10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Facebook CEO and chairman Mark Zuckerberg, who says he’s not planning on running for president. Rodrigo Buendia / AFP / Getty Images

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, although it’s pretty much like a Friday with a four-day weekend starting today for much of the country, whether they are officially due to work on Friday or not.

Let’s get to it.

1. Today in global trade wars, Malcolm Turnbull has flagged the possibility of a Pacific trade deal that includes China but excludes the US as ordered by Donald Trump. He also attacked Bill Shorten as being a threat to “Aussie jobs”. Meanwhile, Treasurer Scott Morrison has talked about an “Australia First” trade policy in an interview with Bloomberg. Interesting times.

2. It’s inflation day in Australia, with the consumer price index out from the ABS at 11.30am AEDT. This is the pivotal quarterly data release in terms of shaping the outlook for official interest rates – and the weak print nine months ago was followed by the RBA cutting rates twice. The have been some signs of the rate of inflation stabilising (if not slightly strengthening) lately, from the trend that looks like this:

David Scutt has the full preview.

3. To markets, and US stocks hit all-time highs overnight but the Dow was still shy of 20,000 at 19,913. Barclays downgraded Apple, saying investors are pinning too much hope on the iPhone 8. The US flash PMI was strong at 55.1, and new orders were at their fastest rate in two years. SPI futures are up 50 points ahead of the ASX open, where the main company event will be BHP’s operational review. Iron ore leapt higher again, with the spot price fixing at $US82.69. More here.

4. Productivity is a problem, even though we have all these robots. Shouldn’t economies be more productive with all these technological tools? Viktor Shvets,

… in fact, when you are in the middle of industrial revolution, productivity actually falls, because parts of the economy become hyper-competitive, and over time these more productive segments slowly (one cut at a time) kill the rest of the economy. The jobs change. Labour markets change. How one is getting employed changes. The new jobs are not necessarily the same as the previous jobs and neither are they as productive. Compensation levels are not necessarily the same. The titles, the career path changes. What you end up with is actually lower productivity. For example, because of Amazon, two million Walmart employees today will have a lower productivity even though they work very hard. The same happened to equity and the fixed income traders, for example, over the last decade or two. They might be working very hard, but they’re not as productive anymore, partially because of a technological shift.

5. How is your company recognising and responding to the new realities of a Trump and post-Brexit world? The world’s biggest investment company wants to know. Larry Fink, CEO of investment titan BlackRock, has his annual letter to CEOs out, and he says:

we will be looking to see how your strategic framework reflects and recognises the impact of the past year’s changes in the global environment. How have these changes impacted your strategy and how do you plan to pivot, if necessary, in light of the new world in which you are operating?

You’ve been told. Here’s the full letter.

6. Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled Brexit must be put to a vote in Parliament. It’s a setback for prime minister Theresa May, but not all bad news – she won’t have to consult all of the devolved assemblies, and

7. Machine learning is coming to your smartphone. Some kind of neural network capability, which allows adaptation without explicit programming according to how you use your phone, will be present in more than a fifth of smartphones sold globally in 2017, according to Deloitte.

8. Australia’s most exclusive club, by some distance, is the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge. It’s so secretive, people are reluctant to talk about it for fear of losing their membership, which includes personalised check-in services, organising a massage, and of course the chance to hob-nob with Australia’s business and political elite. Here’s what it’s like inside.

9. Do you have noisy co-workers? Here’s what to say to get them to shut it without being rude.

10. Mark Zuckerberg says he has no plans to run for president.

BONUS ITEM: McDonald’s is putting an “ATM” in Boston that spits out Big Macs instead of money.

Have a great day. We’re back on Monday when the 2017 work year in Australia gets properly underway.

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