10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Good dragon. Picture: HBO

Good morning.

1. Remember low volatility? It’s back and even less volatile. The Dow might have hit another record high close, but last night marked the 13th straight session that US stocks closed with 0.3% of their opening levels. That hasn’t happened since 1966. ASX200 futures traders are upbeat, eyeing a move back over 5800, iron ore is surging, and the Aussie dollar is pummelling the Kiwi, if nothing else.

2. If you want some of that US stock market action right now, with no brokerage fees, check out Stake. The Sydney fintech will launch its $0 brokerage US share trading service within the next few days, giving ordinary Australians a low-cost opportunity to invest in brands like Amazon, Facebook and Tesla.

3. More than two years ago, Business Insider published a searing essay by Nigel Lake of global strategy consulting firm Pottinger on the crisis of leadership in Australia. He has reprised the theme in another treatise, and points out some troubling realities about Australian leaders:

The recent run of scandals at the top end of town is worrying, to say the least. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country’s largest financial institution, has been embroiled in a substantial money-laundering case.

The deputy commissioner of the Australian Tax Office has been brought down by fraud. CPA Australia, one of Australia’s peak professional bodies for accountants, has terminated its CEO Alex Malley, after allegations related to financial dealings and revelations that the organisation had invested heavily in marketing to support the CEO’s personal profile. And in Canberra, several federal politicians have been forced to resign various positions, having run for office as dual nationals, a breach of Australia’s constitution.

“The current generation of leaders needs to set a much bolder path, or step aside and let the next generation do so,” he concludes. This is your Tuesday morning brain food.

4. Driverless van or person driving a pretend driverless van? Hey, dude, he’s with the news:

The van has been cruising the streets of Arlington, Virginia, in the US for a week or two now, and most assumed it was part of an autonomous test, which is no big deal these days. But yesterday, NBC 4’s Adam Tuss got closer and realised it had a driver – dressed as a car seat. And right now, there’s not much else to say about that.

5. Travis Kalanick, however, had lots to say about driverless technology. In court, last week, where he explained the basics of an “acquihire”. That’s when you want to headhunt an engineer from Google, but really you want the technology he’s working on at Google, so you get him to form a company using that technology and then you buy that company. For $US680 million.

6. For years, there’s been talk of a single Bitcoin potentially being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Finally, someone’s given a credible reason why. Mining Bitcoin at steady rates requires continual technological upgrades. Moore’s law decrees that technology improves exponentially. And here’s Harvard academic Dennis Porto noting the price of Bitcoin doubling every eight months to near record highs overnight:

Mark February 2021 down in your diaries, cryptocurrency traders.

7. And here’s something else Bitcoin is good for – buying kidnapped British glamour models. Obviously, we don’t condone either buying or selling British glamour models for Bitcoin. Or kidnapping. But this Polish gang is right into it.

8. Over at Apple’s shiny new $US5 billion spaceship HQ, some of the engineers innovating new ideas such as wireless charging and big batteries aren’t happy with the long tables and open plan layout. An insider reports the guy in charge of Apple’s chips, Johny Srouji, had this to say:

“When he was shown the floorplans, he was more or less just ‘F— that, f— you, f— this, this is b——-.”

9. Yesterday’s latest Games of Thrones episode ended on a cliffhanger, even by Game of Thrones standards. If you watched it, here’s why you probably shouldn’t worry too much about that favourite character who looks like he bought it at the end. Of more concern among fans is why Podrick is so rubbish at fighting:

10. The real sad story today is this research presented at this year’s Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. One study found rates of loneliness are skyrocketing in the United States. The other found loneliness puts people at a greater risk for disease and life-threatening injury. It may actually be more deadly than obesity.

BONUS ITEM: Deadpool 2 has its bad guy, and it’s Josh Brolin with a teddy on his hip:

Have a great day.

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