May 07

ASX dives since nudging 6000

Sharemarket investors have been told not to hold their breath for a quick recovery, with the Australian index diving 8.

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3 per cent since soaring to seven-year highs five weeks ago.

Since getting within spitting distance of 6000 points for the first time since 2008, sentiment about the Australian and global economy has dived.

The last week-and-a-half has been torrid, with the ASX200 and All Ordinaries index finishing lower in seven out of eight sessions.

“I am unfortunately but justifiably pessimistic about the ASX at the moment due to the fact that ASX companies appear fairly growthless,” IG market strategist Evan Lucas told AAP.

The big banks have been a key, with all four down 15 per cent and Westpac more than 20 per cent worse, putting it in a bear market.

The run up in bank shares had been relentless and was viewed as having to end eventually, given Australia’s economic growth has been poor.

Still, the speed of the fall had been scary, said Mr Lucas.

Combine weak commodity prices, Australia’s heavily resources-weighted stock market and falls on offshore markets that the ASX was already underperforming and it had been a perfect storm, says Peter Esho, director of investment firm Esho Group.

While mining and energy stocks have struggled for a while, the previously favoured banks, utility, property trust, telco and healthcare have also all lost significant value.

A rush of profit downgrades in different sectors, including food wholesaler Metcash, engineers Qube and poker machine supplier Ainsworth Game in the last week alone, signifies broader problems.

The only companies that are growing their bottom line are doing it through consolidation and takeovers or getting rid of non-performing assets, says Mr Lucas.

“Topline growth is non-existent,” he said.

Mr Esho said he did not see a looming market recovery unless depressed resources stocks started picking up the slack, but there was no indication of iron ore, coal and oil prices jumping to support that.

While the top 30 largest stocks had driven the falls, there had been a flood of money taken out of resources and mining services companies out of the top 200 and a lot of wealth destruction, he said.

This week Australia notched up its highest monthly trade deficit on record, $3.89 billion in April, driven largely by a slump in coal and iron ore exports.

“For the market to turn around, for sentiment to turn around, for interest rates to turn around, the terms of trade to turn around we need to see commodity prices move,” he said.

CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy disagrees, saying he would encourage investors to be bravely contrarian and buy resources stocks because they are at low prices.

He sees the market returning to 6000 points by calendar 2015’s end.

Add dividends and franking and the returns equal six per cent for the year.

“I think we are years away from a market boom, all the central bank stimulus has borrowed future growth, but things aren’t that bad either,” he said.

May 07

General elections could shape Turkey for years

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Voters in Turkey head to the polls on Sunday in what analysts say are critical general elections.

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And as Erdem Koc reports from Istanbul, the result could shape more than the next four years.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

In Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, hundreds of thousands of people gathered for a rally of what is the wildcard political party in Sunday’s general elections.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, is running for the first time as a party.

In 2011, its MPs were elected as independents because of Turkey’s controversial election threshold — if a party fails to get 10 per cent of the total vote, it cannot enter parliament.

But the party’s chairman, Selahattin Demirtas, says he is confident his party will pass the threshold this time.

He says his main aim is to push the Kurdish peace process.

(Translated)”Let’s bring peace to Turkey. And with the power we gain here, let’s lead the way on peace to the whole of the Middle East and Arab worlds, starting with Syria and Iraq. The day we come to government, peace in this country will be guaranteed.”

Meanwhile, in Turkey’s third largest city, Izmir, more than a million Turks gathered in the main square for a rally of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

The party is Turkey’s oldest, established by the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

In the last elections in 2011, the CHP won almost 26 per cent of all votes.

Its leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, says the ruling Justice and Development Party has damaged Turkey’s democracy and it is time for change.

(Translated)”In this country, there is no longer the separation of powers. The legislature, judiciary and executive does not balance each other in a healthy way. The executive has power over everything, including the parliament. It’s because of this the civilized world refers to Turkey’s democracy as a ‘hybrid democracy.'”

In 2011, 43 million out of the country’s 50 million eligible voters waited in long lines to re-elect the Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

These elections are being labeled the most critical for the party, which recently parted ways with one of its key supporter bases, the religious Gulen movement.

The AKP’s charismatic founder and prime minister for 11 years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is now the president of Turkey.

And despite constitutional requirements for the president to be impartial, he has been holding rallies in favour of the party he founded.

President Erdogan is hoping for a so-called super majority following this weekend’s elections, aiming for a two thirds majority of Turkey’s 550-seat parliament.

Such a win would let the AKP change the constitution without calling a referendum.

Mr Erdogan wants to move Turkey to a United States-style presidential system of government, which would give him unprecedented powers.

He says Sunday’s elections are critical to achieving that goal.

(Translated)”On June 7, we need to own the election. We need to be decisive in achieving the highest voter turnout in Turkey’s history. As long as our hearts and souls are united, no one can separate us.”

Analysts say the ruling party appears more divided than ever before, though, as it prepares to enter its 14th year in power.

Various polls suggest the AKP will win the elections, but not with the super majority it hopes.

If the pro-Kurdish HDP party passes the threshold, it could mean the AKP will not have a clear majority.

Both the AKP and HDP have ruled out any coalition plans, although many still believe it is possible.

It is unlikely the AKP would turn to the opposition CHP, but it could reach out to the aptly named Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP.

The MHP says it will end all Kurdish peace negotiations should it come to power, saying Kurds need to accept the authority of the Turkish state.

The party’s long time leader, Devlet Bahceli, says it is time to create history through national unity.

(Translated)”We have the opportunity. You have the decision to make. I invite all those who love Turkey, those whose hearts beat for Turkey, to join us on this long journey. I call on everyone who’s sick of infighting, of uncertainty and of war, to help the MHP get into government. Every vote will determine the future of this beautiful country. Every vote will determine the future of your children.”

 

 

 

May 07

Businessman Alan Bond dies

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

High profile Australian businessman Alan Bond has died in a Perth hospital after complications arising from open heart surgery.

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From humble beginnings, the 77-year-old went on to become one of Australia’s wealthiest and most notorious businesmen.

Peggy Giakoumelos looks back at the colourful life of Alan Bond.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Alan Bond has inscribed the pages of Australia’s history books, both as the first non-American to seize the coveted America’s Cup sailing trophy and for his conviction over the country’s biggest ever fraud.

One of Australia’s richest men during the 1980s, Alan Bond’s fall from grace began in 1992 when he declared bankruptcy.

He was jailed in 1997 for a $1.2 billion fraud involving his takeover of Bell Resources.

He served three years before his release in 2000 after a successful High Court appeal against the length of his sentence.

“I don’t have any plans for the future at the present time. I’m just going to spend some time now and try and sort of get my life back together. It’s a little bit emotional to be quite frank. That’s about as much as I can say.”

Migrating with his family from England as a child, Alan Bond had left school at the age of 15, starting his career as a signwriter.

While working, he undertook night studies in accountancy.

Speaking to the ABC’s Four Corners program in 1989, one of his oldest friends, Denis Sowden, said Mr Bond was extremely ambitious, and extremely confident, from a young age.

“He was on the move, you know? He was a bloke who was always having a go. He had a different way of looking at things. He would want to do something, he’d be doing it. You’d wake up in the morning, find Alan was somewhere doing something. Other people would be saying, “Oh, wouldn’t be a bad idea.” If Alan thought it was a good idea he did it. If it wasn’t a good idea, he found out later on.”

In 1983 after making a fortune as a property developer, Alan Bond became an Australian hero when his financial backing helped Australia II claim victory in the America’s Cup yacht race.

It was the first time in 132 years that the New York Yacht club had lost the America’s Cup.

Then Prime Minister Bob Hawke had noted the achievement, saying famously any worker who stayed at home to celebrate should not be punished.

“I tell you any boss sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”

But while he is remembered for one of Australia’s great sporting victories, in the business world he was less simple to characterise.

Speaking to ABC journalist Paul Barry in 1989, merchant banker Mark Burrows described Alan Bond as a driven man with the ability to compartmentalise his life.

“I think he goes to sleep at night. That would be my impression. I can’t say that from any personal experience but I don’t think he worries at night. I think he has that great capacity to turn off. I mean if he didn’t, if he was like 99 per cent of us, he wouldn’t be here, would he? So he is someone who I think probably one of his strengths is that he can actually see himself in a reasonable perspective, he bursts out laughing. It was the Bond pushing that he is famous for. He gets it done.”

Alan Bond’s personal life was just as mercurial as his professional life.

As a child he’d had rheumatic fever, which had led to surgery to replace a valve in his heart in 1992.

It was the same year he and Eileen Hughes divorced after a 37-year marriage.

He had been 17 years old in 1955 when they married, and the union had produced four children.

In 1995 he married theatre producer Diana Bliss.

While in jail in 1997 for his involvement in the takeover of Bell Resources, Alan Bond was stripped of his Officer of the Order of Australia honour awarded in 1984 after winning the America’s Cup.

His daughter Susanne was found dead aged 41 in 2000 after a prescription drug overdose, while second wife Diana Bliss took her own life in 2012.

 

 

 

 

May 07

Ailing Williams set for more Paris glory

Only illness can seemingly stop Serena Williams from becoming the oldest French Open champion in almost half a century after the ageless warrior pulled off yet another Houdini act in Paris.

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Williams overcame sapping flu symptoms and apparent heat distress to battle back from a set and a service break down and secure a spot on Saturday’s title match against Lucie Safarova with a dramatic semi-final triumph over Swiss underdog Timea Bacsinszky.

Looking lethargic throughout, Williams appeared close to quitting the match on several occasions before roaring to life to reel off the last 10 games in a 4-6 6-3 6-0 victory on a scorching Thursday in Paris.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this sick. I didn’t expect to win that and I can’t believe I won,” the American said.

“I got the flu after my third-round match and I haven’t been getting better.

“Hopefully this is the worst and I’ll get better.”

Unable to face the press following her two-hour ordeal, Williams issued a statement saying she needed to instead consult the tournament doctor.

“I am proud to be back in the final here at Roland Garros, in a city that means so much to me, and am determined to be 100 per cent ready for the final,” she said.

Swiss journalists privately slammed Williams’ comeback – and conduct – as “ridiculous” gamesmanship, while others questioned her on-court theatrics.

But the top seed’s vanquished opponent was gracious in defeat.

“She’s the only one who knows how she was feeling,” Bacsinszky said.

“I have no idea how fit she was or not. I knew on court it would be a difficult match. I never forgot that.

“She pulled out a great match because I think I was playing quite well.

“She deserved to win today. It happens. It’s only a tennis match.”

After a fourth successful fightback from a set down, Williams is now only one match away from landing a third French Open crown at almost 34.

The American has won all eight previous encounters with Safarova, a 7-5 7-5 victor over Serbia’s 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic in Thursday’s other semi-final, and will be a raging favourite to inflict another defeat on the first Czech finalist since Hana Mandlikova in 1981.

Victory would edge Williams to within two grand slam titles of Steffi Graf’s open-era record 22 career majors.

To do so, the world No.1 will need to achieve a feat not even she’s managed before – and complete the Australian-French Open double in the same season.

It is a rare double not accomplished in women’s tennis since Jennifer Capriati emerged from the sporting wilderness to claim the first two of her three slams in Melbourne and Paris in 2001.

The veteran also stared down the barrel in the third round against dual Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and in a similarly desperate last-16 struggle against US compatriot Sloane Stephens.

Williams entered Thursday’s match with a 23-from-26 record in grand slam semi-finals, her only losses coming against older sister Venus at Wimbledon in 2000 and to Belgium’s fellow former world No.1s Justine Henin in Paris in 2003 and Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open.

Bacsinszky, who was washing dishes two years ago and cleaning rooms at a Swiss chalet after accepting an apprenticeship in hotel management while disillusioned with tennis, threatened to pull off a huge upset on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The tournament’s 23rd seed had never progressed beyond the third round in 20 previous grand slam appearances, but was three games away from setting up one of the most unlikely finals of all-time.

But Williams once again has tennis history at her mercy instead as she tries to add a third Roland Garros trophy to her collection, a record 13 years after landing her first.

HOW SERENA WILLIAMS AND LUCIE SAFAROVA MATCH UP AHEAD OF SATURDAY’S FRENCH OPEN FINAL (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):

1-SERENA WILLIAMS (USA) leads 13-LUCIE SAFAROVA (CZE) 8-0

2014 Beijing, hard, R16, Williams 6-1 1-6 6-2

2014 Montreal, hard, R16, Williams 7-5 6-4

2013 Charleston, clay, QF, Williams 6-4 6-1

2012 Charleston, clay, F, Williams 6-0 6-1

2011 Toronto, hard, QF, Williams 4-6 6-3 6-2

2009 Toronto, hard, QF, Williams 6-3 6-2

2007 Miami, hard, R32, Williams 6-3 6-4

2007 Hobart, hard, R16, Williams 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5)

SERENA WILLIAMS

Age: 33

Born: Saginaw, Michigan, USA

Lives: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, USA

Height: 175cm

Weight: 70kg

Ranking: 1

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US67,527,669 ($A86.76 million)

Career titles: 66

Career win-loss record: 715-121

Grand slam titles: 19 (Australian Open 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015; French Open 2002, 2013; Wimbledon 2002-03, 2009-10, 2012; US Open 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012-2014)

Grand slam win-loss record: 183-28

French Open win-loss record: 53-11

Best French Open performances: champion 2002, 2013

Road to final

1st rd: bt Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) 6-2 6-3

2nd rd: bt Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) 5-7 6-3 6-3

3rd rd: bt 27-Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 3-6 6-4 6-2

4th rd: bt Sloane Stephens (USA) 1-6 7-5 6-3

QF: bt 17-Sara Errani (ITA) 6-1 6-3

SF: bt 23-Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) 4-6 6-3 6-0

LUCIE SAFAROVA (CZE)

Age: 28

Born: Brno, Czech Republic

Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco

Height: 177cm

Weight: 62kg

Ranking: 13

Plays: left-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US6,399,222 ($A8.22 million)

Career titles: 6

Career win-loss record: 376-259

Grand slam titles: 0

Grand slam win-loss record: 48-39

French Open win-loss record: 19-11

Best French Open performance: finalist 2015

Road to final

1st rd: bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (11-9)

2nd rd: bt Kurumi Nara (JPN) 6-2 6-0

3rd rd: bt 20-Sabine Lisicki (GE) 6-3 7-6 (7-2)

4th rd: bt 2-Maria Sharapova (RUS) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4

QF: bt 21-Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 7-6 (7-3) 6-3

SF: bt 7-Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 7-5 7-5