In a widely-anticipated move this morning, Australian markets have opened. This is probably not news to most of you, but for those of you that are alarmed by this event, please rest assured that it is entirely normal, it happens quite often, and there is no need to head out into the bushland behind your house and start digging up your stash of gold.

The big news surrounding the opening of the market this morning is that in the first few minutes after the bell rang, the benchmark took off, climbing 1.0% in a matter of minutes, before easing slightly to around +0.74%, and then rebounding back to +1.1%… and then easing again.

She’s obviously feeling a little volatile today, but 1.1% at lunchtime is certainly worth a celebratory nosh on something greasy and yummy.

And speaking of lunch, residents of England are set to be caught in quite a quandary, after officials there confirmed that single-use eating utensils (plastic forks, spoons, plates and all that sorta thing) are going to be banned completely.

The move has been driven by ongoing concerns that the plastic doo-hickies we use to dig food and shovel it into our mouths are “environmental nightmares”, based on alarming scientific findings such as this gem: “It takes a plastic fork about 200 years to decompose”.

That would explain why archaeologists in Australia have never been able to locate any of the plastic cutlery used by convicts arriving on the First Fleet.

All jokes aside, though… that is quite clearly a terrible thing.

Consider every single plastic spoon you’ve dumped in the bin after a cheeky laksa at your local food court – and marvel at the fact that, while highly unlikely, there’s an outside chance that your great-great-not so great-great-awesome-great grandchildren might one day be able to stick one in their mouth, because babies are dumb.

The quandary this ban will have on English residents is quite apparent – without plastic cutlery, the humble British Picnic will undoubtedly turn into something that more closely resembles a Bedouin feast, as Picnickers are forced to eat using only their hands.

Because carrying sharp implements such as knives in England is a massive no-no – thanks to everyone over there getting very stabby over the past few years.

I jest, of course – because the ban is nowhere near a complete one.

“The ban will cover plastic plates, bowls and trays used for food and drink eaten at a restaurant, cafe or takeaway but not in settings such as supermarkets and shops,” The Guardian reports.

So, provided you can prove that you bought whatever you’re about to eat at a supermarket, you’ll be fine. If not, you’ll be fined. Possibly. I really don’t know.

What I do know is that the ban has been met with highly mixed reactions, including from the environmental lobby, who are – predictably – celebrating by moaning about it.

They’re unhappy because A) that’s what they do, B) they are chronically unhappy anyway, and C) the pace of the ban on single-use plastic eating things is moving at a pace best described as “glacial”.

How this one pans out is anyone’s guess, but it will almost definitely put an end to the traditional Sunday afternoon Chicken Tikka Masala by the Thames, if only because there’s not a single piece of biodegradable cutlery stout enough to last more than a measly 5 minutes in a bowl of that gloriously oily muck.

And now, to far more important things…



As mentioned, it’s all systems go for the ASX so far this morning, with the benchmark pointing towards a handsome 1.1% gain as we queue up at the food truck for our small cardboard box of ridiculously overpriced “Japxicalian Fusion” grub.

(It’s tacos with raw fish drowned in carbonara sauce.)

A quick look at the sectors to see who’s pumping, and it’s green lights right across the board, except for InfoTech, which has ticked down -0.14% this morning.

Leading the charge is Materials, pumping out a 1.5% gain before lunch off the back of a host of massive gains among the explorers and diggers. Discretionary, Energy, Industrials and Staples are all showing better than 1.0% gains as well, which is lovely, don’t you think?

Imugene (ASX:IMU) is sole Big Bizness in the top gainers chart this morning, up a solid 6.25% on news that the company has received Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) approval to commence a Phase I clinical trial of its oncolytic virotherapy candidate, VAXINIA in Australia.

A  quick explainer for those of us that don’t speak Fluent Medicine: oncolytic virotherapy is a very funky branch of research that uses oncolytic viruses – either naturally occurring, or in this case, lab-developed – to replicate preferentially in tumour cells and inhibit tumour growth.

It’s big news, and means Imugene has completed all the necessary pre-clinical safety and efficacy testing of VAXINIA required to commence human clinical trials in Australia, the company says. Neato.

Losing ground this morning, however, is ComputerShare (ASX:CPU), with the $14.8 billion market cap company shedding 4.60% on precisely zero news.

Maybe it’s a virus.



In the United States of America, Friday was a Good Day (mostly). New jobs data showed a significant drop in unemployment, which investors have taken as a good sign that the US Fed is unlikely to serve up another Texas-sized rate hike in February.

Despite the hot non-farm payroll numbers and unemployment declining to the lowest level since the 1960s at 3.5%, the average hourly earnings data came in softer than expected, Earlybird Eddy Sunarto reports.

“From the market’s perspective, the main thing they’re responding to is the softer average hourly earnings number,” said market strategist at MetLife Investment, Drew Matus.

“The unemployment rate doesn’t matter much if average hourly earnings continue to soften.”

Markets there climbed nicely during Friday’s session, with the Dow closing +2.13, the S&P up 2.28% and the Nasdaq higher by 2.56%

However, it wasn’t all fantastic news, with retail giant Bed, Bath & Beyond under severe pressure from investors, gutted to the tune of 16% on Friday on persistent rumours that the company is likely to drop the Bed and the Bath entirely, and venture into the Great Beyond by filing for bankruptcy protection in the near future.

And political ructions in the US are also likely to have an effect on markets there tonight, following the ludicrous sitting of the US House of Representatives which saw the Republican nominee for the hugely important Speaker role publicly held to ransom by the noisy far-right members of his own party.

Kevin McCarthy was eventually elected, after a record-smashing 15 ballots were held – and at each round, individual Representatives, including controversial figures Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, the latter of whom had to be protected from fellow Republican Mike Rogers when Gaetz withheld his vote to scuttle the 14th ballot.



Democracy™ at its finest.

It’d be funny if it wasn’t such a searing indictment of how horribly fractured the US political system has become – but it is still funny.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei is going absolutely nowhere, as the market there is closed for “Respect for the Aged Day” – a holiday where the rest of the population stops mocking old people for falling over and dying alone for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, in China: Covid continues to rip through the populace causing untold grief and havoc.

Hong Kong is clearly feeling the pinch, opening 0.29% lower this morning, while in Shanghai, things are moving the other way (+0.32%) because there’s evidently not a Covid problem in China at all. Nothing to see here, citizen. Move along… seriously, move along.

In South Korea, the market is booming this morning, with its major indices all climbing more than 2.0% so far today.

And in Brazil, markets are astonishingly buoyant (+1.2%), considering that authorities were forced to quell what looked alarmingly like the beginning of a semi-popular uprising by far-right supporters of recently ousted lunatic Jair Bolsonaro stormed the nation’s democratic institutions, smashing windows and behaving very poorly indeed.

Bolsonaro has reportedly been working from the Donald Trump playbook, claiming that his election loss to the more left-leaning Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was “stolen”, working his supporters up into a frenzy that has – predictably – led to violence.

At last count, 400 of the mob had been rounded up and driven away in divvy vans – and the “assault on democracy” seems to have been stopped in its tracks, for now.



Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for January 9 [intraday]:

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In Small Caps, we have a handful of bolters to discuss this morning, after a number of little diggers went soaring in value.

Leading the charge this morning is Tempus Resources (ASX:TMR), up a barnstorming 46.3%  on news that it drilled into bonanza level gold at its Elizabeth Gold Project in Southern British Columbia.

The numbers Tempus is reporting are positively eye-popping, and include the following highlights, presented in bullet-point form for your gold-porn viewing pleasure:

  • EZ-22-20 – Multiple bonanza grade zones
  • 28.1g/t gold over 28.50m from 84.40m, including:
    • 167.1g/t gold over 1.35m from 94.65m;
    • 175.2g/t gold over 1.08m from 97.00m; and
    • 35.2g/t gold over 3.65m from 104.35m, and
  • 4.2g/t gold over 6.75m from 209.55m, including:
    • 35.6g/t gold over 1.31m from 209.55m
  • EZ-22-22 – Multiple bonanza and high-grade gold zones in sheeted quartz
    • 49.4g/t gold over 1.15m from 80.85m, and
    • 4.8g/t gold over 1.42mm from 141.00m, including:
      • 9.5g/t gold over 0.72m from 141.70m

Tempus is reporting that “strike continuity of the wide high-grade gold zone associated with the No. 9 Vein has been extended to approximately 150m with open target areas to the south and south-west of the current drilling”, which means there is potential for even more in this single deposit.

Also booming, but for an entirely different reason, is Essential Metals (ASX:ESS), on news that Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia Pty Ltd (TLEA), a lithium joint venture entity owned by Tianqi Lithium Corporation (TLC) (51%) and IGO (49%) has entered into a Scheme Implementation Agreement (SIA) to acquire 100% of Essential Metals at $0.50/share, payable in cash.

That’s a massive 36.3% premium on Essential’s 30-day VWAP and values ESS’s equity at A$136 million on a fully diluted basis – and ESS is up (you guessed it) a shade over 36% at the time of writing.

Another miner rocketing skywards this morning is Austral Resources (ASX:AR1), and it’s climbed 24% for yet another entirely different reason.

The copper producer has reported to the market that it’s achieved a massive milestone, hitting its target of achieving Commercial Production in December 2022 at its Anthill Project near Mt Isa, Queensland – and is now cashflow positive.

Austral says that it successfully achieved an average production rate of 33.3 tonnes per day of plated copper for a total of 976 tonnes over December’s 29-day operating period at its Mt Kelly crushing/processing facility.



Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for January 9 [intraday]:

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