Australian currency slips, challenges happiest industrialized nation

The Australian dollar and Australian shares were down following disappointing data from China and continued uncertainty in Europe. In light of global economic concerns, can Australia uphold its title of the happiest industrialized nation in the world?

According to the latest survey from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Australians earn higher incomes- therefore making them happier.  The OECD survey rates its 34 member countries on categories including jobs, education, housing, health, environment and work-life balance. Australia’s cumulative rank rises to No.1, according to the OECD website. Runners-up are Norway and the U.S.

Results suggest that even though money doesn’t buy happiness, it sure does help. The Better Life Index states, “the average person earns 26,927 USD a year, more than the OECD average of 27,387 USD a year…the top 20 percent of the population earn five times as much as the bottom 20 percent.”

If you’re hoping to emulate the top 20 percent of the Australian population- here’s a list of top stocks:

Australia is not just a land rich in natural resources, but the country is home to one of the most thriving metal and mining industries. The two stocks listed below are potential gems and lead the sector.

BHP Billiton (BHP)–The world’s largest miner is priced at $62.63 per share, near the low end of its 52-week-range of $61.22-$97.37. Twelve of the twenty analysts surveyed by Bloomberg rate the company a ‘buy.’

RBC Capital Markets upgraded the stock from sector perform to outperform status. It is among the world’s largest producers of commodities such as aluminum, copper, coal, iron ore, nickel, silver, titanium and uranium.

“It is the share to have in the eyes of every Australian. Buy it when it’s low though,” said Samson Adams, Australian graduate student at Northwestern University. Granted, talking stock advice from students may not be the best way to go!

Rio Tinto Ltd. (RIO)–The company is a world leader in the discovery of mineral resources. Fourteen of the the fifteen analysts surveyed by Bloomberg rate the company a ‘buy.. Currently priced at $56.36 per share, Rio Tinto Ltd. explores and produces minerals including aluminum, copper, gold, silver, diamonds, uranium, iron ore and salt. The company is at the lower end of its 52-week-range of $54.40-$84.53.

Both companies plan to expand their iron ore mines.  According to Reuters, “Rio Tinto is maintaining its plan to substantially increase iron ore production over the coming years, saying its global output capacity could almost double to 450 million metric tons (496.04 million tons) by 2016 from current levels.” This means that Rio Tinto, the number two producer of iron ore behind Brazil-based Vale, is upping its production.

And if you prefer bonds, instead of stocks, Australia is the place to invest according to Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

Bond yields are high because the Reserve Bank of Australia currently has its cash rate set at 3.75%. And unlike the U.S., Australia has a AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s,” said Zacks.


Photo credit:  Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images and and

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