Shares fall, import prices rise: Economy roundup

Australian shares fell 0.8% this morning as Brambles fell on concern about a wobbly deal with US retailer Wal Mart, and resource firms slumped on softening oil and metal prices.

The bad news from Brambles – that Wal Mart was reviewing the way it sources pallets – sent the shares down 17.7%.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 42.5 points to 5476.5, after rising a total of 3.3% in the previous three sessions.

Australian import prices rose 2.2% in the three months to March, compared to the same quarter in 2007, and were up 2.7% from the December quarter, according to the import price index released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Commodity prices were up a huge 24% compared to the three months to March 2007. Crude materials excluding fuel rose 13.6% from the same period last year and 6.5% from the three months to December.

Food prices rose 3.3% compared to the previous corresponding period and were up 5.6% from the December quarter, while animal and vegetable oils, fats and waxes soared 27.2% from the same period last year and 17.8% to the end of 2007.

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