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Markets Live: Shares hit highest close for 2012

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Click here for a full wrap of today's session.

Recent court decisions in NSW could leave serviced apartment investors with no rights to sue the builder for building faults, BRW reports.

Chris Kerin, a partner at Teys Lawyers, says a series of wins by developer Brookfield Multiplex in the NSW Supreme Court mean apartment owners are no longer able to sue for building negligence in the event of water ingress, cracks or other structural problems.

"All of a sudden there are a whole lot of buildings that don't have any recourse at all for building negligence," Kerin says.

More from reporter Ben Hurley here.

Here's how some of the blue chips performed on the local market today:

BHP: +1%

Rio: +0.7%

ANZ: -0.2%

CBA: -0.1%

NAB: -0.04%

Westpac: -0.1%

Fortescue: +0.7%

Woolies: +0.3%

Wesfarmers: unchanged

Telstra: -0.06%

India's industrial output rose by an unexpectedly strong 8.2 per cent year on year in October, according to data released today, spurring hopes the worst for Asia's third-largest economy may be over.

The figure was a big improvement on September's 0.4 per cent contraction and far outpaced market expectations of a 5.0 per cent rise, according to a Dow Jones Newswires poll.

So what should we expect from the Fed overnight? Well, the Federal Reserve looks certain both to extend its purchases of mortgage-backed debt and replace another expiring stimulus program with a new bout of money creation.

As its last program of Treasury purchases, known as Operation Twist, draws to a close, officials look set to replace it with a fresh $US45 billion per month in buying. Unlike those in Twist, which were funded by sales and redemptions of short-term debt, the new Treasury purchases will further expand the Fed's $US2.8 trillion balance sheet.

Economists also expect the central bank to continue buying $US40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities as announced in September, keeping the monthly pace of total asset purchases at $US85 billion - a figure the Fed highlighted in its last policy statement.

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This afternoon's steady slide from the day's highs may be a case of investors pre-empting the market's reaction to the Fed's anticipated next round of quantitative easing, Arab Bank trader David Scutt tweets:



The materials sector rose 0.5 per cent, while energy soared 1.5 per cent. Financials dropped 0.3 per cent, but telcos were again the biggest loser, falling 1.3 per cent.

The Australian sharemarket continued its steady December ascent thanks to another solid outing by the resource stocks, CMC Markets trader Tim Waterer says:

The ASX200 having a dalliance with the 4600 level today. Market attention will be focused on the FOMC to provide further direction for the remainder of the week.

The sharemarket has closed at a fresh high for the year. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 rose by 0.2 per cent to 4583.8, while the broader All Ords went up 10.5 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4591.8.

Here's an interesting read on robots, capital-biased technological change and inequality, as recommended by FT Alphaville.

"What started as a discussion about the rise of automation in manufacturing – and its potential impact on 're-shoring' manufacturing to the US by some firms – has turned into a broader discussion about the impact of capital-biased technological change on the future of jobs and inequality.

"The discussion also touches on the role of increasing mark-ups in the shift in income away from labour."

More from Bruegel, a European think tank specialising in economics, here.

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More on Mr Stevens's speech. He expands on central banks' programs of what he terms "unconventional monetary policy" over recent years.

They are, he lists:

  • reducing longer-term interest rates on sovereign or quasi-sovereign debt by ‘taking duration out of the market’ once the overnight rate was effectively zero
  • reducing credit spreads applying to private sector securities (‘credit easing’, operating via the ‘risk taking’ channel)
  • adding to the stock of monetary assets held by the private sector (the ‘money’ channel, appealing to quantity theory notions of the transmission of monetary policy)
  • in the euro area in particular, commitments to lower the spreads applying to certain sovereign borrowers in the currency union (described as reducing ‘re-denomination risk’).

Here's a graph on the balance sheets of central banks:



RBA Governor Glenn Stevens says major central banks are putting their independence at risk with bond buying.

Mr Stevens said in an address to the Bank of Thailand on its 70th Anniversary that the central banks could see their independence at risk once the time comes to unwind those policies.

Massive purchases of assets by some central banks, known as quantitative easing, was blurring the distinction between monetary and fiscal policy, he said.

"The problem will be the exit from these policies ... ending a lengthy period of guaranteed cheap funding for governments may prove politically difficult," Mr Stevens said in a speech on the challenges to central banking.

"There is history to suggest so," he added. "It is no surprise that some worry that we are heading some way back towards the world of the 1920s to 1960s where central banks were 'captured' by the government of the day."

You can read Mr Stevens's full speech here.


Economists have cut their economic forecasts and raised their inflation outlook for Singapore, a central bank survey released on Wednesday showed, in a further sign that the city-state is likely to face another year of sub-par growth and elevated inflation in 2013.

Economists now expect the Southeast Asian city-state's gross domestic product to grow by 1.5 percent this year, down almost a full percentage point from the median estimate of 2.4 percent in the previous poll, according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS) latest quarterly Survey of Professional Forecasters.

Singapore, whose trade is three times GDP, has been hurt by the downturn in Western economies that has crimped demand for its exports. The wealthy city-state of 5.3 million people has also underperformed neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which can rely on their much larger populations to prop up growth.

Here's a tweet from CommSec's chief economist Craig James:


The national average house prices are forecast to rise by 3 to 5 per cent, according to Australian Property Monitors.

Here's a snapshot:

  • Sydney prices up 3-5 per cent
  • Melbourne up 0-3 per cent
  • Brisbane up 3-5 per cent
  • Adelaide flat
  • Perth up 5-7 per cent
  • Hobart flat
  • Darwin up 5-7 per cent
  • Canberra up 0-3 per cent
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The top ten insurers in Australia account for nearly 80 per cent of the sector’s $2.8 billion in profit last year, official figures show.

At the same time, some 23 insurers operating in Australia, including offshore majors Zurich, Warren Buffet-backed General Re and online specialist Progressive Direct delivered a loss last year.

Figures released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority give a comprehensive snapshot on the nation’s 106 regulated insurers. They also provide financial details of separate insurance brand, as opposed to profitability at a group level.

Insurance Australia Group’s flagship general insurance arm was the most profitable operator, returning $419.8 million in the year to end June, the figures show.

Fiji has dropped the image of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II from a new range of bank notes and coins that were unveiled today, and replaced her with plants and animals native to the Pacific island state.

It is now time to move forward as we strive to create our own identity synonymous to what Fiji is all about,'' Fiji President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said.

Images on the polymer bank notes include the rare kulawai lorikeet, the beli fish and the tagimoucia flower, while the coins depict flying foxes, parrots and the banded iguana.

Here are the best and worst performers of the ASX top 50 today.



China has made its biggest overseas takeover, paying $15 billion for Canada's oil and gas company Nexen.

For the Chinese government, the Nexen deal is an affirmation of its decade-old drive to encourage companies to go abroad to build international players and secure supplies of energy and raw materials to keep the economy humming.

The country's overseas acquisitions tripled to 177 between 2005 and 2011 and jumped five-fold by value to $US63 billion, according to law firm Squire Sanders and intelligence service Mergermarket.

Joshua Eisenman, a senior fellow for China studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, said that such deals were "tied to the Communist Party's national objectives, which increasingly include projecting economic power abroad".


The dollar is up today, surfing on a wave of optimism over a rebound in German business sentiment and hopes that the fiscal cliff standoff in Washington will reach a conclusion.

In recent trade the dollar was at $US1.0528, up from $US1.0482 yesterday afternoon.

It reached a high of $US1.0543 this morning, its highest point since September 17, following a strong overnight trading session.

ANZ foreign exchange strategist Andrew Salter said the better overseas news had been seen as  ‘'a step in the right direction and that has supported the currency’’.

Mr Salter said the release of weaker monthly domestic consumer sentiment data on Wednesday, which followed poor business confidence figures on Tuesday, had weighed against the currency but both pieces of data had been overshadowed by global sentiment.


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