Monthly Archives: March 2019

‘She’s not pretty’ – meet a real hobbit

A new evidence-based image of the tiny hobbit species – known officially as Homo floresiensis.SHE’S not what you’d call a classic beauty. Her chin is non-existent and her forehead less than flattering. But a new evidence-based image of the tiny hobbit species – known officially as Homo floresiensis – is about scientific accuracy, not aesthetics.
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Released on Monday, the 2D image was created by facial anthropologist Susan Hayes from the University of Wollongong.

“She’s not pretty,” Dr Hayes said after working on the project for eight months. “She doesn’t have those hyper-feminine features such as big eyes; there isn’t much of a forehead.”

With a background in forensic science, Dr Hayes created the image using high-resolution 3D imaging and CT scan data obtained from a female hobbit skull that dates back about 17,000 years.

The information was loaded into a computer graphic program, which allowed Dr Hayes to reconstruct the skull. The face and its features were then added, based on the skull’s structural attributes.

“Compared to other archaic hominins, there was a remarkable amount of information there,” she said.

Dr Hayes also analysed existing portraits by other palaeo-artists. She said the earlier depictions were largely dominated by monkey features, whereas her findings suggested modern anatomical features were more appropriate.

“As a Homo floresiensis she is closer to us than to a chimpanzee, which is our closest relative,” Dr Hayes said. “She is certainly more us than them.”

The remains of Homo floresiensis were unearthed by Professor Mike Morwood and the Liang Bua archaeological team in Flores, Indonesia, in 2003.

Dr Hayes said the task was an extraordinary challenge.

“She’s taken me a bit longer than I’d anticipated, has caused more than a few headaches along the way, but I’m pleased with both the methodological development and the final results,” Dr Hayes said.

Homo floresiensis lived on the Indonesian island of Flores until about 17,000 years ago. Nicknamed hobbits because of their diminutive size – at less than a metre tall – remains of at least 13 members of the species were unearthed between 2001 and 2004.

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


Expect the unexpected to keep 2013 a lucky one

At the end of any investment period, you can produce a list of the 10 best-performing stocks and the 10 worst-performing stocks and, despite all the highbrow debate, opinions and blah-blah-blah, these lists are all you need to know.
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As we look forward to 2013, which will surely be a better year, all we need to do is guess what’s going to be on these lists in 12 months’ time. How do we do that? Simple.

In any period, the stocks that move are not the stocks that do what was expected, but the stocks that do things that weren’t expected.

If BHP hits its consensus forecasts, for instance, it won’t be on the list. Share prices move on new information and surprises, rather than expectations being hit and forecasts being fulfilled.

There is no money to be made from consensus forecasts. What moves share prices is changes in consensus forecasts and expectations.

So forget what’s cheap or expensive on current forecasts and forget what everyone expects. Imagine instead what’s going to surprise us.

Your job for 2013 is to get a gin and tonic, sit by the pool, shut your eyes and imagine what’s going to happen next year that no one expects.

This year, the ASX 200 was up 11 per cent, and the themes were pretty obvious. Anything to do with resources has underperformed and anything to do with banks, real estate investment trusts, healthcare, utilities, infrastructure and defensive stocks such as gambling have outperformed.

The 2012 performers list, which includes the banks and Telstra, might be characterised as a ”safe income” list. But it isn’t safe income at all; a lot of these stocks have below-average yields.

It is a ”reliable earnings” list. Westfield, for instance, has no earnings growth and a low yield (4.7 per cent), but is up 33 per cent this year.

All these stocks were bought because they represented businesses with low-risk, often regulated earnings, and not necessarily earnings growth.

The question is what’s going to happen in the coming year that no one expects. Here are some possibilities. Don’t laugh.

Someone sells a term deposit and puts the money into equities. Imagine that!

The new Chinese regime upgrades official growth domestic product growth forecasts. The resources sector goes into uptrend.

The US housing market leads a US economic recovery, driving cyclical growth stocks.

Fear subsides and the ”safety bubble” deflates. Suddenly, a lot of boring stocks with no growth are going to look heavily overbought.

The Australian dollar falls and currency stocks come into focus.

Retailers have a good Christmas.

At the moment, there is no faith in retail earnings forecasts. But what if retailers move from talking about a ”challenging outlook” and ”we cannot provide any earnings guidance” to an ”improving consumer outlook” and ”expecting earnings growth of X per cent for the full year”?

Consensus forecasts have some major retail stocks on a 10 per cent to 13 per cent gross yield. Imagine if that turned out to be true.

Now get yourself a gin and tonic, and see what you can come up with.

Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of sharemarket newsletter Marcus Today. For a free trial, see marcustoday上海夜网 His views do not necessarily reflect the views of Patersons.

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


Actuaries walk the walk on women’s super

Rice Warner Actuaries wants to pay its female employees more superannuation than its male employees and has applied to the Human Rights Commission for an exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act.
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Rice Warner, which provides management consulting and actuarial advice to the financial services industry, wants to pay its women workers an additional 1.5 percentage points above the 9 per cent superannuation guarantee. The push follows the release of its report Valuing females and rewarding them in retirement, which identifies the barriers that leave women with less retirement income. The report, written by Rice Warner’s deputy chief executive officer, Melissa Fuller, suggests employers could be doing more to help close the retirement savings gap.

Rice Warner estimates its female employees will live on average three years longer than men and undertook modelling to calculate how much additional super would be required to cover this period. As well as living longer, the report says women retire two years earlier.

One of the main reasons women retire with less than men is that women are paid less. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said this year that the gender pay gap was 17.4 per cent. The biggest gap, of 33 per cent, is in the financial services sector.

To help women with their retirement savings, the report says the government could include the superannuation guarantee on its paid parental leave scheme. The scheme is 18 weeks on the minimum wage with no superannuation guarantee. The Coalition has a policy of 26 weeks on full salary, capped at $150,000, with the superannuation guarantee.

The planned increase in the superannuation guarantee – from 9 per cent to 12 per cent in the financial year beginning July 1, 2019 – will help boost Australia’s super balances over time.

But Fuller says women need to engage with their retirement savings. ”Super funds and employers can help make women aware of the issues, but women have to take action themselves,” she says.

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


Stock-ing fillers for mum

Share the love … buy your mother stocks that will grow steadily. Illustration: Simon BoschTricky things, Christmas presents, especially for your mum. How many facials and cookbooks does she need? And why punish her for your lack of creativity?
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This year, do something different. Buy your mum something that will last and grow over the years. Then, when she’s ready, she can sell it and do what she wants with the proceeds.

Shares are a great Christmas present. Trouble is, there aren’t many bargains in Australia right now. Intelligent Investor’s Buy list sported 34 companies just more than a year ago. Now it features 14.

But, like many people doing their Christmas shopping on overseas websites, you’ll find bargains in Europe and the US. And one or two safe bets here.

So here’s the gift idea: make use of our strong currency and buy your mum a cheap overseas stock. Failing that, a reasonably priced local retailer will make a great stocking filler.

Now, you don’t want your mum worrying. Steer clear of any of those dodgy resources and technology stocks. Buy her enduring franchises that will grow steadily and pay her a decent dividend.

Woolworths is a good example. While Coles’s revival is getting all the media attention, Woolies remains the superior business, with far higher margins.

Metcash is the company losing in the battle between these two giants. Stick with the best: Woolies.

On a forecast price-earnings ratio of 17, it isn’t especially cheap but the fully franked dividend yield of 4.3 per cent will come in handy.

If mum is a little more adventurous, how about its British equivalent, Tesco? Tesco, the company where Woolies gets most of its great ideas, trades on a price-earnings ratio of just 10. It also boasts a 4.5 per cent dividend yield.

Ah, you say, mum might be OK with a local stock, but an international retailer? Too risky.

So here’s your argument, to be gently presented over a few wines and a bit of turkey.

Tesco is now the world’s fourth-largest retailer and dominates British grocery sales. Its Clubcard loyalty scheme and stunningly successful move into private label (40 per cent of its products are now Tesco-branded) have boosted its British market share from 10 per cent in 1990 to 31 per cent today.

The group’s operating margin of 5.8 per cent is well above its British and international peers, and 30 per cent of its operating profit comes from an international operation.

No wonder, you explain, that earnings per share have risen at an average annualised rate of 11 per cent in the past decade.

If she’s still not happy, you have two aces up your sleeve.

First, tell her Tesco is, in fact, a massive property portfolio with a retailer attached. The property is on the books at £22 billion ($33.8 billion), but management estimates it has a market value of £37 billion. The company’s net debt of £6.8 billion pales into insignificance in this context.

Tesco’s market capitalisation is about the price of its property portfolio. Tell mum she’s getting the supermarket business free.

Second – and this will be fun – tell her she bought in cheaper than Warren Buffett.

After the company announced a profit downgrade in January, Buffett increased his stake to more than 5 per cent of the business, paying a price that’s potentially a few percentage points more than you paid just before Christmas.

How good is that? She got in at a price cheaper than the world’s greatest investor. (Yes, you paid for it, but still.) If the only words your mum hears from your pitch are ”profit downgrade”, you’ll need to explain why Tesco is so cheap. You’ll need to admit this is a textbook case of a high-quality business going through tough times – that’s why it’s cheap.

But Buffett, like you, believes these problems are temporary.

The company is also a good hedge against inflation, which might be important if Britain resumes quantitative easing.

And, with the Australian dollar strong against the pound, Tesco offers useful currency diversification should the dollar eventually weaken.

If Tesco turns things around in a few years, your mum can sit on the dividends or cash in a little of her stake and take a trip to Britain to inspect her investment.

That’s got to be better than another facial, hasn’t it?

This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 282288). Nathan Bell is the research director at Intelligent Investor, intelligentinvestor上海夜网

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


Dad accidentally shoots son, 7, outside gun shop

A 7-year-old boy had been buckling himself into his safety seat in the back of his father’s truck when he was shot to death after a handgun accidentally went off as his father got in the front seat, police said on Sunday.
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Joseph V. Loughrey, 44, told police he had been trying to sell the guns on Saturday at Twigs Reloading Den in East Lackawannock Township, 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. He unloaded the magazine at home, but didn’t realize a bullet was still in the chamber, Lt. Eric Hermick said. His son, Craig Allen Loughrey, was shot in the chest and died at the scene.

State police Lt. Eric Hermick said Sunday the father had secured a rifle in the back of the truck and placed his pistol on the console when the handgun went off. Hermick said police are reviewing surveillance video from the store, which helped lay out the chain of events; the video is not being released.

“It is very clear-cut exactly what transpired here,” Hermick said of what he called clearly an accident. “As he’s laying it down, it discharges.”

An autopsy was scheduled for Sunday and the results of the investigation will be given to Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems, Hermick said. A message left with Kochems was not immediately returned Sunday.

Hermick said the father was very distraught and cooperative; he said he doubts there will be charges, but that it’s up to the district attorney. The father could face charges, including involuntary manslaughter, Hermick said.

“It’s obviously negligent and reckless to some degree,” he said. “It’s obviously in that gray area, where it’s a true accident. But is there negligence or recklessness with him not clearing the chamber?”

A message left at a telephone listing in the father’s name was not returned.


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