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Australia cuts its rates more than forecast to 3.75%

Fruit seller in Sydney
A slowdown in consumer price growth has made it easier for the central bank to cut rates

The Reserve Bank of Australia has cut interest rates more-than-expected because economic conditions were “somewhat weaker” than forecast.

It added that inflation had also moderated in recent months.

The bank cut its key rate to 3.75% from 4.25%. Most analysts were expecting a 0.25 percentage point cut.

There have been increasing signs that Australia‘s economy is being hit by a slowdown in global growth and demand for its resources.

“This decision is based on information received over the past few months that suggests that economic conditions have been somewhat weaker than expected, while inflation has moderated,” the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said in a statement.

“Growth in the world economy slowed in the second half of 2011, and is likely to continue at a below-trend pace this year.”

Aggressive support?

One of the biggest headaches facing policymakers over the past year or so has been the fact that Australia was developing a two-speed economy.

While Australia’s mining and resources sector has been booming, the other parts of Australia’s economy have not been doing as well.

Figures out last week only compounded the fears of analysts and politicians.

A report showed that new home sales fell to their lowest level in more than a decade in March. At the same time, home prices have fallen for a fifth straight quarter, while retail sales have shown little growth.

The government welcomed the interest rate move by the central bank.

“This is the interest rate cut that households and small businesses have been hanging out for,” said Wayne Swan, Australia’s Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister.

“It is very welcome, it is well deserved and it is certainly much needed by households under financial pressure.”

Analysts said that the surprise move by the central bank showed that it was trying to give growth a positive jolt and that it opened the way for more rate cuts in coming months.

“It suggests that the RBA is pretty worried about where growth is headed and some aggressive monetary support was needed,” said Matthew Circosta of Moody’s Economy.

“I think the bias is towards more rate cuts. With the low inflation outlook it gives them scope to cut rates further.

BBC News

Clive Palmer (Australian Mining Magnate) plans to build Titanic II

Queensland billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer has unveiled his plans to build the Titanic II to add to his tourism portfolio.

Mr Palmer said his new company Blue Star Line Pty Ltd had commissioned the state-owned Chinese company CSC Jinling Shipyard to build a near replica of the ill-fated Titanic. The cost is unknown.

He made the announcement on the same day he revealed his hopes to contest the next federal election in the Queensland seat of Lilley, held by Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan.

The Titanic.The Titanic. Photo: AP

Mr Palmer said the companies had signed a memorandum of understanding to build the cruise liner in China, with the ship’s maiden voyage from England to North America scheduled for late 2016.

“It will be every bit as luxurious as the original Titanic but of course it will have state-of-the-art 21st-century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems,” Mr Palmer said.

Mr Palmer said the rebuild was a tribute to the spirit of the men and women who constructed the original Titanic.

“These people produced work that is still marvelled at more than 100 years later and we want that spirit to go on for another 100 years,” he said.

The Titanic was commissioned by the company White Star Line and was the world’s largest liner, measuring nearly 270 metres long, 53 metres high and weighing approximately 40,000 tonnes.

It sank in 1912, killing more than 1500 passengers and crew.

Asked today if the Titanic II could sink, Mr Palmer told reporters: “Of course it will sink if you put a hole in it.

He added: “It is going to be designed so it won’t sink.

“It will be designed as a modern ship with all the technology to ensure that doesn’t happen.

“But, of course, if you are superstitious like you are, you never know what could happen.”

A spokesman for Mr Palmer said the cost of the project was unknown.

“A final budget hasn’t been set and I don’t think he’ll reveal the price to be honest,” the spokesman said.

He said the design of the new Titanic would be as close to the original as possible but would have “state of the art engineering” and would run on diesel rather than coal power.

“The technology will be 100 years improved,” the spokesman said.

Mr Palmer said a historical research team was involved in the design of the Titanic II, which would have the same dimensions as its predecessor, with 840 rooms and nine decks.

The only differences would be found below the water line, he said, and would include a bulbous bow for greater fuel efficiency and diesel generation, and an enlarged rudder and bow thrusters for improved manoeuvrability.

“Titanic II will be the ultimate in comfort and luxury with on-board gymnasiums and swimming pools, libraries, high class restaurants and luxury cabins,” Mr Palmer said.

He said the new ship would also include an exhibition room, located in the space of the old coal boilers, which will showcase Queensland and its abundance of opportunities to international passengers.

The Chinese navy has been invited to escort the Titanic II on its maiden voyage across the northern hemisphere from England to New York, he said.

Mr Palmer owns the Sunshine Coast’s Coolum Golf and Spa Resort, and the Gold Coast’s Robina Woods and Colonial golf courses.

with Daniel Hurst and AAP
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