by Alan Thornhill
Australian traders should be smiling, as the market opens today.
They have had a strong lead from Wall Street.
The Dow Jones industrial index rose sharply overnight, as financial shares – andÂ the US economy – both gathered strength.
The DJ index closedÂ 212.67 points higher at 11,715.18.
This was the third consecutive day of rises on this key indicator.
The S&P 500 index also gained 19.02 points to close at 1,300.68.
And the tech heavy NASDAQ composite index put onÂ 29.18 points to close at 2,411.64.
And oil prices eased, despite Tropical Storm Gustav.
Oil futures tumbled $US2.55 a barrel to $US115.60.
A short time ago, the $A was trading at 86.18 US cents.
New figures showed that the US economy grew faster than expected in the second quarter.
This was attributed to export gains.
But Louisiana is preparing for a hurricane, as Gustav approaches.
by Alan Thornhill
The signs are all there.
Small business confidence has hit a new low.Â Business lay-offs are rising.
Inflationary pressures have eased.
The domestic economyÂ seems close to stalling.
And Australia’s big four banks have even cut their fixed home loan interest rates, for a second time.
So a rate cut – after 12 rises – seems certain, next Tuesday.
Especially as the Reserve Bank, itself, has been raising expectations of a cut, by the way it has been talking.
And it’s no secret that the bank likes to fulfill expectations, when it can.
So what could, possibly, go wrong?
That’s a good question, as it happens.
The politicians, in Canberra, have been playing chicken with the budget.
The government is warning that the rate cut, expected next week, could be deferred.
It says that’s because the Coalition is planning to punch a $6.2 hole, in its $22 billion budget surplus.
That’s just politicians squabbling, though, isn’t it?
But there is, certainly, an outside chance that the Reserve Bank board will do just that.
And if it did, the government would certainly use that event to put even more pressure on the Coalition to pass its budget, intact.
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, is accusing the Coalition of “economic vandalism.”
The increase the government is planning in the luxury car tax, its new excise on condensate and a string of other measures would all go, if the Coalition gets its way.
And, Swan says, that could make the bank’s board nervous enough, to defer the rate cut that would, otherwise, have been a dead cert, next Tuesday.
by Alan Thornhill
The government’s first round of haggling, with recalcitrant Senators, is now in sight.
The Coalition has decided to block the government’s plan to lift the Medicare levy threshold to $100,000 for singles.
The opposition doesn’t have the numbers in the Senate to block that measure, by itself.
A small clutch of Greens and independents now holds the balance of power.
A former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, despised the Senate, dismissing its members as “unrepresentative swill.”
The new government of Kevin Rudd will have to be more diplomatic.
And Family First Senator, Steve Fielding, has already set his terms, in the latest stoush.
He says he will not vote for the government’s bill, unless low income families withhttp://privatebriefing.com.au/2008/08/28/how-inflation-hits-working-families private health insurance are compensated.
He says these families are those least able to afford private health insurance.
But they make that choice, to protect their financial security.
“They already provide a rebate,” Senator Fielding said.
“That rebate needs to be looked at to work out how we can compensate low income families,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government admits that the nation’s pensioners are “doing it tough”, but new figures show it is ordinary Australian families that suffer most from inflation.
The figures, produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, track the financial fate of various family types.
They show that the costs faced by “employee families” rose by 5.7 per cent over the past year.
That is well above the nation’s overall inflation rate of 4.5 per cent.
These families were hit hardest, because they use more fuel and have bigger mortgages than, say, pensioners.
The costs, met by pensioners, rose by just 4.3 per cent over the year.
But, as the government acknowledges, pensioners aren’t having it easy, either.
Food, for example, takes a 21 per cent bite out of the typical pensioner’s income.
The food bills, for working families, add up to just 16.4 per cent of income.
That is slightly lower than the 16.8 per cent of income that self funded retirees spend on food.
Australia’s pensioners, overall, spend 5.1 per cent of their income on clothes and shoes.
But, even that, is slightly higher than the 4.3 per cent that working families spend on the same items.
by Alan Thornhill
A weak recovery on Wall Street gathered strength overnight, as traders took heart from stronger orders for durable goods and dismissed a spike in oil prices as temporary.
The Dow Jones industrial index rose 89.64 points on the day’s trading to 11,502.51.
The S&P 500 also rose 10.15 points to 1,281.66.
And the tech heavy NASDAQ composite index rose 20.49 points to 2,382.46.
Oil futures rose $US2.10 a barrel to $US 118.37.
But traders dismissed that rise as temporary because it coincided with a storm in the Gulf of Mexico.
The $A was trading at 85.53 US cents a short time ago.
The Dow Jones industrial index has now risen on four of the last five trading days.
One analyst said it seems to be adopting a firmer tone.
But another said the improvement in durable goods sales, while welcome, is still “not great.”
Those sales climbed 1.3 per cent in July, mainly on exports.
That rise was not expected.
The troubled housing institutions, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both saw gains, in US trading, overnight Australian time.
by Alan Thornhill
Share prices on Wall Street staged a small rise overnight, as energy stocks advanced.
The Dow Jones Industrial Index rose 26.62 points to 11,412.87.
The S&P 500 rose 4.67 points to 1,271.51.
But the tech heavy NASDAQ composite index closed 3.62 points down at 2,361.97.
Oil futures rose $US1.09 a barrel to $US116.20.
And the Australian dollar was trading at 85.61 US cents a short time ago.
Although still weak, consumer confidence is now rising in the United States as the slump in house prices shows signs of slowing.
But other prices are creeping up again, and the Fed is now indicating that it will increase US interest rates, in the near future.
The Fed made that clear, when the minutes of its closed door meeting on Augst 5 were published yesterday.
Energy stocks led the limited gains that were made in the price of shares traded on Wall Street yesterday.
But information technology and consumer related shares fell slightly.
Trading volume was light, at just over 856 million trades.
by Alan Thornhill
>Australian kids are digital natives,but the use of computers in their education is so far behind neighbouring countries, like Singapore, that they may never catch up.
> One of Australia’s leadingÂ educators, Cheryl O’Connor, assesses this situation, very bluntly.
>”It is a scary picture,” CEO of the Australian Council of Educators saidÂ at the launch of a critically important new book, leading a digital school.
> One its two editors, Mal Lee, says “unashamedly”Â that the situation developed in the Howard years.
> But Lee, and his fellow editor, MikeGaffney also criticise KevinÂ Rudd’s pre-election promise of a laptop forÂ every student, in the final years of high school.
> â€¦school laptop programs – even when’part subsidised’ by parents are immensely expensive, as well as being of questionable educational value, they say.
> The clutch of authors, who contributed, argues Â frighteningly – thatÂ Australia is still educating its kids for jobs in an industrial society that no longer exists.
> However the authors broadlyÂ welcomed the Rudd government’s commitment to IT education
> They also acknowledge that the march of technology never stops.
> Roger Hayward, a former principalÂ of Saint Leonard’s College in Melbourne saidÂ he noticed, about four years ago, that many ofÂ that school’s students stopped carrying theirÂ notebook computers to school, and started bringing flash drives instead.
>More recently, I noticed that they had moved on.
>They use their Ipods to transfer their files.
> And they ALL have Ipods, he said.
> Lee and Gaffney, did ask, though, why schools should spend heavily on laptops, when students have their own computer space at home, and can bring their work to school with an inexpensive USB drive.
> Their doubts go to cost-effectiveness.
Better educational and more cost efficient use can be made of technology within the home and the school they say.
> Other authors suggest thatÂ interactive whiteboards might be more appropriate, in some cases, than notebooks.
> The reality, though, is that Labor’s IT education revolution can accommodate all of this.
> The Rudd government has merely promised to spend $1 billion, over four years,Â upgrading information technology in Australia’s schools.
> If a particular school believes that interactive whiteboards are better than ndividual laptops, they are free to make that choice.
> The political reality, though, isÂ that Rudd will never be allowed to forget hisÂ pre-election promise, that every Australian > student, in years 9-12, will have access to his or her own computer.
> Just as, Bob Hawke, is constantly reminded of his 1987 promise that Ã¢â‚¬Å“by 1990,no Australian child will be living in poverty.Â
> Hawke, himself, has since admittedÂ that this was just a silly shorthand way of speaking.
> Rudd might rue his laptop promise one day, too.
> But basic questions must be asked.
> Does information technology, for example, really have a place in the classroom?
> Does it really contribute to a child’s education?
> David O9Brien, principal of theÂ Ingle Farm primary school in South Australia has no doubt about that.
> He says that, used properly, information technology can Ã¢â‚¬Å“encourageÂ creativity, experimentation and collaboration.Â
> He learnt that by studying how good video games work.
> Ingle Farm is in an area ofÂ significant povertyÂ with relatively highÂ levels of Aboriginal and non-English speaking students.
> Yet, against all the odds, it has become a very effective digital school.
> Creativity, experimentation and the ability to work collaboratively are highlyÂ valued qualities, in the 21st Century job market.
> With 12 authors, this book is not ascohesive as it might have been, with a single,Â well-qualified writer, working to a tight plan.
> It is occasionally repetitive.
> And, in parts, it reads like a repair manual.
> But if you are putting a digitalÂ school together, these will be its most valuable passages.
> For the ordinary, worried parent,though, there is a very powerful lesson in this book.
> That is that kids, who have all theÂ latest gadgets at home, as most do, can easilyÂ become bored at school, if they have to fight to use scarceÂ out-dated equipment there.
>As educational IT pioneer, Peter Murray points out students behave begun to notice the massive discrepancy between what they can do at home and >what they can do on site at school.
>They are demanding ICT environments where teaching and learning take precedence.
Murray says school leaders are also becoming aware of this digital divide.
>And they are asking their IT staff to open up access to the school’s computer equipment, without relaxing their vigilance, in keeping internet nastiesÂ out of the school sytems.
>Lee and Gaffney are evangelists of the IT era in education.
> Ã¢â‚¬Å“The shift to a digital operational modeÂ offers schools immense opportunities to provideÂ students with a quality education for the twenty first century,Â they say.
>By Ëœgoing digital,,Â schooling takes on different forms to what we have known to this point in the history of education.”
> Their view demands close study.
> And this book provides that opportunity.
>leading a digital school published by the Australian Council of Educational Research Ltd.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government is insisting that the Coalition’s plans to block tax measures, worth $6.2 billion in the Senate could put interest rates cuts at risk.
TheÂ opposition, though, argues that this is nonsense, as the government is looking at budget surpluses worth a total of some $96 billion, over the next three financial years.
The argument was pursued, with some heat, in the Senate yesterday.
Senator Stephen Conroy, who represents the Treasurer in the upper house, described the Coalition’s stand as “unconscionable” in view of the present turmoil on world markets.
But the opposition pressed its argument that the government is trying to curb inflation by raising taxes.
It is opposing the so-called alcopops tax, measures to increase the luxury car tax and the imposition of an excise on condensate.
Senator Conroy lectured the opposition, as question time opened.
“It is the total size of the budget surplus that matters,” he said.
The government is budgeting for a $22 billion surplus this financial year.
Conroy said the Reserve Bank, which has signalled that rate cuts are likely, might well review its thinking, if a “massive hole” was blasted in the budget surplus.
A clutch of Greens and independents now holds the balance of power in the senate.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Monday December 9
The Dow Jones index rose 198.69 points (Friday, New York time) to 16,020.20
Tony Abbott’s bills to repeal the carbon tax face defeat in the Senate this week, raising the spectre of a double dissolution
Australia’s first same sex marriages take place in Canberra, but may over-ruled by the High Court Thursday
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|Bhp Blt Fpo||37.070||+0.320||+0.87%|
|Nat. Bank Fpo||33.500||+0.030||+0.09%|
|Anz Bank Fpo||31.130||+0.140||+0.45%|
|Cwlth Bank Fpo||75.900||+0.730||+0.97%|
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