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10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Morning team. Today we've got it all: superannuation fraud, retail collapse, and that coronavirus you've been reading so much about. As always, if you have hints, tips or yarns to fling to Business Insider, do not hesitate to email me.

1. Target's parent company Wesfarmers will shut up to 75 stores and convert a remaining 92 to Kmart stores as part of a massive restructure. "The actions announced reflect our continued focus on investing in Kmart, a business with a compelling customer offer and strong competitive advantages, while also improving the viability of Target by addressing some of its structural challenges by simplifying the business model," chief executive Rob Scott said.

2. You probably know by now there were fraud issues surrounding the government's super withdrawal scheme, which led it to be temporarily paused. We spoke to a couple who fell victim to the fraud (almost losing $20,000 between them) to understand the mechanics behind the scam. In short, don't ignore text messages from myGov that your details are being changed.

3. More on that scheme. Tony James, vice chairman of Wall Street private equity giant Blackstone and watcher of Australia's superannuation system, sounded the warning on both the withdrawals and the long-term effect of COVID-19. He said the coronavirus would have "lasting, hugely negative, effects for savers I think just about everywhere, even in your country now people are able to invade, so to speak, their retirement savings for current needs". "That makes perfect sense in the short term, but there is a price to pay in the long term," he said.

4. Australia is lobbying to be exempted from the United Kingdom's coronavirus quarantine regime on the basis of our low levels of infection. This quarantine scheme is very late in the game – its borders have been open throughout the crisis, and it has not required new arrivals to self-isolate until now.

5. The ABS has revealed data showing which regions of Australia were hardest hit by soaring unemployment in April. By location, Queensland was the worst affected state, while Sydney was the hardest-hit capital city. Single parents with young or dependent children were more significantly impacted than other demographics.

6. Remember when Afterpay's share price was cratering amid fears of widespread defaults thanks to the coronavirus crisis? Me neither. The buy now, pay later company’s share price briefly surpassed $45 on Thursday, cementing a new all-time high. The upwards tear was sparked by news that Afterpay has amassed more than 5 million active users in the US, its key growth market. It seems for now it is managing to keep growing despite rising unemployment and diminished consumer appetite.

7. Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe once again ruled out negative interest rates, saying they would not provide Australia benefit. It followed news the Bank of England was possibly contemplating the unusual monetary policy. "I said previously that it was extraordinarily unlikely that we would have negative interest rates, and there's been no change to that thinking," Lowe said.

8. Sweden bucked the consensus on coronavirus by not implementing widespread lockdowns, and has been widely celebrated for doing so by various lockdown critics. Has it worked for them? Two data points aren't particularly positive. It recorded the most coronavirus deaths in Europe over the past week, and a new study has found just 7% of people in Stockholm had developed coronavirus antibodies by the end of April. Swedish forecasters had predicted that up to half of the population would catch the virus by May.

9. Global coronavirus infections have surpassed 5 million, with almost a third recorded in the US. That figure is for all-time cases, by the way – almost 2 million of the 5 million cases have since recovered. It's been about five weeks since the number of cases reported globally hit two million on April 15.

10. Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook plans to allow half of its employees to work remotely within the next 5-10 years. As part of the company's new strategy, Zuckerberg said, it would seek to establish new "hubs" in secondary and tertiary cities to tap talent in those markets and surrounding areas. The news is a blow to big cities such as New York and San Francisco, which have become hotspots for tech companies.


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