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10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning.

1. The Australian economy is barely growing, but economists still don't expect a rate cut next week. While consistently low inflation points to “underlying problems” in the economy, according to Indeed economist Callam Pickering, there's unlikely to be a February cut to the cash rate, currently sitting at 0.75%. In fact, just 10% of economists are expecting one, with the Commonwealth Bank anticipating the central bank will wait until April before making its next move down.

2. The government has announced it will evacuate Australians trapped by the coronavirus in Wuhan, but will then put them in quarantine on Christmas Island. Speaking to media on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “isolated and vulnerable Australians” would be transported, with young children given priority. Presumably this kills two birds with one stone: addressing the coronavirus crisis, and also justifying the government's absurd election cash splash on keeping the controversial offshore detention facility open.

3. Airlines around the world are cancelling flights to China in an effort to stem the coronavirus outbreak. 16 airlines have cancelled flights thus far, with the bulk of them being American and European carriers. Air travel is one of the quickest spreaders of disease since aircraft fly all over the world, especially from an economic hub such as China.

4. Australia's buy now, pay later firms are pledging to do better by their customers, via a “world-first” code setting out minimum standards for the industry. It promises to make late fees fair and capped, limit services to those above the age of 18, freeze and even waive fees in case of financial hardship, among other measures. Given the product on offer here is essentially unregulated credit, a voluntary code like this is probably the last bastion before ASIC or the Reserve Bank steps in.

5. Bernie Sanders continues his surge in Democratic primary polls, ahead of the first caucus in Iowa on Monday. A new report says some members of Trump's team are deliberately boosting the irascible democratic socialist in the belief the president could easily steamroll him in the general. Others in Trumpworld are nervous that Sanders' rise actually echoes Trump's own surprise warpath to victory in 2016 – and that the strategy of elevating Bernie could seriously backfire.

6. Also on Trump: you can continue to follow his impeachment proceedings live here. Today's absurdity: lawyer Alan Dershowitz has made the argument that Trump's election is in the public interest, so any effort to secure said election is automatically in the public interest too and cannot be impeachable. “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment," Dershowitz said.

7. Apple's record-breaking earnings last quarter are being ascribed in part to a small change it made in how it announces and markets its iPhone. Apple opted to brand the least expensive new model, the iPhone 11, as its flagship smartphone. The more powerful variants, the Pro and the Pro Max, were instead positioned for power users. This is the opposite of how the previous model, the XS, was marketed. Despite early expectations that iPhone 11 sales would be sluggish, it seems that was not the case at all.

8. Microsoft also beat quarterly earnings estimates. The company posted revenues of $US36.9 billion for the quarter, on earnings of $US1.51 per share. This big revenue win was on the back of strong results in the company’s cloud computing business.

9. In the season of quarterly earnings, one company didn't look so hot at all. Boeing posted its first full-year loss in more than 20 years, as the 737 Max crisis continues to unfold. The aviation giant lost $US636 million in 2019.

10. The UK announced on Tuesday it would allow Chinese tech firm Huawei to play a "limited" role in building its 5G networks. This means Huawei is forbidden from building “core” equipment. Here's a more detailed explanation of what that actually looks like in practice.

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