THE NEWS WRAP: Australia signs trade agreement with Japan

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have struck a bilateral trade agreement that will see tariffs cut on Australian agricultural exports.

 

Under the agreement, Japan’s tariff on Australian beef will be cut from 38.5% to 19.5% and the duty-free quota for cheese will increase from 27,000 tonnes per year to 47,000.

 

Exporters of fruit, vegetables, seafood, sugar and wine will also benefit from the agreement, although tariffs will remain on Australian rice exports to Japan.

 

In return, Australian tariffs on consumer electronics and whitegoods will be lowered, while Japanese-made cars will be $1500 cheaper, on average, under the agreement.

 

“This is the first time that Japan has negotiated a comprehensive economic partnership agreement or free trade agreement with a major economy, particularly a major economy with a strong agricultural sector,” Abbott said.

 

Another seasonally adjusted boost to job ads

 

There was a seasonally adjusted 1.4% increase in job ads during March, on top of a sharp 4.7% rise in February, according to the latest ANZ job ads series.

 

The survey marks the fifth consecutive increase in job ads, which are seen as a good indicator of future movement in unemployment figures.

 

“The trajectory of the pick-up in job advertising will be important for gauging the timing and pace of future interest rate rises,” ANZ’s Australian chief economist Ivan Colhoun said.

“ANZ continues to expect the cash rate will remain unchanged in 2014 and increase modestly by 1 percentage point to 3.5% over 2015.”

 

Wesfarmers sells insurance business

 

The parent company of supermarket giant Coles, Wesfarmers, has announced the $3 billion sale of its insurance business to global broking group Arthur J. Gallagher, following the sale of its insurance underwriting business in December.

 

The company expects profits from the deal of between $310 million and $335 million, increasing the total profits from its insurance sell-off to over $1 billion.

 

“It will either reduce debt or [we will] find a way of returning the proceeds to shareholders, or we’ll find an investment. We’re always looking at opportunities to invest, and we’ve got a track record of being very disciplined,” chief executive Richard Goyder said.

 

“We’re not going to sit on an undergeared balance sheet for too long either … we’ve got a track record of returning money to shareholders if we don’t need it.”

 

Overnight

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 16245.9. The Aussie dollar is down to US92.70 cents.

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