News Wrap

IN THIS morning’s News Wrap: China looks to steady stumbling economy; BHP says Australian workers cost 50% more than US counterparts; and Chile quake pushes up copper price.

Lou Caruana

China looks to steady stumbling economy

China acted for the first time this year to steady its stumbling economy by cutting taxes for small firms on Wednesday and announcing plans to speed up the construction of railway lines, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

After its weekly meeting the Chinese Cabinet said it would accelerate the construction of rail projects that had been approved and increase the total length of lines being laid this year by 18% compared to 2013.

The government said it would also lower tax rates for smaller companies by relaxing the criteria that allowed them to halve their income taxes.

The policy would be extended to the end of 2016, it said.

The measures mark the first concrete action being taken by China this year to boost its economy.

It comes after Premier Li Keqiang last week sought to reassure jittery markets that Beijing was ready to provide support.

BHP says Australian workers costs 50% more than in US

BHP Billiton coal president Dean Dalla Valle has revealed that some of his Australian workers cost 50% more than their American equivalents, underlining the high cost nature of the local industry, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Speaking in Brisbane today, Dalla Valle said a global company such as BHP was well placed to see the differences in costs across different nations.

When compared to truck drivers on BHP's mines in New Mexico in the US, Dalla Valle said truck drivers at the Queensland coking coal mines were “1.5 times” more expensive.

Chile quake pushes up copper price

The vast earthquake in Chile has sent copper prices jumping to a three-week peak, as traders worried about possible supply problems in the top global producer.

Copper rallied to $US6734 ($A7302) per tonne, striking the highest point since March 10.

“Copper has hit a three-week high as an enormous earthquake off the coast of Chile as sparked fears of a tsunami,” IG analyst David Madden said.

“Traders are concerned that copper supplies will suffer following the natural disaster.”

Chile is the biggest copper producer in the world and accounts for almost one-third of global supplies.