Citibank misleads. Readers of the Financial Review this morning may have noticed an advertisement on page nine from Citibank advertising its Ultimate Saver account. The Ultimate Saver which provides depositors with an interest rate of 8.00 percent and their funds ‘on call’. If you think a return of 8 percent for an on-call savings account is too good to be true you would be right. In the fine print, Citibank notes that “stepped interest rates apply (meaning different rates of interest apply to different portions of your account balance). The portion of your balance under $10,000 does not earn interest. Minimum ongoing balance of $10,000 applies.” Therefore, while Citi boldly claims the interest rate received is 8 percent — that is a complete mistruth. If an investor has $15,000 in a Citibank Ultimate Saver, their effective interest rate would be only 2.67 percent. The rate increases to 4 percent with a balance of $20,000, however, never will an investor receive a rate of 8.00 percent as interest isn’t payable for the first $10,000. Therefore, Citibank is advertising an interest rate which literally does not exist. Is anyone there at the ACCC? — Adam Schwab
Bumbling Bernanke remembers inflation. After spending a year trashing the US dollar and spurring inflation, bumbling US Federal Reserve chair, Ben Bernanke, finally remembered that he may be playing a role in causing inflation. Yesterday Bernanke observed that the Fed is “attentive to the implications of changes to the value of the dollar for inflation and inflation expectations and will continue to formulate policy to guard against the risks to both parts of our dual mandates.” Unlike petrol prices, Bernanke’s talk is very cheap, especially since he is the guy in charge of a Federal Reserve board which has decreased US interest rates so far that rates are now negative in real terms. Many pundits, including the influential Bill Gross of Pimco and Bill Bonner of the excellent Daily Reckoning Newsletter, suggest that US inflation is actually running at around 10 percent, with the US Labour Department cooking the books to come up with a more palatable figure of around 4 percent. Of course, the Fed’s grossly expansionist monetary policy, which sees the US virtually printing money to bail out the moronic bankers on Wall Street is a large reason for the problem. Inflating the money supply is also aiding the commodities bubble as items like oil are denominated in USD (which continues to fuel inflation). However, it is a relief to see that Bernanke is finally acknowledging that he has a problem. Just eleven more steps to go. — Adam Schwab
Are Virgin Blue poll riggers? Industry awards for “best this” or “best that” have always suffered from fraudulent puffery. They have as much integrity as mobile phone polls in TV shows like Big Brother , which are really just profit sharing deals between networks and phone companies to siphon big dollars out of the pockets of people with small IQs. But cop an eye-full off this blatant how-to-vote-and-vote-often form being circulated by management to Virgin Blue’s 3000+ staff and regular customers registered for V mail fare offers for the Skytrax 2008 airline polls.
Skytrax based in the UK would wither if it wasn’t for the oxygen of gormless media coverage written by lazy content providers masquerading as news. If it was an inner city Labor or Liberal party branch it would risk prosecution for vote rigging. Consider this. If a poll for “best anything” in airlines were to be conducted among qualified voters, those who actually flew so often they could make choices based on current experiences, they’d all be in rehabilitation wards or the divorce courts. — Ben Sandilands
Surviving economic turbulence. Advanced economies have survived a “near-perfect storm” in financial markets remarkably well, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Wednesday, as it predicted recoveries in the US and European economies next year without inflation taking root. In its twice-yearly Economic Outlook, the Paris-based international organisation revised down its forecasts of growth and now thought inflation would be higher than in December, a result of more expensive energy and food, which would squeeze real incomes and raise prices across the developed world. But, it said that these unfortunate outcomes represented the crystallising of previous risks and that now, even though uncertainty was high, there was just as much chance its new forecasts were too pessimistic rather than being more likely to be too optimistic. There was a potential for an unexpectedly rapid recovery among the 30 rich-country OECD member states if conditions in financial conditions improved and lowered the current high price of credit and fed through to the real economy. — Chris Giles, Financial Times
Customers cut the cord. When Telstra controversially slashed fixed line broadband prices in early 2004 it ignited what had previously been a slow take-up rate for broadband. It now appears that the combination of Telstra’s Next G network and intense price competition is doing something similar for wireless broadband, changing the landscape in the process. This week Goldman Sachs analysts revised their telecommunication industry forecasts, revising up growth in mobile telephony and revising down the growth rate in fixed broadband. Total mobile penetration, the analysts said, would rise to 106 per cent by the end of this month (their previous forecast was 102 per cent) and to 118 per cent by June 2010 (previously 108 per cent). By 2017 it would be 134 per cent. The penetration for fixed broadband would come in lower than the previous forecast of 66 per cent by the end of the month to about 63 per cent and would be at about 72 per cent in June 2010 (previously 76 per cent). Those are significant shifts in expectations. Previously the conventional wisdom had been that growth rates in mobiles would slow, and average revenues per user would fall, as penetration reached saturation point and the over-investment in capacity in the sector drove down prices. — Stephen Bartholomeuz, Business Spectator