1. The two suspects on the run after the Charlie Hebdo massacre may be pinned down in a forest in northern France by police and Special Forces. The problem is, the forest is twice the size of Paris and, the AFP reports, the pair were seen armed with AK-47s and RPG rocket launchers. We’ll keep you updated. Overnight, cartoonists paid their tributes to their fallen comrades – here’s a remarkable collection, although we still think Aussie scrawler David Pope’s is best.
2. To the markets, and stocks in the US staged a huge rally overnight, with the Dow and the Nasdaq up 1.8% while the S&P 500 was up 1.7%. The three straight days of losses in the first trading days of the year seem like a distant memory. The market is bullish ahead of the release of tonight’s US jobs report, which the market expects will see another 240,000 jobs added in the American economy for December. Soc Gen is calling a huge 305,000 jobs added.
3. Across Asia yesterday, markets were mixed, with the Nikkei (+1.67%), the Hang Seng (+0.7%) and the ASX (+0.5%) rising following the previous night’s rally on the US markets. After last night’s lead we’ll likely see some of the same again today, with futures pointing to a rise on the ASX at the open. Shanghai was down 2.4% yesterday, however, after some key stocks were downgraded by analysts.
4. The Aussie dollar has found some support, and is back up above 81c this morning. Some trade will have been thinning out as we head towards the US jobs report tonight. The Aussie rose after yesterday’s big beat on Australian housing approvals, which came in at +7.5%, smashing expectations of a 3% fall. In terms of local data today, we get the retail sales figures for November at 11.30am AEDT – we’ll have live coverage at BI.
5. Has iron ore found its bottom? The most traded stock on the ASX yesterday was miner Arrium. Up 15% to close at $0.295 a share, it’s still miles off its one-year high of $1.875 a share and down more than 82% compared to 12 months ago. But the chart doesn’t lie:
6. Standard Chartered is getting out of stocks. The 163-year-old British bank is shutting its global equities business, and laying off 4,000 employees worldwide. The shares have dropped 26% over the past 12 months, putting Standard Chartered among the worst performers in the 45-member Bloomberg Europe 500 Banks index. Slowing economic growth in Asia, falling commodity prices and rising costs for bad loans all pushed chief executive Peter Sands towards finally picking up the axe.
7. LEGO is easier in the US – “theoretically”. There’s some careful wording around it, but exhaustive research in the block-maker’s Future Lab found US parents were less willing to spend time with their kids on piecing together sets than their European counterparts.
“They want their kids to be able to play by themselves,” Flemmert-Jensen told Fast Company.
So, faced with competition from internet and video games, LEGO made US sets easier for kids. But the real winner in the story is Future Lab leader Anne Flemmert-Jensen. When asked if maybe it was because American parents wanted their kids to be independent, she replied: “That’s one of many possible interpretations.”
8. Aussies love their fancy chips. After just five months on Coles shelves in Australia, England’s biggest maker of up-market crisps is seriously considering making them here. That’s because it wants to knock around local favourite Red Rock Deli, which it says has an advantage because it’s not lumped with shipping costs. Tyrrell’s exclusive deal with Coles ends in July. Chief executive David Milner also reckons Aussies will appreciate a product that is “locally produced”.
9. Kylie Minogue may be “replaced” on The Voice. The Singing Budgie divided audiences last year after replacing Deltra Goodrem and is yet to reveal her plans for the series this year. Insiders say The Voice is making changes to halt declining ratings and may replace her with someone called Jessie J, a British singer who apparently has had five top 10 hits here. Ricky Martin and Joel Madden are all but in, but don’t expect to see Will I Am. The candidates for his spot are Michael Buble, Robbie Williams and definitely not John Farnham.
10. The cricket is boring. There’s just two days left of the Test summer, and India trudged through another yesterday to reach 5-342. Virat Kohli’s matched Steve Smith’s four centuries with a typically flawless 140 not out, but two wickets in two balls from Shane Watson late put a possible winning result back on the boards. The crumble probably has to happen in today’s first session though. In other news, Cricket Australia and Channel 9 teamed up to deny Smith’s blaming Spidercam for a dropped catch, saying the ball didn’t hit the camera. (Note: It doesn’t have to, though, does it?) Smith didn’t have any excuses for a howling dropped catch in the slips when Kohli was 59 not out, however.
BONUS ITEM: OK we’re in. Every day we could publish a UFO sighting video, so we don’t. But this is a really, really good one, because whoever faked it was smart enough to give it an Escape Pod twist.
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