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Nov 30, 2015

Business bites: a numbers week … OPEC speaks … Rio’s technique …

Expect data, data and more data this week. And other business tidbits of the day.

Calling all nerds. It’s data heaven for all those economic nerds and fellow obsessives this week, here and around the world. From a meeting of the Reserve Bank, plus third-quarter GDP figures and the start of monthly data for October and November (such as retail sales, trade car sales and house prices), to the European Central Bank’s meeting on Thursday night, which is expected to expand the multibillion-dollar spending program, plus cut interest rates deeper into negative territory, not to mention the Reserve Bank of India’s meeting tomorrow. Then there’s the US jobs report for November on Friday night (with another 200,000-plus figure forecast and a jobless rate of 5%), plus two appearances by Fed chair Janet Yellen, which will all set the framework for a rate rise (the first since 2006) by the Fed in mid-December.

Japanese production data is out later in the week, plus jobs figures from Canada and, tomorrow, the start-of-month surveys of manufacturing will be released around the world (with the monthly services surveys on Thursday). China’s two surveys will be of vital interest in Australia and to all those bottom-feeding hedge funds and other looking for a quick buck. Tonight the IMF will decide on whether to make China’s yuan a reserve currency; if it says yes, it will be big decision, dragging China deeper into the global financial system and perhaps changing sentiment about the economy. But a worry from China — that 5.5% slide in the Shanghai market on Friday (and 6% plus in Shenzhen) on an expanding crack down on big brokers (with a rising arrest toll) — came out of the blue on Friday, but was ignored in other markets because of the half-day holiday in the US. — Glenn Dyer

But wait, there’s more (really). OPEC holds its half-yearly meeting in Vienna on Friday night, and don’t be surprised if the Saudis starting talking a little differently. There’s growing talk and some media reports about a change of tone as the Saudis become as concerned about future price levels and investment as they are about defending their market share (and maintaining export income and protecting a budget under rising strain from overspending). We are not talking “rice rise looms”, but the suggestion is there of a change of tone in their commentary. But more oil than ever is floating around global markets, and more is coming next year from Iran once sanctions are finally lifted. And it is somehow appropriate that the big two-week Paris meeting on climate change, starting tonight, will be split on Friday by the bete noir: big oil. — Glenn Dyer

Norwegian Blue. Like the “Norwegian Blue” parrot of Monty Python fame, investment in the resources sector is supposed to be dead, deceased, hit on the head with hammer, shuffled off its mortal coil, “inoperative” — you know the script. Clever analysts have been telling us there’s no way anyone will be investing in big mines, ports, plants, well, fields, etc, for years to come — there’s too much capacity, too little demand (China’s dead) and prices are too low. So how come Rio revealed on Friday it was going ahead with the US$1.9 billion (close to A$2.6 billion) South of Embley (to be renamed Amrun) bauxite mine on Cape York — south of the fabulous (and low-cost) Weipa mine?

No doubt some analysts will be horrified at a company investing for the future instead of paying off greedy investors (especially funds run by companies affiliated with many of the same analysts). The development will lift bauxite exports form the area by 10 million tonnes a year to 22.8 million. Bauxite prices have been holding up (compared to other minerals). In fact iron ore prices used to trade at a premium to bauxite (for comparative reasons). Now iron ore is at a big discount. And aluminium isn’t the healthiest of industries around the world, but as always, in the midst of gloom, some can see a nice earner. Pity about those clever-clog analysts though, left in the dust at Rio. The A$2.6 billion will be a handy add to weak mining investment over the next two years. — Glenn Dyer

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