Best of frequently unasked questions

Mr Megastar, thanks for joining us. Perhaps you could tell us why the average motor racing driver answers almost every question from a selection of about 12 stock expressions.
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The boys did a great job.

Sorry?

The boys did a great job. It’s a credit to the team. They gave me a terrific car.

But you didn’t finish the first lap. You were classified last.

Look, I think you’ll find there’s a lot more to come from this package. We’re here to win races.

That’s something else I want to ask about … the use of the majestic plural.

Well, it’s quite simple. We got out there in the practice sessions and found our rhythm and stayed out of trouble. We didn’t make any mistakes and we were rewarded with some very impressive lap times.

We? Was there someone else in the car?

As I said, we were the people to beat early on, and we took the performance to a new level.

Could it be just false modesty: you shy away from saying ”I’m bloody good”, in favour of ”We’re a bloody good team”, even though you egocentric creatures believe it’s you that wins, and the team that loses?

It might have looked easy out there, but we were battling at every point. We worked on our strategy. We stuck to our guns.

That doesn’t really address the issue, does it?

The guys back at the factory, too. Working late every night. They’ve got every right to be proud of themselves.

But the gearbox exploded within 50 metres of the start, showering the first three rows of the Pit Row grandstand with hot metal.

Sure, it wasn’t the result we were looking for. But there’s a lot we can take away from today.

Yes, but it’s spread out fairly widely. Is there a chance of the car staying together next time?

It’s been a learning experience. We have a long road ahead of us to close the gap. But, as always, we’ll be giving it 110 per cent, driving the wheels off.

Wouldn’t it be better to keep them on?

Obviously we’ve done our homework. There’s a long way to go. It could be anyone’s championship. It’s all going to come down to the tyres.

Not if you’ve driven the wheels off. Can we talk about your disqualification for rampant cheating?

Look I’m not going to comment on these baseless …

Twice proven in a court of law …

… allegations. We can bounce back from here even stronger.

And also your recent arrest inside that club that was allegedly specialising in under-age sadomasochists?

This is a dangerous business we are involved in, and you have to give it respect. The result could have been a lot worse, all things considered. It’s not the end of our season.

Are you avoiding that question for fear of upsetting sponsors?

I’m glad you’ve mentioned them, because it’s great to have so much support from SponsorOne, SponsorTwo and (let’s not forget) SponsorThree.

But they’ve all announced they are leaving. Didn’t you read today’s paper?

Look the boys did a great job, and this one is for them. A real team effort.

You’re not listening to the questions at all, are you?

Well, that’s motor racing.

Tony Davis returns on Australia Day.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Europe stocks mixed after China GDP

European share trading posted mixed results on Friday, with London gaining on Chinese growth data that beat expectations while Frankfurt and Paris slipped back on disappointing European and US figures.
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London’s FTSE 100 index of top companies gained 0.36 per cent to 6,154.41, despite official data which revealed falling British retail sales in December. In Paris, the CAC 40 index slid 0.07 per cent to 3,741.58 points, while Frankfurt’s DAX 30 index shed 0.43 per cent to 7,702.23 points.

On the London Bullion Market, gold prices increased to $US1,688.50 an ounce from $US1,675.

‘‘While the better than expected Chinese GDP numbers may have boosted the resource heavy FTSE 100 they’ve done precious little to boost the rest of Europe’s markets,’’ said Toby Morris, a trader at CMC Markets UK.

Asian shares posted strong gains earlier in the day after China released data showing a strong pick-up in the economy for the past four months, while Japanese stocks were boosted by another fall in the yen’s value, which should help exporters.

Tokyo soared 2.86 per cent, Hong Kong rose 1.12 per cent, Seoul added 0.69 per cent and Shanghai put on 1.41 per cent.

Beijing said the world’s number two economy expanded by 7.8 per cent in 2012, better than the government target of 7.5 per cent, but nonetheless marking a second straight year of easing owing to weakness in key overseas markets. It also said that gross domestic product grew 7.9 per cent in the October-December period, snapping seven straight quarters of slowing growth.

Economists surveyed by AFP had projected GDP growth of 7.7 per cent in 2012 and 7.8 per cent in the fourth quarter. The figures reinforce recent indications that the Chinese economy will not come crashing down, but rather that it is emerging from a drawn-out slumber that has had a knock-on effect on activity in other countries.

London-listed mining stocks were boosted in early trading on the news of solid growth in China, which is a major consumer of raw materials, but the gains disappeared as the day wore on.

Rio Tinto nonetheless rebounded by 1.83 per cent to 3,502.5 pence. The stock had fallen on Thursday after the resignation of chief executive Tom Albanese following shock news of a huge $US14 billion ($A13.34 billion) write-down on assets.

But Morris said other markets ‘‘struggled to make headway against a backdrop of a GDP downgrade for Italy from the Bank of Italy, and another rise in non-performing loans in the Spanish banking sector.

Italy’s central bank said the country’s economy is likely to contract by 1.0 per cent this year, half the expected shrinkage in 2012, but far worse than a previously expected downturn of 0.2 per cent in the coming 12 months.

Meanwhile Spain’s central bank said the mountain of bad loans held by Spanish banks reached a new record in November, with more than one in nine at risk of not being repaid.

And British retail sales fell 0.1 per cent in December despite the key Christmas shopping period, amid weak consumer spending that pushed several high-street chains to the point of collapse.

AFP

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Commodity prices rise on Algeria unrest

Commodity prices mostly rose this week, with oil prices supported by the Algeria hostage drama, while metals won support from positive Chinese and US economic data.
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OIL: Crude futures rose, supported by unrest in energy exporter Algeria, better-than-expected Chinese economic data and signs of improving crude demand in the United States, analysts said.

The Algeria violence has ‘‘put a geopolitical risk premium into pricing,’’ said Victor Shum, an analyst at research group IHS Purvin and Gertz.

In Algeria, an exporter of oil and gas, hostages were still being held at a remote gas field on Friday after a deadly rescue attempt. An Algerian security source said some of the hostage-takers were still holed up in the main gas production facility after troops seized a nearby housing compound in an air and ground assault on Thursday.

Islamist militants had seized hundreds of hostages at the field deep in the Sahara, purportedly to avenge a French-led offensive in neighbouring Mali.

The gas field is jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway’s Statoil and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach. Oil prices closed up more than a dollar, boosted by positive US economic data and fears linked to the hostage-taking, according to traders. The United States this week also announced an unexpected drop to its crude inventories, indicating firmer demand by the world’s biggest consumer of oil.

‘‘A surprise fall in crude oil inventories has seen US oil prices jump higher,’’ said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets trading group.

BP this week said that the United States would become almost self-sufficient for its energy needs by 2030, boosted by shale oil and gas output and slowing demand.

‘‘By 2030, increasing production and moderating demand will result in the United States being 99-per cent self-sufficient in net energy; in 2005 it was only 70-percent self-sufficient,’’ BP said in its latest Energy Outlook report.

The oil market reacted also to economic data out of China, choosing to focus on gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the final quarter of 2012, which showed an uptick after seven straight quarters of slowing expansion.

Beijing said the world’s number two economy expanded 7.8 per cent in 2012, better than the government target of 7.5 per cent, marking a second straight year of easing on weakness in key overseas markets.

It also said GDP grew 7.9 per cent in the October-December period, snapping seven straight quarters of slowing growth. China is the world’s biggest consumer of energy.

By Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) or light sweet crude for delivery in February climbed to $US95.38 a barrel from $US93.25 a week earlier.

On London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for March stood at $US110.85 a barrel compared with $US110.19 for the February contract the previous week.

PRECIOUS METALS: Platinum prices hit three-month highs at $US1,702.05 an ounce as top global platinum miner Anglo American Platinum warned it would axe 14,000 jobs in a broad restructuring of its South African operations, prompting workers to launch a new strike

.Months after being swept up in deadly strikes that crippled South Africa’s key mining sector, Amplats on Tuesday said it planned to close four shafts and sell a mine considered unsustainable.

‘‘This development was not unexpected, due to high and increasing costs at South African mines,’’ said Ross Strachan, an analyst from Capital Economics. ‘‘Indeed, we have noted for some time that platinum prices were likely to recover in 2013, despite our gloomy prognosis for demand, as rising energy and labour costs in South Africa would lead to mines and shafts closing.’’

By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold advanced to $US1,688.50 an ounce from $US1,657.50 a week earlier. Silver rose to $31.82 an ounce from $30.67.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum climbed to $US1,677 an ounce from $USs1,626. Palladium increased to $US722 an ounce from $US693.5.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals mostly climbed.

‘‘After a disappointing first half of the week, metal prices are taking a turn for the better thanks to good economic data from the US and China,’’ analysts at Commerzbank said in a note to clients.

By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months rose to $US8,122 a tonne from $US8,093 a week earlier.

Three-month aluminium slipped to $US2,066 a tonne from $2,110. Three-month lead edged up to $US2,328 a tonne from $US2,308.

Three-month tin climbed to $USS25,150 a tonne from $uS24,750. Three-month nickel increased to $US17,710 a tonne from $US17,425.

AFP

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Jersey pledge? When is a contract, a contract?

Should clubs be allowed to pursue on-contract players? Manly captain Jamie Lyon was subjected to a big offer from the Gold Coast Titans to leave the Sea Eagles immediately.NORMALLY in Discord, we throw up some strident opinion or another and offer you the opportunity to agree or disagree.
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But this week, I’m going to give you a topic rather than an opinion and simply open the floor to you.

Michael Jennings swapping clubs two months before the start of the season. Jamie Lyon – the captain of Manly – being approached to quit the club immediately.

Do you care?

I remember, in the primeval past, writing stories about clubs accusing others of “inducing players to breach their contracts”. But those stories don’t seem to be written anymore.

It seems to be the modus operandi of clubs that players will be unhappy at rival joints and even though they are under contract, we can actually have them now.

And their current club will pay them to play for us! I never quite got my head around that…..

Discord never cared if a star signed with a rival club for next season and was paraded at a mid-season media conference in that club’s colours. But you did – and the practice was unofficially outlawed.

But you don’t seem to care about a player starting pre-season training – or even a season – with one club and finishing it with another. You don’t seem to mind the fact a contract is worth nada these days.

Or maybe you do. Tell me at the bottom of this column.

***

BY now you’ve read a number of tributes to Jon Mannah. I probably had less to do with him than many other reporters.

But when I heard of his passing, I had to ask myself the questions: does death teach us more about the nature and value of life, or is it just something we say to make ourselves feel better?

Certainly, Jon’s friends and family are beyond such esoteric considerations right now – and understandably so.

But I think many people will look at Jon Mannah’s bravery and make better choices in their lives as a result. The realisation that it can all end at any time is something that dawns on most of us later in life and hopefully encourages us to make better use of the time we have.

At 23, Jon Mannah shouldn’t have had to worry about that.

***

IT’S interesting that Wigan coach Shaun Wane has admitted fullback Sam Tomkins will not be spending his entire career with the club.

Wane is already trialling other fullbacks in the pre-season, even though England’s best player will be at DW Stadium at least until the end of next year.

It’s hard to see Tomkins joining another Super League club. The leaves the NRL at rugby union.

Let’s hope it’s the NRL.

***

THANKS for all the comments last week. Long Xuyen wanted to bring replacements down to three with no-one who comes off being allowed back on the field. It sounds a bit radical but even the great Darren Lockyer believes we may one day have to have fewer than 13 players on the field.

Iambunney spoke about the Golden Boot and players sticking with a minor nation. Michael Jennings is a Tongan international, not Samoan. I think that now the RLIF has a player of the year award, the Golden Boot should be even more determined to underline its point of difference – that it goes to the best player in the world.

Stojo01 you seem to know a lot more about punting than me with your comments on various markets in recent years. The way you walked the line without accusing anyone of anything specific indicates you know a fair bit about defamation law too!

Bad Robot says the trial rule regarding the attacking team having an extra player at scrums is an indictment against the creativity of current players. I think it’s more an indictment against the imagination used from scrums, not overall.

Quigeybow further explained his proposal to discourage players feigning injury. Check out last week’s column. It seems a fair idea to me. What do you all think?

Supersquirrel sums up an ethical conflict. We abhor the nanny state but we also abhor gambling’s increasing hold on rugby league. Which abhorrence trumps which?

Here’s the forum 

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

A decision made on strong foundations

Is a house or an apartment a better choice for a holiday property? Garry and Marion Nash.
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Looking to buy a holiday property and wondering whether to buy a house or apartment? While personal preference and price will dictate the decision to some degree, a range of other factors is worth considering.

However, before addressing the question of whether an apartment or house is a better choice, industry experts point out that you first need to decide whether a holiday property is the best buy for you, noting that, in general, there are better investment options.

”I think people could have their money better placed than in a holiday area,” says the director of Property Planning Australia, David Johnston. ”Genuine growth drivers are fairly rare in holiday markets.”

For those considering a holiday property for their own use, however, Mr Johnston says, ”As a general rule, you’re probably better off with a house.”

He says that when it comes time to sell, the relative affordability of houses means apartments might be harder to move.

There’s also the potential rental return to consider for those times when you’re not occupying the property.

Matthew Neill, the accommodation development manager at Great Ocean Road Holidays, which has almost 600 properties on its books from Torquay to Cape Otway, says houses tend to be more sought-after by people looking to rent in holiday locations.

”The thing with apartments is there is just so much supply out there,” he says. ”They all do well over the peak times of the year but, when you’re going into the off-peak times, it’s just so competitive.”

Mr Neill says the top rental performers are properties that can accommodate two families, noting that, unless a smaller property has a real point of difference, ”you’re always going to get a better return for a larger one”.

Although a two-bedroom apartment might achieve $250-$350 a night during peak season in a place such as Lorne (with a week usually the minimum during the period from Christmas to Australia Day), a four-bedroom house with more than one living area can achieve from $400 a night to $1500 a night at the luxury end of the market.

Bigger is also usually better in Portsea-Sorrento, where Megan Sheedy, the holiday rental manager at Peninsula Holiday Rentals, which is part of Fletchers in Sorrento, says that while apartments can attract holidaymakers at the more-affordable end of the market, many people prefer a house. ”A lot of clients who come to Sorrento want high-end,” she says. ”They want exclusivity and privacy and houses offer that.”

Like Mr Neill, Ms Sheedy says larger houses are particularly popular, with two or more families often opting to share a property. ”Two living rooms help a lot as well, so that you’ve got one for the kids and one for the adults,” she says. ”It’s a holiday and they don’t all want to be stuck in one room.”

In Portsea, houses start about $6500 a week at peak times, which are in December and January as well as weekends during the year; in Sorrento, they start about $3500 a week. Amenities count, with pools adding as much as $1000 a week. Apartments start about $2000 a week.

Rental returns aside, there’s also the capital growth to consider when buying a holiday property. Even if buying it purely for your own use, it’s likely you’ll want to sell it at some point.

Although factors such as location will be key in determining capital growth (an apartment with ocean views close to the beach is likely to outperform a house in the backstreets with no view, for example), figures from RP Data show that, on the Victorian coast, houses have, in general, outperformed apartments during the past couple of years.

Possible reasons include the fact that houses are more likely to be owner-occupied, and units, particularly those in large complexes, can be affected by forced sales or heavily discounted sales. Units in holiday letting pools have also been affected by the slowdown in tourism.

Upkeep of the property is an important consideration when deciding between a house or apartment. Although apartments should require far less maintenance, they do attract owners corporation fees, which can be high if a building has facilities such as lifts and swimming pools. Houses, on the other hand, require more work but don’t have the fees.

”Most people, we find, who can afford a holiday property are pretty time-poor, so they generally like to have something low-maintenance. Apartments can be really good for them,” says Kim Easterbrook, the managing director of Elite Property Advisory.

However, she says a house might be a better option for those who like a bit more space and enjoy gardening, although people should consider the maintenance required. While taking care of a garden might be fun at first, is it something you will want to do year after year?

If you are opting for an apartment, Ms Easterbrook suggests that to minimise owners corporation fees, buyers should look for ”smaller blocks in a nice, quiet location rather than high-rise”.

”And smaller blocks, too, are better for investment because you are buying a higher percentage of the land versus the building,” she says. ”So if you have fewer apartments in the block, you’re buying more land.”Pros and cons of both

Wangaratta’s Garry and Marion Nash (pictured) have owned a holiday apartment and a house in the coastal community of Lorne on the Surf Coast.

Having had an association with Lorne since they were children, the Nashs bought an apartment off the plan in the Kalimna block at the southern end of town in the late 1990s and used it for their own holidays, as well as letting it out.

However, needing more room for family and friends, they decided to look for a larger place. Selling the apartment about five years ago, they reinvested the money in an older house, which they renovated and extended.

The expanded six-bedroom house with ocean views is now rented out. ”It’s probably about 50-50 for rental and our own use,” Mr Nash says. A real estate agent in Wangaratta, Mr Nash sees the house as a better long-term investment than the apartment, given land value increases, particularly in a location with very limited land supply, such as Lorne, and says rental returns are significantly higher on the house.

Matthew Neill, of Great Ocean Road Holidays, says houses such as the Nashs’ rent for $1000 a night in peak season, while apartments in Kalimna garner $350 to $400 a night.

But Mr Nash says the apartment involved far less work.

”You didn’t have to go to a holiday place and then do lots and lots of maintenance. Kalimna was a very good stepping stone. If it were just Marion and myself, we possibly would have retained the apartment.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.