Oceania

Australian securities regulator said on Tuesday it has filed six civil penalty proceedings against Westpac Banking Corp., the country's third-largest bank, alleging widespread compliance failures across its business over many years, Reuters reported. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), in a statement, alleged multiple Westpac brands were involved in fees-for-no-service, distribution of duplicate insurance policies and sale of credit card and flexi-loan debt with incorrect interest rates, among others.
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Australia’s central bank will closely monitor risk premiums to judge whether asset prices appear “sensibly valued,” especially at a time of record low interest rates, said Marion Kohler, head of the domestic markets department, Bloomberg News reported. “Asset prices increase when risk-free rates are low, and this is part of the monetary transmission mechanism,” Kohler said in the text of a speech Tuesday.
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New Zealand’s central bank is expected to raise interest rates for a second straight month and signal a more aggressive tightening cycle to contain inflation amid a labor shortage, Bloomberg News reported. The Reserve Bank will lift the official cash rate by 25 basis points to 0.75% on Wednesday in Wellington, according to 21 of 23 surveyed economists. Two predict a hike to 1% and investors see a risk the RBNZ will opt for a 50 basis-point increase, but the bank could instead signal faster tightening ahead.
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Sydney Airport has agreed to accept a A$23.6bn (£13bn; $17.5bn) takeover bid from a group of investors, BBC.com reported. If completed, the deal will one of Australia's biggest ever buyouts. The agreement came after Sydney Aviation Alliance (SAA) raised its bid in response to the airport's owner rebuffing its earlier offer. However, the proposed sale faces a number of potential obstacles, which means the process could still take months to complete.
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Australia's banking watchdog said it was examining the regulatory implications of Commonwealth Bank's (CBA)'s planned introduction of bitcoin trading to unsophisticated retail investors - the first bank in Australia to do so, Reuters reported. CBA says that it would welcome a clear regulatory framework for crytpocurrencies, which are not formally regulated in Australia.
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The Reserve Bank of Australia bowed to market pressure Tuesday, abandoning a bond-yield target after an acceleration in inflation spurred traders to price in higher borrowing costs, Bloomberg News reported. The decision to scrap the 0.1% yield target on the April 2024 security comes after a bond market selloff last week and amid an improving domestic outlook underpinned by high vaccination rates. The RBA kept its cash rate at a record low 0.1%, as expected.
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Five years after its controversial creation, the Hilltops Council in southern NSW has backed a motion to implement tough budget cuts in a bid to balance the books, ABC.net reported. The council was formed in 2016 by the amalgamation of the Boorowa, Harden, and Young Shires. Since then, it has struggled financially and the motion passed at this week's meeting is designed to balance the books through a number of cost-cutting measures. It came after general manager Anthony O'Reilly warned: "continued annual deficits are unsustainable".
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Salt Lake Potash Ltd. said Wednesday that the company is insolvent or likely to become so in the future, MarketWatch.com reported. The Australia-focused fertilizers company has appointed administrators, receivers and managers to market the company and its assets for sale and recapitalization. The group had warned in July that it needed to raise money before the end of the year in order to continue operating its Lake Way project.
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Australia’s central bank kept its monetary settings unchanged, betting there’s enough stimulus to foster an economic recovery ahead of a gradual reopening of Sydney and Melbourne as vaccination rates climb, Bloomberg News reported. Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe kept the cash rate at 0.1% -- as expected -- at Tuesday’s meeting. Lowe cut weekly bond purchases to A$4 billion ($2.9 billion) last month, while pushing out their next review to mid-February to help cushion the economic impact of lockdowns along the nation’s east coast.
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Australian employment dived in August as coronavirus lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne forced businesses to lay off workers and slash hours, while the jobless rate was nudged lower by a sharp fall in the number of people looking for work, Reuters reported. Thursday's data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed employment fell by 146,000 in August, compared to median forecasts of a drop of 90,000. The unemployment rate dipped to 4.5%, having already fallen to 4.6% in July when lockdowns also distorted the data.
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