Hello hello. Let's see what's going on, shall we?
1. The bushfires have caused domestic tourists to abandon regional Victoria and NSW, leading to cancellation rates of 60 percent even in towns outside bushfire zones. That's led to an economic impact of up to $1 billion, and industry experts are calling for a new campaign encouraging Aussies to head back out to the regions and spend for their next holiday. The news isn't quite as dire for international visitors – for now – but the nonstop visuals of fiery destruction beamed nonstop across the world is likely to have a lasting impact.
2. But there's some good news on the fires, too. The fire danger map in NSW is looking healthy over the next few days, with each major fire area around the state receiving at least 10 to 15 millimetres of rain. Showery conditions are expected to persist across NSW through Monday. So that's great.
3. Dominating headlines yesterday was multitrillion dollar investment firm BlackRock's announcement it would centre its investment strategy around climate change. If you were immediately skeptical about what that would look like in practice, you've to some extent been vindicated. Some of the largest thermal coal miners in Australia – Glencore and BHP – wouldn't be affected by this change of heart, as their total coal revenues are below BlackRock’s 25% threshold. BlackRock told us their conditional withdrawal was based on investment risk and not social or political pressures. Of course.
4. The Commonwealth Bank released its characteristically beefy economic forecast for 2020, and we read it so you don't have to. According to chief economist Michael Blythe, there are four key indicators everyone should be keeping their eyes on: consumer spending, business investment, construction rates, and the perpetuation of three 'mini-booms' Australia is currently experiencing. Those booms come from exporting our huge gas reserves overseas, selling our products to a growing Asian middle class, and erecting new infrastructure.
5. Looks like Amazon is moving into the possibly lucrative (but highly regulated) pharmaceuticals space in Australia. The company has filed a trademark for 'Amazon Pharmacy' locally, which covers a variety of things but most interestingly a “pharmacy packaging service that aligns, sorts and packages a patient’s medications by date and time into individual packets”. This is similar to Amazon’s existing pharmacy retail service in the US, which launched last year after a $1.35 billion acquisition of online pharmacy startup PillPack.
6. We've got another casualty in Australia's retailpocalypse. Jeanswest has just gone into administration, “Like many other retailers, the business has been challenged by current tough market conditions and pressure from online competition,”KPMG head of retail restructuring James Stewart said in a statement. “The Administration provides an opportunity for Jeanswest to restructure so as to better respond to the challenging Australian retail market.” Where will we get our boxy blue jeans now? Where, I ask you?
7. Looking forward to a bit of travel this year? You should avail yourself of what's going on this year in the world of frequent flyers. Aussie website Point Hacks has collated a very useful list of the program launches and international travel news you should be aware of in 2020.
8. The entire Russian government just resigned. It happened just as Putin proposes sweeping changes to the country's constitution which could extend his power after his presidency. “It’s not clear what role he will play, what will his status be. The only thing which is clear is that he will keep his role as the No. 1 person,” Alexey Chesnakov, a political analyst who previously served as a Kremlin aide, told The Wall Street Journal.
9. Trump's impeachment proceedings are rolling on. The House of Representatives passed a resolution on Wednesday to transmit the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate. It could take several days for the Senate to finalise the rules for Trump’s trial, which includes a discussion about witnesses. As we've told you before, Republicans control the Senate, so it's highly unlikely impeachment will pass there.
10. It's not necessarily the point, or why people voted for it, but worth a note: Brexit will have soon cost the UK more than all its payments to the EU over the past 47 years put together. Bloomberg Economics said the cost of the UK’s vote to leave the EU had already reached £130 billion, with a further £70 billion likely to be added by the end of 2020.
There's growing tension between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the two progressives in the US Democratic primary who have previously maintained something of a truce. Everyone's talking about a rejected handshake after the debate last night – take a look: