10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning. A few coronavirus stories for you to ponder this morning.

1. Prepare to see a lot of news photos of stock traders looking either mildly or extremely concerned, as the coronavirus blitzes markets around the world. The Dow plummeted 1,000 points – more than it has in two years. Economists have repeatedly downgraded their projections for global growth as the virus stifles demand, while public firms lowered forward-looking guidance due to supply chain disruptions and closed retail locations. One analyst said it could be "the most disruptive thing to hit markets in many years".

2. The World Health Organisation isn't calling the coronavirus a pandemic yet, but says it has "pandemic potential". The virus is currently spreading rapidly – and independently – in countries outside of China, including Italy, South Korea, and Iran. At least 33 people have died from COVID-19 so far outside China. “For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing larger scale severe disease or death,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters from Geneva on Monday.

3. But the situation is definitely looking dicey. In Iran, some local news organisations are calling into question the government's figures on the death toll – with some reports cited by the Associated Press suggesting 50 people have died. Iran is closing public spaces like schools, universities, and cultural centres in an effort to control the novel coronavirus outbreak.

4. One more on the coronavirus, then we'll move on. Italy has become the focal point of the virus in Europe, thanks to a rapid spike in confirmed cases in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto – increasing from three confirmed cases on Friday to 215 by Monday. Authorities have closed down 12 towns as they try to stop the virus from spreading. The photos of deserted streets (including in Milan) are decidedly eerie.

5. Harvey Weinstein is guilty. The Hollywood producer was convicted of third-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act, and faces up to 25 years in prison. He was acquitted on three further charges. He will be remanded in a Rikers Island jail until his sentencing next month.

6. If you tuned into the ABC's Q+A last night, you would have been treated to an interesting display: a live, on-air grilling of a Chinese official. The deputy head of China's embassy in Australia, Wang Xining, appeared on the program to defend the Chinese government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak and its domestic policies.


7. Three of Australia's big four banks have been quietly cutting interest rates on savings accounts this year, even though the RBA hasn't made any official moves. NAB, ANZ and Westpac have all cut their savings rate by up to 0.11% in 2020. It comes after the big four pocketed nearly $4 billion in just three years by delaying or passing on only partial cuts to borrowers.

8. There are more signals the Aussie housing market is breaking into a proper sprint. Preliminary auction clearance rates in both Sydney and Melbourne are hovering around 80% after a bumper weekend saw almost 2,000 properties go under the hammer between the two cities. While the final clearance rate figures will come in lower than that, there appears to be significantly more demand in the property market than 12 months ago.

9. We've spent a lot of time over the past months talking about the influx of neobanks to the Australian market – but maybe not quite enough about what neobanks actually are, and what they're seeking to achieve. If your head is spinning, read our explainer here.

10. Donald Trump is in India right now. Not much to report there, but it did bring us this wonderful vision of the president doing his very best to pronounce the names of cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar to Virat Kohli.


Massive update. Warren Buffett has traded in his flip phone for an iPhone, saying Apple is "probably the best business I know in the world".