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Business lending falls in February: Midday Roundup

Business lending fell in February, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with personal lending also taking a fall.

The figures show total business finance commitments fell by a seasonally adjusted 8.4% to $29.003 billion, compared to the downwardly revised $31.656 billion in January.

Personal lending also fell by 3.8% to $7.187 billion.

Finance for the owner occupied housing market fell 4% to $13.41 billion, while lease finance rose 4.1% to $498 million.

Swan criticises Opposition over rates hike

Treasurer Wayne Swan has attacked the Opposition over its response to ANZ raising interest rates by 0.06%, saying it is too slow to attack the bank for raising rates outside any RBA decision.

"What, do you want them to have a loss before they can put up their margins?" Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb told ABC this morning.

"You know they're not stupid, and I don't think they would willy-nilly put up their margin like this if they weren't suffering a problem with their margins." Swan told AAP Robb is “out there going into bat for a huge bank over struggling families”.

"So it's no wonder he has no idea of what rate rises mean for families and small businesses."

Toyota lays off 350 workers

Toyota has begun the process of laying off 350 workers at its Melbourne plant, although the company has drawn criticism due to hiring security guards to oversee workers leaving the premises.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) official Charlie Marmara told AAP the hiring of security was heavy-handed.

"For me personally (it's) very difficult, for the people themselves very upsetting, a lot of people are uncertain now what the future holds for them," he said outside the plant.

Toyota spokesperson Beck Angel said the security was actually hired at the union’s request.

"We're doing one-on-one meetings with everyone. We just don't have the facilities at the plant to facilitate them," Angel told AAP.

Shares fall on weak overseas leads

The Australian sharemarket has opened lower this morning following a weak lead from overseas markets late last week over renewed fears over the Eurozone debt crisis.

The benchmark S&P/ASx200 index was down 21.6 points or 0.5% to 4301.7 while the Australian dollar fell to $US1.03c.

Whitehaven merger given shareholder approval

Whitehaven Coal and Aston Resources have been given the thumbs-up by shareholders to merge the two companies.

According to Fairfax, proxy votes are running at 90% in favour of the Boardwalk Resources acquisition plan.

Whitehaven chairman John Conde told the publication the transaction was "an important milestone in the continued growth of the Whitehaven group".

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