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A snag and a vax

Good morning! Bunnings' chief operating officer, Deb Poole, said the company would offer its car parks as mass vaccination hubs – if the government asks. Apparently epidemiologists like the idea, as Bunnings has a "credibility heuristic", and would help "normalise the vaccination process".

Translation: For the average punter, the Bunnings sausage sizzle has more health credibility than the local GP. Oh well, whatever works!

Market Wrap

Rising taxes

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Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract.

The US S&P500 tumbled nearly a full percent (-0.92%) after a report showed President Biden plans to nearly double the capital gains tax rate to to 39.6% for individuals making more than $US1 million.

Rates watch: The Bank of Canada announced that due to a stronger than expected recovery, it will consider raising rates in the second half of 2022, instead of waiting until at least 2023 as it stated back in October. It will also cut back purchases of Government of Canada bonds by 25%.

Tech Wrap

A backhanded slap to the face

Whoops, wonder what Apple has to say?
Whoops, wonder what Apple has to say? Moxie Marlinspike/Signal

The CEO of encrypted chat app Signal, Moxie Marlinspike, claimed that Cellebrite – "an Israeli digital Intelligence company that provides tools for collection, analysis, and management of digital data" – gives "very little care" to its own software security. In a blog post, Marlinspike exposed several vulnerabilities and some code that might be copyrighted by Apple in Cellebrite's equipment, which he acquired when in "a truly unbelievable coincidence... I saw a small package fall off a truck ahead of me". 🤣

Stepping back: Signal and Cellebrite have an ongoing feud, after Cellebrite falsely claimed in December 2020 that it had "cracked" Signal's chat encryption. The timing of Marlinspike's attack is surely deliberate, given that Cellebrite recently announced that it would soon go public using a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) at a valuation of around $US2.4 billion.

Legal ramifications: Cellebrite is used by law enforcement, especially in the US, to collect evidence from suspects' electronic devices (apparently with complete trust – no internal security audits seem to have been conducted). If Cellebrite can be compromised as easily as Marlinspike suggests, it could open such evidence up to legal challenges and seriously compromise Cellebrite's credibility.

Trade Wrap

China's ticked off

China's ticked off and might target sectors such as Australian wine.
China's ticked off and might target sectors such as Australian wine. 7NEWS

As we mentioned yesterday, the federal government tore up various agreements that Victoria's government had signed with other countries, including one involving China's controversial Belt and Road, calling it "inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy". Fair enough, too: Sect 51(i) of Australia's constitution clearly grants power to the commonwealth parliament with respect to "trade and commerce with other countries".

Consequences: A Chinese Embassy spokesman stated "strong displeasure and resolute opposition" at the move. According to the Embassy, "This is another unreasonable and provocative move taken by the Australian side against China... [and] is bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations."

What's at risk: Barring a rapid escalation in 'frictions' – which is unlikely over the petty cancellation of a state's unconstitutional agreement with a foreign nation – the answer is: not much. The fact is if China targetted big ticket items such as iron ore it would be hurting itself at least as much as Australia, or so said Fitch Ratings:

"Economic co-dependencies between Australia and China will restrain Chinese policymakers from targeting products such as iron ore that are core to the bilateral trade relationship, even if political and trade frictions between the two countries continue to escalate".

Fitch believes that if frictions were to increase, China would again elect to target Australia's smaller export categories "with more limited diversification prospects, such as wine".

The Wrap Up

  • The Brisbane man who developed blood clots after receiving the Pfizer vaccine also recently had knee surgery, which was deemed the more likely cause. In a statement, Pfizer said there was "no evidence" that clots were an associated risk of using the vaccine.
  • Canadians in BC, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Soctia will soon be able to enjoy Australian wines after the World Trade Association ruled that Canada's restrictions must be be phased out, allowing Australian exports to compete with Canadian wines.
  • New South Wales reported a 70-80% increase in 'no shows' and cancellations from frontline healthcare workers since the federal government changed its AstraZeneca vaccine guidelines.
  • The Australian government said the Pfizer vaccine will no longer be made available to people aged over 50, "Until we get more Pfizer supplies later in the year". It also agreed to restrict arrivals from "high risk" countries, currently only India, given it's now registering over 300,000 new cases per day and is responsible for up to 40% of all current hotel quarantine cases in Australia.
  • The Japanese cities of Tokyo and Osaka have asked the central government to reimpose a state of emergency, with daily new cases in the country now over 4,000 and the Olympics only 91 days away.
  • Singapore and Hong Kong called off a planned travel bubble for the second time in five months.
  • A new study using data from Israel found that the Pfizer vaccine was effective in reducing transmission of the B.1.1.7 variant, also called the UK strain.
  • More than 1.7 million doses of the world's first malaria vaccine have been administered in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
  • Ahead of yesterday's climate summit led by the US, President Joe Biden pledged to cut US carbon emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. During the summit ScoMo gave a speech (he was on mute for a good minute of it), confirming Australia won't increase its emissions reduction target, currently a cut of 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030.