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Can Australians really expect to travel overseas by Christmas?

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Can Australians get overseas by Christmas? The bold plan to have the entire nation’s population vaccinated by 80 per cent isn’t the only roadblock keeping Australians grounded

Qantas staff talk to passengers onboard a flight bound for Auckland on April 19.
  • Major Australian airline Qantas is hopeful some international flights before Christmas
  • Fate lies on National Cabinet’s target of 80 per cent of the Australia’s population vaccinated by the end of the year
  • Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has flagged quarantine requirements as one of the biggest unknowns for the aviation sector

Home for Christmas?

At the beginning of the pandemic last year, the hope was borders to open by Christmas 2020. Although optimistic, this reality is now likely one year on.

Despite the harsh lockdowns across the country to contain the delta outbreak of covid-19, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said Australia’s rapid vaccination rollout would make international holiday travel possible again for the first time in almost two years.

In a media conference, Joyce said he understands the delta variant is difficult to manage but the first step is vaccinating airline crew and the entire Australian population, in line with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s national strategy.

2,000 Qantas frontline staff including cabin crew, pilots and airport workers will have until November 15 to get jabbed, while the 20,0000 remaining workers have until March 31 next year. 

“It’s obviously up to government exactly how and when our international borders re-open, but with Australia on track to meet the 80 per cent trigger agreed by National Cabinet by the end of the year, we need to plan ahead for what is a complex restart process,” Mr Joyce said.

Joyce said international travel may seem a long way off, but the airline will remain optimistic despite the ongoing change of circumstances.

“Some people might say we’re being too optimistic, but based on the pace of the vaccine rollout, this is within reach and we want to make sure we’re ready.”

Joyce said.

What could stop this?

The writing is on ‘Phase C’ of the federal government’s path to pandemic normality.

Joyce flagged that one of the biggest unknowns hangs around quarantine requirements, that vary from state to state in Australia for domestic travel at the moment.

In a media conference, Joyce mentioned the possibility of home isolation as a viable option once international travel off the ground.

Australians have been banned from travelling overseas for a holiday since March 2020, when the pandemic began.

Joyce said there is good dialogue between Qantas and the federal government, and ongoing discussions will continue.

Qantas is assuming that current domestic border closures will remain in place until early December, and there is no decision yet if domestic passengers must be vaccinated like international passengers.

“It would be shame to visit relatives in London before relatives in Perth”

Joyce said

Where can I travel?

Joyce says Qantas is hopeful travel demand will spike once borders reopen, and has put forward a plan to layout initial routes.

Qantas said the initial routes being planned for high vaccination destinations include Singapore, the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and Canada.

The airline expects the New Zealand travel bubble will resume in some form by mid-December.

Passengers can expect a restart on flights to Hong Kong in February and the rest of the Qantas and Jetstar international network from April next year.

Flights to low vaccination cities like in Asia and South Africa with high Covid-19 case numbers would not restart until at least April 2022 as well.

Those destinations include Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City and Johannesburg. 

Qantas has plans to bring back five of its A380 Airbus super jumbos earlier than expected, in 2022

However the hope from Qantas is market recovery by 2024.

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US energy stocks surge amid economic growth and inflation fears

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Investors are turning to U.S. energy shares in droves, capitalizing on surging oil prices and a resilient economy while seeking protection against looming inflationary pressures.

The S&P 500 energy sector has witnessed a remarkable ascent in 2024, boasting gains of approximately 17%, effectively doubling the broader index’s year-to-date performance.

This surge has intensified in recent weeks, propelling the energy sector to the forefront of the S&P 500’s top-performing sectors.

A significant catalyst driving this rally is the relentless rise in oil prices. U.S. crude has surged by 20% year-to-date, propelled by robust economic indicators in the United States and escalating tensions in the Middle East.

Investors are also turning to energy shares as a hedge against inflation, which has proven more persistent than anticipated, threatening to derail the broader market rally.

Ayako Yoshioka, senior portfolio manager at Wealth Enhancement Group, notes that having exposure to commodities can serve as a hedge against inflationary pressures, prompting many portfolios to overweight energy stocks.

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Energy companies

This sentiment is underscored by the disciplined capital spending observed among energy companies, particularly oil majors such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

Among the standout performers within the energy sector this year are Marathon Petroleum, which has surged by 40%, and Valero Energy, up by an impressive 33%.

As the first-quarter earnings season kicks into high gear, with reports from major companies such as Netflix, Bank of America, and Procter & Gamble, investors will closely scrutinize economic indicators such as monthly U.S. retail sales to gauge consumer behavior amidst lingering inflation concerns.

The rally in energy stocks signals a broadening of the U.S. equities rally beyond growth and technology companies that dominated last year.

However, escalating inflation expectations and concerns about a hawkish Federal Reserve could dampen investors’ appetite for non-commodities-related sectors.

Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel Corp., highlights investors’ focus on the robust economy amidst supply bottlenecks in commodities, especially oil.

This sentiment is echoed by strategists at Morgan Stanley and RBC Capital Markets, who maintain bullish calls on energy shares, citing heightened geopolitical risks and strong economic fundamentals.

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Money

How Australians lose nearly $1 billion to card scammers in a year

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A recent study by Finder has unveiled a distressing trend: Australians are hemorrhaging money to card scams at an alarming rate.

The survey, conducted among 1,039 participants, painted a grim picture, with 2.2 million individuals – roughly 11% of the population – falling prey to credit or debit card skimming in 2023 alone.

The financial toll of these scams is staggering. On average, victims lost $418 each, amounting to a colossal $930 million collectively across the country.

Rebecca Pike, a financial expert at Finder, underscored the correlation between the surge in digital transactions and the proliferation of sophisticated scams.

“Scammers are adapting, leveraging sophisticated tactics that often mimic trusted brands or exploit personal connections. With digital transactions on the rise, it’s imperative for consumers to remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their financial assets,” Pike said.

Read more – How Google is cracking down on scams

Concerning trend

Disturbingly, Finder’s research also revealed a concerning trend in underreporting.

Only 9% of scam victims reported the incident, while 1% remained oblivious to the fraudulent activity initially. Additionally, 1% of respondents discovered they were victims of bank card fraud only after the fact, highlighting the insidious nature of these schemes.

Pike urged consumers to exercise heightened scrutiny over their financial statements, recommending frequent monitoring for any unauthorised transactions.

She explained the importance of leveraging notification services offered by financial institutions to promptly identify and report suspicious activity.

“Early detection is key. If you notice any unfamiliar transactions, don’t hesitate to contact your bank immediately. Swift action can mitigate further unauthorised use of your card,” Pike advised, underscoring the critical role of proactive measures in combating card scams.

As Australians grapple with the escalating threat of card fraud, Pike’s counsel serves as a timely reminder of the necessity for heightened vigilance in an increasingly digitised financial landscape.

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Money

Workers rush back to their desks over job fears

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Workers across Australia are rushing back to their desks, driving office utilisation rates to their highest levels since February 2020.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays emerge as the busiest in-office days, contrasting with the continued reluctance to return on Fridays.

This insight, drawn from XY Sense data based on 18 enterprise customers in Australia employing approximately 68,000 individuals across 127 buildings, reflects a significant shift in workplace dynamics.

The surge in office attendance coincides with a resurgence in workplace attendance mandates and policies linking physical presence to bonuses and performance reviews.

However, co-founder of XY Sense, Alex Birch, suggests that rising job insecurity, rather than these policies, primarily drives this behavioral shift.

“The pendulum has moved towards the employer, and therefore people feel more obliged to go back into work,” commented Mr. Birch.

Job market

Danielle Wood, chairwoman of the Productivity Commission, anticipates this trend to persist as the job market softens.

She notes a disparity between employer and worker perceptions regarding the productivity benefits of hybrid work arrangements, hinting at potential shifts in the employment landscape.

Meanwhile, economists at the e61 Institute observe a partial reversal of the pandemic-induced “escape to the country” trend.

Rent differentials between regional and capital city dwellings, which narrowed during the pandemic, are now widening again.

This trend suggests a diminishing appeal of remote work options and a return to urban commuting.

Aaron Wong, senior research economist at e61, said the emergence of a “new normal,” characterised by a hybrid lifestyle that blends access to office spaces with proximity to lifestyle amenities such as natural landscapes.

While regional rents decline, rents for homes on the urban fringe surge, reflecting evolving preferences shaped by remote work opportunities.

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