OCTOBER 9th 2009 (Reuters) -- Police used tear gas and batons to break up a mob of angry unemployed stockbrokers in the heart of the financial district as the S&P/ASX 200 slumped through the 500 market to finish at 497.2.
The brokers were demonstrating outside of the Australian Stock Exchange building in Bridge Street, demanding an audience with the recently elected chairman, Stan Wallis. When he failed to appear, the brokers began attacking the building and security staff with briefcases and what appeared to be rolled up social security forms.
With unemployment in the financial services industry hovering at nearly 90%, the Federal Government has ordered an inquiry into whether it is feasible to permanently retrain the growing army of brokers and other fallouts from the financial services industry.
"It is very difficult though," said a TAFE spokesman. "It does not appear that they have any useful skills - legal ones anyway - which may be redirected to more productive pursuits."
The government has already rejected a proposal that they be housed in the former Woomera detention centre on the grounds that they were worse behaved than the Afghan immigrants who caused so much strife around the turn of the century.
A retraining program at a farm near Cessnock in the Hunter Valley had to be abandoned after a group of jobless brokers went on a valley-wide chicken stealing spree after one broker started a market in chook feathers.
Brokers have become increasingly desperate as the equity market continues to slide and the war in Iraq enters its ninth year with little sign that US forces are making any progress. There was a brief 5-point rally in the market yesterday on news that George Bush had died, but it turned out to be George Bush Senior."
The oil price continues to hover at $US100 a barrel as Sydney motorists began to adjust to the second week of petrol rationing. Harbour commuters have also praised the introduction of oarsmen to the ferries, although some travellers on the Manly ferry are still grumbling about the 3-hour one way trip, especially during heavy swells.
Meanwhile, many online employment web sites were inundated yesterday on news that Merrill Morgan Suisse Warburg Barney, one of the three remaining brokerages, was planning to advertise for a receptionist's assistant. Bill Pettigrew at Seekjob.com said brokers swamped his site and forced it off line for an hour. MMSWB later denied the rumour, and said they intended to continue with their recently announced program of staff cuts.
Anthony Pope a former client adviser at ABNAmroMorgans said the news "perked him up even though I knew it couldn't be true."
"I've been sitting on the lounge for the last 3 months watching the telly," he said," so it was good to hear that a job might be available. It's never too late to start at the bottom."
Pope was one of thousands purged when the Dutch financial services group contracted its global operations from 3,400 branches in 60 countries to head office in Amsterdam and a single branch in Utrecht in just a week.
Yesterday's tentative market rally soon petered out and the market closed near its lows. An ASX spokesman said the reduced trading hours (10.00-10.30am) appeared to be working well. Market leader Woodside Petroleum was up $1 to $386 and the No 2 stock Metal Storm lost 1¢ to finish at a split-adjusted 45¢. Turnover was slightly higher at 15 million shares.
Macquarie Bank entitlements traded up 0.2¢ to 2.3¢ as administrators finalised plans for the refloat of the restructured bank. The new Macquarie wraps up the former bank and 26 other listed Macquarie products into a single entity. It is expected to be capitalised at $12 million upon refloat and include $2 million in cash. Administrators also confirmed that shareholders in the former Macquarie Airports vehicle would receive a one-off payment of 1¢ in 2022 and a $10 rebate on an airline ticket, as long as it was to a regional destination.
AMP was up 1¢ to 14¢ after announcing that it had insured a dinghy - the first premium received since the write-downs and restructuring which reduced its capital base by 99.9%. Coles Myer was unchanged at 6¢ after announcing its fourth successive management change this month. Solomon Lew issued his 1000th press release attacking the board and again calling for urgent action.
Rio BHP Billcrest said it would have one mine left - a small gold mine - after closing most of its global mining operations. Its iron ore mines were recently sold to China to repay debt. The stock closed 1.2¢ lower at 23¢.
In other news, accounting officials said the News Corp liquidation would take many years, and there was little hope of any meaningful return for creditors. An Interpol alert has been issued for former chairman Rupert Murdoch who he is believed to be running a local newspaper in a southern province in China.
The Nikkei descended below 100 for the second time in a fortnight, and the Bank of Japan was again the main buyer of stocks. It issued another 725 trillion yen of government bonds, with a coupon of 0.00003% per annum and maturing when the sun finally sets on the Japanese empire.