Trade deficit expands during March: Midday roundup

Australia’s trade deficit expanded during March, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. 

The figures show the trade deficit was a seasonally adjusted $1.59 billion, up by $833 million from the previous month.

Economists had mostly predicted a deficit of -1.4% in March.

Commonwealth Bank cuts fixed-term rates

The Commonwealth Bank has cut interest rates for its one- and three-year fixed rate home loans, according to Fairfax, after the Reserve Bank slashed the official cash rate by 50 basis points last week.

The bank has lowered its rate on a three-year fixed loan by 34 basis points to 5.99%, while the year-long fixed home loan rate will drop by 15 points to 5.99%.

“We believe that for customers looking for certainty when it comes to their home loan repayments, our one- and three-year fixed rate home loans will be attractive options for them,” executive general manager retail products Michael Cant told the publication.

Government facing crisis of integrity, Abbott claims

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has attacked the Federal Government and called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to scrap Craig Thomson’s vote following the release of a damning Fair Work report.

The report claims Thomson has spent tens of thousands of dollars on inappropriate expenses including escort services while working as national secretary of the Health Services Union.

“This Fair Work Australia report is absolutely damning and, on the basis of this report, Ms Gillard surely can no longer accept Craig Thomson’s vote on the floor of the Parliament,” Abbott told ABC Television this morning.

“As long as the Prime Minister is relying on a tainted vote there’s no point,” he said later in Canberra. “What I suggest is the tainted vote of Mr Thomson should be disowned by this Prime Minister.”

However, others have rejected that view, including independent MP Tony Windsor, who told ABC there isn’t scope to reject Thomson’s vote.

“The only way that would play out would be for Craig Thomson to leave the building,” he said.

Markets flat after disappointing fall yesterday

The Australian sharemarket has opened flat this morning after a shocking day yesterday, in which global markets reacted negatively to news of elections in France and Greece that could upset progress made in eurozone negotiations.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 9.7 points or 0.2% to 4311 at 12.00 AEST, while the Australian dollar continued to fall to $US1.01c.

In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 29 points or 0.2% to 13,008.5.

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