As the big banks ramp up their marketing of low-rate credit
cards and offer new products to fight off local and foreign rivals in the $33
billion market (even David Jones is weighing in), the corporate regulator has warned on the risks of using a
credit card to trade in currencies and complex financial products, reports the Financial Review (not online). Credit
card defaults closely align with the economic cycle and unemployment rate, says
the paper’s Joyce Moullakis, and are keenly watched as an early indicator of stress
on home loan repayments.

For all the promise of attracting vast markets with smart
science, and despite notable exceptions like ResMed and CSL,
Australia’s biotech sector remains a disappointment for investors, says the Fin‘s editorial. Where it falls down is in converting our plentiful good science into products and cracking the
global market. But doing so is prohibitively expensive and the sector needs more
success stories to keep faith with the small band of investment fans.

Outgoing Woolworths chief Roger Corbett has created a major
headache for rival John Fletcher at Coles by increasing the performance gap
between the two in the heartland food and liquor business, says Chanticleer in
the Fin. But one quarter sales are
clearly no more than a guide and Corbett, of course, is one of Australia’s
best spin doctors – both reasons to be cautious about declaring victory just

Administrators of failed tantalum miner Sons of Gwalia are
understood to be preparing the company to refloat on the Australian Stock
Exchange in the next few months with a market value as high as $1 billion,
reportsThe Australian. It’s also understood
Stephen O’Donnell, former CEO of rail operator Pacific National, was recently
offered the top SoG job and told his task would be to guide the company through
its relaunch as a listed entity.

And on the topic of mining c*ck-ups, Jerry Ellis may have
got it right after all, says Matthew Stevens in The Aus. It’s only
a decade since Ellis infamously blew $3.2 billion of BHP’s
cash on what ultimately proved to be a motley collection of copper mines in the
Arizona desert. It was a losing
gamble which abruptly ended Ellis’s career at BHP
and signalled the end of the Big Australian’s century-old management culture.
“The terrible irony is that Ellis may have been just a kilometre away from
salvation,” says Stevens. Exploration drilling beneath BHP’s
ill-starred Magma Copper Company mines has revealed what may be copper’s next El
Dorado just over 1000m directly beneath Magma’s Superior

With Macquarie Bank starting to warm up the market for the
$1 billion float of the Dyno Nobel explosives business it acquired with a
consortium last year, its rivals and those cynical of the sustainability of the
Millionaire Factory’s model are probably going to have to witness another
demonstration of its ability to wring profit from a deal, says Stephen
in The Smage. The Dyno Nobel
transaction is interesting because it is probably the first big offshore deal
it has done using the model road-tested with the AXA
and ALH deals. And it probably won’t be the last.

Graeme Hart might be keen to celebrate the refloating of his
$90 million luxury yacht this week after 18 months in a shipbuilders’ yard, but
mum-and-dad investors seem to have ruined his party as they refuse to sell him
their stakes in New Zealand forest products giant Carter Holt Harvey, says Matt
in the SMH. Speculation is now mounting over
Hart’s next move as he tries to wrest full control of Carter Holt through his
private investment vehicle, Rank Group.

Meanwhile, Jeni Porter reports that the once tiresome chore of tyre-buying is about to be revolutionised, with
customers to be offered coffee, computer connections, and perhaps even a manicure as they shop.
About time too.

In America,
X didn’t mark the spot for Microsoft but Wall Street didn’t appear to mind,
says Paul R. La Monica on CNN Money. Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, reported fiscal
second-quarter sales of $US11.84 billion, up 9% from a year ago but below Wall
Street expectations of $US11.96 billion in revenue for the quarter that ended
in December. Analysts said weaker than expected sales of the company’s new Xbox
360 game console, which came out last November, was the biggest reason for the
miss as the company was unable to produce enough consoles for the holiday
shopping rush.

US stocks ended higher overnight on
better-than-expected data, with strong quarterly results from several Dow
components. But General Motors was a black spot on the blue-chip
barometer as the struggling carmaker’s shares fell after it reported a
quarterly loss of nearly $US5 billion. The Dow Jones closed up 99.73 points at
10,809 – MarketWatch has the full report