Outlook: Shares set to open higher after firm offshore leads December 30, 2010 08:59 AM
The Australian share market is expected to open higher today after receiving a strong lead from Wall Street and higher commodity prices. US stocks advanced overnight as investors remain optimistic about the prospects for equities next year. At closing bell, all the indices were higher as traders look to finish the year with a happy ending.
On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, closed 10 points higher to 11,585. S&P500 is up 1 point to 1,260 and the NASDAQ is up 4 points to 2,667.
European stocks were mixed: London’s FTSE was down 13, Paris is up 32 and Frankfurt is up 23.
To Asian markets, stocks were higher: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 348, Tokyo’s Nikkei was up 52 points and China’s Shanghai Composite up 19 points.
The Australian share market finished lower on Wednesday. The S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 2 points to close at 4,775 and on the futures market the SPI is down 1 point.
Currencies: The Aussie Dollar at 7:30am was buying $US1.018, 65.7 Pence Sterling, 83.17 Yen and 77 Euro cents.
Company news: Yesterday, shares in Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX:RIO) closed 1.02 per cent lower at $85.48. Rio Tinto has declared a force majeure on coal sales contracts from mines in which it has a majority interest, saying heavy rains in Queensland has affected its operations. The global miner says the monsoonal rains have cut access roads and rail networks, adversely impacting mining operations. Some of the affected mines include Hail Creek, Kestrel and Clermont, all located in Queensland’s Bowen Basin. Rio says it is not yet able to assess the full impact the rains have had on coal mining and transportation lines. For the year ended 30 June 2010, Rio reported a net profit of $7.3 billion.
On Wednesday, shares in Kangaroo Resources Ltd (ASX:KRL) closed 18.42 per cent higher at $0.225. Kangaroo Resources has bought a 99 per cent stake in a large thermal coal project in Indonesia. The company bought the stake in the Pakar thermal coal project located in East Kalimantan from PT Bayan Resources in a scrip deal valued at $277 million. Following the completion of the deal, Bayan will emerge with a 57 per cent stake in Kangaroo Resources. The agreement with Bayan is subject to due diligence which will be carried out over the next 30 days. For the year ended 30 June 2010, Kangaroo Resources reported a net loss of $45 million.
Ex-dividends: There are no companies going ex-dividend today but one company going ex-dividend tomorrow is Clime Capital.
Commodities: Gold is up $7.90 to $US1,413 an ounce for the February contract on Comex, silver is up $0.38 at $30.70 for March and copper is down $0.02 to $4.31 a pound and oil is down $0.37 at $US91.12 a barrel for February light crude in New York.
Before getting into the night’s events it’s worth having a quick look at the RBA’s minutes yesterday. Recall that at the time of the December rates decision, the Bank suggested that “this setting of monetary policy [w]as appropriate for the economic outlook.” The neutrality of that statement struck me at the time and I was genuinely surprised by the Bank’s tone. What I didn’t know at the time was the extent to which European debt concerns were weighing on the board. Sure they mentioned it in the press release, but it’s obviously very difficult to get a sense of weight. Turns out it was front and centre in the minutes.
“Members noted that the deterioration in the situation in Europe over the past month had increased the downside risks to the global economy. How this would ultimately play out, and the implications for Australia , were difficult to predict. It was possible that conditions could settle down, as they had after the episode of financial instability in May. Alternatively, an escalation of the current problems was not out of the question. If this prompted a fresh retreat from risk-taking in global financial markets, it would probably have more impact on Australia than any trade effect. “
The other issue of course is the Bank’s view that “Household consumption and borrowing, however, remained restrained despite high levels of confidence, and the saving rate had increased noticeably over the past few years. This restraint, if it continued, would provide some scope for investment to rise without causing aggregate demand to grow too quickly and inflationary pressures to build.”
Now as I pointed out at the time, whether you think the RBA hikes again in the 1H11 comes down to how long lasting you think some of these influences will be, i.e. whether you think a) Europe fundamentally has a crisis and b) whether you think consumer caution is the new normal. Regular readers will know my views on both of these issues, but to recap briefly, I think concerns in Europe have morphed into an irrational self-driven hysteria, and it is solely this hysteria which sustains the ‘crisis’. Secondly, I don’t think consumers are being cautious and certainly the weight of reliable evidence would support that view.
The important point for policy is that, in my opinion, both of these influences are temporary. Even if you believe that consumers are being cautious there is nothing to say that will continue when savings are so high and jobs growth so strong (something the RBA acknowledges). That is why I continue to expect at least one rate hike in 1H11 and probably two. Certainly I’ll be going into more detail in 2011 and we have to acknowledge that things are in a state of flux. But suffice to say that I think there is a limit to how long hysteria can feed on itself. Without an actual default etc the crisis will resolve itself I suspect. I mean it’s pretty revealing that, for all the talk, for all the negative hype, US and European stocks are up about 12% for the year – more like 20% in the case of the Dax. Compare that to Aussie stocks which are up, what, 3% y/y or something? More on that next year though.
As for events last night, well risk was put on now that tensions on the North Koran Peninsula seem to have subsided (for now) and stocks in Europe had a particularly strong session, the major indices rising between 0.9 and 1%. Now a big part of that is the commodity story and certainly miners had a very strong session in the UK , up about 3% as Dr copper hit a new record – up 1.7% in NY so far (crude was otherwise 0.4% higher at $89.78) and gold was up smalls to $1387. Gains were broader than that though and this reflects the fact that the underlying global economy is in pretty good shape.
As I write, about an hour to go, US stocks were underperforming Europe but not doing too badly. The S&P500 was up 0.6% (1253), the Dow was 45pts higher at (11523) and the Nasdaq was 0.7% higher at 2667. At the time of writing, financials, basic materials and tech stocks were the main outperformer with consumer goods, health care and utilities lagging. For Oz, the SPI is currently up only 0.3% to 4780.
Debt markets didn’t do much and even with the NY Fed buying over $9bn in treasuries not much of a bid developed. At the time of writing the major t.notes were little changed from 1630 with the 10yr, 5yr and 2yr notes yielding 0.61%, 1.96% and 3.32% respectively. Aussie futures in turn did little on a 4-5 tick range. 3s sit at 94.69 and 10s at 94.39, both little changed.
Finally in FX land, Euro and Sterling lost about 70pips each to be at 1.3097 and 1.5471 while AUD is unchanged at 0.9964. JPY was also little changed at 83.73.
On the data front, things look good with both US and Canadian consumers out spending big. Unlike their cousins in Australia and NZ who, with much lower unemployment rates can’t muster the cash apparently. But anyway, US chain store sales are up about 4%y/y according to two sources which, following strong sales in November is a great outcome. Q4 consumption is looking very solid indeed. Then in Canada , retail sales were up 0.8% in October, which was stronger than the 0.5% forecast and up from 0.4% in September.
News was otherwise light and unimportant. Moody’s is threatening to downgrade Portugal’s rating further, citing umm, the rising cost of debt, which of course is why you would downgrade them I suppose in this fantasy world that we live in – because that will lower their cost of funding. Thankfully there was little market reaction to that announcement. Finally the Fed extended swap lines with other central banks to August 2011. They were set to expire in January. Note this doesn’t represent a mad rush for dollars. This is impossible. It’s like saying there is a shortage of dirt in the world.
Looking to the day ahead, there is nothing for Oz really but across the Tasman the Kiwi release the Q3 balance of payments. Tonight keep an eye on US and UK Q3 GDP revisions, US existing home sales and the BoE’s minutes.
Have a great day,
Australian property prices overvalued: IMF
By Adam Smith | 17 Dec 2010
Australian house prices could be overvalued by as much as 10%, a new International Monetary Fund report has claimed.
The report has said though housing values in Australia are inflated, strong population growth and rises in income are expected to support current house prices.
“The current historically high terms of trade are expected to be long-lasting,” the report’s authors Patrizia Tumbarello and Shengzu Wong said.
The report indicates the lack of land availability in capital cities has driven up property prices.
“The increasing scarcity of land in main urban centres in Australia is an important factor. The fact that such a high proportion of Australia’s population live in two major cities tends to drive up average house prices,” the report commented.
The authors of the report have gone on to say that housing shortages could be addressed by following the Henry tax review recommendation that stamp duty be scrapped in favour of a land tax.
It was a bit of a sluggish night overall, the market having to digest a number of cross currents and a drop in volumes. On the positive side was the economic data. US Industrial production was 0.4% higher in November, which was modestly stronger than expected, and the Empire State manufacturing survey bounced to +10 from -11 (which is around the average). Now this is all good news and in conjunction with yesterday’s retail numbers, paints very positive picture of growth in the US .
Weighing on that though was a timely announcement from Moody’s that they are putting Spain on a debt review for a possible downgrade. This came after the Spanish parliament ratified changes that would help bring the budget deficit down to 6% by end 2011. It’s interesting that the ratings agencies love to hate countries that are actually making an effort at reducing their deficit. On the other hand, for countries like – I don’t know – the US , who are printing money and making no effort at bringing down the deficit – not even a hint. The mind boggles.
Not sure the announcement had a major impact, though it probably weighed a bit. So for instance in FX land, eur dropped a big figure to 1.3251, but it’s also likely that Greenbacks are seeing a bid from the better run of data anyway. Not necessarily Moody’s related. The dollar index itself was up 0.6% with AUD down to 0.96872 (from 0.9949 at 1630), JPY was at 84.25 from 83.82 while Sterling was down two big figures to 1.5569. The issue with Sterling were some poor jobs numbers out last night. In what had been an improving trend, the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9% in October, from 7.7% and so Sterling was dumped.
Debt markets however largely brushed off any negativity, though didn’t seem too enthused about anything else. Spanish bond yields were actually lower after Moody’s announcement, the market instead focussing on the government’s deficit reduction measures and in the US , treasury yields pushed higher. So clearly no safety bid occurring. The interesting thing is there was probably a good case to see bond prices push higher after what was, at face value, a weak CPI number. CPI rose by 0.1% in November to be 1.1% higher annually from 1.2%. The things is this weaker annual number is a bit misleading as most of it comes from owners equivalent rent, which is a rubbery figure at best, but accounts for a huge chunk of the CPI. Accounting for that, annual inflation is well over 2%.
Moreover, recent figures suggest inflation is more elevated and actually accelerating – 1.8% on a 6mnth annualised basis. So is it true to say disinflation is a problem, deflation a material threat or ‘inflation too low’? Not by these numbers it isn’t. So at the time of writing (about an hour to go) the US 10yr yield was 7bp higher at 3.52%, the 5yr yield was 4bp higher at 2.1% while the 2yr was 1bp higher at 1.2%. Aussie futures for their part were little changed, 2s at 94.65 and 10s at 94.26.
As for equities, things aren’t great. The European session saw the major indices down between 0.2% and 0.4% and the USD is looking comparable so far, with the S&P500 off 0.6% (1234), the Dow off 26pts to 11450 and the Nasdaq off 0.4% to 2616. Most sectors on the S&P were weaker with financials, telecoms and utilities the key underperformers. As for the SPI, it was down 0.3% to 4755.
In other news and data. The NAHB housing market index was steady at +16 in December (expected), while US mortgage applications were down 2.3% in the week to December 10 with new purchases off 5% and refis off 0.7%. In Norway the Norges bank left the depo rate at 2% although the Riksbank ( Sweden ) hiked the repo rate by 25bp to 1.25%. That’s about it.
To the day ahead, there isn’t much for OZ. The RBA’s Financial Stability Review is about it although in NZ the business PMI is out at 0830. Elsewhere its worth keeping an eye out for the European PMIs, UK retail sales, US housing starts, initial jobless claims ad the Philly Fed index.
Have a great day…
RMBS injection ‘chicken feed’: Symond
By Adam Smith | 15 Dec 2010
Aussie Home Loans founder John Symond has told the Senate banking inquiry the non-bank lender may have to raise its interest rates as a result of the government’s banking reform package.
Speaking to the economics committee, Symond said the Australian Office of Financial Management had gone back on a deal to buy 47% of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Aussie Home Loans mortgage-backed bonds, and had done so under orders from Treasurer Wayne Swan.
As a result, Symond told the committee, new Aussie Home Loans customers could see a 0.1% interest rate increase.
Symond also called “chicken feed” the government’s pledge to inject $4bn in the RMBS market.
“If the government wants to make a difference, and promote competition, they would have to invest something like at least $30bn a year, $40bn a year,” Symond said.
According to Symond, the government did not engage in any consultation with non-bank lenders before announcing the reforms, and none of the proposed funding would benefit the sector.
“It’s the non-banks which have been shut out of the funding environment. There’s nothing in these initiatives that help those that bought competition into the marketplace,” he commented.
He criticised the idea of turning to mutuals to provide competition, saying it is the non-bank sector which is best placed to take on the major banks.
“It wasn’t the banks or the mutuals that bought in competition. The suggestion that the mutuals can become a fifth force is a joke. They are small corner stores.”
Media chiefs throw support behind WikiLeaks
Updated 17 minutes ago
There is no evidence Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have broken any Australian law, say media chiefs. (Reuters : Valentin Flauraud )
Some of Australia’s most senior media professionals, including bosses of major newspapers, television networks and websites, have written to Prime Minister Julia Gillard to express their support for WikiLeaks.
The letter was initiated by the board of the Walkley Foundation, Australia’s professional journalism organisation.
The letter said the leaking of 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables was the most astonishing leak of official information in recent history and its full implications were yet to emerge.
“In essence, WikiLeaks, an organisation that aims to expose official secrets, is doing what the media have always done: bringing to light material governments would prefer to keep secret,” the letter said.
“It is the media’s duty to responsibly report such material if it comes into their possession.
“To aggressively attempt to shut WikiLeaks down, to threaten to prosecute those who publish official leaks and to pressure companies to cease doing commercial business with WikiLeaks is a serious threat to democracy, which relies on a free and fearless press.”
The letter, signed by editors and news directors, including ABC director of news Kate Torney, said the reaction of the US and Australian governments “to date has been deeply troubling”.
“We will strongly resist any attempts to make the publication of these or similar documents illegal,” it said.
“Any such action would impact not only on WikiLeaks but every media organisation in the world that aims to inform the public about decisions made on their behalf.”
But the group does not support “the publication of material that threatens national security or anything which would put individual lives in danger”.
“Those judgments are never easy, but there has been no evidence to date that the WikiLeaks material has done either,” it said.
“There is no evidence, either, that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have broken any Australian law.
“The Australian Government is investigating whether Mr Assange has committed an offence and the Prime Minister has condemned WikiLeaks’s actions as ‘illegal’.
“So far, it has been able to point to no Australian law that has been breached.”
The Walkley Foundation letter said WikiLeaks “is part of the media and deserves our support”.
“WikiLeaks has no doubt made errors. But many of its revelations have been significant,” it said.
“It has given citizens an insight into US thinking about some of the most complex foreign policy issues of our age, including North Korea, Iran and China.”
Wikileaks protests in Spain over Julian Assange arrest
Protests have taken place across Spain calling for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is facing extradition from the UK to Sweden for alleged sexual offences.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the British embassy in Madrid calling for him to be freed.
Wikileaks is publishing insights from hundreds of thousands of sensitive US diplomatic and military documents.
The demonstrators believe Mr Assange’s detention is politically motivated.
The whistle-blowing website has angered and embarrassed governments around the world through its publication in recent weeks of classified US diplomatic cables.
Mr Assange was detained in the UK after Sweden secured an international warrant for his arrest.
Prosecutors in Sweden say they want to question him in connection with the sexual offence allegations.
There have also been calls from some in the US for his arrest and prosecution on charges related directly to Wikileaks’ activity.
Sensitive issueWhile supporters online have mounted cyber-protests against Mr Assange’s detention, Saturday’s protests were some of the first street demonstrations in support of Wikileaks.
Wearing face masks associated with the “Anonymous” group of hackers – which launched cyber attacks after Mr Assange’s arrest in the UK – the crowd in Madrid shouted for his freedom, outside the vast glass tower that houses the British embassy
Many of the demonstrators were angry at some of the revelations in the cables, says the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Madrid.
These include the suggestion Spain came under pressure to stop a criminal investigation into the killing of Jose Couso, a Spanish cameraman who died when American soldiers fired a tank round into his hotel in Baghdad.
The Free Wikileaks website, which organised the demonstrations, said protests were also planned for other Spanish cities, including Barcelona, Valencia and Seville.
It called for the restoration of Wikileaks’ internet domain, which was cut off by Amazon after it began publishing the diplomatic cables two weeks ago.
And it demanded that Visa and MasterCard restore credit card services because, it said, no one had proven Mr Assange’s guilt.
Our correspondent says the issue of freedom of speech is sensitive for Spaniards, who only emerged from four decades of authoritarian rule in the 1970s.
By Bonnie Malkin, Sydney 5:18PM GMT 09 Dec 2010
Mark Arbib, the Australian sports minister and a key power broker within the ruling Labor Party, was considered a valuable political contact in Canberra and had met US diplomats “repeatedly” since 2006, according to the cables.
Mr Arbib, who played a large role in the political coup to remove Kevin Rudd from the prime ministership earlier this year, has strenuously denied that he is spying for the US.
He issued a statement saying he was “publicly known as a strong supporter of Australia’s relationship with the United States”.
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“I, like many members of the federal parliament, have regular discussions about the state of Australian and US politics with members of the US mission and consulate,” he said.
However, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, which reported the cables under the headline “A Yank in the ranks”, said that the documents revealed that Mr Arbib kept US officials briefed on the inner workings of Australia’s government and ruling Labor party.
He was described as an influential “right-wing power broker and political rising star” who had provided detailed briefings including candid commentary in the run up to the removal of Mr Rudd by his deputy Julia Gillard.
After the recent election, Mr Arbib was elevated from the minor ministry of employment participation to the portfolios of indigenous employment and economic development, sport and social housing and homelessness.
US diplomats said he was “an astute observer and able conversant on the nuts and bolts of US politics”.
Mr Arbib’s colleagues have described the cables as “dinner party gossip” and denied that he was spying for the US.
But the information will further embarrass the Australian government, which is dealing with the fallout from several of the WikiLeaks cables.
On Wednesday Mr Rudd, who is now the foreign minister, was described in US diplomatic cables as a “control freak” who had presided over several “significant blunders” while in office.
Earlier this week he was also shown to have urged the US to use force against key trading partner China if “everything goes wrong”.
It was another savage session for Treasuries overnight with the 10yr yield spiking up to a high of 3.33% (+14bp from 1630) before a bid developed to calm things down. As I write, the 10yr is up about 5bp to 3.24%, the 5yr +7bp to 1.85% and the 2yr +7bp to 0.62% – 10yrs have had their biggest two day move since September 2008 which is quite remarkable. The $21bn 10yr treasury auction wasn’t even that bad, wasn’t that good, but it wasn’t that bad with cover at 2.92 compared to 2.8 last month and a 12 auction average of 3.07.
So it looks like those tax cuts have caused a bit of a long squeeze and there is plenty of chatter about how the additional stimulus, well the continuing stimulus, may result in the Fed cutting short their Qe2 plans, which is awesome if you live in fairyland and think Bernanke was actually targeting growth or inflation (or whatever else is convenient for him to mention).
For others, the Bernank is just monetising debt and trying to force a rebalancing of global growth, in which case the tax extension is unlikely to force a re-think of Qe2 (quite the opposite). Either way though, treasuries are a sell, although how much further they can go is unclear. I had thought that 3.25% would be the upper limit in this new range although we’re pretty much there already. And then of course there is the global data which continues to surprise on the upside. It’s pretty obvious that material 2H slowing didn’t eventuate and Q4 growth is looking rock solid; it not inconceivable that 10yrs could be closer to 4% over coming weeks.
Check out global industrial production, it is recovering at a rapid clip and German industrial production, out last night, again surprised on the upside. At 2.9% the October production figure was almost 3 times the market expectation. German exports dipped in the same month, yep sure, but this comes after a very strong September figure. It’s all good. Even the Brits are having a good run with their manufacturing output and according to the Confederation of British Industry, this may get better still with the new orders index rising to -3 (highest in over 2yrs) from -15 and a median expectation of -13. With all that to consider I think there is only one way for bonds to go (medium term).
Equities on the other hand, had a reasonably lacklustre session, the major indices in Europe between -0.4% and +0.4% with not much activity in the US either. With about 30mins to go the S&P500 is up only 0.2% (1226), the Dow is about 5pts lower (11354) while the Nasdaq is up 0.3% (2605). Financials look to be having a great session so far, up 1.4% and leading the overall index higher. Otherwise, technology and consumer stocks were the other main outperformers with basic materials industrials, utilities and energy stocks the main deadweight’s. The SPI for its part is 0.3% higher at 4714.
Commodities were mixed overnight with copper up another 1.4% although crude was down 0.3% ($88.43) and gold fell about $19 to $1383. Otherwise AUD is little changed at 0.9791, EUR is 24pips higher at 1.3257 while JPY also pushed a little higher and sits at 84.05. Sterling in contrast had a solid session rising 86pips to 1.5798 on the back of that manufacturing orders data.
That’s about it for price action, there were a couple of other news worthy item including the RBNZ which kept rates unchanged at 3% as expected. If anything though, the Bank has become more dovish and its pretty clear they aren’t going to do anything for a while. I’ll write more about this at a later date, but suffice to say I don’t think things are as bad as the Bank thinks, but certainly there won’t be any Bank action for a while yet. Finally, US mortgage applications fell 0.9% in the week to December 3 although applications for new purchases rose 1.8%.
Looking to the day ahead, there is some reasonably decent data today, including the final estimate of Japanese GDP, NZ credit card spending data and of course the Australian labour force print (1130). The median market expectation is that employment will rise 20k with the unemployment rate expected to slip to 5.2% from 5.4%. I’m not too far off that with 15k and 5.3%. As to the risks, I think they are fairly symmetric. History tells us its all to the upside, although jobs growth has been exceptionally and consistently strong, so it would be reasonable to expect a moderation at some point. Tonight, watch out for German CPI (final estimate), the BoE’s decision (some people are seriously talking about more money being printed) and US jobless claims.
HE was the rumpled lawyer defending Dr Mahomed Haneef against spurious terrorism charges, and now Peter Russo is leaping to the aid of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The Brisbane solicitor will join a rally in Brisbane on Friday in support of Mr Assange, the Australian citizen blamed for publishing details from 250,000 leaked US diplomatic cables on his WikiLeaks website.
Mr Assange is in custody in Britain after he surrendered to an Interpol warrant accusing him of sex crimes in Sweden.
His supporters claim the charges are trumped up and designed to silence him.
Mr Russo shot to fame for his defence of Dr Mahomed, when he was accused of links to terrorist bombers in the United Kingdom.
He will be joined by former Australian Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett at the midday protest on Friday at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade office in Brisbane.
Assange poised to be Labor’s Hicks
The Australian, 8 hours ago
WikiLeaks live Q&A
The Australian, 9 hours ago
Julian Assange arrested in London
Herald Sun, 10 hours ago
Supporters of Assange to rally in Brisbane
NEWS.com.au, 11 hours ago
Assange: Don’t shoot messenger
NEWS.com.au, 1 day ago
Mr Bartlett stood for the Greens at the last federal election.
Rally organisers from the Brisbane Activist Centre said the protest was timed for International Human Rights Day, claiming the Australian government had failed to uphold Mr Assange’s rights.
Another rally in support of the WikiLeaks editor has been called for tomorrow from 5.30pm (AEST) to 8.30pm in Brisbane Square at the top of the Queen St Mall.
Jessica Payne, a member of Socialist Alternative who is organising Thursday’s rally, said the Australian government must not join the chorus of world leaders “demanding Mr Assange’s head on a plate”.
“His crime is simply that he has published the comments and thoughts of some of the most powerful people in the world,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Even the prime minister could not come up with a charge against Assange.
“This is an attack on freedom of speech and us as citizens, our right to know what our rulers and elected representatives are up to.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has argued the “foundation stone” of the WikiLeaks website is “illegal”.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Wednesday said any legal action taken in Australia against Mr Assange would not be driven by political motives and said he was receiving due consular assistance in Britain.
Mr Rudd has sought to draw a line between the sex charges Mr Assange is facing and the WikiLeaks website.
He said the Swedish charges went “to a different range of matters” from anything WikiLeaks had done.