Unemployment falls 0.2 to 5.2% in May: Economy Roundup

The unemployment rate fell by a seasonally adjusted 0.2% to 5.2% in May, beating expectations that the rate would remain unchanged at 5.4%.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed employment increased 0.2% to 11,056,700, with full-time employment up 36,400 to 7,770,700 and part-time employment decreasing 9,400 to 3,277,000.

The number of people looking for full-time work decreased by 12,000 to 437,700 with the number of people looking for part-time work decreasing by 13,400 to 163,100.

The male unemployment rate decreased by 0.3 points to 5%, with the female unemployment rate decreasing 0.2 points to 5.3%. The participation rate also fell by 0.2 points to 65.1%.

Mining giant Andrew Forrest has attacked a consultation process with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd over the proposed resources super profits tax, telling ABC television the process was a “charade”.

“It is a charade, the consultation is there I feel is lip service only, we’re not seeing the Government move an inch on this,” he said.

“The first words were: ‘this tax is binary Mr Forrest, if you want to change this tax, you have to change the government’. It frankly has upset me to this day.”

Also in the mining sector, BIS Shrapnel has lowered its outlook for mining and heavy construction in 2010-11, but it also said the proposed tax was not a part of the weaker forecast.

The Mining and Heavy Industry Construction in Australia, 2009/10 – 2023/24 report predicts overall mining and heavy industry construction is expected to drop 3%.

“We were already factoring in a weakening in mining and heavy industry construction prior to the announcement of the RSPT,” BIS’s infrastructure and mining unit senior manager Adrian Hart said in a statement.

“While the RSPT has increased uncertainty in the mining sector in the short-term, we believe this is more the result of a lack of effective communication and consultation between the Federal Government and the mining industry about aspects of the tax, not its fundamental structure.”

“However, we do not believe that recent decisions taken to delay or cancel mining projects have been solely driven by the proposed RSPT. Nor do we believe that the tax, once finalised and implemented, will weaken overall mining investment in Australia,” he said.

As reported by the Australian Financial Review, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission will investigate investors for misconduct when its stock market supervision begins in August.

“The most obvious change is that we can make direct inquiries of clients of market participants [stockbrokers],” ASIC executive Greg Yanco told the AFR. “The ASX is currently limited to making inquiries to brokers about their clients, listed companies or what is known in the public domain.”

Stockbrockers’ association policy advisor Doug Clark also said the crackdown would be a “paradigm shift”.

Shares higher despite Wall Street fall

The Australian sharemarket has opened higher today, despite disappointing results on Wall Street where stocks fell as a result of the Government’s probe into the ongoing oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 44 points or 1.03% to 4430.3 at 12.15 AEST, while the Australian dollar has also opened slightly higher to US83c.

ANZ shares gained 0.5% to $22.37, while Commonwealth Bank shares also rose 1.5% to $51.50. Westpac gained 1% to $22.64 as NAB rose 0.5% to $24.29.

The AFR has reported US railway company Genessee & Wyoming has purchased FreightLink for $334 million after KordaMentha attempted to sell the railway last year.

FreightLink began in 2004 following a $1.2 billion construction project of the Alice Springs to Darwin railway connection. Genessee & Wyoming will reportedly take on $1.7 million in debt.

The Australian Foundation Investment Company hopes NAB’s bid for AXA Asia Pacific Holdings will fail.

Chairman Bruce Teele told reporters today he does not want to the see company sold. “We like AXA as it gives us a strong link to the Asia market. It gives us diversity… it would be a great tragedy”, he said.

AFIC is the oldest listed investment group in Australia, and actually holds shares in both NAB and AMP.

ANZ scouting Asia for acquisitions

Sources have told Reuters that ANZ is looking to expand its Asian footprint by considering an acquisition of PT Bank Panin in Indonesia.

Sources “with direct knowledge of the matter” said there is yet to be a bid, but ANZ is putting “all its resources” behind securing a deal with Panin while it is reconsidering the sales of South Korean group KEB. Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley have been hired as advisors.

In New York, an Australian hedge fund is suing Goldman Sachs regarding the investment in a subprime mortgage-based security.

Basis Yield Alpha Fund said in a statement it had been targeted by Goldman as a potential buyer for the Timberwolf collateralised debt obligation. The company says it lost more than $US50 million when margin calls were made, which forced it into insolvency.

On Wall Street, shares have continued to slide in the energy sector due to continued fears over BP’s control of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 40.73 points or 0.41% to 9,899.25.

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