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Fingers crossed

Good morning! Queensland reported a locally transmitted coronavirus case on Friday, then claimed the individual held a house party attended by 25 people after getting his test... only to backtrack on Sunday, stating that there were just five people involved – four of whom were his housemates. Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath was "unable to explain how authorities got reports... so wrong".

We can think of a word for that: incompetence. Speaking of which, that ship is still stuck in the Suez Canal. 5 days, 10 hours and counting...

Market Wrap

It's all green

Daily % change

AUD/USD

76.3

0.7%

10Y Bond

1.72

3.4%

ASX200

6,824

0.5%

Brent (bbl)

64.6

4.2%

Gold (oz)

1,732

0.4%

Iron ore (t)

157.0

0.9%

Bitcoin

54,946

1.8%

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

Everything was up, up and away on Friday, with the US S&P 500 rising a whopping 1.7%, its best day for weeks. The US volatility index (VIX) fell to a 13-month low. As usual, it was all about the Fed. 👇

Fed watch: The Fed announced that restrictions on bank dividends and share buybacks could be lifted by the end of June.

Inflation watch: The Fed's preferred measure of inflation, the Core PCE Price Index (which excludes things people don't really need, such as food and energy), came in at 1.4% in February, down from 1.5% in January and well below the Fed's target for an average of above 2% "for some time".


Corona Wrap

Fingers crossed

Fingers crossed QLD can trace this cluster.
Fingers crossed QLD can trace this cluster. Tenor/James Corden

Queensland has a new COVID-19 cluster, originating with a 26-year old landscaper from Stafford in Brisbane's inner north. Genomic testing has confirmed that it's linked to a previous case from two weeks ago – a doctor at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Worrying signs: It has been confirmed that the brother of the Stafford landscaper tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies (i.e., he has recently had the coronavirus), meaning he is likely the 'missing link' between the clusters. No lockdown has been announced at this stage but the Easter long weekend is less than a week away. Pressure will be mounting on Queensland to uncover just how exactly it spread from the Princess Alexandra Hospital to the Stafford landscaper's brother – and everything else in between.

Elsewhere: JobKeeper – the Australian government's massive gift that kept giving (for some) – ended last night. Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy told a Senate Estimates hearing that he expects up to 150,000 jobs to be lost, although he was quick to caveat that claim by saying many of those people will find other work. You can be sure proponents will only mention the first part of that statement.


Travel Wrap

There is no middle ground

Cruises, also known as floating Petri dishes.
Cruises, also known as floating Petri dishes. Dave Granlund

A new 139-day cruise around the world was so popular, spots sold out in one day. Scheduled to depart on 10 January 2023, the 'Silver Shadow' will hit up 66 destinations in 34 countries on 5 continents.

Some things never change: You're either a cruise person or you're not. There is no middle ground. The relatively small but extremely dedicated cohort of cruise loyalists will ensure that the sector, despite being decimated by the coronavirus, will be back with a vengeance as soon as international borders re-open. The state of Florida – which has lost nearly 50,000 jobs due to the sector's pandemic closure – is even threatening to sue the US government if it doesn't hurry up and legalise cruises.

Poli Wrap

A Tassie cheap shot

The hard border worked a treat.
The hard border worked a treat. Travel Weekly

Tasmania's Premier Peter Gutwein announced the state will hold an election on 1 May, a year before it was required.

It's strategic: In times of crisis, people don't care what political party you represent so long as you handled it well. In WA and Queensland, it was Labor politicians and their hard borders romping it in at the polls. In Tasmania, there happens to be a Liberal Premier in charge – who also shut the borders early – with the island COVID-free since 11 August 2020. Polling by EMRS in February 2021 showed 61% of Tasmanians had Gutwein as preferred Premier, up from 39% in March 2020 (pre-pandemic).

The cheap shot: Opposition Leader Rebecca White is due to give birth to her second child in June.

Elsewhere: There's growing pressure in the United States to pass new gun control laws. However, the Senate filibuster – where a group of Senators can prevent a measure from being brought to a vote by delaying it indefinitely – is in the way of meaningful reform. A filibuster can only be bypassed with the Senate cloture rule, which requires 60 of the Senate's 100 members (currently split 50-50) to force a vote.

Reap what you sow: President Joe Biden said he supports changing the Senate's filibuster rule. That's all well and good while 'your guy' is in power, but political power is fleeting and institutional change is a double-edged sword. Note that all 250 filibusters conducted last year were done by Democrats.


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