Archives August 2019

Aussie touches highs against yen in hunt for yield

Good night for the Aussie dollar: The local currency also gained against the greenback. Good night for the Aussie dollar: The local currency also gained against the greenback.

Good night for the Aussie dollar: The local currency also gained against the greenback.

Good night for the Aussie dollar: The local currency also gained against the greenback.

The Australian dollar has risen to fresh highs against the yen as Japan looks to delay a planned tax hike at a time when its latest bout of money printing stimulus increases investor appetite for the higher yielding local currency.

The Aussie dollar rose 1.35 per cent against the yen overnight and is buying 100.39 yen. It is the first break above the 100-mark since early April last year, when the Aussie traded as high as 105.06 yen.

The Australian dollar also gained on the greenback, up 0.9 per cent to buy 86.97 US cents. It did briefly rise to 87.02 cents before pulling back.

The US dollar hit a fresh high against the yen to 116.09 – its highest since October 2007 when it rose to 123.16 yen. It was last trading at 115.44 yen. The greenback has gained around 10 per cent against the yen so far this year.

The trigger for the Aussie dollar’s surge against the yen and greenback follows hopes that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may delay a planned 10 per cent sales tax increase, which is designed to help rein in public debt and support the struggling economy.

The yen, like the US dollar, is typically seen as a safe-haven currency and often struggles when Japan’s local stock market rise as investors sell yen and US dollars to buy riskier assets.

The Nikkei hit a new seven-year high overnight on the news. There have also been reports that Japan’s Prime Minister might call a snap election before the end of this year if he decides to delay the tax increase.

“If it were to happen, that decision would be justifiably negative [for the yen], to the extent that it would further deteriorate an already ugly fiscal picture,” said Bank of New Zealand currency strategist Raiko Shareef. “The yen is the only G10 currency to be weaker against the [US dollar] this morning, having softened 0.5 per cent to 115.4.”

Westpac’s chief currency strategist Robert Rennie and UBS chief economist Scott Haslem predicted last week that the Australian dollar would gain on the yen helped by greater stimulus from the Bank of Japan and potentially from the European Central Bank.

US stocks weakened overnight as investors took note of events offshore and worries about global growth.

Australian shares are expected to dip 5 points or 0.10 per cent when the market resumes trading on Wednesday.

Japanese investors have also been large buyers of Aussie dollars, fueled by the carry trade, meaning higher returns as a result of higher comparative interest rates in Australia – currently at 2.5 per cent – compared to zero in Japan.

Despite trading higher overnight, the Australian dollar has weakened against the US dollar in response to the end of the US Federal Reserve’s asset purchase program in October. The Aussie is 7.5 per cent lower against the greenback from the start of September when it was buying 93.3 US cents.

The yen has also weakened against the US dollar over this period, particularly after the Japanese central bank also announced in late October that it would expand its huge stimulus program. The greenback has surged over 6 per cent since then against the Japanese currency.

NAB looking to settle $38m late fees class action

NAB has been caught up in an industry-wide class action over bank fees that is one of the biggest in Australia’s history. NAB has been caught up in an industry-wide class action over bank fees that is one of the biggest in Australia’s history.

NAB has been caught up in an industry-wide class action over bank fees that is one of the biggest in Australia’s history.

NAB has been caught up in an industry-wide class action over bank fees that is one of the biggest in Australia’s history.

National Australia Bank is moving towards a settlement in a class action over late bank fees which could see the bank pay out compensation costs of up to $38 million.

The entire class action, which encompasses nine financial institutions including all of Australia’s four largest banks, could be worth up to $240 million and is the biggest in the country’s history.

According to Financial Redress, a subsidiary of Bentham IMF which is funding the action, 272,593 accounts have been registered for the class action against nine different banks in Australia.

Maurice Blackburn, solicitors in the case, estimate 30,000 NAB customers have been hit with late lees on credit cards.

In a statement on Wednesday morning NAB confirmed that applicants in the NAB bank fees class action had lodged an application in the Federal Court on Friday, seeking approval to open and close the class.

NAB said this was a first but significant step towards reaching a potential settlement.

“We know that banking customers want to be treated fairly, which is why five years ago NAB made the decision to remove many of the fees and charges that annoy customers the most,” NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn said.

“NAB was the first and remains the only bank to abolish overwhelmed fees on credit cards. Since 2010, NAB’s credit card late payment fee has been $5 – up to $15 less than our major competitors.”

A spokesman for Maurice Blackburn said it had been negotiating with NAB for some time, but would not elaborate on the settlement process.

“We would encourage all banks involved to follow NAB’s example to negotiate in good faith, to resolve a fair outcome for all banking customers that have unfairly been charged these fees,” the spokesman said.

The class action, which is over types of “dishonour” fees for late payments, is targeting all of the big four banks, with the case against ANZ Bank running as a test case.

Earlier this year, Justice Michelle Gordon in the Federal Court found that ANZ’s late credit card fees were unlawful, but several other types of fee were legal. ANZ and Maucrice Blackburn are both appealing the ruling and a decision is expected over the coming months.

An ANZ Bank spokesman would not comment on the next steps the lender would take in the class action because the matter is before the Full Federal Court.

UPDATE: Man charged over murder of Renee Mitchell

Man charged over murder of Renee Mitchell Picture: Phil Hearne

Picture: Phil Hearne

Picture: Phil Hearne

Picture: Phil Hearne

Picture: Phil Hearne

Picture: Phil Hearne

Picture: Phil Hearne

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12345678910 – A MANhas been charged with murder after the body of 38-year-oldRenee Mitchellwas found in Bangalay Reserve, Windale, on Wednesday.

Following investigations, police from Lake Macquarie Local Area Command stopped a vehicle on Mile Road at Cardiff.The driver was arrested and the vehicle seized for forensic examination.

He was taken to Charlestown police station and charged with murder.The a 66-year-old Windale man was refused bail and will appear in Newcastle Local Court on Thursday.

Renee Mitchell’s body was found on Wednesday morning at the Croudace Road entrance to the Bangalay Reserve.

INITIAL REPORT:AGED care worker Renee Mitchell was cooking for her family when she was allegedly taken from her own kitchen and brutally attacked before her body was left in a park less than a kilometre from the family home.

Her frantic family suspected something was wrong when she suddenly vanished and failed to return for work.

They searched the streets throughout Windale for several hours on Tuesday night and reported her missing to police before a bushwalker stumbled across her body early on Wednesday.

Aged in her 30s, she had been savagely attacked before her body was left uncovered on grass next to a small car park at the Croudace Road entrance to the 12-hectare Bangalay Reserve.

Still wearing the satin boxer shorts and shirt she was wearing while preparing tea, the body was covered in blood.

Within five hours of the discovery, a 66-year-old man known to the Mitchell family was arrested in his car at Cardiff and taken to Charlestown police station where he was expected to be charged on Wednesday night.

Lake Macquarie detectives, along with the Sydney-based homicide squad, were investigating motives for the attack.

Mrs Mitchell is believed to have once helped care for the suspect’s ageing father.

Family friend Dylan Grainger was at the family’s Lachlan Street home on Tuesday night and had followed a relative outside to help fix his motorbike while Mrs Mitchell was cooking. ‘‘Next thing we know we went inside and she was just gone,’’ he said.

‘‘She was lovely. She did anything she could do to help anyone out.

‘‘She was the most loveliest lady I have ever met.

‘‘She worked at a nursing home and she loved it, loved working with old people.

‘‘I don’t understand how anyone could hurt her.’’

It is understood her disappearance prompted the family to report her missing on Tuesday night, with police taking down a description and circulating a photograph.

It was about 6.30am when a walker came across the body, which was less than 40 metres from the busy Croudace Road and only metres from a car park and picnic seats.

Neighbours say the park is frequented by walkers, couples, schoolchildren and cyclists as well as some with more sinister motives.

‘‘We didn’t hear a thing until police knocked on our door about 7am,’’ neighbour Suzan Aslin said.

‘‘There is a real range of people using the place from people having lunch to people on bikes to people keeping fit.’’

A crime scene was established and forensic experts spent most of the day at the site.

Lake Macquarie duty officer Inspector Steve Gallagher said it was too early to speculate whether the alleged attack occurred in the park or whether the body was dumped.

Only a few hundred metres away down Lake Road, police set up a crime scene at the suspect’s unit.

Lake Road resident Adrienne Hawkins said there was never trouble along Lake Road.

‘‘Everyone goes to bed with the chooks, nothing normally happens after 5pm,’’ Mrs Hawkins said.

‘‘It has come as a bit of a shock, no trouble here whatsoever. No fights. Nothing.’’

A third crime scene was also established at the family home.

As police worked to search the crime scenes, police stopped the 66-year-old man in Myall Road at Cardiff.

He was taken to Charlestown police station while his vehicle was seized for forensic examination.

Mrs Mitchell’s husband, Dale, and the rest of the family were being cared for by relatives.

Robin Williams suicide triggered by dementia, hallucinations: report

Robin Williams: a report suggests he was suffering from a form of dementia. Photo: SuppliedRobin Williams was suffering from a form of dementia that his family believes was a “key factor” leading to his suicide earlier this year, according to a report.

Court documents obtained by entertainment websiteTMZ show the comedian, who died on August 11 at the age of 63, was suffering from a form of dementia called Lewy body dementia when he died.

Lewy body dementia causes abnormal deposits of protein in the brain and results in progressive cognitive decline, visual hallucinations, and often depression, the National Institutes of Health in the US says.

It often accompanies Parkinson’s disease, the neurological condition from which the actor had been suffering for about three years before his death.

The Lewy Body Dementia Association website in the US says: “Some people with LBD are extremely sensitive or may react negatively to certain medications used to treat Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s in addition to certain over-the-counter medications.”

TMZ reported that Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, had told authorities shortly after her husband’s death that he had been complaining about his medication and the way it made him feel.

The website said sources connected to the Williams family believed that Lewy body dementia was the “key factor” that drove him to kill himself.

Williams’ doctors agreed that the disease was a critical factor leading to his suicide, TMZ claimed.

Fairfax Media

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Australia could be hit by Chinese property bubble

Labourers at a residential construction site in Shanghai this July as fears of a Chinese property bubble grew. Labourers at a residential construction site in Shanghai this July as fears of a Chinese property bubble grew.

Labourers at a residential construction site in Shanghai this July as fears of a Chinese property bubble grew.

Labourers at a residential construction site in Shanghai this July as fears of a Chinese property bubble grew.

Sydney house prices outstrip other cities in September

Australians should worry more about how fast property prices fall in China than risks of investor speculation in Sydney and Melbourne, say bankers and ratings agencies.

Paul Gruenwald, Standard & Poor’s chief economist for the Asia Pacific, said Australia is “smack in the middle of the pack” on property price rises in recent times compared with other Asian countries.

“On balance I get far more queries about China than Australia,” he said. He agreed there is potential for a correction in prices here, but as a risk he said the domestic market didn’t stand out.

“Less so than other countries in Asia, Australia has not imported US-style, ultra-low interest rates,” he said.

However, if there is a sharp price drop in China, Australia would be next in line after Hong Kong to feel the impact if this led to a downturn in the Chinese economy.

“The risk is the intersection of a non-bank credit boom going into housing,” he said. The heat is now coming out of the market there and “prices are falling in 69 of 70 cities across China – everything is softening.”

S&P’s “base case” is that China can “muddle through” with direct intervention from the government, but if not, Australia would be the first to feel the knock-on impact.

“The No.1 exposed economy is Hong Kong, but Australia is right after that. Australia is the most-geared into the China investment story.”

After the financial system inquiry hands down its final report later this month, banks expect the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority to say whether it will introduce targeted, short-term “macro-prudential” measures to make buying property less attractive for investors.

Almost half of all new residential lending in the past 12 months has gone to investors. In Sydney the figure is 60 per cent.

The worry is that rent has not risen with property values and if interest rates rise, the squeeze on returns to investors may lead to a sudden sell off.

But banks argue the risks now are less than in previous cycles of home price rises.

Ken Hanton, director of asset transformation at National Australia Bank, agreed with Mr Gruenwald that China is “one of the [potential] shocks and real risks we face”.

He said Australia had had several cycles of fast rises in house prices in the past decade, with some much stronger than the recent jumps in Sydney and Melbourne, But in each case there was no ensuing plummet.

“Over the last 10 years we had national house price growth capping out and then falling. In 2007 to 2009 it capped out at just under 15 per cent growth,” he said. “Subsequent falls saw growth rates fall to minus 5 per cent. This time around house price growth has slowed and it looks like it has capped out at 11 per cent.”

If Australia is experiencing a housing price bubble now, there must have been several in the past decade, he said.

Other bankers and analysts said the definition of a bubble in prices requires three conditions: high credit growth, reductions in lending standards and expectations of continuing property price rises.

Tally Dewan, a securitisation analyst at Commonwealth Bank, said it is hard to know whether people think prices will keep rising. But the proportion of high loan to valuation ratios had in fact been falling, she said, suggesting lending standards were not reducing.

Lending growth has been relatively low because many borrowers had chosen not to lower their repayments even though interest rates had reduced. This means many are well ahead on their loans.

ANZ Bank senior economist Felicity Emmett said lending growth is now at about 8 per cent per annum. She pointed out it had been about 20 per cent in 2003 and growth in loans to investors 11 years ago was at about 30 per cent

William Kamm – Little Pebble only days from freedom

Convicted sex offender William Kamm, known as Little Pebble, is expected to be released from jail in the next few days.

The 64-year-old Kamm has served more than nine of his 10 years in jail.

He started the religious group known as the Order of St Charbel at Tapitallee in the 1980s.

Kamm was convicted of ordering two teenage girls to have sex with him.

Part of his release conditions prohibit him from frequenting the Shoalhaven or communicating with his victims for the next 11 months.

A report by AAP said he manipulated a sect of old-line Catholic traditionalists to hand over their wives and daughters to populate his “Royal House”.

He is believed to have fathered more than 20 children and duped dozens of females, telling them they were among the 12 queens and 72 princesses chosen to repopulate the earth after judgment day.

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