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THE market odds have moved firmly against an interest rate rise by the Reserve Bank in February.

The sharp change in direction, which began on Tuesday after the central bank revealed its December 1 meeting minutes, accelerated yesterday following a speech by RBA deputy governor Ric Battellino.

Mr Battellino signalled that rates could stay on hold when the RBA next meets in February, saying the “overall stance” of monetary policy was “back in the normal range”.

His comments, at the Australian Finance & Banking Conference in Sydney, surprised the markets, triggering a slump in the Australian dollar to below US90.

Last night the dollar was hovering around US89.70.

Financial market betting on a 25-basis point rate hike in February retreated from a 67 per cent chance to 45 per cent.

Mr Battellino said that although the cash rate still seemed “unusually low” at 3.75 per cent, monetary policy was back “in the normal range” because the current level of deposit, housing and business lending rates made the cash rate equivalent to a “before the crisis” level of 4.75 per cent.

“Taking these considerations into account, it would be reasonable to conclude that the overall stance of monetary policy is now back in the normal range, though in the expansionary segment of that range,” he said.

The deputy governor’s remarks were made half an hour after the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed economic growth in the September quarter was weaker than expected.

The national accounts showed GDP edged up just 0.2 per cent in the three months to September, half the pace of growth expected by the market, for an annual rate of 0.5 per cent.

The main drag on growth was a slump in exports which coincided with a jump in imports.

However, demand from households, businesses buying more equipment and government investment was solid.

ANZ acting chief economist Warren Hogan said the GDP figures indicated there was little urgency to get official interest rates back to a neutral setting, adding that Mr Battellino’s comments had “dealt a solid blow” to the prospect of substantial gains in the cash rate over coming months.

“Put another way, the emergency setting for interest rates has now been removed and policy will be adjusted as and when required by economic conditions,” he said.

Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly told reporters after the bank’s annual meeting in Melbourne yesterday that the RBA was likely to raise rates “very carefully” in 2010.

However, she said the official cash rate was not quite yet at a “normal” level.

Mrs Kelly said she remained cautious about the economic outlook while the bank’s chairman Ted Evans said a “V-shaped” recovery for Australia was unlikely.

“It will be a long recovery and that’s what our plans are based on,” he said. 

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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A woman from Melbourne has said she has no connection with missing British toddler Madeleine McCann after a friend in Sydney reported her to police.rt_maddy_mccann_090501_mn

The search for Madeleine swept across Australia with a string of sightings after private detectives revealed they were looking for a Victoria Beckham lookalike.

A picture of the woman was released by British police.

Ms Aron, who actually lives in Madeline Street, the Melbourne suburb of Glen Iris.

She has said she was shocked that anybody may have thought that I have some connection to this case. I can’t understand how it may have happened. I can honestly say I have no connection to the little girl.

She also announced that she has not been out of  Australia since 2000.

A neighbour said she thought the link might have been made because Ms Aron spoke Spanish and had a fair-haired child.

An elderly Sydney woman went into Burwood police station and filed a report claiming that a friend she had met in Spain, and travelled with in Portugal, was the woman in the identikit.

NSW Police said: ”NSW Police Force detectives have received information about a woman who is similar in description to the woman being sought by private investigators investigating the disappearance of British child Madeleine McCann.

An Australian-registered cruiser that was in Port Olimpic marina in Barcelona at the time the mystery woman was asking the new witness if he had brought her new daughter.

Reporters from London yesterday speculated that it was a $12 million powerboat belonging to a wealthy West Australian family. A spokesman for the family said: ”This is the most ridiculous speculation I have ever heard. It’s ludicrous.”

Investigators working for the McCanns said they had received more than 600 emails after issuing the Posh Spice lookalike appeal.

A spokesman for the family said most of those responses had come from Australia.

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A Swan Valley tourist resort is the latest outlet to be named and shamed on WA’s ever-growing filthy restaurant register.

The Swan Valley Oasis Restaurant and Function Centre at Henley Brook is the 46th eatery to be so exposed on the ‘Notifications of Convictions’ list published by the the WA Health Department.

As revealed first on WAtoday, the venue was fined $8,750, and ordered to pay $1571.70 in costs, for hygiene breaches including:                swan valley

– allowing vermin into the restaurant;
– exposing food to possible contamination; and
– failing to ensure the premises and appliances were clean.

The restaurant is part of the Swan Valley Oasis Resort, which also boasts a golf course and boutique brewery.

The eatery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, and is a popular wedding reception venue.

Testimonials on the venue’s website include one from Helen, of Hong Kong.

“Clean, relaxed and family-friendly – really pleased to have found a nice, reasonably-priced place to stay before heading out of Perth,” Helen wrote.

According to the website, Rebecca, of Paynes Find, was “pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meals and service”.  Samantha, of Albany, found the venue “very clean and neat” and said she would “definitely be back”.

Since September 2006, the 46 prosecuted food outlets have together been fined in excess of $170,000.

However, this might only be the thin edge of the potato wedge, because it is not compulsory for local authorities to report breaches to the government.

Hence, only hygiene breaches in 11 of WA’s 139 local authorities appear on the government’s dirt list.

After WAtoday.com.au exposed the initial 41 list inductees in January, Health Minister Kim Hames rejected a call by consumer group Choice to post hygiene ratings on restaurant doors.

Mr Hames said that hygeine breaches from every local council would be added to the list when mandatory reporting was introduced under a new Food Act that is being drafted.

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