10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

HBO / Game of Thrones trailerThe dragons are here.

Good morning!

1. Another week, another blow for banks: Bill Shorten is poised to announce a new $640 million slug on financial institutions to pay for a Financial Rights Fund. Half the money will pay for another 500 taxpayer-funded financial counsellors to advise victims of banking misconduct, and Labor will explain its plans for the balance this week. With the $640 million reportedly to be gathered over the four years of the budget forward estimates period and spread around the financial institutions in the ASX 100, it’s unlikely to be a material cost to the banks but it does highlight how the banks are sitting ducks politically especially with Labor looking on track to win government.

2. And there’s further confirmation of that this morning with Newspoll showing Labor with a six point lead (53-47) over the Coalition. So much for that supposed boost with border security being back on the agenda.

3. The federal government is trying to quell concerns over Australian coal shipments to China, which are being subjected to significant delays at the giant Dalian port that takes most of our exports. Senior Chinese officials denied on Friday that a ban had been ordered, although trade minister Simon Birmingham admits the Australian government is trying to establish exactly what’s happening. “There remains some issues around the timeliness of processing through ports and we’re eager to understand any reasons for some of those delays,” he said yesterday of the news that sent shockwaves through the financial and economics community at the end of last week.

4. The Australian dollar closed higher on Friday, thanks in part to those denials from Beijing that there was any full ban on Australian coal shipments at Dalian, and also renewed optimism that there’ll be a resolution of sorts in the US-China trade dispute with Trump now talking about a meeting with Xi next month. Iron ore markets, meanwhile, are sleepy.

5. To the housing market, and auction clearance rates fell marginally last week amid a surge in volumes according to CoreLogic, which notes it will be “interesting to see” if the recent uptick in clearance rates can be sustained as much bigger numbers of properties come on to the market.

6. Huawei’s folding phone is here. Look:

Huawei

It was unveiled overnight at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and will be compatible with 5G networks when they are eventually rolled out. Huawei also says it will be perfectly flat when opened out into tablet mode, with the sophisticated hinge clicking seamlessly together. It’s pricey, though, with the starter cost announced at €2299 — which is an eye-watering $A3600 and change. More here.

7. While we’re on communications technology, Microsoft also confirmed the arrival of the Hololens 2, its business-targeted virtual reality device which comes with a wider field of view and a $US3,500 price tag. Nokia, meanwhile, unveiled a $US700 smartphone with five — count them — camera lenses.

8. “How you left?” is one of the phrases only financial traders really use — it’s one of the terms we cover off early in our chat on this week’s episode of Devils and Details featuring Ken Veksler, who runs asset management firm Accumen Management in London. Also covered: the terms “yours” and “mine”, the Brexit debacle, and what Ken — who grew up in Sydney — thinks is going to happen here in Australia. Search “Devils and Details” wherever you get your podcasts (including Spotify), tune in here, or listen in below.

9. Warren Buffett’s annual letter is out, and one of his big warnings is the prospect of a mega-catastrophe — either man-made or natural — that has a devastating effect and “will dwarf hurricanes Katrina and Michael.” He said: “When such a megacatastrophe strikes, we will get our share of the losses and they will be big – very big,” Buffett wrote, referring to his insurance exposures. Here are the rest of the headlines from the letter — including Buffett’s plan to get into stock buybacks. He also says new accounting standards will cause “wild and capricious” swings in Berkshire Hathaway’s bottom line.

10. There’s more Game of Thrones preview material out, and it looks like the dragons are coming to help Arya.

BONUS ITEM: A hockey coach in Canada mic’d up his kid to see to find out what he’s saying out there on the ice. Something to warm your Monday morning — this is a short version, and there’s a more detailed version here.

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