There’s plenty of good reading in the Financial Review today, with the paper publishing its list of
Australia’s top stockbrokers, as well as Alan Jury ranking the best performers
in each industry for investment (not online). Meanwhile, topping the paper’s news,
the Australian Stock Exchange is spinning off its supervisory operations into a
new subsidiary and establishing a special unit to investigate insider trading
in an effort to address concerns about potential conflicts of interest with its
commercial activities.

While Macquarie Bank was finalising its low-ball aggressive
$3.6 million bid for the London Stock exchange, ASX
chief Tony D’Aloisio underlined the value of his monopoly asset. Amid some
increased funding for supervision of the market and rejigging of its governance
arrangements, the ASX is making a big push
for liquidity via big program trades, says John Durie in the Fin‘s Chanticleer.

As if we needed it, this is a reminder that the exchange is
a money-making business and that the role is fundamentally in conflict with the
job of regulating the market, says the paper’s editorial. The only lasting
solution to this is for an independent institution to take over supervision.
This paper has long argued that it’s a job for ASIC.

What we definitely do not have here is an outburst of proactive, anticipatory
management aiming to rearm the stock market policeman so he stays ahead of the
bad guys, says Matthew Stephens in The Australian. Make no mistake,
the reforms announced yesterday are the product of simmering anxiety about the
quality of the ASX’s supervision of its own
marketplace and the fear that the existing management structure created
unsustainable tension between the ASX’s
responsibilities to its shareholders and its requirements as a market watchdog.

But while the changes ASX
chief Tony D’Aloisio made to his market supervision arrangements are largely
cosmetic, the bottom line is simply that the ASX
must ensure the integrity of its market, says Durie. The increased spending in
this area is welcome.

Meanwhile, the welter of claims and counter-claims make it
difficult to sort out just who’s behaving badly in the spat between Toll and
its takeover target, Patrick Corp, over their 50-50 owned rail joint venture
Pacific National, says Bryan Frith in The Australian. Relations between
the companies are poisonous, but from the outside looking in, it’s difficult to
avoid the conclusion that Patrick has been trying to make it difficult for the
joint venture to function, at one stage encouraging the belief that it wanted
the partnership busted up.

The contrast between the outcome of the floats of Goodman
Fielder, SP AusNet and Spark Infrastructure is telling, says Stephen
in The Smage. Who would have thought
that Goodman would be the one to be most highly sought after? The key to
Goodman’s unlikely success was the ability of the promoters, Credit Suisse
First Boston, UBS and Macquarie,
to engage the interest of offshore investors. There are said to be three or
four large institutional “cornerstone” investors in the float.

“Victoria wins
award for most idiotic wage system,” says Max Newnham in The Age today. A gift from the state that turned out to be more of a curse, and provides more
reasons for the new IR system, was the introduction of common rule awards at
the start of the year, he writes. “They have meant many businesses have had to
comply with multiple awards, even if they only had a few employees. For some,
wage costs have risen dramatically.”

On Wall Street, US stocks closed slightly lower Thursday, after a
session made volatile by the early impact of Friday’s options expirations. The
Dow Jones closed down just 1.84 point at 10,881. MarketWatch has the full
report here.