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Australian business confidence last month slumped to its weakest in seven years

Australia's business confidence index dropped to minus 9 points from minus 4 in May, according to a National Australia survey of 335 companies, as cooling domestic demand and spiraling raw-material costs eroded corporate profits.

The rise in oil prices is trying to do what the credit crunch so far has failed to do, and that's tip the world into recession. So now you've got these two crises hitting at the same time.''

S&P reduced Sydney-based GPT's credit rating one level to BBB, the second-lowest investment grade ranking, from BBB+, after the company cut its profit estimate by 27 percent GPT. Its shares slumped 11 percent to A$1.87, their lowest since 1984.

Valad Property Group, another real estate investment trust, tumbled 14 percent to a record low 54 cents, while Mirvac Group lost 13 percent to a record low A$2.39

Nex Metals Exploration Ltd. (NME AU), an Australian metals explorer, rose 11 cents, or a record 41 percent, to 38 cents, after saying it continues to explore opportunities in southeast Asia and that it's had, and continues to have, ``discussions with a number of parties with respect to various projects.''

Oil and gas companies may help sustain record mining and energy investment in Australia, the world's biggest shipper of coal and iron ore, until 2023 because of demand from China, according to forecaster BIS Shrapnel Pty.

Energy investment is growing strongly because of record prices and increased exploration, the Sydney-based business research and forecasting company said today in an e-mailed statement. The nation's mining spending rose 22 percent to A$41.5 billion ($40 billion) in the 12 months ended June 30, it said.

Commodities are in their seventh year of gains and the so- called commodities ``super cycle'' may last another 15 years, according to Merrill Lynch & Co. The global commodities boom has spurred record profits and stock price gains for producers such as BHP Billiton Ltd. and Woodside Petroleum Ltd.

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