Local markets have opened higher this morning, surprising quite a number of people – but we were about due for a win, so this morning’s 0.7% jump from the starting gate is a welcome one.

Things have since eased, but the benchmark’s got its elbows out and is still well in the black on 0.6% as the lunch bell rings.

And speaking of elbows, this morning’s announcement from Qantas about its latest “value add” for customers is all about making sure the next time you’re on board one of the company’s high speed tube of recycled farts and screaming infants, you may have the luxury of guaranteeing having the centre arm-rest all to yourself.

For a price, of course. This is Qantas we’re talking about here.

On selected domestic routes, the company says, passengers will be able to pay a few more bucks to make sure that they don’t have to suffer the unending hell and indignity of dealing with someone sitting next to them.

That price: somewhere between $30 and $65, depending (I assume) how far you’re flying, and how desperately you appear to despise human contact.

I’ll readily admit that at first glance, it sounds like a top-notch idea – as someone who’s had their fair share of work-related travel, there really is no greater joy than watching the plane doors close and seeing the seat next to you is going to remain vacant.

But a cynical person – a deeply cynical and rather world-weary person – might see it as something other than an airline being “nice” to its customers.

They might, perhaps, see it as a way for the airline to monetise otherwise empty seats… because I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that during the “how can we extract money to help defray the costs of sending a plane into the air only 75% full?” meeting, someone had a bright idea.

“What if, like, 48 hours from the flights that we know are severely under-booked, we email all the passengers, right, and we say that for another $50, they can guarantee to have the seat next to them empty – I mean, it’s going to be empty anyway, but they won’t know that…”

And, so, here we are… a nation with a publicly-owned “national carrier” that Australian taxpayers propped up through the Covid crisis to the tune of $2 billion in corporate welfare we’ll never, ever see again, playing us for dummies by dressing up another cash grab as a “value proposition” for travellers.

But surely nobody is cynical enough to think that Qantas – our dear, beloved Flying Kangaroo – would stoop that low…



Aussie markets opened higher this morning, tracking Wall Street higher as markets there digested news that the US debt ceiling impasse could be resolved by the end of this week.

An early 0.7% surge eased somewhat throughout the morning, resting at 0.6% by the time everyone’s devon-and-sauce sandwiches were being dragged out of their brown paper bags.

InfoTech is leading the gains today, with a barnstorming 2.73% jump, with Materials up 1.12% behind it, thanks to a surge for iron ore and lithium, which in turn is thanks to things happening in China.

A bump in housing prices in 70 of China’s largest cities has tweaked market desire for iron, while the destocking cycle for lithium in China bottoming out has been firing up lithium prices as well.

Consumer Discretionary, however, is not faring too well this morning, down 0.68%.

At the top of the Large Caps winners is Xero (ASX:XRO), up 8.85% to $102.43 with a banner headline FY23 results announcement claiming a 28% revenue bump to $1.4 billion with 3.74 million subscribers.

That’s compared to FY22’s $301.7 million, driving a significant increase in free cash flow to $102.3 million, which reflects a free cash flow margin of 7.3% compared to 0.2% in FY22.

Crop protection and specialist seeds company Nufarm (ASX:NUF) is also winning today, up 14.25% because it just is, okay? Geez…



In the US, concerns over the debt ceiling crisis appear to have eased substantially, with the Big Guns retreating from negotiations to let the staffers do the real work to put a deal together, that will stave off a US default and government shut down.

Wall Street climbed handsomely, with the S&P up 1.19%, the Dow adding 1.24% and the Nasdaq winning the day on a 1.28% gain.

Earlybird Eddy Sunarto reports that retailer Target climbed 2.5% after topping analysts’ forecasts in Q1, but guided the market to a lower Q2 earnings.

Tesla rose 4.5% following its annual AGM after the bell. CEO Musk said he had no plans to step down after being criticised that he was taking on too many roles.

Share price of the world’s biggest chipmaker, TSMC, rose 6% after Japan PM Fumio Kishida announced plans to meet with the company execs.

In Japan, the Nikkei is up 1.46% on news that police in Kobe City have finally made an arrest in one of the most intriguing criminal cases the city has ever seen.

Over the course of several weeks, a 39-year-old driving school instructor was bombarded with a series of threatening, hand-delivered letters, telling him to “die now!” and “quit your job!”.

Things really came to a head when a parcel containing approximately 1,500 carefully folded origami cranes was dropped off at the driving school, providing police with surveillance footage that allowed them to identify a 22-year-old suspect.

Upon his arrest, the man confessed to sending the threatening letters (and the paper cranes), after he took lessons at the school, but failed to pass the test to get his truck driver’s licence.

The man told police that he folded the 1,500 paper cranes as a way to “calm himself down” – a tactic that, obviously, doesn’t work. Which is good to know.

Meanwhile in China, things are looking up as well. Shanghai has added 0.69% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is up 1.53%.



Here are the best performing ASX small cap stocks for May 18 [intraday]:

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Leading the Small Caps today is Terramin Australia (ASX:TZN), up 42.1% after announcing it’s been given an all-important green light by the Algerian​​ mining regulator, which has issued the Mining Permit for the company’s Tala Hamza zinc project.

“The issue of the Mining Permit means that Tala Hamza has satisfied all Algerian regulatory, financial and environmental requirements and that it can now proceed towards development,” TZN says.

“In collaboration with our Algerian partners, this Mining Permit will allow for the mining and processing of 2.0mtpa of ore instead of the 1.3mtpa anticipated in the 2018 Tala Hamza Definitive Feasibility Study, indicating that project returns will be enhanced over the anticipated 20+ year mine life.”

In second place is biotechnology company Immutep (ASX:IMM), up 33.3% off the back of news that its lead drug efti, when combined with Merck’s drug Keytruda, achieved robust initial Overall Survival (OS) in first line non-small cell lung cancer (1L NSCLC) patients in the Phase 2 trial.

Results showed initial median overall survival of 25 months in patients with >1% PD-L1 expression, a key area of focus for future development of efti.

These results are above previous reported rates of anti-PD-1 monotherapy and various other immune checkpoint combinations with and without chemotherapy.

And in third place it’s Los Cerros (ASX:LCL), up 28.1% this morning on news that three new diamond drill holes at Kusi prospect have all intersected the targeted Upper Limestone skarn mineralisation.

Results from the drilling include “the best drill intercept ever recorded at Kusi”, coming in at 39.8m @ 1.85g/t Au from 143.2m, including 13.6m @ 3.14g/t Au from 169.4m.



Here are the most-worst performing ASX small cap stocks for May 18 [intraday]:

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