The Victorian energy sector has won a major victory that could
encourage investment in infrastructure projects nationally, after the
industry regulator backed down on a threat to force it to slash prices,
reports The Fin Review.
The Essential Services Commission said
it would allow higher prices so companies could make $6 billion of
capital expenditure and maintenance spending. But the regulator’s
abrupt backflip raises questions over just who was trying to fool whom
– the industry or the regulator, says John Durie in the Fin.

The ESC has taken a tentative step towards a regime that enables
companies to risk capital in the hope of generating the
service improvements that will create extra revenue, but which also
contains the stick of punishing payments where investment that
should be made is not, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in The Age.

While the market appeared pleasantly surprised at the quarterly
sales numbers produced by Woolworths chief executive Roger Corbett
yesterday, a close inspection revealed that consumers were reacting
none too well to the spike in fuel prices in September and that it
was a tougher retail environment overall, says Elizabeth Knight in The SMH. Input costs are rising and will either eat into profit margins
or ultimately get passed back to consumers. Either way, shareholders will eventually feel it. But it’s a
matter of degree and we are not yet at the stage where it should
trigger any major sell-off in the stockmarket.

Aspirants to pay television fear they are being squeezed out of
Foxtel’s digital revolution, with figures revealing that the cost of starting up a channel on the
dominant platform could soar above $4 million a year, reports The Age.

Also in the AFR,
ASIC has begun a crackdown on share trades by directors after finding
“widespread” breaches of the law, including persistent delays in
disclosing trading activities. And The Australian reports that Rio Tinto underscored its confidence in a
strong iron ore market yesterday by committing to a $US1.35 billion
($1.8 billion) expansion of its Hamersley operations in the Pilbara.

US stocks ended higher overnight, with the S&P
500 posting its biggest one-day gain in six months (up 17.62 points at 1,195), as investors
cheered a raft of positive earnings reports, a fall in oil prices and a
broadly upbeat Federal Reserve survey on the economy. The
Dow Jones posted its first triple-digit increase in six weeks, gaining
128.87 points to 10,414 – MarketWatch has a full report here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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