THE AUSTRALIAN BANKERS' ASSOCIATION HAS RELEASED A REVISED CODE OF PRACTICE FOR THE INDUSTRY. THE CODE, WHICH IS VOLUNTARY, INCLUDES NEW PROVISIONS ON HOW BANKS MUST ASSIST CUSTOMERS IN FINANCIAL HARDSHIP. THE CODE ALSO INCLUDES NEW MEASURES TO IMPROVE SERVICES FOR REMOTE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES, INCLUDING ON STAFF TRAINING AND INFORMATION ACCESSIBILITY.

MEANTIME RECENT INTEREST RATE CUTS MAY BE SHOWING UP IN THE HOUSING MARKET WITH NEW HOME SALES ON THE RISE IN DECEMBER. THEY WERE UP JUST OVER SIX PERCENT, ACCORDING TO THE HOUSING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION, WHICH SAYS SALES WERE DRIVEN BY BOTH DETACHED HOUSES AND UNITS.

TO THE MARKETS NOW AND THE LOCAL INDEX HAS LOST GROUND, WITH TRADERS UNNERVED BY THE SURPRISE NEWS THAT THE U-S. ECONOMY SHRANK DURING THE FINAL THREE MONTHS OF LAST YEAR.

THE ASX 200 HAS FINISHED THE DAY SEVENTEEN POINTS LOWER. RIO TINO HAS FINISHED THE DAY MORE THAN 1 PER CENT LOWER WHILE ITS RIVAL BHP BILLITON HAS SLIPPED A 3rd of a PER CENT. MARKETS IN ASIA ARE ALSO LOWER, THE NIKKEI IS OFF BY ALMOST ONE PERCENT. US MARKET'S FELL BY A THIRD OF A PER CENT OVERNIGHT, WITH TRADERS REACTING TO NEW ESTIMATES THAT THE US ECONOMY SHRANK BY POINT ONE OF A PERCENT IN THE FOURTH QUARTER OF LAST YEAR. IN COMMDOTIES GOLD HAS BEEN TRADING AT ITS HIGHEST LEVEL IN A WEEK. AND THE AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR FELL OVERNIGHT AMID SPECULATION AMONG INTERNATIONAL TRADERS OF FURTHER INTEREST RATE CUTS.

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