Online jobs ads fall, shares flat, Rio unveils $30bn deal with Chinese: Economy roundup

Online job ads giant SEEK has revealed the number of new job ads on its site fell 5.9% for January, while new job applications rose by a 1.6% compared to December.

Overall, the SEEK Employment Index fell by a 7.4% in January, suggesting fewer job advertisements and greater competition for existing jobs. 

But the news isn’t all bad. The number of people who feel less secure about their job has actually fallen in the last few months, and SEEK employment managing director Joe Powell says a significant level of demand exists across a number of professions.

 “For a number of months now, we’ve seen continued high demand for skilled roles in healthcare, law, and primary industries.

“Management roles within the engineering sector are also proving difficult to fill – and with infrastructure being a focus of the Federal Government’s proposed stimulus package, we would expect this demand to be maintained for some time.”

Shares flat

The Australian sharemarket has opened slightly higher today after positive leads from Wall Street overnight.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 14.5 points or 0.41% to 3528.8 at 12.05 AESDT. The dollar also lost ground to US64 cents.

NAB shares have gained 0.4% to $18.67, ANZ jumped 6% to $12.60 and AMP have lifted 0.6% to $5.13.

Rio deal

Rio Tinto shares have dropped 3.8% after news the group reached a $US19.5 billion deal with Chinese aluminium group Chinalco, providing the company with as much as an 18% stake in Rio and its assets.

The group has also announced its full year underlying net earnings, which have risen 38% to $10.3 billion. Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan says he welcomes any foreign investment, but that the Rio deal must be approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

US rescue plans

Overseas, Wall Street rallied after news the Obama Administration may reveal a plan to subsidise mortgages. News group Reuters has reported that sources close to the White House say homes will undergo a standardised reappraisal, while homeowners will face a universal eligibility test.

James Lockhart, the regulator in charge of now Government-controlled mortgage agencies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, says any standardised system would be welcome.

“I’ve talked to all the major servicers – both the big bank ones and the big independent ones – and they are all ready to go; they’re chomping at the bit,” Lockhart told Reuters. “The other thing they’re asking for standardisation.”

The Administration is also in the final touches of approving its stimulus package bill, but passage through the Senate may not occur until tomorrow Australian time.

The $US789 billion bill includes funding for income tax cuts and infrastructure projects, but Senate officials say debate is still raging and a vote may not occur until the US’s Friday at the very earliest. President Obama has urged Congress to act swiftly, saying the legislation must pass to avoid an economic “catastrophe”.

His urgency was supported by new Department of Labour data, which shows the number of people remaining on unemployment benefits one week after applying rose by 11,000 to a record 4.810 million.

The figures also show initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits dropped 8000 to a seasonally adjusted 623,000 last week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 6.77 points or 0.09% to 7932.76. Oil prices have dropped to a three-week low at just $US34 a barrel.

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