Aussie markets opened with a jolt this morning, tracking a solid performance on Wall Street overnight to climb 0.7% in a few short minutes after 10:00am.

By lunchtime, the benchmark has held its ground – mostly – hovering around +0.5% as thoughts turn to sandwiches around the bourse.

But as we all settle in for something to eat, here’s news that online scams are getting more sophisticated and costing ordinary, hard-working Australians loads of money. Fortunately though, a lot of the stinging was on Western Australians, who were hit for more than $16 million in 2022 alone.

So yeah, kind of Australians.

Those are mostly highly sophisticated scams, so you can’t really blame the victims when they get caught up in them – but you can blame the victim of this crypto scam, because you’d need to be paralysed between the ears to fall for this one.

According to reportage from clearly reputable places, a love-crazed mother of five decided that if she couldn’t have the object of her desires, then no one should.

After obviously watching far too many NCIS re-runs, UK woman Helen Hewlett allegedly went hunting around on the Dark Web to find herself a hitman, to take out a fella called Mark Belton that police say she’d been stalking from January 2021 through August 2022.

Prosecutors claim Hewlett paid an eye-watering 20,000 pounds (roughly 35,000 of our puny Aussie Dollary-doos) in Bitcoin to a wallet belonging to a site called “Online Killers Market”, to have Belton bumped off.

Police allege Hewlett made multiple payments to the would-be bad guys, from a Coinbase account with all her personal details attached to it, into a wallet that was publicly associated with the site – a classic rookie blunder for anyone organising a murder.

Investigators saw the payments, and say that after transferring the Bitcoin, Hewlett spent the next few days scouring local news sites looking for news of any “accidents” or “mishaps” that may have claimed the life of the man that she loved.

Hewlett has been arrested, however police say they’ve been unable to get the Bitcoin back from the people behind the website.

I know, right? I’m as shocked as you are that the local wallopers haven’t managed to twist the arm of online scammers for this poor woman’s $35k.

Investigators did manage to have the contract cancelled, though, by impersonating Hewlett and calling the whole thing off – a smart move, considering the ruthless killing machines from the online site promise a “100% job completion rate” on all of their services, which include a list of absolutely ludicrous offerings such as sniper killings for between $20,000 and $60,000, an arson attack for $20,000, and, for the budget conscious lunatic hell-bent on sending their nemesis a strong message, a mere $2,000 will buy you (actually, your victim) a solid beating.

There’s no word on whether Hewlett has any plans to go after the scammers who’ve made off with her money – but it’s a dollars-to-donuts bet that she’s unlikely to hire a rival Dark Web Hitman Crew to recover her lost funds.

And, speaking of lost funds, let’s go take a look at what the markets are up to today.



The ASX has had a roundly positive morning so far, jumping 0.7% at open and maintain a modestly positive trajectory to arrive at the lunch break up 0.5%. Not awful, but not great – a middling result for the middle of the week.

While the gains are modest, there are two sectors leading the charge this morning – Real Estate is up 1.15% and Materials has added 1.07%, quite a bit of which is because of one company smashing through the +100% mark today.

Dragging on the market, however, is the Energy sector’s paltry -0.5% effort, and yesterday’s boomers are today’s underperformers – InfoTech is down 0.25% and Consumer Staples have shed 0.07% as speculators took their profits and ran.

Among the big winners today are a few of the Big Business names. Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) is up 9.82% on news that my darling sister, who’s been staying at my house while visiting from the US, just forked over the GDP of Kenya to fly home to the US, “but only if I can get one of the big, comfy seats up the front”.

(My increasingly un-subtle hints about how my couch can comfortably seat three people in the “upright to watch telly or play Xbox” position, but only one person in the “horizontal couch-surfing freeloader for the love of all that’s holy will you please, please leave!?!” position must have finally gotten through. Email me for more tips.)

Also surging among the big kids today is Arafura Rare Earths (ASX:ARU), up 10.9% days after revealing the company had settled on a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction pathway for the Nolans NdPr Project to achieve its 2050 Net Zero Emissions commitment.



In the US overnight, things were pretty solidly ‘good’, despite the usual “will they, won’t they?” recession question that’s been haunting Wall Street like the ghost of Bernie Madoff’s credibility.

Earlybird Eddy Sunarto reports that US consumer confidence edged lower, fuelling bets on a Fed rate cut by the end of the year. A survey also suggested that 64% of US consumers were living paycheck to paycheck, up from 61% the year before.

“Wall Street is slowly growing confident that this week’s Fed rate hike might end up being the last one in this tightening cycle,” said OANDA analyst, Edward Moya.

Speaking of rate hikes, the shadowy cabal that secretly runs the global economy has convened in the US, and will send spokeslizard Jerome Powell out sometime in the next 24-48 hours to make an announcement.

I think it works something like this: Powell gets wheeled out from the nuclear blast-proof bunker underneath the fountain in the middle of New York’s Central Park, and if he sees his shadow, it’s an extra six weeks of a 25 basis point rate hike.

And it appears that the EV market in the US is in for a savage price war, because Tesla making less money is exactly the right move for Elon Musk right now.

Just kidding – he’s most likely just banking some actual, folding cash to pay off his legal team as it prepares to get Rogered in a Manner Most Jolly by the King of England, Charles the Somethingth, after Musk stopped paying the rent on a property owned by The Crown.

Following Tesla’s move to slash its prices, Ford announced that it will also cut prices on its EV Mustang Mach-E models by as much as 8%, putting the price range at about US$46k to US$64k.

It’s a move that puts the EVs firmly into the “Hey Jolene! I think we can afford one of them Fancy New Lectrick Horseless Carriages” category for a whole new market sector, and could well be the catalyst for a renewed surge in interest for US consumers.

In Japan, the Nikkei has climbed 0.53% on news that Burger King is launching a meal promotion which will, 100%, result in a foul, greasy death for someone before it gets called off.

The Maximum Cho One-Pound Beef Burger challenge is a little bit complex: You can order a Medium Maximum Cho meal, consisting of medium fries, a medium drink and a four-patty monstrosity that boasts a pre-cooked beef payload of half a kilogram.

Once that lot has been consumed, you can go back for free refills on any of the items, including the heart-stopping artery clogger, with a total of 45 minutes to consume as much or as many of them as you can stomach.

Someone is going to die doing this… or at least perish in the days after they foolishly put more than a kilo of meat patties into their digestive system and make the whole thing grind to a horrible, sweaty halt.

In China, where everyone is far more sensible and ridiculous chain restaurants don’t do promotions that glorify the decadent Western notions of over-consumption and rampant consumerism, the markets have made modest gains.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong is up 0.42%, while Shanghai has put on a far more sedate and graceful 0.34%.

Meanwhile, in the ongoing free-for-all that is the crypto market, the number values listed alongside several 3- and 4-letter acronyms have changed, making some people happy and other people displeased.

There is obviously a lot more detail to be learned about that, which I will leave to my ultra-capable colleague Rob “Old Man At Least It Wasn’t A Hip Breaky Bones” Badman, over at Mooners and Shakers.



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

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Today’s Prizewinning Piglets aren’t hard to spot at the top of the ladder, with two companies stacking on value like Idaho teenagers who’ve decided to eat nothing but baked potatoes in order to “bulk up for football”.

The biggest gain belongs to Lode Resources (ASX:LDR), after the explorer drilled into an extraordinary silver find of 116.1m at 1003g/t silver eq from 90m, including 3.1m at 3325g/t silver from 201m – at the flagship Webbs Consol project in NSW.

At the time of writing, LDR is trading 129% higher at $0.275 a pop.

Also flying high this morning is expiration minnow Admiralty Resources (ASX:ADY), with the penny stock smashing through a 57% gain on absolutely no news whatsoever, aside from a quarterly report that didn’t have much to say, aside from “Yeah… we’re gonna start digging stuff out of the ground soon. This year, for sure. But not right now, no.”

Meteoric Resources (ASX:MEI) continues to live up to its name, adding 16.7% this morning to take its gains for the past 12 months to a wallet-bursting 775%, and a solid quarterly a few days ago has helped Golden State Mining (ASX:GSM) put on more than 23% this morning as well.



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

Swipe or scroll to reveal full table. Click headings to sort:

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