Good morning! Here’s what you need to know:
- The minutes from the March FOMC meeting were released overnight and included comments that assuaged market fears that the Fed might be inclined to start lifting interest rates sooner rather than later. The net result was a boost to the stock markets, with all the major indices closing up and the NASDAQ gaining 1.7%, giving a strong lead-in to trade in Asia and Australia today.
- The rally could be the antidote the Nikkei needs after another poor day yesterday where it lost 2.10%. Shanghai was a little higher up 0.32% and the Hang Seng was up more than 1%. Markets across the region in will today turn to the release of Chinese trade data which is a bellwether for expectations about the path of Chinese growth. It is unlikely not to be a market mover. In Tokyo foreign investment and machinery orders are out and the Bank or Korea will deliberate on interest rates.
- The ASX closed on a five-year high yesterday, partly thanks to the ebullience around the $2.1 billion takeover offer for David Jones, and looks set to open up again on Wall Street’s lead. The big number today is unemployment, out at 11.30am AEST, with the market expecting 2,500 jobs added for March. A bigger number is likely to drive the Aussie dollar through US94c, and the jobs numbers will be closely followed by Chinese trade data at midday AEST which, as mentioned above, also has the potential to move the markets around.
- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is in China for the last leg of his trade tour and discussed trade with Li Keqiang in a meeting last night. They say a trade agreement is possible by the end of the years. One thing’s pretty certain: they wouldn’t have had shark fin soup. Exports of shark fin from Hong Kong to the mainland to make the delicacy have collapsed 90% – a sign that President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on ostentatious consumption by party officials is working.
- Bob Carr is unapologetic about painting himself as a prissy traveller in his time as Australia’s foreign minister in his new book. Part of this is self-deprecation, but two things: (1) irony rarely works in prose and (2) most Australians won’t take kindly to a baseline expectation of being able to travel first class any time you get on a plane. Carr says if it’s OK for companies to send executives first class for important meetings, then a “middle power foreign minister” should do so as well. Many companies would dispute this is still the case since the GFC. Anyway, there are some political history points of note in the book too, including Carr’s belief that a pro-Israel lobby was influencing the Labor party under Julia Gillard’s leadership, and that the weird media reform package which included a new government regulator was sprung on the cabinet in a meeting that was mainly about coal seam gas.
- Cyclone Ita is strengthening as it heads towards the coast of far north Queensland and is expected to be a monster category 4 when it makes landfall. This will be the most powerful storm to hit the region since Yasi in 2011.
- Last week the ABS confirmed alcohol consumption in Australia had continued to decline, falling through the 10-litre per person level. We know people are drinking less but perhaps more startling is research out today – it emerges more and more Australian teenagers are not drinking at all. And we’re not talking incremental changes on small numbers: the number of non-drinkers has increased from 33% to over 50% over the past decade, and the trend is detected in all demographics and nationwide. Binge-drinking remains a concern but any time people are shrieking about Australia’s booze-soaked culture, these facts should be front and centre.
- Facebook is going to force you to download a standalone app to be able to send and receive messages.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, one security expert puts the likelihood you’ve been affected by the Heartbleed security bug, which can be used to steal usernames and passwords, at 11. The problem is a flaw in a popular data encryption standard called Open SSL. There are details on how to protect yourself here. It’s serious, folks.
- Manchester United’s woes continue: they were knocked out of the Champions League this morning by Bayern Munich. But the big football news: Australia beat Brazil 2-1 last night in a friendly in Brisbane. Top work by the Matildas.
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Have a cracking day. I’m on Twitter: @colgo
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