It’s budget day, again. So much has been leaked from tonight’s federal budget that the lock-up this afternoon and early evening will resemble a Japanese Kabuki play — lots of  “action” with very little substance. Boring. No need for it, in fact. Joe Hockey’s speech at 7.30pm is supposed to be the centre point, but considering we know what is in it, why bother? Better wait until the ABC TV’s 7.30 begins a special one-hour discussion and dissection at 8pm, which will be as turgid as the Treasury’s offerings. The government’s newsletters (aka The News Corp papers, led by The Australian) reckon the government will be able to get the deficit forecast down under $40 billion ($39.9 billion?) due to the rebound in iron ore prices (careful, you’ve been fooled before, Joe). In fact that rise was driven by the latest rate cut in China on Sunday night (which was a signal of how scared the Chinese government is of deflation, which seems to be appearing in consumer prices, after wrecking manufacturing for the past 38 months).

Iron ore prices rose 3.3% overnight to US$62.50 a tonne, up from its prior close of US$60.50 a tonne. That took the current rally in iron ore prices to 35% from the 10-year low of US$46.70 a tonne reached in early last month and was the highest close since March 2. How sustainable this rebound will prove is open to considerable conjecture. Joe is clearly tempted, if the Oz report is any guide. Going on past experience, you’d have to say it is built on shifting sands. A “rubbery” budget built on iron ore? We’ve seen that before, several times in the past four years. Interestingly, the fall in US markets overnight came after that big rally on Friday night in the wake of the solid jobs report for April. Second thoughts in the US about a rate rise perhaps? Certainly Greece was another factor, although media reports said it had ordered the repayment of the scheduled 750 million euros to the IMF (which has a month to announce whether it was received or not). — Glenn Dyer

Buy fag companies? Wired reckons there’s a move to shift the long-rumoured lung cancer vaccine under development in Cuba to New York. There are other treatments under study in the US and Europe, so will this make the likes of Altria (the old Philip Morris) a buy? And will a successful vaccine re-legitimise smoking? The fag companies are no doubt hoping it will (and strained government budget overseers are probably wishing so as well, and eyeing a tax rise or three if that happens). Will the fag companies start buying drug companies to bottle up the research? — Glenn Dyer

Welcome back, 1999. The business craziness of the late ’90s (before the Tech Wreck) returned with a vengeance late Friday with the news that UK online delivery food company Just Eat was buying the Australian online business Menulog for 445 million pounds, or around $855 million. Now some Australian media reports (e.g. Fairfax Media) said straight-faced the price was 17 times Menulog’s revenue of around $40 million. That’s an absurd valuation, redolent of the dot-com boom in the late 1990s, when companies were bought and sold at multiples of revenue (or even imagined revenues). — Glenn Dyer

Taking a bite out of Apple, and Samsung, and others? Now here’s some news that will chill the swollen coffers at Apple. The country’s most successful market, China, seems to have hit the wall, or rather the smartphone market is now saturated, according to research group IDC. And it’s not only Apple, but Samsung and other global and Chinese phone groups that will sit up and take notice. IDC said, in a widely publicised report issued overnight, that smartphone shipments in China in the March quarter fell 4.3% from the first quarter of 2014, despite a strong selling campaign by Apple. IDC says Apple consolidated its position in the shrinking Chinese market in the March quarter with a 14.7% market share, ahead of local giants, Xiaomi and Huawei at 13.7% and 11.4%, with Samsung the global leader, ahead of Apple in the first quarter, on 9.7%. IDC says that to maintain growth the big phone makers will chase growth in India and south-east Asia. IDC attributed the slump to “market saturation”. Apple reported a record US$16.8 billion in revenues in China in the March quarter, thanks to the iPhone 6. China overtook the US in 2011 to become the biggest smartphone market — but now it’s gone ex-growth, according to the report. Apple though is cool, has style and produces what economist-sociologist Thorstein Veblen called “positional goods”, which therefore sell at a premium and rank higher in desirability among potential buyers than phones from other companies. — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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