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Bad news is all the news that’s fit to be heard

THE Australian mainstream media is reluctant to run cheerful business news. But the bearer of bad tidings is guaranteed access to the airwaves. Dun & Bradstreet economist Duncan Ironmonger was practically salivating with glee the other day over the results of his ”survey” showing that business expectations had plunged into recession-level pessimism for the June quarter.

“We are already in it,” he cackled. “I think unemployment will rise to 7.8 per cent by Christmas,” declared the Scrooge economist.

This bilious bulletin was picked up by Agence France-Press, and whisked off to Asia, where the South China Morning Post gave it big play. It happens that almost all the Asia-Pacific fund managers live in HongKong.

No wonder they were major sellers of our industrial shares last week.

Ironmonger may well be right in his gloomy prognostications, although he is at the bearish end of the spectrum. But he could be proved wrong. How many of his customers had factored in at least 150 basis points clipped off domestic interest rates in the first six months of this year?

The fact that economic growth might have contracted by 0.6 per cent in the December quarter is about as relevant as the Christmas pudding served around that time.

The very sharp downturn in building activity seems to have dumbfounded commentators. Do you recall this time last year going down on bended knee to a frantically busy pre-GST builder begging him to at least come round and give you a quote?

Such a boom was inevitably followed by a bust. It would not be surprising if some builders took protracted holidays in the West Indies.

Talking of holidays, commentators seem perplexed that retail spending is holding up reasonably well. I will give them a tip. Overseas visitors are pouring into this country.

So far this year, UK arrivals are up 13.7 per cent at 184,000, US tourists are up 7 per cent at 127,000 and Chinese numbers rose 64 per cent to 50,000. The final tally will be well in excess of 5 million inbound tourists.

They like our 50 cent dollar. And they are not just purchasing funny hats with corks, or koalas made in Korea. They are glugging down our incomparable wines, travelling far and wide, and buying quality items at bargain prices. That’s good news.

BRIEFCASE thought he was the master of the mangled mixed metaphor. But he will bow to Commonwealth Securities chief economist Craig James. Writing in the Australian Financial Review on central bank interest cuts he opined: “when you are in the eye of the storm, staring down the barrel of recession, you do what it takes to get the economy back in top gear.”

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