10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Don’t call me baby… Simona De Silvestro and Renee Gracie are racing in the ‘Supergirls’ V8 Falcon at Bathurst this weekend. Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images.

Wow. It’s Friday already. Excellent. Let’s do this.

1. Russia’s intervention in Syria is setting up a showdown with the US. The State Department says more than 90% of the strikes Putin’s supposedly made against ISIS have instead largely been against anti-Assad groups, so there’s a growing view that the bombings are aiding the Islamic extremists. Not to ruin the weekend, but this could get very ugly, very quickly, on lots of fronts.

2. To the markets. The S&P500’s rally off September lows now stretches to around 7.5%. The Dow and Nasdaq are also higher, as was all of Europe. Rates drifted a little higher on US bond market. Iron ore’s perked up too, along with oil and energy, and the Euro and Pound are in positive moods too, although Asian markets are still just bouncing along. However, Alcoa’s results this morning posted a miss and they’re worried about China.

3 Which sets up Australia nicely. The Aussie dollar is a on a tear around the 72 cent mark, and attention turns to Australia’s housing finance approvals report for August. NAB’s David de Garis says the focus will “be on the investor lending figures and whether it reveals further signs of flatness”. Headline owner occupied lending volumes are expected to have risen 6%.

4. The US Fed has its eyes on China. Apparently the issue came up five times at the September meeting, they just released Minutes reveal and they’re “monitoring developments abroad.” And it seems they’re not sure what the tea leaves say. There’s more on the Fed’s thinking here.

5. Stephen Hawking’s sees a big problem with AI. The world-renowned physicist discussed artificial intelligence during a Reddit AMA, but the issue he sees is that despite promises of tech making life easier, he believes it’s driving ever-increasing inequality. “Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution,” one of the world’s finest minds observed. Ouch. More on that here.

6. RBA thinking explained. The RBA’s head of economic research, John Simon, gave a really good address yesterday that outlined the central bank’s views on the risks of a low inflation environment, bubbles and the APRA crackdown on investment lending. Debunking a few myths, Simon says (love saying that) he’s looked at previous Australian bubbles and “while credit and leverage were present in all of them, low interest rates were not”, so don’t go arguing low interest rates make the global economy inherently unstable. Greg McKenna’s done a great job carving Simon’s meaty thoughts into bite-sized morsels.

7. It’s all happening in space. Move over Mars, now Pluto has water. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is sending back some lovely images of the baby brother planet and it has a blue haze. They also found frozen ice on the planet.

But what not-on-earth is this?

Astronomers pointed Chile’s Very Large Telescope at the star called AU Mic, and found giant waves of rippling dust clouds speeding away from the star’s centre at up to 40,000km/h. Everyone’s now got their thinking caps on to figure out what’s going on.

8. Is Rupert Murdoch the inappropriate uncle at Christmas lunch? Following him on Twitter is brilliant because in the world of PR dept-moderated corporate spin, here’s an 84-year-old media mogul raw and unexpurgated. Lately the News Corp boss has gone into bat for African-American Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, a retired paediatric neurosurgeon, who’s closing in on Donald Trump in the popularity stakes. It was all going fine until the other night on Twitter, when Murdoch praised Carson and said “What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide?” The billionaire apologised overnight.

9. There’s no footy, and plenty of footy. So the AFL and NRL seasons are over, but the Wallabies take on Wales at 2.45am Sunday AEDT in their final pool match to determine who tops Pool A. Wallabies rookie of the year Sean McMahon replaces the suspended Michael Hooper. Hopefully they’ll do better than the Socceroos, whose World Cup qualifier against Jordan in Amman overnight, went pear-shaped in the second half for a 2-0 loss – a touch of deja vu from three years ago. That gives Jordan the top spot in Group B and makes the route for Postecoglou’s side to the 2018 World Cup much tougher.

10. Meanwhile, the Bathurst 1000 is having gender issues. V8 drivers Renee Gracie and Simona de Silvestro are the first all-female duo racing at Mount Panorama since 1998. It’s a good news story, at least until David Reynolds decided to channel his upper middle bogan on Fox Sports and called their car a “pussy wagon” during an interview. A $25,000 fine later, with V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton saying his comments were “disgraceful and completely unacceptable”, the Bottle-O Racing Team driver apologised saying “while it was intended to be humorous, I understand it has caused offence. People know I am a little left-of-centre with my humour, but I understand today I took it too far”.

WEEKEND BONUS ITEM: Artisanal firewood is huge right now. You’re welcome.

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