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10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning.

1. Yesterday, China's Hubei province reported nearly 15,000 new coronavirus cases and 242 additional deaths more or less overnight. Before you lose your mind and panic, it's worth noting that massive increase is likely due to a change in the way local authorities count and report coronavirus transmissions. 13,332 of the new infections were "clinically diagnosed" – i.e. a doctor says a patient most likely has coronavirus based on a CT scan of their lungs. Previously, it required a positive result from a lab test.

2. Despite the above, the ASX has been shrugging off coronavirus fears. It follows the lead of Wall Street, which has also been brushing off fears despite credible claims the virus could wreak havoc with global markets. The S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 15 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 7103.2 at close yesterday.

3. One more coronavirus update for you: there's a scary figure percolating in the news today suggesting a mammoth two-thirds of the world's population could become infected. So says Ira Longini, a World Health Organisation adviser who tracked studies of the virus's transmissibility in China. However, it's worth remembering that's a worst-case scenario, presuming no appropriate action is taken. "People change behaviours" in response to disease said Alessandro Vespignani, a biostatistician at Northeastern University in Boston. "This is kind of a worst-case scenario. It's one of the possibilities."

4. TPG's planned $16 billion merger with Vodafone is set to go ahead after a Federal Court judge ruled it wouldn't significantly affect competition. The ACCC had argued TPG was ready and capable to establish a fourth mobile network in Australia, which wouldn't happen if it merged with Vodafone. Justice John Middleton disagreed that was actually ever on the cards in a material way, and said there would be no particular benefit in having the two companies remain separate.

5. Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe is signalling low interest rates could persist for decades. "It's quite likely we're going to be in this world of low interest rates for years, perhaps decades, because it's driven by structural factors in the global economy," he said. He also admitted that it certainly looks like Australians are beginning to saddle themselves with a glut of mortgage debt as a result. Well, who could have predicted that?

6. Australia saw a bump in venture capital funding in 2019, according to KPMG. Aussie companies secured US$1.145 billion in funding in 2019, an increase from US$1.033 billion in 2018. However, the actual number of investments was lower – they were just bigger investments on average. Canva topped the list of the biggest deals.

7. The use of meal delivery services like Uber Eats and Deliveroo has doubled in 18 months, according to research from Roy Morgan. Nearly 4 million Australians aged 14 and over now use such apps. Perhaps I live in a bubble, but I was actually surprised the number is that low – I expected it to have a higher penetration, just anecdotally.

8. Maybe not shocking, but Airbus is very much profiting from the chaos at Boeing. The company is planning on delivering its highest-ever number of planes in 2020, while Boeing continues to falter in the aftermath of two fatal crashes involving its 737 Max planes. It also announced its plans to increase its production of A320neo planes – which is the main competitor to the Max.

9. Microsoft had $17 billion of market value erased in just 5 minutes after a judge granted Amazon's request to block a key cloud contract. A federal judge on Thursday approved a motion by Amazon to have the Defence Department suspend work on the massive JEDI cloud contract Microsoft won last year. Oof.

10. Popular meme accounts on Instagram, which have millions of followers collectively, are suddenly posting for billionaire Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign. Instagram influencers like Tank Sinatra, Trash Can Paul, and Kale Salad – yes, look, I'm as confused as you are – posted sponsored advertisements, which appeared as direct messages between the Bloomberg campaign and the meme accounts. It's not clear how much he paid for them, but given his net worth is $52 billion, I assume he didn't notice.

BONUS ITEM

We've got a copy of Tesla's famous employee handbook – called the "Anti-Handbook Handbook" for your perusal, if you're keen for some Friday reading material.