Squiz Today / 28 July 2017
Squiz Today – Friday, 28 July
“Aragog – Monster Spider”
And he/she’s a whopper! Mount Coolum resident Lauren Ansell showed off her eight-legged housemate on social media when Aragog (named after the Harry Potter spiders) blocked her passage to the BBQ. One friend’s suggestion - move house or buy a flamethrower. Peak ‘Straya.
POWER PRICES PINCHING OUR PENNIES FOR FRESH FOOD
The boss of supermarket giant Coles, John Durkin, yesterday said energy price increases and low wage growth was biting Australian households. Durkin said pockets of poor sales of fresh fruit, vege and meat going through Coles’ checkouts were a result of customers taking a cautious approach to spending knowing a big power bill is on its way - and this caution sees many customers switch into cheaper packaged groceries. He added that ten years ago, when Coles was making its comeback from almost collapse, Australians had more disposable income and it was growing at about 5% per year. Today, this growth is flat to negative.
WHAT WOULD A SUPERMARKET GUY KNOW?
Put aside the polls, economic research and official data for a moment. A great indicator of what’s really going down in Australian households is what’s happening at the supermarket checkout. About 17% of our spending is on food and non-alcoholic beverages - not all of this is through Coles/Woolies/Aldi but they get enough of it to feel week on week how their customers are faring by looking at what and how much they buy. Durkin’s warning that energy prices are a big pain point for shoppers would (or should…) send a shiver down the government’s spine.
AS LONG AS I CAN BUY TIM TAMS EVERYTHING WILL BE OK…
We like how you think. But really, we should be able to turn the lights on and buy healthy food, right? Well, the good news on the supermarket front is that the price war between Coles and Woolies hasn’t let up – both have invested heavily in lowering prices and Woolies have suffered lower profits as a result (soz if you’re a shareholder…). And on electricity prices, Rod Sims from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission yesterday said he's looking into the price impacts of the high concentration of vertically integrated market players. What the what? That’s just a fancy way of saying the power companies like AGL, Energy Australia and Origin are both power generators and retailers so there’s not a lot of incentive to drive down prices. But the truth is significantly higher power prices are on the way, so rationing of the Tim Tams could be on the cards.
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CASSIE SAINSBURY’S CASE RATTLED BY NEW CLAIMS
The future of alleged drug mule Cassie Sainsbury is no clearer as her plea bargain deal with Colombian prosecutors risked collapse yesterday. The trouble started when Sainsbury told the judge that her family and partner’s lives had been threatened if she did not take the drugs. This wasn't discussed with the prosecutors when they made the deal so a recess was called and a new court date set for 9 August. The prosecution is said to be pretty cranky – which is not great when she’s trying to avoid up to 30 years prison. There are more twists and turns to this drama than a midday soapie.
CHEAPER WHISKY A GOOD INCENTIVE FOR OZ/UK FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
UK Foreign Secretary and unlikely hair icon Boris Johnson has been in Sydney to discuss the usual stuff – trade and regional security. After nearly turning up without a change of clothes, Johnson got down to work on opportunities for intelligence sharing and post-Brexit arrangements for trade. Asked about the possibility of cheaper Aussie wine for Britons, Johnson said; "Never mind Australian wine, which is, of course, delicious. There are tariffs on Scotch whisky in this country which seem to me to amount to a cruel deprivation of the Australian people of Scotch whisky at the price they could have it.” Now we’re talkin!
LOO WATER TESTS SHOW DRUG USE DOWN
These wastewater analysis reports are fascinating. Sounds benign enough until you realise that water authorities have given law enforcement agencies samples of sewerage. TMI? You bet. The good news released by Justice Minister Michael Keenan yesterday is that overall illicit drug use was down in the five months to February. However, ice use remains a problem, particularly in WA and SA. And cocaine use is up in Sydney, the ACT, Victoria and regional Queensland. Testing is performed in 37 treatment plants across Australia except Tassie and the NT (what are they hiding?).
TROUBLE IN WHITE HOUSE PARADISE
Are you a bit over one of your work colleagues? Feel like blowing it up and telling the world what a pain they are? New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci feels your pain. Just a week into his new job, he’s gone toe-to-toe with White House chief-of-staff Reince Priebus in a very public way. Channeling his boss, Scaramucci took to Twitter to have a go at Priebus about the leak of his personal financial disclosure and backed it up in an interview with CNN – and said both actions were ok’d by President Trump. “I don't know if this is repairable or not — that will be up to the President,” Scaramucci said. You’d think they’d have enough on their hands clarifying what Trump’s Twitter ban on transgender people serving in the military means. Extraordinary stuff.
AUSSIE DOLLAR CRACKS US$0.80
Due in part to the political shenanigans in the US, great news yesterday for Aussie online shopping fanatics of fab US stores and sites or anyone looking to book a US holiday, but not so great for our exporters. Despite Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe talking down our dollar earlier this week, we cracked the US$0.80 level yesterday for the first time in more than two years. It’s less to do with our performance than how the US is tracking with their latest outlook seen as 'dovish' by the market.
BEZOS WORLD’S RICHEST
Selling books from his garage has turned out very nicely for Jeff Bezos. Of course, that cute enterprise turned into the Amazon we know today – the retail disruptor that has changed every market it operates in. Bezos clocked up another achievement yesterday – he’s now the world’s richest person with a net worth of US$90 billion, officially knocking Bill Gates for the top spot (seems you have to have a four letter first/five letter second name to claim the title…) The trigger was Amazon’s valuation of $500 billion this week.
FRIDAY LITES – THREE THINGS WE LIKED THIS WEEKEND
We’re always on the lookout for cool things on the interwebs and this caught our eye because: 1) it’s apparently the latest NYC cool-crowd fitness fad called The Class; 2) it’s the best online layout of exercises we’ve seen; and, 3) there are leg warmers involved. Behold 7 Moves to Lengthen Your Whole Body.
The long-list for the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was announced yesterday. This is a nice rundown in pictures.
If you’re entertaining this weekend – give this a go. This link is from behind the paywall but it doesn’t have the method, so bear with us (but if you have a New York Times subscription, click here). We usually halve this recipe which makes more than enough for 4 people (which means you need just one bag of frozen edamame like this). And coriander = cilantro. The method is to defrost the pods in hot water and then shell. Heat the sesame oil on high until you can smell toasted sesame goodness (if it’s smokin’ you’re done). When the oil has cooled down put all the ingredients in a blender and mix until it’s a consistency you like. We only really make the dip so we can have the cracker – we get a packet of wonton wrappers, cut them in half, spray with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and bake in the oven until golden and crisp, but don’t overdo it. Delish.
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ABS Data Release - Producer Price Indexes, June; Regional Population Growth, 2016; Motor Vehicle Census, January
Crazy Hair Day (fundraiser for cystic fibrosis)
Adelaide Beer and BBQ Festival (on until Sunday)
Australian Festival of Chamber Music - Townsville (on until 5 August)
UN International Day of Friendship
UN World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
Venezuelan Citizen's Assembly Election
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