Good morning! The countdown’s on to the weekend. Here’s what you need to know…
1. China Flash PMI surprised on the high side yesterday, lifting the Aussie dollar and mining stocks on optimism that the slowdown in the Chinese economy is stabilising. The reading of 49.7 was still in contractionary territory but well above the 48.3 expected by markets and a big jump from the 48.1 in April.
2. Thai coup. After imposing martial law earlier this week, the Thai military appeared on TV stations across the country last night to announce it had taken control of the government. It’s a sadly familiar situation for the country, being at least the 12th coup since 1932. Markets barely reacted at all and as one analyst has pointed out there may be a “silver lining” factor at play because it ends the longstanding political instability and uncertainty. Australia’s government has expressed grave concern and is urging expats and visitors to exercise a high degree of caution. The Le Meridien in Bangkok has extended happy hour and put on free internet access, suggesting guests have some drinks and surf the web until it all blows over.
3. Markets rally. The strong lead from the US and Europe coupled with the China Flash PMI for a strong day across the region. The Nikkei was 2.11% higher, the Hang Seng was up 0.51%, and the ASX was up just over 1%. Shanghai shares fell 0.2%. Today in the region we get the Chinese leading economic indicator and Singaporean CPI. Thursday trading in the US was good for stocks – the Dow was flat but the S&P 500 was up 0.2% and the Nasdaq up 0.5%.
4. Complaint culture. The Courier Mail – which under editor Chris Dore has been building a reputation for consistently outstanding front pages – has a provocative cover this morning:
— Christopher Dore (@wrongdorey) May 22, 2014
It’s based on research from social demographers who say Australians have developed a culture of expectation, with three-quarters of households getting handouts from the governmenbt. “It’s not a safety net it’s a hammock,” says researcher David Chalke.
5. Budget backlash. Business leader and government razor gang chair Tony Shepherd last night made some similar observations to Chalke’s about the reaction to the federal budget, saying “it’s a sad reflection on the modern Australian attitude that they can’t see that all areas have to make a contribution and they look at it as a narrow, sectional issue”. Greg McKenna writes this morning that the government needs to sell this budget rather than expect people to just swallow it because some fundamentals in the economy are not what they have always been, including household debt being at near-record highs. As a result, people are concerned about their own positions.
6. Partying with hedge funders. BI’s Linette Lopez was at the SALT conference in Las Vegas last week and has written about the experience here – including stumbling across some bankers who were in town and had an $8000 daily entertainment limit. And that’s not a ceiling – it’s a floor.
7. World Cup build-up. It’s time to start getting excited about the World Cup, which starts on June 12. ESPN commissioned Brazilian artist Cristiano Sigueira to make posters for all 32 teams, and they’re very cool. Here’s a look at the Socceroos featuring Tim Cahill, and you can see the rest of them here.
8. Hypnic jerk. Hopefully you haven’t had one reading this column: it’s the scientific term for that feeling when you are dozing off and suddenly jerk awake. Nobody’s really sure why this happens. One theory is “an archaic reflex to the brain’s misinterpreting the muscle relaxation accompanying the onset of sleep as a signal that the sleeping primate is falling out of a tree”. There’s more on them here.
9. Habits of successful people. Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich” — one of the top selling books of all time — has published an essay on developing a pleasing personality in the forthcoming collection “The Science of Success.” He lists 14 habits of exceptionally likeable people, including the ability to maintain composure at all times, paying attention to people speaking to them, and having someone they trust point out their flaws. More here.
10. Walkley finalist. Indulge us for a moment: Business Insider’s Ben Collins is one of three finalists in the Young Walkleys in the text-based journalism category. It’s a great recognition of Ben’s work during BI’s first year in Australia. His submission included his profile of Nigel Milsom, one of Australia’s most successful working artists, who wound up in prison for armed robbery, and this story about the residents of Grantham, scene of the country’s biggest natural disaster during the last Parliament, and how they felt they had been forgotten.
Have a great weekend. I’m on Twitter: @colgo
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