10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Pierre Suu/GC ImagesHome for more father’s days… Elton John and son Zachary Furnish-John.

Welcome to Thursday. Sydney train commuters: the weekend starts here.

1. Is Australian housing the global economy’s “fly in the ointment”? US financial expert and best-selling author John Maudlin jumped in the helicopter to look down on the forces swirling around the global economy and came up with – to extend the insect metaphors – a potential butterfly effect on the world’s largest economy from housing markets in Australia and Canada.

Imagine this: Rising interest rates and reduced foreign capital flows combine to push housing prices down in places like Vancouver. Leveraged players who own speculative homes start to liquidate their properties, pushing prices down further. Banks find themselves holding properties they neither need nor want. The dominoes begin to topple.

So we might have another housing-driven crisis, but starting elsewhere. It would still affect the US, but differently from last time. Our healing ointment could turn out to have a fly in it.

It’s a long read to soak up over the long weekend here.

2. To markets, where the USD is tanking, down more than 1% as the Trump administration makes protectionist noises. The British pound, meanwhile, now sits 5% up for the year. The Aussie jumped on strong commodity prices but New Zealand CPI just landed and it’s a big miss. With the good and great enjoying the snow in Davos, ECB President Mario Draghi gathers his gang tonight for its policy meet. And the ASX looks set to head lower before it takes tomorrow off. Bitcoin sits around a sedate $US11,000.

3. If you’re rich, Australia’s the place to be. Down Under is the most popular spot in the world for high net worth individuals (HNWI) as migrants, according to the 2018 Global Wealth Migration Review. In 2017, 10,000 HNWIs with net assets of $US1 million ($A1.25 million) or more moved to Australia, ahead of the US with 9000.

4. Hello Sydney train users and welcome to walk to work day. Around 1300 trains have been cancelled today due to overtime bans and early reports from commuters are that, despite some people giving themselves a 4-day long weekend or working from home today, the few trains still running are packed and slow. And that’s before Monday’s 24-hour strike stops every train, which is happening because the union counted the 94% of members who didn’t bother replying to a text message poll as being in favour of industrial action. Negotiations and legal action to prevent Monday’s standstill are ongoing today.

5. Want to work at KPMG? The global consultancy and auditor takes on around 25,000 students annually, but is conscious of employing too many one per centers, so the UK office is now asking candidates whether they received free lunches at school, or whether their parents went to university in a bid to improve diversity in its workplace.

6. It’s not a good week for septuagenarian rockers. First Neil Diamond, who turned 77 yesterday, retired from touring immediately this week, cancelling his Australian concerts, because he has Parkinson’s disease. Now Sir Elton John is hanging up the glitter suit, announcing plans for a final, 300 concert, three year global tour this morning before he steps off stage for the final time in 2021 to spend more time with his young kids, Zachary, 7, and Elijah, 5. The response crashed his website. Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour will come to Australia and New Zealand in December 2019 and February 2020.

7. You know the old saying about how when the shoeshine boy offers you stock tips, it’s time to get out? When Arsenal starts to recommend an ICO for a California-based digital gambling site, then… Oh, nevermind.

8. Blokes. Listen up boys. This s*%t is not on. If you can’t go to a men-only charity fundraiser without groping and/or propositioning the staff, then keep your wallet – and everything else – in your pants and stay at home. The details of the President’s Club Charitable Trust only emerged because female undercover Financial Times reporters went to fundraising gala and copped this crap first hand. Great Ormond Street Hospital has given back donations as a result.

9. It’s the business end of the Australian Open. Defending champion Roger Federer defeated Czech Tomas Berdych in straight sets, becoming the oldest player in a grand slam semi-final since Jimmy Connors. He now faces Hyeon Chung in his bid to make his 20th grand slam final. In the women’s semi-final matches this afternoon, Kerber takes on Halep, and Wozniacki tackles Mertens for a spot in Saturday’s final. Incidentally, Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth’s final, pre-retirement fairytale run ended yesterday against Colombian duo Juan Cabal and Robert Farah yesterday in straight sets.

10. Never mind lipstick on a pig, Saudi Arabia’s annual camel beauty contest near the capital, Riyadh, is facing a major scandal after 12 camels were disqualified because they’d had botox injected their lips. With $AU6.5 million in prize money up for grabs, and a big nose and lips considered the essence of camel beauty, the dirty dozen dromedaries with a touch of the Lance Armstrongs were banned after a vet was caught performing plastic surgery on them.

BONUS ITEM: Have you tried Google’s Arts & Culture app. It matches your selfie to similar-looking famous artwork. We’re waiting for the the “Which Hieronymus Bosch demon are you?” version.

Enjoy the long weekend and mark Australia Day as best suits you. See you Monday.

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