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Australia: Over the Moon Down Under


The world in your hands: An overnight, overseas update.


While the past week has seen both Europe and the US post double-digit unemployment, Australia has all the luck. Figures released today from the land of Dundees, dingoes, and didgeridoos showed an unexpected drop in those on the dole to an eight-month low of 5.5%. This scarcely imaginable figure is a result of an economy that created three times as many jobs as expected in December, the fourth successive month of upside surprise. Granted, one notable inhabitant Down Under did just get a pink slip, but because he "worked" at the "Best Job in the World", sympathy is scarce. Home to a commodity rich country benefiting from surging demand in China (more on that in a minute), there's a reason Aussies are always so good-natured. Of course, be careful what you wish for -- its rapid-fire return to financial health made it the first major market to raise rates late last year, and another hike is on the cards in February. Still, financial policy makers in the west would kill for such "problems".

Mining giant and Australia's own (okay, strictly speaking they are an "Anglo-Australian" firm with headquarters in London and Melbourne) Rio Tinto (RTP) joined South Korean steel titan Posco (PKX) in reporting strong earnings today. Rio's iron ore output skyrocketed 49% due to, you guessed it, strong demand from Chinese steelmakers. Shares of it and BHP Billiton (BHP), another Aussie, traded higher in Sydney. It's hard to imagine Beijing would bite the hand that feeds it but as this week has made clear, China doesn't do diplomatic nicities. Thus it currently has employees of Rio Tinto under arrest.

Staying with China, Thursday brought the country's first official response to its spat with Google (GOOG) as the Minister of the State Council Information Office (an Orwellian title if ever there was one) Wang Chen told the People's Daily that Internet companies must abide by "propaganda discipline". I far preferred his relax, it's-all-good ethos of the '80s.

French car company Renault announced results this morning as the European Motor Show begins in Brussels. With a blockade of Belgian breweries entering a second week, at least we won't have to worry about drunk driving. Officials of Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) will attempt to end the impasse today.

Two final events worth noting today. The European Central Bank is expected to stand pat on interest rates and the World Economic Forum releases its Global Risks 2010 report.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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