Inflation and Interest Rates - Talking Business 2011 Ep 10c

A review of the week in business, with expert analysis and commentary

Garry and Leon talk about how home owners are spared higher mortgage payments with the RBA keeping interest rates on hold. But rising fruit and vegetable and fuel prices are pushing inflation up. At the same time, business expectations continue to decline with weak consumer spending and rising fuel prices. Home loans have fallen to their lowest level in 14 years and construction activity is driven to a two year low. Still, civil construction work in Australia is forecast to rise substantially in coming years, driven by a surge in mining and liquefied natural gas-related activity and flood reconstruction efforts in Queensland. With fewer buying houses, rents are also going up. A new Veda Advantage study finds that one in five Australians is struggling to pay their debts. But jobless figures are falling with the ANZ job advertisement survey showing the number of jobs being advertised is 19.2 per cent higher than March 2010 and ABS figure showing the unemployment rate falling to 4.9 per cent. Australia meanwhile posts a surprising trade deficit as exports drop with Treasurer Wayne Swan saying the Japanese earthquake and tsunami is likely to cut about $2 billion from Australia's export earnings and yhe Treasury Department warns the government that eight years of robust company tax revenues supporting the federal budget are drawing to a close. Western Australia technically slips into recession. Treasurer Wayne Swan says the takeover of the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) by its Singaporean counterpart is not in the national interest and the decision is slammed by business. Woolworths chief Michael Luscombe is to step down, just weeks after the powerhouse grocer dismissed speculation that his retirement was imminent. He will be replaced by former shelf stacker Grant O’Brien. Things are hot in the biotech space with bids going on for various companies. Rio Tinto now has 49.53 per cent of Riversdale Mining. Hong Kong listed Minmetals which is majority owned by the Chinese government makes a $6.3 billion bid to buy Perth –based Equinox Minerals, signaling strong by the Chinese in our resources sector. Atlas Iron posts record production figures for March. QBE Insurance spent almost half its yearly allocation for large catastrophe claims but still expects its profit to grow by 30 per cent this year. Ten Network Holdings says it will downgrade sport after a double-digit slide first-half net profit. Leighton Holdings Ltd is expected to cut its profit forecast for a second time this year. Qantas faces industrial action with unions threatening to wage a campaign of "guerilla warfare" and the airline sending manager offshore to learn how to break strikes. Qantas is also is also putting up for sale its 21-strong fleet of ageing Boeing 737-400 aircraft - known as the workhorse of the skies - as it cuts flights because of the uncertain outlook for travel demand. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has launched its case against the 2007 board and senior executives of Centro Properties Group over allegations they should have known the company accounts were incorrect.

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Garry Barker and Leon Gettler