RBA wants dollar to continue to fall

The Australian dollar may have fallen to a four-year low but the Reserve Bank remains unsatisfied, meaning interest rates won’t be budging any time soon.

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The RBA has left the cash rate at its record low of 2.5 per cent, where it has been since August 2013.

A statement accompanying October’s decision gave no signal of any change on the horizon, with governor Glenn Stevens retaining the familiar phrase that the “most prudent course is likely to be a period of stability in interest rates”.

He was also unimpressed by the Australian dollar’s recent fall, saying the exchange rate remained high by historical standards, given recent declines in commodity prices.

The exchange rate was still “offering less assistance than would normally be expected in achieving balanced growth in the economy”, Mr Stevens said.

The currency has fallen almost eight US cents since the RBA’s last meeting in September, from 94 US cents to 86.43 US cents, its lowest level since July 2010.

The RBA clearly wants it even lower, AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said.

“The fact that they haven’t changed their comment on that just tells you they’re still not happy, they want it lower still,” Dr Oliver said.

“That’s telling you that they still see fair value as well below current levels, which of course is another reason not to raise interest rates at the moment.”

HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said the RBA was trying to talk the currency down in order to stimulate the economy.

Low interest rates were already doing what they could, and a further cut could risk overheating the already hot property market, he said.

“The RBA still want a lower currency, despite recent falls, and appeared to use today’s post-meeting statement to encourage the Australian dollar lower,” Mr Bloxham said.

“From their perspective, a lower currency would help speed up the rebalancing of growth.”

Most economists are not expecting a rate hike until around mid-2015, and Mr Bloxham said the unemployment rate would need to be convincingly past its peak for the RBA to consider lifting rates.

Further falls in the Australian dollar could allow that to happen sooner than expected, he said.

“We see the recent decline in the Australian dollar, and possible further falls, as helping to improve local competitiveness, which could assist in supporting an improvement in the labour market earlier than the RBA expects,” Mr Bloxham said.

Business hopes rates steady until 2015

Bosses are feeling more upbeat about their businesses than they have in a long time.

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But lingering doubts about the broader economy suggest interest rates may have to remain stable well into next year.

The Reserve Bank left the cash rate at an all-time low of 2.5 per cent at Tuesday’s monthly board meeting.

The last change was in August 2013.

Central bank governor Glenn Stevens believes a period of stability is “prudent” to foster sustainable growth in demand and keep inflation within its two to three per cent target band.

Mr Stevens still expects it will take time for the unemployment rate to decline consistently, noting the recent unusual volatility in the employment figures.

He also said the currency was historically high given the recent fall in commodity prices, despite its recent fall to a four-year low against a strengthening US dollar.

“It is offering less assistance than would normally be expected in achieving balanced growth in the economy,” Mr Stevens said in a statement.

Business will be hoping interest rates remain low for as long as possible.

“We are pretty confident that they will stay at the current rate well into next year,” Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Kate Carnell told reporters in Canberra.

The chamber’s latest survey of investor confidence found respondents were happier about conditions, sales and profits in their own businesses in the September quarter.

Owners are also positive about the next three months, while indicating they are getting closer to the point where they expect to expand through hiring and investment.

“These are the best figures we have seen for quite a long time,” she said.

But respondents aren’t seeing the whole of the Australian economy quite as rosily as their own business.

They expect economic growth and investment will weaken, that the unemployment rate and inflation will rise and wages growth will continue to fall.

She blamed the impasse in the Senate over a number of budget saving measures for this gloom.

“There is no doubt that businesses want to see a balanced budget,” she said.

However, the latest weekly Essential Research online poll found only 39 per cent of respondents thought the government was doing a good job managing the economy compared to other countries.

ACCI SURVEY OF INVESTOR CONFIDENCE RESULTS (TREND)

* Own business conditions index up at 52.6 points in September from 49.4.

* The index had been below the 50-mark, that separates expansion from contraction, for three quarters.

* Own business expected conditions index rises to 58.0.

* Sales at 50.8, first time above 50 since December quarter 2010.

* Profitability rises for second consecutive quarter to 48.4 from 45.7, having been below 50 since the global financial crisis.

* National economic conditions at 46.3 versus 44.2 previously.

* Climate for investment index 39.4 – below 40 since mid-2011.

* Expected GDP growth index at 47.8.

Newcrest shares rise on production numbers

Newcrest says it is on track to hit its gold production targets for a second consecutive year.

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Shares in the gold miner, Australia’s largest, rose after it said it expects to reach its full-year production target of between 2.2 million and 2.4 million ounces.

Newcrest has a history of missing production targets and its last couple of years have been marred by billions of dollars in write-downs, financial losses, reputational damage and a $1.2 million fine for breaching market disclosure rules.

The company revealed a 12 per cent slump in output during the September quarter to 562,000 ounces of gold, down from nearly 637,000 ounces in the June quarter.

That was blamed on lower grades at its Gosowong, Cadia Valley and troubled Lihir mines, and a planned shutdown at its Lihir mill.

Newcrest shares closed four cents higher at $10.

Chief executive Sandeep Biswas told investors on Tuesday that cash flow and debt reduction were immediate priorities.

Net debt is currently about $4 billion with gearing 34 per cent.

The company is under pressure from a falling gold price, which is hovering around $US1200 an ounce, and calls for a capital raising that Mr Biswas has so far resisted.

Mr Biswas expects the company to become cash-flow positive during the 2014/15 financial year, following losses of $A2.2 billion in 2013/14 and a $A5.8 billion in 2012/13.

Newcrest’s all-in sustaining cost fell to $US801 per ounce during the quarter, down from $US851 in the June quarter and $US1,001 a year ago.

The company achieved an average realised gold price of $A1,393 an ounce during the quarter, up from $A1,373 in the previous quarter.

Reddit CEO Yishan Wong slams former employee on AMA thread

A former Reddit employee who hosted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ thread on the site has been publicly shamed by the company’s CEO.

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The employee, known as dehrmann, created a public thread on Reddit inviting people to ask him questions about what it was like to work there. 

“I was a reddit admin from 07/2013 until 03/2014. I mostly did engineering work to support ads, but I also was a part-time receptionist, pumpkin mover, and occasional stabee (ask /u/rram). I got to spend a lot of time with the SF crew, a decent amount with the NYC group, and even a few alums. Ask away!”

Things were going well until someone asked why he quit his job.

“Officially: no reason,” Dehrmann replied, before accusing the company of not being open to feedback, especially when it came to charitable donations.

“The best theory I have is that, two weeks earlier, I raised concerns about donating 10% of ad revenue to charity. Some management likes getting feedback, some doesn’t.

“The reason I had concerns was that this was revenue, not income. That means you need ~10% margins to break even. This can be hard to do; Yahoo and Twitter don’t. Salesforce does something similar, but it’s more all-around, and in a way that promotes the product without risking the company’s financials.”

Unfortunately, Reddit CEO Yishan Wong got wind of the AMA and decided to clear up the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD).

“Ok, there’s been quite a bit of FUD in here, so I think it’s time to clear things up. You were fired for the following reasons:

    Incompetence and not getting much work done.Inappropriate or irrelevant comments/questions when interviewing candidatesMaking incorrect comments in public about reddit’s systems that you had very little knowledge of, even after having these errors pointed out by your peers and manager.Not taking feedback from your manager or other engineers about any of these when given to you, continuing to do #2 until we removed you from interviewing, and never improving at #1.”

Redditors were divided by the awkward turn of events.

Some were clearly unsympathetic, with one user SourlySweet writing: “Saw this coming. He’s bitching about being fired by reddit on reddit. How stupid can you be?”

Others found Wong’s response harsh and unnecessary.

“No one but you guys know what happened in your company but from an outsider’s perspective, he didn’t really say anything that negative about Reddit to warrant such a brutal attack,” wrote Orchestral. “Please consider taking the high road and edit your post to be a bit less condemning.”

What did you think of the Reddit AMA and the comments that CEO Yishan Wong made?

 

Some sharks are socialites, some want you to go away

“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine,” intones Bruce the Shark in 2003’s hit kids’ movie Finding Nemo.

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He is trying so hard. Unfortunately for him, according to his creators, to be a shark does pretty much consist of mindlessly, mechanistically eating things. Struggling to transcend biological destiny, poor one-dimensional Bruce is played for laughs.

It was cruel, and wrong. A study last week in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiologysuggests that not all sharks (#notallsharks) are alike. The paper, “Shark Personalities? Repeatability of social network traits in a widely distributed predatory fish,” finds that these terrors of the deep may vary by social temperament.

Specifically, researchers discovered that some individual sharks are convivial and some are emo. Some prefer to band together into gangs, while others camouflage quietly into the background. The scientists observed 10 different groups of juvenile small spotted catsharks in large tanks that contained three different habitats. The habitats differed in their structural complexity, from a few rocks and plants to dense underwater foliage. The researchers’ aim was to observe how the teenage sharks—who, like most human high school students, are prone to feel vulnerable—interacted in environments with various amounts of cover.

And? In the words of behavioral ecologist David Jacoby, “socially well-connected [shark] individuals remain well-connected under each new habitat.” (Being well-connected when you are a catshark is a literal as well as figurative condition: It means you tend to lie on top of other catsharks, i.e. spoon.) Likewise, weirdo loner sharks isolated themselves no matter where they were, even shading their skin color to blend in better with the gravel substrate at the base of the tank. (If only I could have done that at my school dances.)

“We define personality as a repeatable behavior across time and contexts,” said Darren Croft, a professor at the Center for Research into Animal Behavior at the University of Exeter. Many animal species exhibit what scientists think of as personality traits, but Croft and his team are the first to seek out such qualities in sharks—creatures popularly viewed as uniform in their terrifying appetites, the most coolly insatiable of our underwater villains.

Of course, both the gregarious catsharks and the shy ones probably like eating fish. The second kind are just more likely to go home afterward and curl up with an old movie.

© Slate 2014

Financial crisis spurred obesity: OECD

The 2008 financial crisis spurred obesity’s spread in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 34 member countries – most of whose inhabitants are overweight, an OECD report says.

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The grouping, which includes the world’s richest nations, has seen obesity levels continue to rise over the past five years, albeit more slowly than before.

“One in five children is overweight, on average, in OECD countries, but rates are as high as one in three in countries like Greece, Italy, Slovenia and the United States,” said a press statement.

The economic crisis was partly to blame, the OECD report said, with less spending on food overall, and a switch to cheaper, high-calorie junk alternatives.

The report noted a 5.6-per cent drop in fruit and vegetable consumption for every one-per cent rise in unemployment in the United States in the period 2007-09.

Obesity claims a heavy personal and financial toll in terms of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Severely obese people die eight to ten years earlier than those of normal weight – a similar rate to smokers.

And obesity is estimated to gobble up one to three per cent of total health expenditure in most countries – as much as five to 10 per cent in the United States.

The findings are to be presented Wednesday at the European Congress on Obesity in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The report said obesity rates were stable in England, Italy and the United States but have increased two to three per cent in Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, Spain and Switzerland.

Obesity is defined by the World Health Organisation as a body mass index (weight in kilograms divided by the square of one’s height in metres) of 30 and above.

The UN’s health agency attributes 3.4 million adult deaths per year to being overweight or obese.

Until 1980, fewer than one in ten people in the OECD were obese, compared to 18 per cent of the adult population now – one in three adults in Mexico, New Zealand and the United States and more than one in four in Australia, Canada, Chile and Hungary, said the document.

Rates in Asian countries were two to four per cent among adults.

Hamilton-Smith’s office attacked by vandals after defection

Martin Hamilton-Smith’s shock announcement also prompted a front page headline of “Traitor” from the Adelaide Advertiser, but the former Liberal MP said on Tuesday that he was putting the people of South Australia first.

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“What people deserve now is good, effective government,” he said.

“They deserve certainty. My decision, I think, will do that.”

Premier Jay Weatherill said Mr Hamilton-Smith would become a minister and take on the portfolios of investment and trade, defence industries and veterans affairs.

Mr Hamilton-Smith said Mr Weatherill had reached out to him after the state election earlier this year.

“This is a difficult decision. It is one I considered most carefully over number of days and weeks,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.

“It has been a tough decision, but it’s right decision – and for that reason I’ll sleep well.”

Mr Weatherill says members of the government were unanimous in their support of Mr Hamilton-Smith joining the party and government.

[They are] supportive. They can see the obvious benefits…the obvious stability for the government on the floor of parliament,” Mr Weatherill said.

Despite some voter backlash, Mr Hamilton-Smith’s move was welcomed by a number of MPs on Twitter.

Welcome to the Ministry @HamiltonSmith pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/crkZxF9Yxm

— John Rau MP (@JohnRauMP) May 27, 2014

Looking forward to working w/ Minister @HamiltonSmith to grow SA’s economy, create jobs & provide stability giving SA’s business’s certainty

— Tom Koutsantonis (@TKoutsantonisMP) May 27, 2014

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall, however, was less supportive.

Tiser editorial: It was the day an act of political bastardy made a mockery of our democracy. #saparli 南宁桑拿网,南宁夜生活,/lp2FUVHSIx

— Steven Marshall, MP (@marshall_steven) May 27, 2014

Hewitt turns attention to Wimbledon

An early French Open exit hasn’t dampened Lleyton Hewitt’s belief he can be a contender at Wimbledon next month.

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The 33-year-old Australian exited the claycourt grand slam at the first hurdle for the third successive time after a 3-6 6-2 6-1 6-4 defeat to Argentine Carlos Berlocq on Tuesday.

Clay is Hewitt’s least-favoured surface and Roland Garros is effectively a stepping stone to the grass-court season these days.

While disappointed he wasn’t able to get more court time, Hewitt will still head to Wimbledon – the grand slam he won in 2002 – feeling like anything is possible.

“I feel especially at Wimbledon there is not as many guys that have a realistic shot, guys that can go out there and compete against the top guys who possibly can win the tournament,” Hewitt said.

“I think I’m one of those guys who can go out there and push those guys.

“With my ball striking, I’m feeling pretty good about it at the moment.”

Hewitt has not won a match at Roland Garros since 2010 and his best results at the event are quarter-final appearances in 2001 and 2004.

However he had been optimistic of causing a few upsets after arriving at the event fully fit for the first time in several years.

While he was clearly outplayed by Berlocq, world No.47 Hewitt came away confident the key aspects of his game are in a good place heading onto grass.

“I was pretty happy with how I hit the ball and returned serve as well,” Hewitt said.

“My net play was fantastic. I came in on the right balls … and my volleying, that was really good today.

“I think moving forward, that’s such a key aspect of the grass.

“It’s obviously disappointing right now but there are positives.”

Hewitt will compete in the doubles at Roland Garros alongside Chris Guccione before heading to London for the ATP event at Queen’s, where his is a four-time champion.

Rolf Harris trial: Entertainer sings ‘Jake the Peg’ during testimony

It started with the 84-year-old singing part of his 1965 hit Jake the Peg and finished with the judge revealing a series of sketches the 84-year-old had done in court over the past fortnight had been “confiscated and destroyed”.

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In between Harris denied “ludicrous” suggestions he’d had sex with his daughter’s friend when she was underage and admitted to a second affair with a female lodger in the mid-1990s.

The star is accused of indecently assaulting four girls in the UK between 1968 and 1986.

Related: Key quotes from the Rolf Harris trial

 

The main complainant says Harris abused her from the age of 13 when she joined the family on an overseas holiday.

But on Tuesday he insisted their 10-year “consensual” affair only started when she came to stay over at the family home west of London aged 18.

Bindi Harris was living in a converted boatshed in the garden at the time with her new best friend and the alleged victim felt “excluded”, Harris said.

The TV presenter, then in his early 50s, took her a cup of tea in the morning and she grabbed his elbow and indicated he should sit on the bed.

She then kicked off the duvet revealing her bare legs.

“It seemed to me she was being very flirtatious with me,” Harris said, adding it wasflattering.

Harris touched the teenager’s leg – “his heart thumping like mad” – but then left theguest bedroom.

 

“I find it very hard to discuss this, it’s highly embarrassing,” he said on Tuesday.

“I was a married man, she was a much younger girl, I shouldn’t have been doing it.”

 

When the complainant next visited things went much further, Harris said.

 

“She seemed very, very flirtatious, coquettish, looking at me with some sort of sexual chemistry.”

He kissed her, there was foreplay and then he performed oral sex on her.

 

Asked by defence lawyer Sonia Woodley QC if she was a willing participant the entertainer said: “Yes she was, definitely.”

The same thing happened on a subsequent visit and Harris told the jury: “She seemed to be welcoming the whole business and enjoying it.”

The artist detailed a series of encounters over the next decade.

 

On one occasion the pair tried to have sex but he prematurely ejaculated “which was very depressing”.

 

The court heard the relationship “ground to a halt” in the mid-1990s after the woman move to Norfolk.

Around the same time Harris and his wife offered the boatshed rent free to a woman in her mid-30s.

 

Harris said she was down on her luck and “wasn’t a well girl”.

She became his driver and, the entertainer told the jury, eventually there was “sexual intimacy”.

Harris said he didn’t feel good about the second affair and Alwen was “rightly” devastated when she found out.

Quizzed on Tuesday about the alleged assaults on the three other main complainants Harris – who described himself as a “touchy-feely” person – repeatedly said “nope” or “no” when asked if anything indecent happened.

He told the jury he couldn’t have been near Portsmouth when one incident is said to have occurred in 1969 because he was in Australian filming Rolf’s Walkabout.

The alleged victim says she was seven or eight when Harris put his “big and hairy” hand aggressively between her legs.

The 84-year-old on Tuesday was asked if he had big and hairy hands. In response he raised them above his head.

 

Harris also denied being in Cambridge in 1975 when another alleged victim says she was groped. The entertainer said he hadn’t been to the city until three of four years ago.

 

Harris further stated he had no recollection of NSW woman Tonya Lee who claims she was assaulted in London in 1986 when she was 15.

 

Ms Woodley also asked her client about claims by a supporting witness who says she was groped more than 20 times in one day when working for Channel 7.

 

Harris said it was impossible to put both hands up both legs of her shorts at once as the make-up artist claimed. He dramatically thrust both hands upwards to demonstrate.

 

The trial continues.

Tottenham hire Pochettino as new manager

Tottenham has appointed Mauricio Pochettino as their new manager on a five-year contract.

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Pochettino was tipped to take charge at White Hart Lane following the recent sacking of Tim Sherwood and the Premier League club confirmed on Tuesday they have persuaded the former Argentina defender, who had earned widespread praise during his time as Southampton boss, to quit his post at St Mary’s and move to north London.

“The club is delighted to announce the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino as our new head coach on a five-year contract,” a statement on Tottenham’s website announced.

Pochettino, who will work under Spurs director of football Franco Baldini, admitted he was delighted to be given the opportunity to manage a club of Tottenham’s stature.

The 42-year-old pledged to stay faithful to the club’s philosophy of attacking play, while also fulfilling their desire to play in the Champions League on a regular basis.

“This is a club with tremendous history and prestige and I am honoured to have been given this opportunity to be its Head Coach,” he said.

“There is an abundance of top-class talent at the club and I am looking forward to starting work with the squad.

“Tottenham Hotspur has a huge following across the world and I have great admiration for the passion the fans show for this team.

“We are determined to give the supporters the kind of attacking football and success that we are all looking to achieve.”

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy made his approach to Pochettino after finally ruling out an offer for Carlo Ancelotti, who had been on his wanted list before the Italian’s Champions League triumph with Real Madrid made him an impossible target.