Trade’s mixed messages. Global sharemarkets overnight ignored the odd messages from trade data from some of the world’s biggest exporters. Markets in Asia, Europe and the United States all jumped sharply (including Australia, but it was the Woodside bid for Oil Search that did the trick here) despite clear evidence that China’s demand for key commodities slowed noticeably in August, as volumes fell sharply. While copper imports were flat, coal fell more than 17% from July, iron ore import volumes fell dropped 14%, oil imports were down 13.4%. and soybean shipments fell 18%.

While prices for many commodities were weaker in the month (especially oil), the falls in most cases were smaller than the drops in import volumes, indicating weakening demand. China’s overall imports in August fell 13.8% from August 2014, much sharper than forecast. Exports were down 5.5%. China’s trade surplus hit a record US$60 billion and according to Macquarie, it’s on track to reach US$570 billion this year from US$380 billion in 2014. Other data from Asia showed that both South Korea and Taiwan reported 15% drops in exports in August, raising concerns about global demand and growth. But German trade data for July told a different story — imports reached 80.6 billion euros (US$90 billion), up 2.2%, while exports jumped 2.4% to 103.4 billion euros (more than US$115 billion).  — Glenn Dyer

Oil wrap. To win Oil Search, not only will Woodside have to improve the terms of its all paper $11.6 billion bid, but it will also have to convince the PNG government (holding 10% of Oil Search) and a sovereign wealth fund in Abu Dhabi (with a 13%stake) to sell their shares. If it can manage that, it will be home and hosed, and with two foreign shareholders with a combined stake between them of nearly 18% (the bid terms are 0.25% of a Woodside share for each Oil Search share). While Kerry Stokes’ Seven Group Holdings has been dabbling in the tiddlers like Beach Energy and Drillsearch, taking dominant but not absolute 19.9% controlling stakes in each, punters have been looking for the big deal, and most had struggling Santos the top of most takeover lists. But Santos remains unloved, a wallflower — its finances seem to be too much of a headache for any would-be suitor. After jumping nearly 12% in early trading, Santos shares eased sharply to be up 5.2% at $4.41.  — Glenn Dyer

Economic alert — good news. Last week we saw the weak second quarter and July retail sales trigger an orgy of angst and gloom from commentators, brokers and investors. But while the data, especially GDP, was weak overall, there were pockets of underlying strength. And that was backed up yesterday by the monthly NAB business confidence and conditions survey. While confidence slid back to pre-election levels last seen in mid-2013 (that was missed by the political commentators in their refugee and other coverage this morning), business conditions hit a near six-year high. NAB says confidence and conditions normally track each other, but last month they diverged noticeably. The business conditions index jumped 5 points to +11 in August, after a small fall in July, lifting the (smoothed) trend index to its highest level since late 2009. But the confidence fell in August (from +4 to +1), unwinding all the post-May budget gains and hitting its lowest level since mid-2013 (just before the September 2013 federal election).  — Glenn Dyer

Bye-bye ads. A is for Apple Day, which arrives tomorrow morning, but A is also for Adblock, which overnight released a version for Apple’s about-to-be-released iOS 9. It will be capable of blocking ads on iPhones and iPads, according to the company. The new version is Adblock Plus and apart from blocking advertisements from serving up, Adblock’s iOS free browser claims to possess ways to protect users from malware and malvertising, protect mobile data, disables ad tracking, increases privacy, and extends battery life on the phone. As usual, users can block all ads by default or whitelist favourite sites that have signed up with the service.

Adblock also got Google to allow its ad-blocking browser for Android back in the Play Store, which has been absent since March 2013. But there are reports Google and YouTube have managed to develop bypasses for Adblock for the video network in Google’s Chrome. (A little self-interest from Google). And the stakes in this area are huge. US research group eMarketeer estimated overnight that Facebook would be getting more than US$12 billion a year in US digital revenues by 2017. Google will still lead, but its share of the US digital market is forecast to fall from 40.1% to 35.4%, while Facebook’s share will rise to 16.1% in 2017 from 13.2%. This year mobile revenues will account for 77% of Facebook’s digital ad revenue, rising to 85% by 2017. So big stakes for these and other companies from being able to continue to show ads to mobile consumers using ad-blocker software. — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

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