MID-DAY UPDATE: Production gap widens in Japan, Op-ed calls attention to budget woes

Here are some of today's headlines from the Marketplace Morning Report and around the web.

  • Portugal's prime minister stepped down after rival parties there nixed the government's latest budget-cutting plan. That means Europe's debt crisis continues to bounce across the continent. Moody's today even downgraded a bunch of Spanish bank ratings.'s Marketplace's coverage.
  • Companies trimmed their orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in February with a key category that signals business investment falling for a second month. You can read Marketplace's coverage here.
  • Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, evidence that layoffs are slowing and employers may be stepping up hiring.
  • There's an op-ed in this morning's Politico from 10 former chairmen of the president's Council of Economic Advisors. People from both sides of the political spectrum. They say the nation's long-term budget deficits are a severe problem that call for prompt action by Congress and the president. You can listen to Diane Swonk's commentary here.
  • Americans are still buying plenty of gasoline despite the high prices at the pump.
  • Toyota said its gonna stop production at some of its North American plants because of a parts shortage. You can check out Marketplace's coverage here.
  • IMAX said today it's experiencing record growth in China and the company will open up 75 more theaters there in the next four years.
  • To some interesting tidbits about Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, courtesy of his testimony yesterday at an insider trading trial. He said he often reads the Wall Street Journal, but not always. He said he prefers voicemail to e-mail. And he described his bank's willingness to trade with its clients as "a service we do for the world." He then quickly changed that to "a service we do for our clients."
  • Inflation isn't very funny. In fact, the 2011 Cost of Laughing Index says the price of a chuckle keeps going up. Malcolm Kushner, the guy who compiled the data, says humor can diffuse conflict, and even motivate people. But the things he's keeping tabs on are getting more and more expensive. The cost of Groucho glasses is up 60 percent in two years. TV writers are charging more for jokes. But thankfully inflation has NOT hit the price of rubber chickens. Seriously.

You can read the rest of the headlines from the Marketplace Morning Report here.

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