Good morning, and welcome to Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know:
Markets are up. US stocks made a big comeback late in the session after earlier falls, and the Dow finished up 0.5% while the S&P 500 was up 0.3% and the NASDAQ was flat. ASX futures point to a rise of 21 points when the market opens in Australia. Twitter reports Q1 earnings tonight in the US.
Quiet in Asia after a fall. Regional markets followed Wall St’s weak Friday close with the Nikkei off 0.98% yesterday despite strong retail sales data. In Shanghai stocks fell 1.65% after a meeting of senior Chinese leaders on the weekend showed there aren’t any major stimulus measures on the way. Some bourses may recover following the US lead but Japan is closed for a holiday.
Budget signals. Tony Abbott used the annual Sydney Institute lecture last night to set down some markers for the federal budget. The full speech is here, but the key points: no changes to the age pension in this parliament but there will be changes in three years’ time; thresholds for eligibility for some payments will be reduced; and some payments may also be cut. The major revelations about the budget, however, are in News Corp papers this morning, with reports saying the “deficit levy” will kick in at $80,000 with an extra 1c in the dollar; those earning over $180,000 will pay an extra 2c. Most vivid line from Abbott’s speech was his characterisation of the public finances inherited from Labor: “They didn’t just booby-trap the budget; they created a ponzi scheme of unsustainable spending because they thought that new taxes, more spending and bigger bureaucracies were the answer to every problem.”
Parental leave pressure. Abbott could be rolled by people within his own party on his signature paid parental leave scheme. The AFR reports some Coalition MPs are increasingly clamorous in their opposition to the $5.5 billion program, especially as the government is now talking about the deficit levy and winding back welfare payments.
Tinkler trailer. Another Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry opened in Sydney yesterday and has the potential to create more chaos for the state Liberal Party. Premier Mike Baird – having an early wet week after replacing Barry O’Farrell only days ago thanks to another ICAC inquiry – has asked parliamentary secretary Marie Ficarra to stand aside. But the best revelation is reported by Kate McClymont at the SMH, on how embattled coal baron Nathan Tinkler texted a mate last year to ask: “Who is ICAC?” He certainly knows now – he’ll appear before it by the end of the week.
Hacker hedge fund. US hacker Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, who was released from prison earlier this month after serving time for exposing a flaw in AT&T, has announced he’s starting a hedge fund. He says it will generate “financial intelligence from the computer underground and internet communities”, and its primary strategy will be shorting companies, “so far as information security and taking a leverage position in put options on their stock, and then releasing information on those outstanding liabilities to the public.” Should be fascinating.
Ukraine sanctions. Tensions over Ukraine have been rising again. The US overnight imposed sanctions on Russian individuals, including the head of Russia’s state-owned oil conglomerate Rosneft, Igor Sechin, along with six others. Sechin is worth knowing about: he’s a former KGB agent who has been called “the scariest man on Earth” and “Russia’s Darth Vader”, believed to be the second most powerful person in the country after Putin.
Problem solvers. Australian startup Aston Club is wants to make sure you never leave your credit card behind a bar again. They’ve signed up 1000 venues in Melbourne to allow customers pay using a mobile app, and are looking at expanding nationally and into Hong Kong and Singapore. The company’s shareholders include a bunch of AFL players and they’ve just raised $1.5 million in seed funding.
Australian restaurants slip. Melbourne’s Attica is the only Australian restaurant to make Restaurant magazine’s coveted global top 50 list. Quay has dropped out. Copenhagen’s Noma was No.1 again.
Bonus item: Russians love their car dash-cams. This video has gone big in the last couple of days, showing what can happen on those dark country roads.
Have a great day. I’m on Twitter: @colgo
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