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Thousands of tourists have been told to flee as Australia’s wildfires look set to worsen, Kim Jong Un has once again lived up to his unpredictable reputation, and investors are marveling over Bitcoin’s bull run last decade. Here are some of the things people in the markets are talking about today.

Get Out

Thousands of tourists holidaying on the south coast of Australia’s New South Wales state have been told to evacuate before the weekend when extreme weather is set to intensify deadly wildfires sweeping through the region. In an unprecedented appeal, the Rural Fire Service said anyone in the southeastern tip of the state should get out in the next two days. The 230-kilometer (143-mile) stretch from Batemans Bay down to the Victoria state border has been ravaged by fires this week, producing apocalyptic scenes as infernos turned the sky blood red and rained down embers and ash on communities. At least seven people have been killed on the south coast of New South Wales just this week and hundreds of properties destroyed. Right now, isolated communities in Victoria remain cut off by road, including the township of Mallacoota, where some 4,000 people were forced to shelter on the beach or escape by boat as wildfires swept through. Military helicopters and ships have been scrambled to bring in supplies and for potential evacuations if roads can’t be re-opened.

“Pay for the Pains”

Kim Jong Un declared he was no longer bound by his pledge to halt major missile tests and would soon debut a “new strategic weapon,” adding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy concerns in a politically charged election year. The North Korean leader told a gathering of party officials in Pyongyang that U.S. actions left him no choice but to reconsider commitments that underpinned three unprecedented meetings with Trump over the past 18 months, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday. Kim called for “shocking actual action” to make the U.S. “pay for the pains” suffered by North Korea under the Washington-led sanctions regime, KCNA said. The speech came during an unusual four-day party meeting and appeared to replace the televised address Kim has delivered every New Year’s Day since 2013. Kim is seeking sanctions relief and security guarantees that the Trump administration has so far refused to provide without a disarmament commitment from Pyongyang.

Markets Wait

Traders eyed a cautious start on Thursday in Asia as they assessed the latest policy move by China’s central bank and awaited data on the country’s manufacturing sector. Australia’s dollar and the yen edged lower. Activity is set to pick up as most global markets reopen from holiday closures on Jan. 1, though Japanese equities remain shut for the remainder of this week. The People’s Bank of China on Wednesday said it will increase the supply of cheap funding to banks, a move of policy support in line with market expectations. Markets start this year on the back of a strong performance for global stocks and sovereign bonds in 2019.  Thursday gives investors the latest read on Chinese manufacturing with the Caixin manufacturing PMI expected to hover around its November level — remaining well in the expansionary zone. Elsewhere, crude fell 1% to $61.06 a barrel on Dec. 31, and gold was at $1,517.29 an ounce.

Unbeatable Bitcoin

If in the throes of this bull market’s earliest stages of recovery someone told you to forgo stocks, forget commodities, renounce fixed-income assets and buy an unknown digital token, the first of its kind, and watch it grow beyond your wildest dreams, you’d call them crazy, right? Emerging out of the ashes of the financial crisis, Bitcoin was created as a bypass to the banks and government agencies mired in Wall Street’s greatest calamity in decades. At first, it was slow to break through, but once it burst into the mainstream, it proved to be the decade’s best-performing asset. The largest digital token, trading around $7,200, has posted gains of more than 9,000,000% since July 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The S&P 500 merely tripled in that period. An index that tracks world markets has more than doubled and gold is up 25%.

He’s Ghosn

Carlos Ghosn has spent more than a year trapped in a Japanese legal odyssey that’s transfixed the automotive world and thrown his life into chaos. Now, having pulled off a daring escape from Japan to Lebanon, he’s an international fugitive. But the executive is also free to speak his mind fully, without legal filtering, for the first time since his surprise arrest on the tarmac at Haneda airport back in November 2018.  Ghosn said in his statement from Lebanon on Tuesday that he would “finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.” Ghosn is planning a press conference on Jan. 8 in Beirut, the Yomiuri newspaper reported. Based on past statements by Ghosn and his wife Carole, here’s a guide to what may be in store. Meanwhile, if you’re wondering how Ghosn actually pulled off his Houdini act, ask the internet’s conspiracy theorists. 

What We’ve Been Reading

This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.

Nine people have been killed in Jakarta after the worst flooding there since 2013. This is how food will change in 2020. Hong Kong began 2020 with a familiar sight: Tear gas, fires, vandalism and roadblocks. The strongest major currency in 2019 could stall out in 2020.  Pete Buttigieg says he raised almost $25 million in the fourth quarter. India will take another shot at a moon landing after last year’s crash. Here’s a run-down on how China is opening its doors to the financial sector. 

To contact the author of this story: Sybilla Gross in Sydney at

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