But first, to China, where a local comedian has been forced to apologise and stop working altogether, after telling a joke that has apparently angered the nation’s military.

Stand-up comedian Li Haoshi, who goes by the nickname House for some reason, has been suspended after regaling his audience with a story about two stray dogs that he adopted, which chased a squirrel.

Obviously, he tells the joke better than I do.

Anyhow, the punchline to the story is that he said that he was proud of his two adopted stray dogs for “having a good work style, being able to fight and win battles” – a phrase that His Mightiness Omnipotent Lord of all China Xi Jinping used to describe the People’s Liberation Army, waaay back in 2013.

The name of the Chinese army is probably the best joke in the whole story… but, I digress.

The use of that phrase was enough to upset people on Chinese social media site Weibo, because of course it was. Apparently, despite being very tightly controlled, China’s social media self-appointed morality police squad is every bit as bad as the ones that inhabit Twitter.

Anyway, Army officials issued a statement after the performance, saying in part “Talk shows like this make PLA soldiers very angry!”

“The PLA soldiers have a very tolerant attitude toward diverse cultures, but we cannot stand for this stupid joke, which is provocative and insulting. We are angry,” PLA officials said.

And, of course, the last thing anyone would want to do is point out how utterly laughable it is that an entire army of people would get upset about a joke, right? That would be lunacy…

Li or House or whatever his name is has issued a formal apology – as is customary for people who don’t fancy the idea of being bundled into a van and driven to a ‘re-education camp’ to mine lithium for five years while other people hit them with a stick.

 

TO MARKETS

And down she goes… from kickoff this morning, the benchmark plunged, hitting as low as -0.9% around 10:45am, before rallying to -0.5% by lunchtime.

The only sector doing well today is InfoTech, which is outperforming the rest of the market by a country mile, up 0.89% while Utilities is clutching the InfoTech coat tails and oozing out a 0.28% gain.

Everything else is in the pits this morning. Materials has fallen hardest, down 0.7%, Financials and Consumer Staples rounds out the bottom three, both on -0.64%.

Up the top end of town, Lake Resources is riding the lithium charge this morning, up 8.2% on no news.

Also on the rise is online fashion retailer Cettire (ASX:CTT), which has been on a bit of a charge over the past 24 hours. So far this morning, it’s climbed 14.8%.

And another in the online retail space that’s booming this morning is homewares group Temple & Webster (ASX:TPW), up 16% this morning on the release of its May business update, which includes the Magic Words “We’re Using AI to Sell Stuff”, so up goes the price. Plus, business is doing well, too.

 

NOT THE ASX

Overnight, Wall Street tumbled as investors watched for signs of a breakthrough in the debt-ceiling impasse, and digested fresh economic data, Earlybird Eddy Sunarto reports.

The situation is not great in the negotiation room. Republicans in the House have already passed a bill that would end the crisis, but it contains elements that Democrats find unconscionable, including huge cuts to federal spending, rollbacks of key green-energy programs and the implementation of something along the lines of the Australian government’s wildly unpopular “work for the dole” scheme.

But, the overall consensus, according to the Washington Post, is that The Great Default is not an option for either side – so the brinkmanship continues to see who’s going to blink first and back down.

It does mean that Biden has cancelled a planned visit to Australia and PNG this week, but he will still be travelling to Hiroshima for the G7 meeting, which is far more important than experiencing the spiritual ennui and crushing disappointment of being in Canberra.

Anyway… the S&P500 index was down by -0.64%, the Dow Jones by -1.01% and tech-heavy Nasdaq by -0.18%.

In stock news, Home Depot fell -2% after Q1 profits missed estimates. The company lowered guidance for the rest of the year, which could be a trend we see going forward for major US retailers.

Earnings from other giant retailers Walmart and Target are set to report later this week.

Chinese tech giant Baidu rose 4% on the Nasdaq after posting Q1 profits that beat estimates.

US regional bank stocks were sold off again as former executives from Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank testified before the Senate. You’d think they’d have learned to keep their mouths shut by now, but no.

In Japan, the Nikkei is up 0.70% this morning, after Japanese gadget maker Thanko released what is probably the greatest post-shower gizmo the world has ever seen.

Called the Noreru Senpuki, which roughly translates to “Fan that You Can Stand On”, it looks a little like a cross between a bathroom scale and one of those blower things used in public toilets to distribute gross, germy moisture into the air while people half-dry their hands.

To use it, you stand on it, and instantly a warm, soothing blast of warm air – travelling at around 35 metres per second – will rocket up your hoo-haa, drying your dangly bits while you do your very best Marylin Monroe impersonation in front of the bathroom mirror.

 

 

What a time to be alive.

Meanwhile in China, where the markets are 100% not a joke, Shanghai is down 0.21%, and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng is down 0.37%.

In CryptoLand, the European Union’s love of regulating things into the ground has swung its considerable weight behind a new set of rules, which provide “a very strong attempt to provide absolute clarity for crypto businesses across the 27 European Union member countries”, says Rob “It’s Regulation Size, Baby” Badman.

Rob’s got more to say on that, and the rest of the Crypto Madness over at Mooners & Shakers this morning.

 

ASX SMALL CAP WINNERS

Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for May 17 [intraday]:

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The standout winner this morning is medical diagnostics company Rhythm Biosciences (ASX:RHY), which has broken through the +100% mark today on news that it has been granted a UK CA Mark for ColoSTAT, the company’s test kit product to detect bowel cancer.

The UK CA Mark means that the device fully conforms with the European Directives for IVD Medical Devices (98/79/EC) and the UKCA requirements, which is a crucial component for Rhythm’s strategic commercialisation and market entry plans.

At the time of writing, RHY was up 120%, and still climbing.

In second place on the ladder, it’s Noronex (ASX:NRX) – formerly Lustrum Minerals – after it dropped a report from a single drillhole Daheim, part of its Witvlei Project in Namibia.

The company says that partial assay results from hole 23DHDD01 includes 14m @ 1.1% Cu from 109m (including 3m@ 2.0% Cu), and 7m @ 0.54% Cu from 44m across a broader intersection of 135m @ 0.33% Cu from 44m.

Assay results from the rest of the hole (below 278m), and from a second hole (23DHDD02) are coming soon.

That seems to be enough information for local investors, who have piled in and added 57% to its trading price this morning.

And in third, after keeping the market in suspense for nearly a week with an extended trading halt and a voluntary suspension, Wildcat Resources (ASX:WC8) has revealed that it has entered into a conditional, binding agreement to acquire 100% of the Tabba Tabba Tantalum Mine and Lithium-Tantalum Project, 50km from Port Hedland in the Pilbara, WA.

Wildcat says historical exploration of the site has defined a very high-grade, pegmatite-hosted tantalum deposit, but there had been limited exploration for lithium at the site.

However, previous drilling has intersected high-grade lithium including 8m at 1.42% Li2O from 4m, limited assaying for lithium has shown, so Wildcat reckons it’s onto a good thing. The market agrees, and WC8 is trading 22.5% higher this morning.

There’s a lot happening among small caps as the market rally continues, so make sure you tune in for Closing Bell this afternoon.

 

ASX SMALL CAP LOSERS

Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for May 17 [intraday]:

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