Trade deficit shrinks in February: Midday roundup

The Australian trade deficit shrank more than expected during February, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The figures show the trade deficit shrank by 85% to a seasonally adjusted $178 million.

The result comes after a revised deficit for January came in at $1.215 billion. Exports rose 3% in February, with imports falling 1%.

Home sales fall in February

The number of new home sales fell in February, according to the latest figures from the Housing Industry Association.

The HIA figures showed new home sales fell 5.3% in February, despite a 4.2% increase in January.

“The industry is struggling in the current economic environment and strong policy measures will be required to bring market activity back up to levels consistent with Australia’s long-term requirements,” HIA senior economist Shane Garrett said in a statement.

The figures showed detached house sales fell by 4%, with multi-unit sales falling 11%.

Cyprus finance minister resigns

Cyprus finance minister Michael Sarris resigned overnight to be replaced by Haris Georgiades, following the country’s economic turmoil which last month led to the eurozone nation being bailed out by other European countries.

The Cyprus Mail reported Sarris said he left the position to help a commission tasked with investigating the island’s economic debacle. Sarris has also been chairman of Laiki Bank, which is thought to have contributed to the country’s near economic meltdown.

Georgiades comes into the job facing the colossal task of bringing the country back into financial stability as wealthy depositors have been hit with heavy losses in return for economic aid.

Shares flat on modest offshore leads

The Australian sharemarket has opened flat this morning following modest offshore leads, with good economic data out of Wall Street and Europe.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 3.3 points or 0.1% to 4,982.2, while in the United States the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 89 points or 0.6% to 14,662.

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