Volatility is the word of the day. Photo: Laureen Brabant Volatility is the word of the day. Photo: Laureen Brabant
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Local shares are poised to open higher as a rally in global energy shares lifted sentiment in Europe and Wall Street, though volatility remains the watchword.

What you need2know:

• SPI futures up 30pts at 5184

• AUD at 82.14 US cents

• In late trade, S&P 500 +0.3%, Dow +0.4%, Nasdaq -0.1%

• In Europe, Euro Stoxx 50 +2.3%, FTSE +2.4%, CAC +2.2%, DAX +2.5%

• Spot gold up $US1.21 or 0.1% to $US1194.44 an ounce

• Brent oil down $US1.20 or 2% to $US59.86 per barrel

What’s on today

Australia Westpac leading index; US consumer prices, Federal Reserve meeting, current account balance; Japan exports, trade balance, imports.

Stocks to watch

Deutsche Bank has retained a “hold” recommendation on Leighton Holdings and a price target of $19.40 a share after it announced an agreement to sell its John Holland business.

Hartleys Research has initiated coverage on CUE Energy Resources with a ‘speculative buy’ and a 12-month price target of 14¢ a share on the oil and gas developer.

Ord Minnett and Shaw Stockbroking have been appointed to explore an initial public offering for software development company Readify, the Australian Financial Review reports. The deal will kick off in early 2015 with the raise said to be about $30 million.

Currencies

The Reserve Bank of Australia has reiterated that further falls in the Australian dollar are needed to help the economy adjust to falling commodity prices. Easy Forex senior dealer Francisco Solar said: “Even with these falls they prefer it to be somewhat lower, so that’s definitely another excuse to keep the Aussie capped on the upside.”

The rouble plunged more than 11 per cent against the US dollar in its steepest intraday fall since the Russian financial crisis in 1998 as confidence in the central bank evaporated after an ineffectual rate hike. It has now fallen close to 20 per cent this week, taking its losses this year against the dollar to more than 50 per cent.

White House economic adviser Jason Furman on Tuesday called the weak global environment a “headwind” for the US economy. But he focused on the euro zone, Japan and China, and noted that US exports to Russia account for only one tenth of 1 percent of the nation’s economic output.

Indeed, many analysts continue to expect that when Fed officials release their statement at 2pm in Washington on Wednesday, they will have removed language pledging to wait a “considerable time” before raising US interest rates, a long-awaited edit that would show faith in the economy’s path.

Commodities

US crude oil futures bounced off 5-1/2-year lows, and hovered around $US55 a barrel in volatile trading near that price, with US options set to expire later in the day. Global benchmark Brent crude also pared losses after plumbing a July 2009 low below $US59, but remained stuck below $US60 a barrel as major oil producers said they were in no rush to cut production and curb a growing glut. Front-month January Brent expires later in the day.

Aluminium prices hit their lowest in two months, while copper also slid after poor industrial data from China, the world’s biggest metals consumer. Three-month aluminium on the London Metal Exchange ended down 0.81 per cent at $US1906.50 per tonne, having earlier hit a two-month low at $US1900.75.

LME lead struck its lowest since August 2012 at $US1911.25 a tonne and ended down 2.44 per cent at $US1920 a tonne. Lead has been weighed down by lower growth in electric bike sales in China and high finished stocks of batteries, a trader at a hedge fund said.

United States

US stocks rose in a volatile session as energy shares rallied and investors bet the Federal Reserve will be cautious in removing support in the face of a more fragile global economy. The 43 components of the S&P 500 energy sector were in positive territory.

“There were many, many stocks, especially in the energy sector that were just trading at absolutely ridiculous prices to their fair market valuation,” said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont. “That is really what started the rally, when investors really started to come into the energy stocks.”

Market participants also said bets on the Federal Reserve’s next move were giving stocks support. Fed officials will decide this week whether to make a critical change to their policy statement that would widen the door for interest rate hikes next year. In October, The Fed repeated that benchmark rates were unlikely to rise for a “considerable time”.

Europe

European shares staged a late rebound as the rouble recovered much of the day’s losses against the dollar. Traders pointed to comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said Russia had made constructive moves toward possibly reducing tensions in Ukraine.

“Shares in Europe saw a mild recovery on Tuesday shaking off concerns of further oil price depreciation thanks to a record trade surplus for the Eurozone as well as an improved manufacturing and services industry outlook,” said CMC Markets UK analyst Jasper Lawler.

German investment sentiment rose sharply in December after a rebound the previous month, driven by a weak euro and plunging oil prices, a survey showed Tuesday. The investor confidence index, calculated by the ZEW economic institute, jumped by 23.4 points in December, after rising for the first time this year in November, ZEW said in a statement.

What happened yesterday

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index and the broader All Ordinaries Index each lost 0.7 per cent on Tuesday to 5152.3 points and 5131 points respectively, as BHP Billiton tumbled to a fresh five-year low. Shares are now at their lowest point since February and are now 3.7 per cent lower in 2014.

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Fairfax front pages: Wednesday, December 17 Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, NSW
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Newcastle Herald, Newcastle, NSW

The Age, Melbourne, Victoria

Illawarra Mercury,Wollongong, NSW

Australian Financial Review

The Area News, Griffith, NSW

The Daily Advertiser, Wagga, NSW

The Leader, Wagga, NSW

The Observer, Coleambally, NSW

The Armidale Express, Armidale, NSW

The Advocate, Tasmania

Western Advocate, Bathurst, NSW

Bay Post, Batemans Bay, NSW

The Border Mail, Albury-Wodonga, NSW/Victoria

Bombala Times, Bombala, NSW

Braidwood Times, Braidwood, NSW

Cowra Guardian, Cowra, NSW

Cootamundra Herald, Cootamundra, NSW

Canowindra News, Canowindra, NSW

Canberra Times, Canberra, ACT

Central Western Daily, Orange, NSW

Daily Liberal, Orange, NSW

Eastern Riverina Chronicle, Henty, NSW

Goondiwindi Argus, Goondiwindi, NSW

Goulburn Post, Goulburn, NSW

Grenfell Record, Grenfell, NSW

Hawkesbury Gazette, NSW

The Examiner, Tasmania

Hunter Valley News, Hunter Valley, NSW

Merimbula News, Merimbula, NSW

Moruya Examiner, Moruya

Domain

Dubbo Mailbox Shopper, Dubbo, NSW

Narooma News, Narooma, NSW

Narromine News, Narromine, NSW

Nyngan Observer, Nyngan, NSW

Parkes Champion-Post, Parkes, NSW

Southern Highlands News, Bowral, NSW

South Coast Register, Nowra, NSW

Northern Daily Leader, Tamwoth, NSW

Tenterfield Star, Tenterfield, NSW

Tamworth Times, Tamworth, NSW

The Weekly, Mudgee, NSW

Domain

Wellington Times, Wellington, NSW

extra

The Avon Valley Advocate, Northam, WA

The Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun, Bellingen, NSW

Domain

Beaudesert Times, Beaudesert, Queensland

Barossa Herald, Gawler, SA

Blue Mountains Gazette, Blue Mountains, NSW

Country Cars

The Advertiser, Cessnock, NSW

Camden Haven Courier, NSW

Northern Argus, Clare, SA

Dungog Chronicle, Dungog, NSW

The Esperance Express, Esperance, WA

Gloucester Advocate, Gloucester, NSW

Great Lakes Advocate, Great Lakes, NSW

Jimbooba Times, Jimbooba, Qld

Mid-Coast Observer, NSW

The Maitland Mercury, Maitland, NSW

Manning River Times, Taree, NSW

Merredin-Wheatbelt Mercury, Merredin, WA

The North West Star, Mt Isa, Queensland

Express, NSW

Port Macquarie News, Port Macquarie, NSW

Redland City Bulletin, Redland City, NSW

Border Chronicle, Bordertown, SA

The Flinders News, Port Pirie, SA

Coastal Leader, Kingston, SA

Wingham Chronicle, Wingham, NSW

The Advocate, hepburn, Victoria

The Courier, Ballarat, Victoria

Bendigo Advertiser, Bendigo, NSW

The Standard, Warrnambool, Victoria

The Wimmera Mail-Times, Victoria

Yass Tribune, Yass, NSW

The Young Witness, Young, NSW

Newcastle Star, Newcastle, NSW

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Republican presidential contenders – a full list 
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Washington: Jeb Bush, son of the 41st president of the United States and younger brother of 43rd enjoyed a normal family Thanksgiving last month, he reassured Americans in a Facebook updated earlier today.

“We shared good food and watched a whole lot of football,” and later he “decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” If he won he would be Bush 45.

Anyone keeping half an eye on US politics already knew that this was a possibility Jeb Bush has been actively exploring for some time, but in making the announcement he has edged very close to starting up the full machinery of a presidential campaign.

Though the field of possible Republican candidates is vast, Jeb immediately vaults to the front of the pack and the possibility of a Bush-Clinton 2016 election is now considerable.

Should he run, Jeb will begin his campaign both buoyed up and weighed down by his family name.

Many supporters of both parties are appalled by the rise of dynasties in American politics, a sentiment captured by his own mother, Barbara, who said last year, “There are a lot of great families. It’s not just four families, or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified. We’ve had enough Bushes.”

One of his brother’s former advisors, David Frum, tweeted earlier today, “In this magnificent land of opportunity, anyone can aspire to the presidency, provided only that an immediate relative had the job already.”

But the Bush name also gives Jeb access to a formidable political network, instant name recognition, the support of much of the Republican Party’s Washington, DC establishment, and an insight into the rigors of a campaign and the job itself.

Indeed it is often said that Bush Snr – and Barbara for that matter – always expected Jeb to be president rather than his older brother.

Then there is the Bush record in office to consider.

Bush senior, or 41 as he is often referred to as, was the last US president to win a fast and decisive war, but many Republicans never forgave him for not finishing the first Gulf War by storming Baghdad. Many others mistrust him for increasing taxes to cut the deficit.  When the independent Ross Perot split the Republican vote in 1992 Bush Snr lost office after one term, leaving the nation in recession.

Bush 43 won two terms but left a nation mired in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing a financial catastrophe.

Despite this the savagery of the popular Republican backlash against the Obama presidency has had led to some reimagining of the W’s era in the White House. A popular line of Republican merchandise has an image of W. Bush with the slogan “Miss me yet?” underneath it.

Jeb Bush’s own political record will cut both ways too. As governor of Florida he ran a conservative administration – small on government, big on death penalty – but since he last ran for office the Republican Party has been dragged further to the right by the Tea Party.

Jeb now finds himself on the wrong side of two major Republican issues – education and immigration.

Jeb supports what is known as the Common Core education standards. This is a set of nationwide standards that states are required to meet. This has become a flashpoint for many Tea Party Republicans who see it as federal government over-reach.

But it is on immigration that Bush stands apart from the pack the most. Bush has lived in Venezuela, done business with Cuban-Americans and married a Mexican. During the height of the debate over immigration earlier this year when many Republicans were calling mass deportations and a militarised southern border, he said of undocumented immigrants,  “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family.”

That is to say that Jeb Bush has a record that could significantly eat into the election-winning advantage Democrats have among America’s rapidly growing Latino population, but could cost him a Republican primary.

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Shanghai night field

Although Jeb Bush has taken a step towards announcing plans to run for president, the field of Republican contenders for the White House in 2016 remains open. Below is list of possibles candidates.

Jeb Bush – The only two-term Republican governor of Florida and the son and brother of a president.

Chris Christie – Governor of blue New Jersey and an early front runner, but now tainted by scandal involving punishing political opponents.

Rand Paul – Libertarian first-term senator from Kentucky, who has taunted Chris Christie as the “king of bacon” for his alleged fondness for spending that benefits New Jersey.

Ben Carson – Retired African-American neurosurgeon, who emphasises cultural issues and currently polls second among Republicans for the 2016 nomination.

Scott Walker – Wisconsin governor, who has won three state-wide races and is known for his fierce assaults on public unions.

Rick Perry – Governor of Texas for over 14 years, he foundered as a presidential candidate in 2012, but is back courting Tea Party voters.

Bobby Jindal – Governor of Louisiana, who is liked by social conservatives and is positioning himself as an education and energy policy reformer.

Paul Ryan – Wisconsin congressman, who is a tireless tax cutter and served as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate in 2012.

Ted Cruz – First-term Texas senator, who is the darling of the Tea Party, but is disliked as much by the Republican establishment as he is by Democrats.

Marco Rubio – First-term Florida senator mostly famous for being young and Hispanic, and probably out of the running if Jeb Bush is in.

Lindsey Graham – Three-term senator from South Carolina, who is close to John McCain and would run almost as a clone, but without the respected war record.

John Kasich – Budget-slashing governor of Ohio, who spent 18 years in Congress and six years as a pundit at Fox News.

Mike Pence – Governor of Indiana, well liked by the Tea Party, Koch Brothers and social conservatives.

Mike Huckabee – Former Arkansas governor, who finished second in the Republican race in 2008 launched a successful talk radio and TV career.

Rick Santorum – Christian “theocon” (theocratic neoconservative), who is a former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate famous for his opposition to abortion, birth control and gay marriage.

Mitt Romney – His wife says the entire family is “done” with politics, but “the acid reflux candidate” – because he keeps coming back – is still talking like a candidate.

Donald Trump – Property developer and big-mouth reality TV star, who says he will decide in 2015 whether he will run for president. Famous for championing Obama “birther” conspiracies.

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Knox: Can captain Smith keep the dogs barking without vets?Harris: Smith looked like captain material way back in 2008Wu: Shaun Marsh wants end to boom or bust days 
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Just over three years ago, Michael Clarke made an impassioned plea on social media on behalf of Steve Smith.

“Trying to find a date for Steve Smith to take to the AB medal?” Clarke tweeted to more than 80,000 followers. “You can tweet me with your expressions of interest.”

That was late January 2011. Australia had just been chewed up and spat out by the monster that was England in the final two Ashes Tests in Melbourne and Sydney. Smith didn’t quite know it then, but he was about to be scalped and locked out of the Australian team for the next two years.

The shy and unassuming kid from the Sutherland Shire also didn’t quite know it then that he’d meet someone who would turn it all around.

Someone who would make his captain’s role as matchmaker redundant, and also set him on that path that will see Smith replace the injured Clarke as captain for the foreseeable future, starting with the second Test against India starting in Brisbane on Wednesday.

“We met three years ago at a bar during the first season of the Big Bash League,” says Smith of Dani Willis, a law and commerce student at Macquarie University.  “She has been amazing. She’s always there for me when I’m around. She always gives me good advice, and tells me the truth. It’s nice that you have some honest feedback to come home to all the time. She’s been terrific for me over the last few years.

“I try to occasionally learn some law lingo. A few words here and there, which is always interesting. Most of it goes over my head. I’m not quite smart enough for that. But I try my best.”

It’s a common theme emerging in modern sport, with apologies to Cat Stevens: find a girl, settle down, if you want you can marry … go on and win a footy premiership or cement your place in the Australian Test team. Clarke broke it off with Lara Bingle, found Kyly Boldy, won the Ashes. Dave Warner found Candice Falzon and just notched 1000 runs for the year.

Love used to be a battlefield. Now it seems as fundamental to sporting longevity as an ice bath.

Ask Smith if his partner has provided much needed balance in his life and he says this: “She has. It’s nice to have someone to come home to and get the honest truth about all aspects of life.”

Hard truths?

“Occasionally,” he admits. “She watches everything: all the press conferences. She always tells if I’ve done something wrong – and if I’ve done something well. It’s nice.”

For someone admittedly addicted to the game, balance is the reason behind Smith’s renaissance as a cricketer and elevation to the captaincy ahead of veteran Brad Haddin.

Four years ago, Smith was part of the Australian side playing in the Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean.

The team was based at a luxurious resort in Barbados, and on a day off the likes of Warner and others could be found on jetskis out in the turquoise ocean, or lazing beside the large pool.

Not Smith. He was in his hotel room, watching every ball being played elsewhere in the tournament.

“I’m a cricket nuffie,” he admitted to the small band of Australian reporters on that tour.

He says now: “I would call myself a cricket nuffie. I love watching cricket. But I’ve found other things in my life.”

Nevertheless, the next captain of the Australian cricket team seemingly doesn’t covet the glossy magazine and red-carpet lifestyle that Clarke has been often unfairly criticised for. You’ll see the 25-year-old in the general admission area at Royal Randwick on raceday, wearing a pair of thongs and a form guide in his back pocket.

He owns a share in four racehorses – three with leading trainer Chris Waller and another with old-school horseman Les Bridge – and calls it a “hobby”.

If he’s not there, you might see him at the Clovelly Hotel in Sydney’s eastern suburbs having a chicken schnitzel and quiet schooner – even if beer conflicts with the high-fat, low-carb diet that sees him as lean as a greyhound these days. “There are a lot of carbs in beer,” he grins. “When I’ve been doing the diet, I’ve had my alcohol consumption pretty low. I’m not a huge drinker.”

By his own admission, Smith wasn’t ready to become Australian cricket’s next big thing. As a leg-spinner taking private lessons from Shane Warne who could also bat, he found himself in the Test, one-day and Twenty20 sides at 21.

“I started too soon,” he says. “As a batsman [in Test cricket], I played too many shots. I didn’t have the patience. I just tried to score a hundred off 50 balls. So I got the opportunity to play state cricket [for NSW]. Try to get some big scores and bat time. That was the best thing for me at that stage.”

He now belongs in the Test side as much as any player, but is he ready to lead? At 25, some have doubts. Others say he’s the right man for the job.

During a match as captain of the Sydney Sixers in their first season, he once put veteran Stuart MacGill firmly back in his box.

MacGill had taken exception to Smith asking him to field at fine leg.

“MacGill said he was sore and he was there to bowl,” former Sixers boss and Test quick Stuart Clark told The Australian this week. “Smithy said, ‘Look mate, I am the captain, you do what I say, now f— off and get down there’.”

Smith barely recalls the incident, but he will offer this: “I’m not afraid to do that. It comes with the job, and everyone understands that. I think he [MacGill] was a little surprised at first. But then he went to the position I had said.”

Now, though, comes a more onerous task: captaining a Test side still jangling with emotion since the death of teammate Phillip Hughes. Smith was in the stands at the SCG that afternoon late last month when Hughes was struck by a bouncer that claimed his life. He wasn’t playing for NSW because of a quad injury.

As he sat on 98 during the first innings of the Adelaide Test, waiting for a long rain delay to end, he looked at the big “408” painted on the outfield.

“I thought if I got two more runs, I thought it would be a nice tribute for my little mate to go over to the 408,” Smith says.

And then he did. Sometimes cricket and life are one and the same.

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