Call This a Secret Cabal? It’s One Big Birthday Party. The Herald Sun on Saturday reported that the “world’s top central bankers began arriving in Australia for high-level talks as renewed fears about the strength of the global economic recovery gripped world share markets.”

“Representatives from 24 central banks and monetary authorities, including the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank, landed in Sydney to meet tomorrow at an undisclosed location. Organised by the Bank for International Settlements last year, the two-day talks are shrouded in secrecy with extensive security believed to have been invoked by law enforcement agencies.”

In today’s AFR, top of Page 4, all the details. Why the meeting? Well, tomorrow there’s a big talkfest in Sydney to mark the Reserve Bank’s 50th anniversary. So when the invites went out, the opportunity was taken to have three talkfests for the one ticket: a sort of ad hoc meeting today of the Financial Stability Board that is being run by the Bank of International Settlements (on which the RBA sits and is an active member of both groups) and to mark the 50th birthday of a leading global central bank.

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The RBA seminar on Tuesday and Wednesday sees a meeting of central bankers from Asia (it’s a regular forum in which Australia participates). The European central bankers in town will attend this. Not a mention in the Herald Sun story of the reason for the meeting, the RBA’s 50th birthday seminar. Now who gets to blow the candles out?

What’s Mandarin for boom? Figures out later this week will confirm yet another month at the top of the globe’s car market selling list for China. According to preliminary figures issued on Friday night, China’s passenger car sales rose 84% last month from the depressed January of 2009 (when the Chinese economy stalled). The China Passenger Car Association said a total of 1,218,722 cars, sport-utility vehicles, multi-purpose vehicles and minivans were sold last month, up 5.1% from December. The sales boost was largely driven by the minivan segment, which jumped 88.9% year on year and 44.4% from December, thanks to subsidies for trade-ins and tax cuts introduced as part of the government’s stimulus program. China’s Ministry of Commerce said last week that the vehicle sales are forecast to slow to just a 10% rise this year to more than 15 million units.

This week, the global resources boom: Reports from four companies this week, two in Australia, will set the tone for the global resources boomlet and the impact of China’s surge. BHP Billiton reports interim profits figures, while annual results are due from Rio Tinto, the giant Brazilian resources group Vale (the world’s biggest iron ore exporter), and the world’s biggest steel maker, Arcelor Mittal. BHP, Rio and Vale will all tell us that the China boom has been very kind, to them; but all three giants will hedge their comments about the outlook, especially with sensitive talks with the Chinese and Japanese steel mills now underway for 2010-011 prices and contracts. The three iron ore groups and the Chinese mills are reported to have had a round of meetings with Chinese steel mills in Singapore, well away from Shanghai and China and the jailing of four Rio executives during last year’s acrimonious post Rio-Chinalco separation. Arcelor Mittal has much of its production in Europe and the US and in some weak emerging markets, but it is big in rapidly growing India. And its attitude to BHP and Rio’s proposed Pilbara joint venture will either help the deal or blow it apart. Last month BHP and Arcelor announced talks to look at combining their iron ore interests in Guinea and Liberia. That deal could see Arcelor’s unease about the Pilbara JV watered down. Stranger things have happened.

Counting the jobless. We in Australia have moaned and groaned a lot about the rise in unemployment (from a low of 3.9% to a peak of 5.8%). Without wishing to downplay the pain of those made redundant here, that’s chicken feed in global terms. Last week unemployment in New Zealand reached a 10-year high of 7.3% in the final quarter of 2009, on Friday January jobless figures showed America continued to shed workers in January, but at a slower rate with a surprise fall in the unemployment rate to 9.7%. Canada’s rate eased 0.1% to a still too high 8.3%. Japanese unemployment is running at 5.1%; the eurozone’s rate is around 10%. This week we get our jobless data for January and the usual clutch of market economists reckon unemployment rose slightly last month, forcing the unemployment rate up to 5.6% from the surprisingly low rate of 5.5% in December.

America’s brutal reality. The US economy shed 20,000 jobs last month, instead of adding 150,000 new jobs those market economists claimed would happen. It was the second month in a row they have got it wrong. And while the jobless rate fell 9.7% from 10 per cent in December, revised figures showed the toll since December 2007, is larger than previously thought: instead of around 7.2 million, it’s now 8.4 million. But the depressing news in the stats was the growing number of “discouraged” workers – people who have stopped even looking for jobs. It has ballooned from 734,000 to 1.1 million people over the past year – having grown by 136,000 in January alone (hence the fall in the unemployment rate). Long-term unemployment – which includes people who have not found a job for 27 weeks or more – also increased to 6.3 million from 2.7 million a year ago.

Not Aussie and not independent? So what was The Australian on about last Friday when it wrote in its story about the copyright win by Larrikin Music in the Federal Court that it was “a landmark victory for a small independent company against a much larger industry opponent.”

Larrikin is no independent — it’s part of a global music sales multinational called called The Music Sales Group of London and the US. It’s big, with standards such as “Catch a Falling Star” and “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”, among is catalogue Larrikin was sold to The Music Sales Group in 1985, according to the founder, Warren Fahey on his website.

And who is Music Sales Australia? It’s no local battler either. It is a global musical publisher company centered on Britain and the US. Its UK website boasts it is “an international organisation. Based in London, it is active in many music-related fields and has offices worldwide. Principally Music Sales owns, manages and exploits over 200,000 music copyrights. It is also Europe’s largest printed music publisher, distributing products worldwide from centres in the UK, the USA, Australia, Japan and Europe. “The source of Music Sales’ copyright activities is the ownership of numerous international catalogues that include Campbell Connelly, The Sparta Florida Music Group, Bosworth & Co., Chester Music, Novello & Company, J. Curwen & Sons, G Schirmer, Edition Wilhelm Hansen and Unión Musical Ediciones (UME). “Music Sales also owns a chain of retail outlets in the UK supplying them and numerous independent music stores with a wide range of printed music and related music products such as tutors and musical accessories.”

This is not a small business, Music Sales is as much a music multinational as is EMI. The argument over the copyright in Land Down Under was as much one multinational trying to grab cash for another as it was an assertion of copyright.

EMI is Skint. Meanwhile Larrikin, or rather the Music Sales Group, had better move quickly otherwise their claim against Men At Work and EMI might become a creditor’s claim. EMI is faltering financially, on its last legs in London, with hand out to bankers and others. It’s a private equity buyout by the forceful Guy Hands that has gone bad. EMI’s accountants have raised “significant doubt” about its ability to continue as a going concern in a report that lays bare the parlous state of Terra Firma’s £4.2bn investment in the music company behind Katy Perry and The Beatles. Could the Larrikin/Music Sales claim be the straw that broke the EMI bank account. Will EMI have enough money to appeal? On fact Music Sales probably is more solvent than EMI is right now. Takeover, anyone?

Valuing the CEO: And finally, JB Hi-Fi CEO, Richard Uechtritz revealed today that he was stepping down mid year, a move that sent the share price south by more than 7% at one stage (or $1.45). His announcement coincided with the company’s interim profit, up 29% to a net $76 million. The fall in the market after the news of the retirement cost the company around $156 million in lost value, double what it made on a net basis in the six months to December. The shares were still down 91c, or 4.5% at noon, or more than $100 million.

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