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Distributed: Jan 16, 2009

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Sydney, Jan 16, 2009 (ABN Newswire) - US shares ended marginally higher overnight recovering from the early drop after news of a big economic stimulus introduced in Congress and a possible Government aid plan for Bank of America.

Yesterday the Australian stock market fell sharply led by falls in Wall Street and the bleak local jobless data. Analysts expect worse to come after the ABS unemployment figure rose from 4.4% to 4.5% as the global economy further deteriorates this year. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 157.5 points, or 4.27 per cent, to 3,529.5 and the broader All Ordinaries index retreated 147.5 points, or 4.07 per cent, to 3,476.8.

At 0840 AEDT on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the March Share Price Index futures contract was up 19 points at 3,523.

The Australian dollar has opened higher after a late rally on US equity markets boosted risk appetite and lifted the currency back above $US0.6600. At 0700 AEDT, the Australian dollar was trading at $US0.6663/68, up from Thursday's close of $US0.6597/02.

Oil prices sank close to $US35 on Thursday after OPEC crude producers trimmed their demand forecasts for 2009 because of the global economic downturn. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, tumbled $US1.88 dollars to $US35.40 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX).

Key Economic Facts and Figures

The total value of credit and charge card transactions, including advances, fell in November, new figures show. Australians spent A$17.6 billion on their credit and charge cards in November, compared with over A$19 billion in October, a drop of 9.3%, figures from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) show.

Almost 44,000 full-time jobs were shed in December, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data showed yesterday. The unemployment rate rose to its highest level since March 2007, up from 4.4% to 4.5% in December. Economists expect the jobs growth flatten in coming months, employers will be more likely to limit the creation of new jobs rather than retrench staff.

Today the Seek Employment index for December will be released.

M&A News

Manganese miner OM Holdings(ASX:OMH) says that it has received overwhelming shareholder support for the introduction of Takeover Protection Provisions at the Company's special general meeting in Singapore on Thursday. The move came after the Ukraine's Consolidated Minerals Ltd. bought 12% of the firm last year, sparked speculation CSM could be planning a takeover of OMH.

Important Corporate News

Woodside Petroleum(ASX:WPL), Australia's second-biggest oil and gas producer, said it would suspend work on a proposed natural gas import project in the United States due to weak energy market conditions.

CanWest(TSE:CGS), the Canadian parent of Ten Network(ASX:TEN), warned it was in danger of breaching covenants for loans secured against media assets including its stake in the Australian TV broadcaster. Canwest has indicated that it may have to sell part or all of its 56.6 percent holdings in Ten Network.

Centro Properties Group(ASX:CNP) has completed a long-term refinancing agreement with its lenders today. The agreement included a new A$35 million working capital facility and A$1.05 billion hybrid security to improve cash flow servicing and balance sheet strength.

OZ Minerals(ASX:OZL) says a French bank has agreed to extend the date by which the company must grant security over some of its assets, as the miner continues debt refinancing talks.

Citadel Resource Group Limited (ASX:CGG) announced that it has received further high-grade assays from its second drilling program at the Company's 100%-owned Shayban Gold Project in Saudi Arabia. Citadel's drilling programs have discovered and defined multiple gold lodes within the Shayban deposit. Several high-grade gold "shoots" have been delineated within these lodes significantly improving the credentials of the project.

Central Petroleum Limited (ASX:CTP)(PINK:CPTLF) has boosted cash reserves and enhanced the exploration prospects for a major oil play in Australia's onshore Amadeus Basin under new joint venture arrangements announced today. The Company has been paid A$550,000 from private resources explorer, Trident Energy Limited, under initial commitments by Trident to earn a 10% stake in Exploration Permit EP 115.

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Michelle Liang
Asia Business News Asia Bureau
Tel: +61-2-9247-4344

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