Aussie markets have opened slightly higher this morning, following a combination of uncharacteristic post-brekky energy and (I suspect) a well-earned sense of guilt over the market’s less-than-stellar performance over the past week.

Whatever the cause – and I’ll get into the details on that in a bit – it’s been enough to see the benchmark peaking around +0.4% mid-morning, easing slightly to +0.3% as everyone broke for lunch.

But first, a very quick dive into the world of evolving EV tech, after Ford – that wonderful company that has been putting dumb cars under even dumber people in the US for decades – has applied for a patent that will have every fan of buying dealer-financed cars quaking in their driveways.

In applying for the patent, Ford has tipped its hand in quite a significant fashion, unwittingly revealing plans to use the self-driving tech installed in upcoming models to have the cars deliver themselves back to the dealer, should the owner stops making their loan payments.

Of course, you’re not going to find yourself walking home from the shops if your payment’s a couple of hours behind schedule – the patent includes escalating steps the company can take, including sending reminder messages, other written warnings, and… Oh.

This is actually starting to sound pretty dystopian and hugely depressing.

One of the final steps before your 5.0-litre V8-powered display of severe IQ deficiency takes off on its own like a startled deer while you’re down the pub with your mates, is actually quite alarming.

The car will emit “audio that makes an ‘unpleasant’ sound with tone, pitch, cadence, beat or volume to get the owner to contact the lender about arranging payment”, the Detroit Free Press reports.

And if driving around town with your car blasting you with noises that sounds like a swarm of angry wasps are being fired out of your nipples doesn’t get you to make a payment, then the car’s self-driving tech will start to do stuff… like disabling certain features in an escalating program of targeted personal harassment.

Stuff like electronic seat adjustment, power windows, the GPS system and even the functions on the car’s audio system will get switched off or, presumably in the case of the radio, stuck playing the entire Proclaimers back catalogue in Everything Louder Than Everything Else mode… a clear warning that you might be about to be forced to walk 500 miles, with the promise of an intimate encounter with a pair of fugly Scottish twins at the far end.

While the text of the patent does include the sentiment that it would be “preferable not to provoke an undesirable confrontation”, this is clearly one of the most egregious acts of corporate bastardry the automotive industry has seen for quite some time

But, if it gets a few deadbeat drongos in their F-150s and Mustangs off the road, who are we to complain?



Before the bell rang this morning, the ASX 200 March futures contract was pointing up by 0.30%, and the benchmark dutifully took the hint to rise 0.4% when things kicked off.

However, there’s not been a lot of momentum behind the rise, despite most sectors enjoying a small taste of success on the green side of the ledger today.

Up top, InfoTech has risen 0.67%, with Materials and Telcos on +0.44% and +0.43% respectively, which explains why the overall market may well be up, but not showing a lot of confidence on a set of shaky legs.

Industrials is pretty much flat, and Real Estate is sinking again, down 0.34%.

The solitary $1bn+ Large Cap making waves this morning is Block Inc (ASX:SQ2), up 4.1% to $155.5 or thereabouts – but not for any particular reason, as far as ASX announcements are concerned.

But the company has revealed a move into the social lending space in the UK, teaming up with Birmingham-based Community Development Finance Institution ART to help facilitate loans up to 150,000 quid for local small businesses like yoga studios, cafes and some weird dude that makes hats, that traditionally have difficulty convincing a larger bank to lend them money because they have “we’ll be broke by August” written all over them.



On Wall Street overnight, all three major US indexes rallied by around 1% each as traders weighed economic news in both the US and Europe.

Fresh data in the US showed a boost for the American labour market, with initial jobless claims edging lower from 192,000 to 190,000.

And in Europe, inflation eased slightly to 8.5% in February, even as the ECB signalled that it would still hike rates, much to the chagrin of everybody except the banks.

Earlybird Eddy Sunarto has crunched the numbers to report that the news has pushed further sell-offs in the US, with US 10-year yields surging 7bp to 4.06%, while the 2-year Treasury yield climbed 4.4bps higher to 4.92%, and seems destined to make a run at 5%.

Marketwatchers in the US are likely bracing themselves, though – US Fed Chair Jerome Powell is due to appear before Congress to deliver his half-yearly monetary policy report, which is undoubtedly going to sow discord and chaos because every time J-Pow opens his gob, the US markets go mental.

In Japan, the Nikkei has climbed 0.85% after revelations that the Japanese government has discovered about 7,000 islands that it didn’t know it owned.

A recent spate of digital mapping by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) put the total number of islands in Japan at 14,125 – which is quite a substantial number, much larger than the 6,852 islands Japan knew about from the last time they were counted in 1987.

Granted, island counting technology has progressed somewhat since the late 1980s, and there’s a good argument to be made that it’s very likely that when Japan’s Coast Guard went out to count the islands, they stopped at 6,852 because everyone on the crew had been eaten by sea monsters.

In China, Beijing has called on Japan to “immediately cease the hostile and needlessly provocative counting of islands that clearly lie within Chinese territorial waters”, warning Japan that any further counting of islands will be viewed as “reckless geographical and numerical acts of aggression”, which will be met with a “measured and proportional response”, involving a lot of angry people in boats.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng is up 0.68%, and in Shanghai the market is 0.22% up, but several thousand islands down.

In CryptoLand, it’s been a pretty good 24 hours, provided that you’re not Californian bank Silvergate Capital, in which case I’m sorry that you’re having a shocker.

The heavily crypto-focused bank has shed more than 50% of its value, after texting the SEC to say “Annual report running super late. 🍆🍆🍑😣”, sparking rumours that Silvergate’s having liquidity issues and is in serious trouble.

Rob “🚀🚀🚀💥” Badman has all the details on that, and how crypto in general is travelling, over at Mooners and Shakers, which you should definitely read because this is pretty big news.



Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for March 1 [intraday]:

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In the Wonderful Happy Land of Small Caps, where the swings are huge and the trees are singing and the gnomes have gathered to tell me that I might have taken too much of my brain medicine this morning, people management tech firm Intellihr (ASX:IHR) is at the top of the ladder today.

The news there is that Intellihr was all set to get gobbled up entirely by Humanforce Holdings, with a Scheme Implementation Deed all done and everything, but some late mail from The Access Group (TAG) has lobbed another takeover bid onto the table.

The bid from TAG is at $0.14 a share – a big jump from the $0.11 that Humanforce is offering – which implies an equity value of around $49.1 million for IHR, leaving the Humanforce bid’s $38.5 million looking a little sad.

The TAG bid is at a 122% premium to the closing price of IHR shares on 30 January 2023, a 126% premium to the 1-month VWAP and a 130% premium to the 4-month VWAP of IHR shares.

So… IHR shares have soared 30.2% today, reaching (you guessed it) $0.14 a pop from yesterday’s close of (ahuh… you’re right again) $0.11.

SportsHero (ASX:SHO) has had a surge of interest today, with the sports prediction and gamification app maker jumping 21% on a 10-fold boost in volume, possibly because (for better or worse) the 2023 NRL season kicked off last night, and the race to become King of the Office Footy Tipping Contest is on in earnest around the nation.

And lastly, Sparc Technologies (ASX:SPN) is enjoying a 19.2% rise this morning, after revealing that its Sparc Hydrogen JV with the University of Adelaide and Fortescue Future Industries is set to pump another $1.1 million into developing and commercialising its photocatalytic water splitting technology, which aims to produce low-cost green hydrogen on a commercial scale.



Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for March 1 [intraday]:

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