10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne IMDb

Good morning.

1. Wesfarmers is spinning off Coles. It plans to demerge the supermarket division to create a new top 30 company listed on the ASX with about 34% of Wesfarmer earnings. “We believe Coles has developed strong investment fundamentals and is of a scale where it should be operated and owned separately,” Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott said. We’ll be updating this all morning here.

2. The Australian dollar is getting smoked. The AUD fell heavily on Thursday, erasing all of the gains achieved on Wednesday following the release of stronger-than-expected Chinese economic data. After being one of the top performing currencies a session earlier, the Aussie went hard into reverse on Thursday, weighed down by a series of remarks from Donald Trump’s new chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow. As at 7.55am AEDT it is down 1.05% to 0.7794.

AUD/USD Hourly Chart

3. Trump, May, Merkel, and Macron have issued a joint statement blaming Russia for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, the former double agent who fell ill with his daughter in England. The four leaders say there is “no plausible alternative explanation”. The statement marks a significant ramping up of tensions with Russia and comes as members of the NATO military alliance meet to discuss the crisis.

4. Brexit. The UK government is reportedly making companies sign secretive non-disclosure agreements preventing them from publishing the impact of Brexit. “Many dozens” of firms which operate within Britain’s borders have agreed not to share information on how Brexit could impact trade. The Opposition has described the report as a “shocking and very serious development”, and called on the government to share the secret data with MPs.

5. Bitcoin battles back: Prices are back above $US8,000 this morning after markets got spooked by Google’s cryptocurrency ad ban, which came in the wake of increased regulatory pressures on the sector. But not all industries are turning their backs on crypto — Playboy has announced it will accept bitcoin and ethereum as part of efforts to boost user engagement.

6. Sorry Bourne fans, Matt Damon isn’t moving his family to Australia to get away from Trump. Earlier this month, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Damon was “said to be in the process of buying” a house near friend and fellow Hollywood superstar Chris Hemsworth, in Australia’s Byron Bay. But his representative has told Business Insider: “Matt has visited Australia several times recently, but he has not bought a house there nor is he moving there.” Sad.

7. Toys R Us has blamed Amazon for creating a “perfect storm” that sent the toy chain into a death spiral that could end in the closure of all of its US stores. Amazon was just one of the retailers that slashed prices on toys so steeply over the Christmas holidays that Toys R Us “could not compete”, the company said in a bankruptcy filing. This could be a red flag for Australian retailers.


8. Tiger Woods sunk a 21-metre putt on one of his final holes on Thursday in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. His recent comeback continues to astound and excite the golfing world. See it here:

9. Thanks, Gran. Prince Harry only just got formal permission from the Queen to marry Meghan Markle — two months before the ceremony. It’s thanks to a law passed in 1772 that requires royal to get formal permission from the monarch to get married. Despite the formality, the Queen had already made clear she was happy about the wedding, releasing a statement at the same time the couple announced their marriage:

The Privy Council approval is just an extra step to make it official.

10. Sorry, what? 600,000 people tuned in to watched Drake play a video game. The music artist jumped on a Twitch stream on Wednesday evening to play “Fortnite” with prominent gamer, “Ninja”. The stream reached more than half a million viewers at one point – the highest-ever concurrent viewership on the Amazon-owned live video streaming service and nearly double the previous record.

Have a great day.

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