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Friday, 16 August 2019
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“Artificial intelligence has developed to such an extent we thought it logical for the Buddha to transform into a robot.”
Said Tensho Goto, chief steward of 400-year-old Kodaji Temple in Kyoto, Japan of their 6-foot-tall android robot/preacher. Sacrilegious? “Obviously a machine doesn’t have a soul, but Buddhist faith isn’t about believing in God. It’s about following Buddha’s path, so it doesn’t matter whether it is represented by a machine, a scrap of iron or a tree,” Goto said. You learn something new every day…
HONG KONG + TRADE WAR = RECESSION JITTERS
The Australian stock market was just one of those around the world feeling more than a little spooked by the volatility and uncertainty affecting the world’s two largest economies. We’re talking about their ongoing trade war, as well as some tricky economic data coming out of the US and China this week. Add to that the rising tensions in Hong Kong as it heads into its 11th consecutive weekend of unrest, and it was like both Negative Nellie and Debbie Downer had arrived in town to wipe $60 billion of the values of our listed companies.
OK. START WITH THE ECONOMICS…
Bet that’s something you never thought you’d say on a Friday… The New York Stock Exchange suffered its worst one-day fall of the year on Wednesday over heightened fears of a United States recession. The ‘R’ word raised its ugly head after something called an inverted yield curvehappened (don’t worry, we’re not going to labour that here…). But long story short, there’s falling confidence in the US economy because of the ongoing trade war with China. On the Chinese side, data released this week show worrying signs its economy has also taken a hit over its spat with America. Those developments saw Australia’s top 200 listed companies fall 2.85%, and share markets around the world dip.
AND WHAT OF HONG KONG?
As US President Donald Trump Twitter-previewed earlier this week, satellite pics appear to show China is sending troops to Shenzhen, the mainland city that borders Hong Kong. China says they are there for drills, but critics say it’s flexing its military muscle and there are fears a side-trip to Hong Kong could be on the cards if the unrest continues. Speaking of Trump, he yesterday had words of praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping – and a suggestion on Hong Kong. President Xi should meet with the protestors to bring “a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem,” he tweeted overnight. With all eyes on Hong Kong this weekend, Trump’s intervention would be as welcome as a bull in a china shop…
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STUCK ON 5.2%
It’s a tough day when data showing the creation of 41,100 new jobs in July (34,500 full-time, 6,700 part-time) is a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t enough to lower our unemployment rate from 5.2% with the participation rate also going to a new record of 66.1%. The Reserve Bank is worried about ‘spare capacity’ in the jobs market and the low rate of wages growth. Speaking of wages, official stats out yesterday showed Australia’s gender pay gap stubbornly remains at 14% with men on average earning $241.50 more per week than women.
COOLING OFF A CLIMATE CRISIS
Pacific regional leaders have agreed on a statement on climate change, but there’s no binding agreement as such. Under pressure from small Pacific nations to do more, the Tuvalu Declaration acknowledges a climate change crisis, encourages countries to lower their emissions reductions targets and phase out coal. But Australia and New Zealand have reservations about sections of the declaration, so while a statement was agreed, no country has fully committed to endorsing it. And it turns out our delegation wasn’t entirely friendless with Kiwi Deputy PM Winston Peters pushing back against his own PM Jacinda Ardern and her call for Australia to “answer to the Pacific” on climate change. “I’m accountable to the Australian people, that’s who I’m accountable for,” PM Scott Morrison said yesterday. That might help radioman Alan Jones keep his socks on…
UPDATES TO SOME RECENT STORIES
EPSTEIN CAUSE OF DEATH – The results of an autopsy on billionaire hedge fund manager/accused child abuser and trafficker Jeffrey Epstein raises more questions than it answers. The broken bones in his neck are more commonly found in victims of strangulation, experts say. His cause of death is yet to be determined.
DAYTON KILLER’S OBIT FORCES AN APOLOGY – The family of Connor Betts, the gunman of the Dayton, Ohio mass shooting, has issued an apology after leaving out any reference to the tragedy in their son’s obituary. The obituary, which has since been taken down, said the 24yo – who killed nine people including his 22-year-old sister – was a “funny, articulate and intelligent man”.
PELL APPEAL DECISION SET – The judgement from Cardinal George Pell’s June appeal will be released next Wednesday. Last year, Pell became the world’s highest-ranked Catholic cleric to be convicted of child abuse charges.
TELSTRA’S PROFIT PLUNGES, CEO’S SALARY CLIMBS
Not having a lot of fun yesterday was Telstra, which reported a 40% drop in its 2018-19 profit. After recording a $3.5 billion profit last financial year, Telstra saw earnings fall to $2.15 billion with the NBN rollout weighing on its financial performance. Despite the earnings whack, CEO Andy Penn’s remuneration jumped by 34% to $5 million, setting up an interesting showdown with shareholders at its annual general meeting in October. Last year, more than 60% of investors voted against the telco’s remuneration report. If more than 25% vote against it this year, shareholders can move to dump its board.
THE ONLY THING TRICKIER THAN MEN’S SANDALS...
…is men’s jewellery. But it’s a trend that’s only growing, according to Tiffany’s & Co. That’s why the bedazzled icon has just announced the launch of its first comprehensive range of men’s jewellery to be released in October. The collection features around 100 designs and includes luxe accessories such as ice tongs and beer mugs. Global sales of men’s fine jewellery reached US$5.8 billion last year. Diamonds are a boy’s best friend?
FRIDAY LITES - THREE THINGS WE LIKED THIS WEEK
Gee the American news sites do fun and innovative online pieces. As we head towards the 10th anniversary of Kanye West taking Taylor Swift’s stage at the MTV awards, this breaks down how the episode influenced a decade of pop culture.
With the trailer released this week, Squiz HQ is a bit excited about the upcoming cinematic do-over of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women. OK, a lot excited…
Ever dreamed of retiring early? (And give up the 3.30am starts? Never…) Here’s a guide on how much money you’d need across the age groups starting at 25yo.
SQUIZ THE DAY
ABS Data Release – National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18
Company Earnings Results – Cochlear; Domain Holdings; Star Entertainment Group (think casinos…)
Madonna’s birthday (1958)
Anniversary of Elvis’s death (1977)
5.30pm (AEST) – Bledisloe Cup Rugby – Australia v New Zealand – Eden Park, Auckland
Indonesian Independence Day
Start of Book Week (on until 23 August – good luck, parents..)
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