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  • Barack Obama pledges support for Japan in islands dispute as Asia trip begins ABC - 6 hours ago

    US President Barack Obama says he will oppose any attempt to undermine Japan's administration of disputed islands in the East China Sea, as he arrived in Tokyo for the start of his Asian tour. The President has met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to give a proposed regional trade treaty a much needed boost. The Trans Pacific Partnership trade treaty would connect a dozen Asia Pacific economies, including Australia, by eliminating trade barriers and harmonising laws and regulations. If realised it would be the biggest trade treaty in the world, covering two-fifths of the global economy and a third of all trade.

  • Treasurer Joe Hockey was concerned GrainCorp bidder Archer Daniel Midland 'not of good character' ABC - 7 hours ago
    Treasurer Joe Hockey was concerned GrainCorp bidder Archer Daniel Midland 'not of good character'

    The Federal Treasurer has revealed he blocked a foreign takeover bid for GrainCorp partly because the US-based company was "not of good character". Joe Hockey knocked back the proposal by Archer Daniel Midland (ADM) late last year, drawing criticism from the Opposition and several business groups. At the time, Mr Hockey said the $3.4 billion takeover was not in the national interest.

  • Expect tough love on May 13: Hockey AAP - 8 hours ago

    Australians should expect a serve of tough love when the Abbott government hands down its first budget, Joe Hockey has warned. However, in a speech delivered weeks out from the May budget, the treasurer has also promised big investments in infrastructure that will help spur on the nation's economy. "All Australians must help us to do the heavy lifting," Mr Hockey said in an address hosted by the Spectator Magazine. "The volume of demand for these programs is outstripping the capacity of taxpayers to fund them," Mr Hockey said.

  • Strike halts work on Panama Canal expansion AFP - 10 hours ago
    Strike halts work on Panama Canal expansion

    Work to expand the Panama Canal -- interrupted earlier this year for a dispute over cost overruns -- halted Wednesday, this time for a strike by workers demanding higher wages. "The project to enlarge the Panama Canal ... is paralyzed," said Saul Mendez, secretary general of the construction-worker union Suntracs. Work had halted for 15 days in February in a row over who would pay for an estimated $1.6 billion in cost overruns in the multi-billion-dollar project to build extra locks on the 80-kilometer (50-mile) waterway linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), the consortium running the expansion project, said that Suntracs workers "are heeding the call to strike," which "is impacting the work schedule of this project."

  • Sweden Investor group announces sharp Q1 profit drop AFP - 10 hours ago
    Sweden Investor group announces sharp Q1 profit drop

    Swedish investment giant Investor on Wednesday said its first-quarter profits slumped by a quarter, underlining the Nordic country's vulnerability to international instability. From January to March 2014 ...

  • Rates to remain stable in budget run-up AAP - 11 hours ago

    At least Australians won't have to contend with higher interest rates while swallowing the bitter pill of the federal government's budget. The latest official inflation numbers proved tamer than feared, keeping the consumer price index within the Reserve Bank's two to three per cent target band and suggesting interest rates will remain stable for a while yet. The data came as Prime Minister Tony Abbott was again warning of a big repair job when the government's first budget is handed down on May 13. "You have got to fix the budget if you are going to fix the economy," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

  • Govt's audit to be released next week AAP - 11 hours ago
    Govt's audit to be released next week

    Treasurer Joe Hockey will next week release the long-awaited commission of audit that is helping him frame his first budget. But Mr Hockey told a Sydney audience on Wednesday he will not automatically accept all the recommendations. The commission finds government spending has almost tripled in the past 40 years. Mr Hockey said the age pension is the largest program "by a fair margin" and already takes up 10 per cent of all commonwealth spending.

  • China Mobile profit down 9.4 per cent AAP - 12 hours ago
    China Mobile profit down 9.4 per cent

    China Mobile, the world's biggest phone carrier by number of subscribers, says its latest quarterly profit declined 9.4 per cent despite a rise in customer numbers as spending per account declined. The ...

  • Major gains drive Australian share market to highest level since 2008 ABC - 12 hours ago

    The Australian share market has reached its highest level since the middle of 2008, with gains across most major sectors today. The All Ordinaries index has finished 35 points higher at 5,505, while the ...

  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles AAP - 12 hours ago
    Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles

    Toyota has kept its position at the top in global vehicle sales for the first quarter of this year, outpacing rivals General Motors and Volkswagen. Toyota Motor said on Wednesday that it sold a record 2.583 million vehicles in the January-March period, putting the Japanese carmaker ahead of Detroit-based GM at 2.42 million and Volkswagen of Germany at 2.4 million. Toyota's first quarter sales rose by more than 6 per cent from the same period the previous year. GM's sales grew 2 per cent, while Volkswagen's added nearly 6 per cent.

  • Sales of US existing homes slip AAP - 12 hours ago
    Sales of US existing homes slip

    Sales of existing US homes slipped in March to their lowest level since July 2012 as rising prices and a tight supply of available homes discouraged many would-be buyers. The National Association of Realtors says sales edged down 0.2 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million. Sales rose in the US Northeast and Midwest, suggesting that cold winter weather did not slow sales. Fewer homes for sale, higher mortgage rates and rising prices have contributed to lower sales since last summer.

  • $A falls on lower than expected inflation AAP - 12 hours ago

    The Australian dollar has fallen after lower than expected inflation figures reduced the likelihood of a rate hike in the near future. "When we got a downside surprise on the CPI, which goes against the recent trend of positive surprises for the economy and speculation that the RBA could hike rates, it drove the Aussie lower," Mr Been said. Meanwhile, the CPI figures saw Australian bond futures prices rally, Nomura head of macro products Jon Linton said.

  • Economists focus on CPI data AAP - 12 hours ago

    Economists focused on the March quarter inflation figures this week. The responses by economists to the consumer price index figures on Wednesday confirmed that. The figures showed inflation at 2.9 per cent, less than most economists had tipped. "Today's inflation report was weaker than both our and the RBA's expectations," Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Alex Joiner said in a report.

  • Shares hit another high AAP - 13 hours ago

    The share market has hit another high after a fifth consecutive day of gains, driven by low inflation. The market opened strongly and reached near six-year highs as solid earnings and major pharmaceutical-sector ...

  • Brazil hosts meeting to craft Internet governance rules AFP - 13 hours ago
    Brazil hosts meeting to craft Internet governance rules

    Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff took aim at US dominance of the Internet Wednesday, appealing at an international meeting for global governance that would give no state greater weight than others. Rousseff called the two-day NetMundial meeting in a bid to curb abuses following the furore sparked by allegations of US spying revealed in documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Rousseff's own Internet communications were targeted by NSA surveillance, prompting the Brazilian leader to call on the United Nations last year to oversee a new global legal system to govern the Internet. "Internet governance should be multipartite, transparent and open to all," she said in a speech opening the meeting, attended by officials from 80 countries.

  • Stocks to watch at close on Wednesday AAP - 13 hours ago

    Stocks to watch on the Australian stock exchange at the close on Wednesday: ALZ - AUSTRALAND - down five cents, or 1.2 per cent, at $4.23 SGP - STOCKLAND - down two cents, or 0.5 per cent, at $3.76 Australand ...

  • Aust bond prices rally on lower CPI print AAP - 13 hours ago

    Australian bond futures prices have rallied on the back of lower than expected inflation, which has reduced the likelihood of rate hikes in the near future. The consumer price index rose 0.6 per cent in the March quarter, for an annual rate of 2.9 per cent. Nomura head of macro products Jon Linton said the bond market followed moves in the US overnight and opened weaker, before receiving a boost from the inflation numbers. "We went into the CPI print with bond yields higher and most of the domestic market were expecting a much stronger print," Mr Linton said.

  • Palcohol powdered alcohol condemned by public health advocates as company seeks US approval ABC - 13 hours ago

    A company is seeking approval to sell powdered alcohol in the United States, sparking alarm from alcohol policy researchers. The company, Palcohol, says it wants to make its product, including powdered vodka and rum, accessible to consumers wherever they go. Powdered alcohol is or has been available in Germany, Holland and Japan and the technology behind it is over 40 years old. The plan to sell it in the US has alarmed public health advocates, who fear powdered alcohol could be abused or easily smuggled inside public venues.

  • Newcrest confirms new CEO AAP - 13 hours ago
    Newcrest confirms new CEO

    Newcrest Mining's outgoing head Greg Robinson has been described as having had to save the company last year as it announced he would leave in July. Mr Robinson will leave his $2 million a year salary running Australia's largest gold company on July 4, to be replaced by chief operating officer Sandeep Biswas. The departure of Mr Robinson, plus Newcrest's former chairman Don Mercer, were first flagged before the company's AGM in October. The chief executive leaves after barely three years in the job, after a horror 2013 when the gold price, and Newcrest's share price, plunged.

  • Inflation corralled by slack jobs market AAP - 13 hours ago

    The measures of underlying inflation, which strip out extra-large rises and falls in the components of the consumer price index, averaged out at 0.55 per cent for the quarter and 2.65 per cent for the year. That's a very benign set of figures for the Reserve Bank of Australia, which tries to keep inflation in the two to three per cent range on average over time. And an expansion of the profit share of national income can allow prices to race ahead of labour costs for a time. But for those one-off increases to develop into ongoing prices rises, year after year, they need to feed back into labour costs, which are the biggest cost facing businesses.

  • Property developers in takeover stoush AAP - 13 hours ago

    Property developer Stockland will wait to hear what investors have to say about the rejection of its $2.4 billion takeover proposal for Australand before considering further options. Australand's board has determined a share-swap takeover proposal presented by Stockland was not in the best interests of Australand securityholders. Australand also rejected a request from Stockland to open its books and enable Stockland to carry out due diligence on a potential merger. Stockland chief executive Mark Steinert has urged the Australand board to engage with his company, which holds a 19.9 per cent stake in Australand.

  • LinkedIn to anchor new Frisco high-rise AAP - 13 hours ago
    LinkedIn to anchor new Frisco high-rise

    San Francisco mayor Ed Lee says the professional networking site LinkedIn will expand its presence in the city by anchoring a high-rise office building under construction. Lee announced on Tuesday that LinkedIn has signed a lease to occupy the entire 26-storey structure scheduled to be completed in the city's South of Market neighbourhood by 2016. City officials say the nearly 450,000 square feet of office space could accommodate about 2,500 employees. Mountain View-based LinkedIn Corp currently occupies 135,000 square feet in a downtown San Francisco tower and plans to occupy another 87,000 square feet near downtown.

  • SA Government defends Woolworths-owned hardware store's expansion plan ABC - 13 hours ago

    The South Australian Government has rejected suggestions the opening of a mega hardware store in Adelaide's west will be a nail in the coffin for local furniture manufacturers. Masters Home Improvement is owned by retail giant Woolworths and has started construction on its second South Australian site near Adelaide Airport. The company hopes to open another 11 over six years, which Small Business Minister Tom Koutsantonis says could create more than 4000 jobs. Most of its stock will be imported and Mr Koutsantonis says it will be up to local manufacturers to compete.

  • Shares at highest point since mid-2008 AAP - 14 hours ago

    The Australian share market has hit another six year high as positive US corporate earnings reports boost global sentiment. At the close on Wednesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 38.5 points, ...

  • Benign inflation good news for borrowers AAP - 14 hours ago
    Benign inflation good news for borrowers

    Lower than expected inflation will allow the Reserve Bank of Australia to keep the cash rate at a record low 2.5 per cent. The lower than expected figures, which followed surprisingly high inflation in the December quarter, would allow the RBA to keep the cash rate low, ANZ chief economist Ivan Colhoun said. The figures showed inflation was well and truly in check, said CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian. "At present inflation is not a threat to the economy, meaning that the Reserve Bank can comfortably keep interest rates at exceptionally low levels over the near term," he said.

  • Boeing lifts profit outlook as jetliner demand booms AFP - 14 hours ago
    Boeing lifts profit outlook as jetliner demand booms

    US aerospace and defense giant Boeing raised its 2014 profit outlook Wednesday despite a first-quarter profit slide, citing strong demand for its new jetliners. A sharp rise in pension costs from a change in retirement plans offset Boeing's robust commercial aircraft deliveries as airlines seek to renew aging fleets with more fuel-efficient jetliners. Boeing posted net profit in the first quarter of $965 million, down 12.7 percent from a year ago but nevertheless better than analysts expected. Boeing took a $334 million charge for retirement plan changes.

  • McDonald's struggles worsen AAP - 14 hours ago

    McDonald's is fighting to hold onto customers in much of the world. After years of outperforming its rivals, McDonald's has been struggling to boost sales by positioning itself as a step up from traditional fast food in terms of quality, for a little extra money. Globally, McDonald's said earlier this year, sales have declined 0.3 per cent at locations open at least 13 months in February, and warned that its muted performance so far in 2014 could hurt first-quarter profit margins. McDonald's Corp executives acknowledge demands are changing when it comes to fast food.

  • Amazon Prime wins streaming deal with HBO AFP - 14 hours ago
    Amazon Prime wins streaming deal with HBO

    Amazon scored a deal Wednesday to distribute old shows from premium cable TV channel HBO to its monthly Prime subscribers, landing a blow on rival Netflix in the streaming video battle. Amazon said the multi-year deal would allow it to stream top HBO shows from past years like "The Sopranos", "The Wire" and others to Prime Instant Video service customers, who pay a monthly fee for unlimited viewing. Until now HBO had distributed its shows via streaming to customers of its own HBO GO service. The shows could also be watched on a pay-per-view basis via Amazon and other redistributors.

  • Russian steel group NLMK warns against EU sanctions, job losses AFP - 14 hours ago
    Russian steel group NLMK warns against EU sanctions, job losses

    The European arm of Russian steel giant NLMK has warned the EU against imposing economic sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, officials said on Wednesday. The European Commission confirmed it had received a letter, which was also sent to Belgium, Denmark, France and Italy where NLMK has operations, spelling out that such sanctions would inevitably lead to heavy job losses. NLMK said all concerned should consider the "possible negative impact" sanctions could have on its European business, on consumers and other partners in Europe, as well as on the European economy as a whole, La Libre Belgique reported, citing the letter. Caroline Marlair, a spokeswoman for NLMK Europe, said separately the "letter is not a threat, it is a letter of prevention ... to make people aware of the possible consequences."

  • JB Hi-Fi loses a key player in its success AAP - 14 hours ago
    JB Hi-Fi loses a key player in its success

    JB Hi-Fi boss Terry Smart, one of the key figures in the retailer's rapid expansion over the past 14 years, will leave the company in August. Mr Smart's career with the company includes four years as chief executive and ten years as operations chief, during which time JB Hi-Fi has carved out a large, bright yellow space for itself across Australia's shopping centres. And with a current holding of close to one million shares in the company, plus a further 750,000 share options, Mr Smart has been among the biggest beneficiaries of the company's success. Mr Smart will be replaced by long-serving chief financial officer Richard Murray, who plans to continue the company's expansion through new stores and the rollout of its home goods division.

  • France outlines 'optimistic' pledge to get economy back on track AFP - 15 hours ago
    France outlines 'optimistic' pledge to get economy back on track

    France on Wednesday outlined its strategy for bringing its public finances into line with eurozone rules via an anticipated economic upturn branded "optimistic" and spending cuts that face fierce opposition within the ruling Socialist party. Presenting a plan yet to be approved by the European Commission, Finance Minister Michel Sapin vowed that the eurozone's second biggest economy, currently doing little more than stagnating, would soon pick up sufficient momentum for France to bring its budget deficit down to the EU ceiling of three percent of GDP in 2015. But the government's growth projections from now until the end of President Francois Hollande's term in 2017 were described as "optimistic" by its own independent spending watchdog. France was placed under surveillance by the European Commission earlier this year, having been twice granted extra time to meet the three-percent deficit target that is the centrepiece of the budget rules for members of the European single currency.

  • Eurozone April business activity nears 3-year high: Markit AFP - 15 hours ago
    Eurozone April business activity nears 3-year high: Markit

    Eurozone business activity hit a near three-year high in April as a modest economic recovery gained momentum and began creating much-needed jobs, a closely watched survey showed on Wednesday. Markit Economics said its Eurozone Composite Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for April, a leading indicator of overall economic activity, jumped to 54 points from 53.1 in March, the highest reading since May 2011. "The eurozone has started the second quarter on a solid footing," Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said in a statement. "A welcome quickening in the pace of growth of business activity in April means the region is expanding at the fastest rate for almost three years," Williamson said.

  • Business confidence on the improve AAP - 15 hours ago

    Improvement in the local and global economy and a stable interest rate outlook appear to be fuelling a turnaround in business confidence. The Commonwealth Bank's head of local business banking Adam Bennett says a survey of small to medium sized enterprises, and the bank's experience with clients, show that businesses are more confident than they were six months ago. "These findings indicate SMEs are optimistic the Australian economy will continue to gather momentum, with almost 90 per cent of businesses expecting conditions to either improve or remain steady over the next six months," Mr Bennett said. The figures echo recent business surveys by National Australia Bank, which also show a marked improvement.

  • Pain for households as gas prices soar AAP - 16 hours ago

    NSW households face more utility bill pain, with gas prices set to rocket 17.6 per cent from July 1, adding up to $224 a year to an average bill. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) revealed the draft proposals on Wednesday, with Australia's growing export market and the carbon tax copping the blame. The rise means an average household will have to stump up an extra $150 to $224 for their annual gas bills from July 1, depending on the supplier. Gas prices in NSW have already increased by about 40 per cent in real terms between 2006 and 2014, piling enormous pressure on some households.

  • Technology transforms real estate market AAP - 16 hours ago

    Technology is changing the way the real estate business is conducted. Instead of trying to describe a property's location and look to a potential buyer, an agent simply has to log on to a computer or smartphone, to show them photographs and even get up a website like Google Earth to show them the outside, setting and location. "We would not look at acquiring a piece of land without understanding where it is, and Google Earth is good for places that aren't close to headquarters," said Kira Sterling, chief marketing officer at luxury home builder Toll Bros. "... The ability to use Google Earth to determine the location and proximity to transportation and amenities allows us more room to explore opportunities," Sterling said.