Sydney, Aug 11, 2008 AEST (ABN Newswire) - In early trade today, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index had risen as much as 60.8 points, or 1.2%, to 5047.0 with financial stocks leading the way, as the Wall Street lifted more than 302 points on Friday night. Wall Street's rally was a result of a surge in the US dollar and a drop in oil prices, which fell below $US115 a barrel for the first time since May.

After nine consecutive days of falls, the Aussie Dollar has crashed from a peak last month of US98.50 to a bottom of US89.14 - its lowest level in six months. The dollar's dive has been driven by investors' crumbling confidence in the Australian economy, tumbling commodity prices and growing fears the global economy is facing a major slowdown - or even a possible recession.

The Australian share market closed marginally firmer on Friday as trading consolidated following the previous day's financial sector run. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 2.9 points to 4986.2, while the broader All Ordinaries rose 7.6 points to 5037.6.

At 6.39am, the September share price index futures contract on the Sydney Futures exchange was 72 points higher at 5034.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

The Reserve Bank will dim its outlook for the Australian economy today when it reduces growth targets in an admission that the current slowdown could be occurring too rapidly. Economists expect the RBA will today cut economic growth projections for the next two years, and forecast inflation could come back within the 2-3 per cent management bracket sooner than thought. The RBA had earlier predicted that inflation would reach 3 per cent by June 2010, but is now expected to forecast it will reach that mark by the beginning of 2010.

The growth in online advertising has halved over the past year, but continues to outpace that of traditional media platforms as advertisers shift from print to the internet. Spending on internet advertising in Australia was up 27 per cent in the year to June, cracking the A$1.5 billion mark for the first time, according to data compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Goldman Sachs last month predicted 26.3 per cent growth for the online market in 2007-08.

The Reserve Bank of Australia's quarterly statement on monetary policy and the Australian Bureau of Statistics' lending finance data for June is to release today.

The Housing Industry Association of Australia's national and state outlook for the June quarter, and the Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM) will announce tender results for $600 million of 6.25% June 2014 bonds.

M&A News

Gaming giant Tabcorp Holdings (ASX:TAH) says a merger with Tatts Group (ASX:TTS) wouldn't be beneficial to the company, while Tatts chief executive Dick McIlwain a month ago was supporting such a deal.

APA Group (ASX:APA) will acquire the Central Ranges pipeline and associated distribution network through the purchase of Country Pipelines for A$23.5 million. The Central Ranges pipeline runs from Dubbo, where it connects to APA's existing Central West pipeline, to the central ranges region in NSW.

Important Corporate News

Agribusiness company Futuris Group (ASX:FCL) confirmed earlier guidance of achieving an underlying net profit for fiscal 2008 in the range of A$80 million to A$85 million, and a fiscal 2009 underlying profit of between A$85 million and A$90 million.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank (ASX:BEN), Australia's seventh-biggest lender by market value, said its full-year net profit rose 40% to A$170.5 million. Bendigo last year bought smaller rival Adelaide Bank for A$1.6 billion. In the previous fiscal year, Bendigo reported a net profit of A$121.8 million, prior to the acquisition.

The engineering and property services company United Group (ASX: UGL) posted a 47 per cent rise in full-year profit and forecast another year of double-digit earnings growth. The company said underlying net profit climbed to A$136.1 million on the back of a 36 per cent rise in revenue to A$3.5 billion.

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