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The Wallet: come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away

...or we could just hang out in my fallout shelter - I mean man cave basement. I've got toilet paper, tins of baked beans and no ventilation - we're sorted.

Some friends and I made the trek out to Oberon to run the Spartan Beast over the weekend - and it quickly struck us that if the apocalypse hit at that moment, we were all set. Those events are festivals for uber-fit, uber-attractive people with high-protein diets and a mile-wide streak of crazy; what better cohort to repopulate the planet with?

They couldn't be worse than the nutters fighting in supermarket aisles over a packet of Sorbent. In the face of this, media coverage this week seems to be tipping away from fear-mongering to "calm down, people!" rhetoric - as if those fine click-bait hunters hadn't been responsible for fueling much of this craziness in the first place.

Not that there's much chance of us jumping on a plane and flying away. Qantas has slashed services, CEO Alan Joyce has said he's not taking a salary for the next few months and his executive team are taking a 30 per cent hair cut, as the airline moves to stem the impact of COVID-19 and save jobs. It's not the only one; Flight Centre is another business implementing drastic measures to adapt to the current crisis.

The Qantas announcement was on the same day that Scott Morrison fronted this week's AFR Summit to urge businesses to be patriotic and join Team Australia (oi oi oi!) by not cutting jobs. Sure, he mentioned that stimulus was coming, you can be rest assured we'll be stepping in as well, people - but you lot need to pull your fingers out.

This is from a government that has spent months asking everyone else to go the hard yards on addressing deteriorating economic conditions. To be stepping in now and taking the moral high ground is a bit rich...listen to the audio, you can hear the audience's knives being scraped across whetstones in the background.

Life in the trenches

As the number of businesses and institutions moving to self-isolation measures, like working from home this week, the $10 billion stimulus package reportedly due for release by the Morrison government any day now can't come too soon. Scott Morrison told businesses to keep paying workers, keep paying supplier invoices, keep investing - but he was a bit light on how they're supposed to do that with consumer confidence in the toilet. Hell, the government is apparently considering raising its own debt ceiling to deal with this; should small businesses be trying to do the same?

Digital Finance Analytics has a long-running Household Financial Confidence survey. The latest results hit an all-time low of 80.2...concerns around job security, cost of living, debt, savings, income and net wealth are all contributors to this record-low lull in consumer sentiment. It will be fascinating to see if, in the event the government's much-anticipated stimulus includes cash payments to households, that money will go straight to mortgages instead of new flat screens.

Speaking of mortgages, home loan complaints jumped by another 20 per cent in the second half of 2019 according to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA). CBA and Westpac were the most complained-about lenders, and many of the complaints related to conversion from interest-only to principal-and-interest, and responsible lending issues.

CBA holds the lion's share of Australia's home lending market, so this complaint accolade could be put down to volume in their case. They're a bloody cheeky bunch though; it was revealed yesterday that in order to recoup losses from passing on last week's RBA rate cut in full to mortgage customers, it has slashed interest rates by as much as 30 basis points on savings accounts.

The best savings rates (2.25 per cent) can be found at neobanks 86 400 and Xinja. The latter is in trouble, however; it's on the hustings to raise more capital and has halted the intake of new deposits as it struggles to adapt to these new market conditions.

Meanwhile, Kikki.K is the latest retailer to go into receivership this killing season, joining the likes of Jeans West, Harris Scarfe and Colette seeking rescue and resurrection.

The tourism sector continues to struggle as more major events are cancelled and domestic and international travel dries up faster than a used tissue. This is only going to worsen with the likes of ANZ banning domestic travel for the immediate future. Even Airbnb vendors are feeling the pinch - which reinforces the need behind calls of tourism bodies across the country for Australians to get in their cars and drive.

(Like we did to Oberon over the weekend; incidentally, there's plenty of toilet paper on the shelves at Katoomba Coles. Get some!)

Speaking of, listed supermarkets continue to experience sugar hits on the market thanks to panic-buying customers. It's not likely to last, but it's some good news from what is a pretty depressing time for anyone trying to build wealth through stocks; the ASX has dropped nearly 20 per cent from last month's peak.

With all this as the backdrop, keep your eyes on Canberra as Josh Frydenberg prepares to pull some tasty rabbits out of a stimulus-shaped hat this week.

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