Monday, 9 July 2012

Matey . . . no worries

I feel like I've seen this movie before. I'm not talking about European financial summits, but rather the expat relocation game.

Sydney seems pretty much unchanged since my last visit here almost two years ago. I don't remember the service attitude being so positive though, maybe its just because two years of Genevios "no-can-do" in comparison makes Sydney seem almost American in a service industry sense. It hasn't been all smooth going thanks to Telstra and Australian Post employees being less than enthusiastic about welcoming me home, so my enthusiasm has some comparative points for reference. There are always ways around road blocks and in the case of Telstra there's a dinky instant messaging chat line you can use to setup all your communication needs. I wish Australia Post had the same facility, but alas maybe that will come in the future.

So cost wise the Aussie telecommunications industry is clinging to the pay for data model. AUD145 gets me cable internet with very good speed but a 500GB data cap per month. You can get an old school ADSL2 type line with unlimited data from a smaller ISP for around half that, but you kind of get into this zone of multiple service providers and therefore more bills to pay. The one thing I don't get is that as Telstra owns a chunk of number 1 cable TV provider Foxtel why don't they just take the cap off the data and get everyone renting movies and TV shows via downloads? I want to look into this model because Telstra is still a cornersone shareholding in many equity portfolios here given its dividend yield and sensitivity to the growing population and economy.

The coffee here is better than in Switzerland, but still doesn't have that nuttiness that you get in Italy. Mind you, the cafes are open early, staff smile and the food is fresh and everyone is go-go-go on the streets. Mrs I B Cyclist will tell you I'm a pretty purposeful pedestrian and found Geneva to be very frustrating as people meander along the streets seemingly with very little direction or purpose. In Sydney there's a lot more striding about, not quite the pace of New York, but certainly "London-ish". There are less cyclists on the streets here, but a lot more than I remember from the past. I've been to two bike shops since I arrived. Bikelab in Bondi Junction is very upmarket. They even stock Cipolini! I spoke to the boss there and have arranged to have my bikes reassembled by them when they arrive. The shop does computer fitting and hopefully they can help finalise the setup on the Cannondale when it arrives in the next week or so. They had maybe 5 guys working in the shop on a weekday so things must be OK . . . perhaps not everyone works in the mining industry?

At least Australia has low unemployment for the moment. The US job numbers (non-farm payroll) tell me that if the participation rate was the same now as at the start of the Obama presidency then unemployment would be 10.7% rather than 8.2%. I was surprised the markets didn't rise on the news as many of the usual bulls and money honeys started talking about QE3 seconds after the release. We'll soon know what's been happening to company's as today marks the opening of the US reporting season for Q2. Given the weak ISM etc. I suspect the man on the street is about to get a shock and with summer vacations upon us the sell in May and go away mantra could once again have provided the canny investor with a key strategy for avoiding the coming news Tsunami.

I'll be watching Alcoa, Caterpillar, rail and shipping stocks. Obviously the banks will be interesting, but I'm not expecting much clarity. I'll remind all readers that we'll be getting US student loan araers numbers in early September and I'd expect that one trillion dollar bubble to show further signs of stress.

Once I get back into my house I'll be cranking up the blog intensity again. Apologies for the gaps in analysis.


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