Morning News: China & Australia’s Economy Are Cracking, Warren Buffett Warns Of Big, Looming Bond Losses, German Euro Founder Calls For ‘Catastrophic’ Currency To Be Broken Up, The Senate Is Poised To Pass An Internet Sales Tax Bill Today

Chinese services saw their worst growth in two years

The HSBC China Services Business Activity Index declined to 51.1 in April from 54.3 in March, the lowest level since August 2011.

From Markit:

HSBC China Composite PMI™ data (which covers both manufacturing and services) signalled an expansion of output for the eighth consecutive month in April. However, the HSBC China Composite Output Index signalled only a marginal rate of growth, posting at 51.1. This was down from 53.5 in March, suggesting that the rate of expansion was the weakest since last October. Output rose simultaneously across both the manufacturing and service sectors for the sixth successive month in April. That said, the rates of expansion were only marginal in both cases. The latter was indicated by the HSBC China Services Business Activity Index recording 51.1 in April. Down from 54.3 in March, the services survey headline index signalled the weakest expansion of service sector activity since August 2011.

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Australia’s Economy Is Cracking

The economic weakness in China clearly appears to be taking a toll on the Aussie economy.

Global mining giant Rio Tinto has said more job cuts are coming to Australia, thanks to slack demand for commodities.

Meanwhile, the latest data is poor.

Retail sales unexpectedly fell 0.4% for the Month of March, significantly worse than the 0.1% rise that analysts had expected.

A measure of available jobs also was weak, with ads falling 1.3% in April, an acceleration from a 0.5% decline in March.
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The Senate is poised to pass an Internet sales tax bill TODAY

The Senate on Monday is poised to pass an Internet sales tax bill with strong bipartisan support, in spite of opposition from traditionally influential conservative groups and weak public backing.


The Marketplace Fairness Act, which easily cleared a set of procedural Senate votes in recent weeks, wouldn’t technically impose any new taxes. Instead, it would give state governments the ability to collect Internet sales taxes from businesses headquartered outside of their respective state borders — taxes that are technically already owed. Consumers are expected to declare those taxes on their state income tax returns but often don’t.


Backers of the bill argue that out-of-state online retailers have an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar stores, since they’re not required to collect the sales tax owed on the products they sell, even if the state requests it. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates states in 2012 lost more than $11 billionin sales tax revenue from online retailers based in other states. That money could make a huge difference in state budgets, especially as the economy continues to sputter back to life at a slow pace.

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German euro founder calls for ‘catastrophic’ currency to be broken up

“The economic situation is worsening from month to month, and unemployment has reached a level that puts democratic structures ever more in doubt,” he said.

“The Germans have not yet realised that southern Europe, including France, will be forced by their current misery to fight back against German hegemony sooner or later,” he said, blaming much of the crisis on Germany’s wage squeeze to gain export share.

Mr Lafontaine said on the parliamentary website of Germany’s Left Party that Chancellor Angela Merkel will “awake from her self-righteous slumber” once the countries in trouble unite to force a change in crisis policy at Germany’s expense.


Warren Buffett warns of big, looming bond losses 

Bonds are “a terrible investment” right now, Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A +1.27% Chairman and Chief Executive Warren Buffett told CNBC Monday. He recommended holding a comfortable amount of cash but otherwise investing in “productive assets”, and called having a set asset-allocation strategy “silly.” Bond prices are artificial right now given the Federal Reserve’s purchases of $85 billion a month, “and when that changes, people could lose a lot of money.”

Telegraph Excerpt and Link, by Ambrose Pritchard-Evans:

Warren Buffett sees ‘brutal’ damage for savers from central bank money printing…  Veteran investor Warren Buffett has warned that savers and bondholders are suffering a “brutal” erosion of their money as the US Federal Reserve and other central banks force yields to historic lows.

“I feel sorry for people that have clung to fixed-dollar investments,” he told investors at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in Nebraska, an event akin to a rock concert.

Mr Buffett defended the emergency stimulus of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, saying the “consequences would have been terrible” if the authorities had failed to act, but those nearing pension age have paid the price. Many are trapped in such assets through pension funds.

“Bernanke had tough choices to make, but he decided to step on the gas pedal, in terms of monetary policy, and he brought down rates to virtually unheard of levels, and kept them there. And he’s still got his foot on the pedal and that really does hurt savers. It has made it extremely difficult for all kinds of people who live on fixed-income investments,” he told CNBC.”


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