Europe in Crisis - Talking Business 2011 Ep 15c

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

Leon and Garry talk about the European crisis. Then to the first budget of the Gillard government which is not as savage as threatened, but if its economic forecasts are right it will get the government's balance sheet back into the black on schedule in 2012-13 anyway. The first Gillard government budget promises sweeping welfare reform, freezes family benefits for the wealthy and increases spending on mental health, while promising to be back in the black with a $3.5 billion surplus in 2012-13 and positions Australia to ride a massive new mining boom. Labor is counting on a second mining boom. The budget also seeks to tackle the skills shortage with a $3 billion, six-year plan to train thousands of new workers. The Budget papers shows that the natural disasters last summer -- including the Queensland and Victorian floods and Cyclone Yasi -- have cost the economy $6.6 billion. The number of people with jobs in Australia fell by 22,100, or 0.2 per cent, in April, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9 per cent in April. Executives are increasingly pessimistic about the business outlook heading into the new financial year as they grapple with the spectre of further interest rate rises and increasing fuel costs, amid a two-speed economy. Expectations for sales now at a two year low and a number of key indices have entered negative territory, according to the latest Dun & Bradstreet Business Expectations Survey. Business conditions slipped in April, after recording a solid lift in March, as profitability and trading conditions decreased, according to the National Australia Bank monthly business survey. The number of companies entering insolvency in March reached a near-record high of just under 1500, according to the corporate regulator, with cautious consumers and rising rents believed to be behind the worrying result. Australia's trade balance returned to a very healthy surplus in March, led by a boom in exports. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) posted third quarter unaudited cash earnings of around $1.7 billion amid "subdued" credit demand and "fragile" consumer and business confidence and a rise in bad home loans. Both Myer and David Jones report falls in third quarter sales, but see hope in winter luring fashion-conscious buyers back into stores. BHP Billiton has urged the government to ''go slow'' on tackling carbon emissions, saying reform of the electricity sector should take priority over the rest of the economy. The spate of profit downgrades expected to flow from the soaring Australian dollar has started, with steel manufacturer OneSteel blaming the currency for a forecast $38 million fall in full-year profit. BlueScope Steel, Australia's largest steelmaker, has announced that it will report a full-year loss as the strengthening Australian dollar cuts the price of competing imports and the value of offshore earnings.

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Garry Barker and Leon Gettler