Hairy chests unite: Britain joins the austerity club tomorrow night with about £85 billion of spending cuts and taxes rises (Vat to 20% from 17.5%, capital gains tax about 40% to 50%), amid moans, groans and associated complaints from people whose businesses were saved by the former government in the GFC and recession. George Osborne, the chancellor, is expected to reveal a £3 billion tax on banks via a levy on their balance sheets, not profits. Oh, squeaked a Bloomberg report, that could mean lower growth, forgetting that Britain’s recession and loss of growth and high unemployment was caused by the same banks and their profligate financing of housing booms in the US and the UK and various other losers. Some business taxes will be cut or structured in the Budget, according to the usual bevy of leaks.

An iPhone a day … hundreds of thousands of them a day, with the news that 600,000 of the new models have been ordered; it sent Apple shares to a new high of $US275 on Friday, further widening its lead over Microsoft as the biggest tech company in the US and the second largest US listed group by market cap after ExxonMobil. The shares finished just under that level, and the company was valued at $US249.4 billion, Microsoft at $US231.7 billion and ExxonMobil $US296.4 billion.

US banks: just one US bank failed last week. The Reno-based Nevada Security Bank was closed on Friday by regulators, making it the 83rd American bank failure of the year. This bank was a small local operation with $US480 million in assets.

Canwest sale: a court in Ontario, Canada, has has approved the sale of Canwest Global Communications Corp’s newspaper chain and online publishing business to a bondholders’ group. The newspapers will sell for $C1.1 billion, including $C950 million in cash, which is expected to provide enough cash to pay off Canwest. The purchasing group is headed by Paul Godfrey, president of the National Post, the Canwest chain’s national daily paper and a former CEO of Canada’s Sun chain of daily newspapers. The group says it will keep all 56 papers and plans to float them on the stock exchange early next month after the deal completes by July 30.

Nevada hits jobless jackpot: the US state of Nevada now has the unwelcome title of unemployment capital of America to go with its usual title as the country’s gambling kingpin. According to figures from the US Department of Labor, Nevada replaced four-year leader Michigan at the top of the jobless pile after its unemployment rate hit 14% in May, up from 13.7% in April. Michigan saw a rare improvement, with the jobless rate falling to 13.6% from 14% in April.  But overall May was a better month for the US with 37 states and Washington DC reporting declines in jobless rates. Unemployment increased in six states and seven states reported no change. Over the year to May the jobless rate rose in 31 states and in Washington DC and dropped in 17 states.

Memo, Seven Group Holdings: your best mate, Caterpillar Inc, has reported an 11% rise in global dealer sales of its heavy machinery in the three months ended in May, thanks to strong Asia-Pacific growth. The company said on Friday in an SEC filing that the rise ended 19 months of falls in global dealer sales. Asia-Pacific sales were up 38%, North American by 15%, but sales in Europe, Africa and the Middle East fell 8%. US analysts concentrated on the rise in the US, the first in almost four years. But for  Australia, it’s the Asian Pacific numbers that are important and especially Seven Group Holdings, which is the Cat distributor in Western Australia and north-east China, two prime markets, through the recently acquired WesTrac. A quarterly rise of this size, if experienced by WesTrac, would be market sensitive, wouldn’t you think?

Cars, cars, cars: people love VWs (and Audis, Seats, Skodas) and as a result Volkswagen has raised its 2010 sales and operating profit targets after a better-than-expected first half. The company overnight said “that the previous year’s figures for unit sales (6.3 million vehicles) and operating profit (€1.9 billion ($A2.71 billion) will be significantly exceeded.” Results in the first five months of this year “have considerably outperformed expectations” and “this trend looks set to continue in June” owing to a rebound of the North American market, strong growth in China and a fall in the value of the euro, (and Brazil). But the company said the outlook was still difficult: The second half of the year “still entails uncertainties,” VW said.

Good idea: America’s consumer products giant Procter & Gamble has launched a household tips website for the growing number of US men who have become homemakers in a tough job market.  Called Manofthehouse, the site went live this month with advice on child-rearing, cleaning and cooking, home handy work and other tips often seen in women’s magazines. There was one story on the site over the weekend entitled “how to make a perfect breakfast”, another was entitled “real men stir fry”, another was on “how to protect your iPhone when working out”. Does the fact that yesterday was Father’s Day in the US ring any bells as to why P&G has just discovered the male half of most relationships?

Peter Fray

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