It’s Friday morning, and Aussie markets have opened with a slump, shedding -0.8% in just 15 minutes before settling in to see how long it can hold its breath at the bottom of the pool.

A first-thing in the morning market drop isn’t completely shocking, of course. It happens all the time, but it does kinda knock the gloss off your highly-caffeinated efforts to get through the day with a smile on your face.

But in case you’re feeling sorry for yourself, we have news from Lebanon about how your slightly bad morning ain’t nothing compared to what’s been grinding away at the national happiness over there for the past few years.

Lebanon is, quite famously, in terrible shape. It’s been about three years since Lebanon’s banks basically locked people out of their savings accounts, leaving bank managers to sleep atop hoarded piles of wealth.

Basically Tolkein’s Smaug, but from the Middle East, not Middle Earth.

Which is why one woman took matters into her own hands, walking into her local bank branch – which remains open, presumably to sell loans and figure out ways not to pay anybody any interest – waving a gun around and demanding cash.

Unlike most bank robbers, however, the financial incentive wasn’t to grab as much cash as possible before driving off into the sunset to die in the desert after a shoot-out with Lebanon’s heavily-armed police.

Instead, the woman walked into BLOM Bank in Beirut’s Sodeco neighbourhood, took a few hostages, and not-quite-politely asked to withdraw her own savings – roughly US$13,000 worth.

Representatives from Lebanon’s Depositors’ Outcry advocacy group said the woman also took around 6 million in Lebanese pounds – presumably in a wheelbarrow – worth about US$160.

It won’t take too long for authorities to catch up with the woman – Sali Hafiz – after her mum went on television and identified her while trying to explain why the hold-up took place.

 

 

Screenshot via Beirut.com

Hafiz told Lebanese television she’d spoken with the manager who refused to allow her to withdraw her money and found she was ‘at the end of the road’, and had ‘nothing more to lose.’

There’s no punch line to this one… just a sense of enormous wellbeing that despite how grotesque the behaviour of our local banks can be, at least the ATMs don’t need to be threatened with guns when we need to put cash in our pockets.

 

TO MARKETS

Aussie markets have opened lower this morning after yesterday’s modest gains turned out to be a bit of a flash in the pan.

We really need to find a new support act, because the intros we’re getting from Wall Street really aren’t warming up the crowd the way they need to and frankly it’s getting a bit tiresome having bad gig after bad gig whenever the Americans have an off night.

Across the sectors, and it’s Energy (-2.56%), Industrials (-1.70%), Materials (-1.70%) and Real Estate (-1.34%) weighing heavily on the index, after some meaty sell-offs among the big names in those key areas.

Because there are no Large Cappers kicking big enough goals this morning, we’re forced to look at who’s losing lunch privileges.

Atlas Arteria (ASX:ALX) is trading more than 14.0% lower after the completion of the institutional component of the fully underwritten 1 for 1.95 pro-rata accelerated non-renounceable entitlement offer of new stapled ALX securities.

Analysts are waiting with bated breath for what’s going to happen when all the new paper-clipped securities are included as well. #WorstJokeEver #FireYourWriters

Let’s hop on a plane and get outta here before the Gag Writer’s Union organises a picket line outside.

 

NOT THE ASX

Wall Street’s short break from setting everyone’s money on fire came to a rapid end overnight, after even more bad news came pouring in about how much of a dog the US economy has become.

As Our Guy Eddy pointed out this morning, US retail sales were sluggish in August, up 0.3% vs survey of flat, as consumers failed to keep up with inflation – and US industrial production also fell 0.2% in August, which was worse than predicted.

The Empire State index, which is a monthly survey of manufacturers in New York state, showed a massive fall of -31.3 points to -1.5 points in September, Eddy reports.

Further chaos, however, appears to have been avoided after Railway unions convinced industry heavyweights to agree in principle to a deal that staved off rolling strike action that would have sparked a US$2 billion per day gut punch to the US economy.

That’s not entirely good news, though – the rail strike would have put coal deliveries in the US into an even worse state than they already are, but the strike now being on the backburner has put strong downward pressure on oil prices.

Most tellingly, US treasury yields rose once again overnight with the 2-year surging by 8bp, and the 10-year by 4bp – widening the curve inversion spread to its most inverted level in more than two decades.

How much longer the US will be able to keep its head in the “We Can’t Hear You Because We’re Not In A Recession” bucket remains to be seen… but someone really oughta tell them.

In Asia, markets are also lower this morning, with Japan’s Nikkei falling -1.17% and Hong Kong down -0.77%, while Shanghai’s dropped a more modest -0.43%.

Asian market movements are all happening against the backdrop of a Meeting of Minds between soon-to-be Emperor for Life Xi Jinping, and that Russian bloke whose recent real estate foray into Ukraine is proving a tad more expensive than he’d hoped for.

Christian’s got a great wrap-up of what happened and what it all means coming up later on today.

In commodities, global oil prices have risen slightly, up +0.29% while gas prices have eased -0.24%.

Market uncertainty and whatever weird Bond Yield Voodoo is happening in the US has introduced a shudder to the clutch of the precious-metals mobile, sending gold (-0.33%), silver (-0.76%) and copper (-0.62%) into negative territory.

And in the coin-operated Crypto Arcade, where the kids are unsupervised and the grown-ups are praying for death, the much-vaunted Ethereum Merge Event of the Millenium has sent ETH prices rocketing into the toilet, like the morning after a night of cheap meat pies and Guinness.

Technically brilliant. Financially ruinous. Peak Crypto.

Rob Badman has far better analysis over at Mooners & Shakers.

 

ASX SMALL CAP WINNERS

Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for September 16 [intraday]:

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Fund manager Contango (ASX:CGA) is leading the winner’s parade through the Small Caps village this morning, up +53% on no news at all.

Moving up for actual reasons this morning, though, is Mamba Exploration (ASX:M24), which has followed the lead of its neighbours Dreadnought (ASX:DRE) and Kingfisher Mining (ASX:KFM) and taken a different look at its recent regional radiometric data.

Through a slightly different lens, Mamba’s been able to locate eight distinct anomalies within the Company’s Ashburton / Gascoyne Project tenements that have “Here be Thorium” written all over them.

Investors like it when things like this happen, and Mamba’s trading +44.0% higher as a result.

And, lastly, newbie Octava Minerals (ASX:OCT) has received a warm welcome to the ASX, throwing open the doors to investors and climbing +32.5% in a couple of hours.

The rise is more good news for Octava, after a successful $6 million IPO that saw Chinese investors Fuyang Mingjin New Energy Development and Southeast Mingqing Supply Chain (Fuyang) snag about 15% of the company each.

OCT says finds raised will go into exploration on the Company’s flagship East Pilbara Talga lithium JV project – strategically located in the world classy lithium region of the Pilbara and its highly-prospective East Kimberley and Yallalong projects all over on the Other Side in WA.

Octava says there’s lithium mineralisation in pegmatite confirmed at Talga, but there’s been no drilling thus far. Octava has commenced surface mapping and sampling to define drill targets.

And while we try not to pile on about bad news when the market’s glum, there is no way we can ignore what’s happened to Phoslock Environmental Technologies (ASX:PET) today.

PET’s had a hugely bumpy ride for quite some time, with large-scale fraud and all sorts of skullduggery taking place. Finally, though, the ASX seemed happy that things are all above-board and looking good enough to allow PET to start trading again.

So it did, landing with an audible and alarmingly moist-sounding thud, -69.4%.

 

ASX SMALL CAP LOSERS

Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for September 16 [intraday]:

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