The Big Four Banks Get Their Credit Rating Cut - Talking Business 2011 Ep 16c

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

Garry and Leon talk about the big news of the week that Australia’s four largest banks had their credit rating cut one notch to Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service due to their reliance on overseas debt markets. Most Australians face a faster cost of living rise than the official rate of 3.3 per cent. The increase facing working families is 4.9 per cent, the increase facing age pension households is 4.1 per cent, and the increase facing Australians on welfare is 5.1 per cent.

The number of home loans approved in March fell to a 10-year low, dragged down by the Queensland floods and by the November rate hike. The Reserve Bank has signaled its intentions to raise interest rates if current economic conditions “continue to evolve as expected”. Worries about rising interest rates and the Federal budget have caused consumer sentiment to fall in May. New motor vehicle sales fell by 3.5 per cent in April, with sales of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) dropping by almost 10 per cent for the month, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

ABS figures show that hourly rates of pay rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.8 per cent in the March quarter and 3.8 per cent over the past year. Australia's biggest insurance group QBE has raised $US1 billion in subordinated debt in the US debt markets to strengthen its balance sheet and provide funding for its operations as the spectre of disasters in 2011 continue to haunt the market. One of Australia's biggest fertiliser importers and sellers South Australian fertiliser business Megafert has become the latest company to go into administration. Australia's top 300 listed companies recorded stronger business conditions in the March quarter and expect to perform better than smaller companies in 2012, a bank survey has revealed. The newly created Seven West Media has become the latest media company to issue a profit downgrade as weak consumer confidence continues to eat away at print earnings. Construction company Leighton Holdings has announced a loss of $382 million for the nine months to the end of March.

The shares of Sydney based miner Whitehaven Coal's shares have taken a hammering after it revealed it failed to find a suitor seven months after it put itself up for sale and ending speculation that the Chinese were finalising a $US3.74 billion ($3.5bn) bid. James Hardie Industries says an internal restructuring of the company will lead it to cut its contribution to the asbestos injuries fund next year possibly by more than $US11 million. Dulux Group expects to lift full-year profit as rebuilding after Queensland's devastating floods and a new entrant into the "big box" hardware sector boost demand for its products. Macarthur Coal Ltd has raised its net profit guidance for fiscal 2011 to between $240 million and $260 million, from $185 million to $205 million previously. The most significant women's pay decision in nearly 40 years, the workplace tribunal has ruled that gender was a key factor in the low pay of tens of thousands of social and community workers.

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Garry Barker and Leon Gettler
RMIT, Business, Economics, News