Australia markets open in 5 hours 36 minutes

10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning!

1. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian gave a COVID-19 update for the state this morning. There are now 1,405 cases in NSW alone – 877 of which were acquired overseas. She flagged – as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also has – that her state will be willing to go ahead of the federal government on restrictions if it is required. "If NSW has to take difficult decisions we will," she said. "We don't want more people in hospital than we can cope with."

2. All 220 Tigerair pilots will be made redundant as part of Virgin Australia's layoffs. The airline on Wednesday stood down 8,000 of its 10,000 workers as it slashed domestic flight capacity by 90%. Of that number, 1,000 are set to lose their jobs permanently. However, Virgin insists its low-cost airline will continue running after the COVID-19 epidemic, and that it will use a shared base of pilots across both its airlines.

3. This weekend was supposed to be the biggest auction weekend of the year – until, of course, the government banned auctions. CoreLogic research analyst Jade Harling expects real estate agents to try to make sales over the phone or online instead, with this weekend the best indication of how the market will cope with new restrictions. “After the weekend, we should have a better idea on how this is going to impact the auction market going forward,” she said.

4. The Dow is still surging on the back of the US stimulus effort. It was up 6.4% – or 1,352 points – extending its three-day surge to 21%. This means it has reentered a bull market. Investor optimism continued to build around the $US2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package the Senate passed late Wednesday. The bill includes unemployment-benefit expansions, help for businesses, and payments for Americans to help bolster the US economy amid the fallout from the pandemic.

5. Where the US goes, we generally follow. Australian shares are set to extend their bounce as a response to the above gains, with ASX futures up 186 points or 3.6% to 5304 near 7am AEDT. The Aussie dollar has also nudged back above the 60c mark – it's sitting at 60.53c right now.

6. Australians appear to be buying up anti-malarial medication hydroxychloroquine in the week following US President Donald Trump's (as yet unproven) claim it could be a "very powerful" COVID-19 treatment. Data supplied by MedAdvisor, the platform which processes orders at large Australian pharmacy chains, shows a "massive" spike in prescriptions for the drug, which is still undergoing trials to determine its efficacy. In total, more than 11,000 Australians were prescribed the medication by some 6,600 GPs and specialist doctors in a single week.

7. Flight Centre announced it is standing down 3,800 Australian employees, as the coronavirus takes a sledgehammer to the travel industry. The company claims it will be in constant contact with those staff during this shutdown period, and will do its best to redeploy them to “a large pool of other potential employers”.

8. Retail is of course among the harder-hit sectors, as many Australians stay at home through the crisis. We're keeping a rolling list of the retailers and retail groups which are announcing shutdowns or redundancies.

9. The United States now has the world's biggest (known) coronavirus outbreak, by the official numbers. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the US have surpassed China and Italy, making the US the new centre of the outbreak. The US has now recorded 82,353 coronavirus cases, compared with 81,782 in China.

10. A worker has released footage showing the inside of an east London venue being turned into a massive new hospital. It will be divided into two wards, each capable of treating 2,000 patients.

https://twitter.com/EamonnHolmes/status/1242862399285313536?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

BONUS ITEM

Is your work-from-home rig nearly as effective as this guy's?

https://twitter.com/anitamassey86/status/1242816478849662985?s=21