Good morning, and welcome to the start of what will be a huge week.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Western nations are gathering themselves for a diplomatic assault on Russia which could include economic sanctions and exclusion from the G8 after Russian troops seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Developments have been extremely rapid, with the head of Ukraine’s navy defecting to the Russian side over the weekend and reports of Russian flags being raised in towns around western and southern Ukraine, areas which have more ethnic Russians. Vladimir Putin’s wish would be for a fall of the new pro-EU government in Kiev; the problem for Ukraine is it is broke and needs economic partners and while the government leans more towards the west it relies heavily on Russia economically. Here’s what Wall St is saying about the market impact; these two graphics will help you wrap your head around how we got to this point and here’s a map that shows why the political allegiances of Ukrainians are so complex.
- Federal Cabinet will discuss Qantas today, with the most likely outcome now being some proposed changes to the foreign ownership restrictions and mandated location of certain operations in Australia. The prospect of some form of debt guarantee faded spectacularly with comments from the PM on Friday and also from Transport Minister Warren Truss over the weekend; given that Treasurer Joe Hockey had given repeated indications that the airline might be in line for some kind of financial backing, it has left some questions over whether Hockey’s signals to the market can be taken at face value.
- It’s Oscars Day. Favourites for Best Picture are Gravity and 12 Years a Slave; Cate Blanchett is favourite to win Best Actress for her role in Blue Jasmine. Here’s a full guide to the nominees in the major categories, and who the big critics are saying will win.
- The Ukraine tensions feed into what will be a huge week on the financial markets. Manufacturing PMIs are reported by countries around the world today, the RBA meets tomorrow (interest rates likely on hold), Australian GDP numbers are out, and the debate around the weakening of China’s currency continues. It’s a busy five-day run into the mother of all economic data points on Friday night, the US jobs report. Here’s the weekly Trader Diary for a summary of all the data and risks for the days ahead, and here’s Greg McKenna’s daily look at Aussie traders’ talking points.
- A fascinating report from the weekend in case you missed it: The Internet Is Actually Controlled By 14 People Who Hold 7 Secret Keys.
- Warren Buffett’s annual shareholder letter came out over the weekend. He uses a strategy which allows him to pay even his top-flight employees less, and secure companies he’s looking to buy at lower prices.
- There’s growing support among Coalition MPs for changes to the tax regulations on employee share schemes, widely seen as a disincentive for startup companies because of employees given equity are immediately liable for tax the allocation. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been another agitator on the subject, saying reform is important; the Coalition economics and finance policy committee meets to discuss the matter tonight and there are increasing signs that the Budget in May will address the issue.
- Speaking of Turnbull, he will meet heads of media companies including Nine’s David Gyngell, Seven’s Tim Worner and Ten’s Hamish McClellan this week to discuss changes to ownership and reach rules. Changes to the reach limitations could clear the way for some huge mergers.
- South Australia’s Liberal Party is proposing people convicted of violent assault in a pub face a two-year ban from every pub in the state – and breaching it by popping in for a sneaky schooner could lead to two years’ prison. Makes the Sydney pub lockouts and closing times look like free love.
- Michael Clarke is unbeaten on 161 after a weather-abridged second day’s play in the third Test against South Africa in Newlands overnight. He brought up his century the day after enduring a brutal working over in which Clarke caught deliveries to the arm, head and stomach from a fired-up Morne Morkel. Australia are now a solid 7-494 in the first innings – a win would give them the series and likely the world No.1 ranking.
Bonus item: Take a minute to try this remarkable speed-reading technology. It would apparently let you read a 223-page novel in 77 minutes.
Have a cracking day. I’m on Twitter: @colgo
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