEO of the world's biggest Internet business. Pichai's 2016 package could be double last year's haul. (FT)

Malaysia's embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak spent as much as $15 million on luxury items such as clothes, jewelry, and a car, according to bank-transfer information from an investigation there. Najib has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. (WSJ)

U.S. ratings agency Standard & Poor's has cut its credit rating outlooks for China and Hong Kong from stable to negative, citing increasing economic and financial risks to the mainland government's creditworthiness. (CNBC)

A unit of China's eighth-largest investment bank has defaulted on a Hong Kong-traded renminbi bond, according to a document seen by the Financial Times, marking the first debt breach by a state-owned enterprise in China's offshore market in nearly two decades.

A North Korean newspaper is warning citizens to prepare for economic hardships ahead, as the rogue nation channels funding into its weapons program amid new UN sanctions. (CNBC)

Two hedge fund quantitative analysts have come up with an algorithm that diagnoses heart disease from MRI images. They beat nearly 1,000 other teams in one of the most ambitious competitions in artificial intelligence. (FT)

Christie's is set to auction off an ultra-rare, 14.6-carat blue diamond that's expected to sell for up to between $35 million and $45 million — though experts say it could top the high end of that range and set a new record for a blue stone. (CNBC)

BY THE NUMBERS

Investors were focused on tomorrow morning's March employment report, but they get a few reports in the meantime, with weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET and the Chicago purchasing managers index at 9:45 a.m. ET on today's economic calendar.

Following Fed Chair Janet Yellen's dovish speech Tuesday, investors hear from Chicago Fed President Charles Evans 9:30 a.m. ET and New York Fed President William Dudley at 5 p.m. ET.

Micron Technology (MU) after-the-bell Wednesday reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss. But revenue was slightly below estimates, as the chipmaker tries to navigate challenging market conditions.

Progress Software (PRGS) missed estimates on earnings and revenue. The business software maker also cut its annual guidance, and said its CFO was planning to retire at an unspecified time.


STOCKS TO WATCH

BlackRock (BLK) is planning to cut 400 jobs. The workforce reduction of 3 percent would be the asset manager's largest ever. However, BlackRock is said to be hiring in growth areas.

Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) is discussing possible collaborative ventures with many companies outside the auto industry, as carmakers incorporate an increasing amount of new technology in their vehicles.

AIG's (AIG) mortgage insurance unit, United Guaranty, has filed for an initial public offering of up to $100 million. AIG had announced earlier this year the unit would be spun off.

SunEdison (SUNE) spinoffs TerraForm Global (GLBL) and TerraForm Power (TERP) are now being run by a new "office of the chairman," following the exit of the CEO. No reason was given for the departure.

Medivation (MDVN) has been working with JPMorgan Chase (JPM) to field inquiries about potential bids for the cancer drug maker. However, CNBC reports that Medivation has no plans to sell itself.


WATERCOOLER

McDonald's (MCD) plans to open 1,500 new restaurants in China, South Korea, and Hong Kong as the fast food giant looks to faster-growing markets to help drive a global turnaround under new CEO Steve Easterbrook. (AP)

Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) has filed a trademark application for "Better Burger." The chain, which has been reeling from recent food safety scares, is considering opening a burger chain as a growth driver. (CNBC)