In this week's essential reading guide, Kohler doubts Labor's straight budget face, Gottliebsen predicts contractor carnage, Bartholomeusz recommends a rate hike clause for retailers' profit forecasts and Maley asks why the budget is not already in surplus.

BUDGET 2011: On a wing and a prayer
Alan Kohler
Rather than cutting spending as promised, the government appears determined to keep spending, let the deficit blow out, and predict with a straight face that the commodities boom will bail us out, eventually.

Carry on up the Australian dollar
Alan Kohler
Despite a brief dip last week, the Australian dollar is heading higher as the return of the yen carry trade fuels unforeseen demand for the local currency.

BUDGET 2011: Nine hits make a lethal combination
Robert Gottliebsen
The 2011-12 budget delivers nine blows to middle income Australia. On their own, each measure might be claimed as fair but in combination they are lethal.

The games markets play at night
Robert Gottliebsen
The hot money we've seen sloshing around global markets overnight is fickle, but unless there's a fundamental shift in the US or China or a break-up of the eurozone there's no need to panic.

Retailers won't rate the RBA's budget reply
Stephen Bartholomeusz
Profit forecasts from Myer and David Jones should have come with a 'subject to no further rate hikes' clause. Unfortunately, the budget gave no reason for the RBA to pause its hikes.

Foster's brews simplicity
Stephen Bartholomeusz
The demerger of Foster's beer and wine divisions should reveal that the sum of parts was greater than the whole, but it has also created two ideal takeover targets – as long as the dollar weakens.

BUDGET 2011: Rocks in their head
Karen Maley
With the economy operating close to trend growth rate, the real question surrounding this year’s budget is not why we’re returning to surplus in 2012-13 but why we’re not already there.

QE3 or bust
Karen Maley
A leading funds manager says immediate term prospects for the US sharemarket have turned precarious – with growth this year likely to be pegged to the likelihood of QE3.

BUDGET 2011: Why the Coalition must forget Costello
Rob Burgess
Rather than focusing on Labor's handling of Peter Costello's so-called pre-2007 surplus, the Coalition should be pinning the Gillard government for the mess they've made of the current budget.

BUDGET 2011: Skills to pay the bills
Rob Burgess
The government has announced a raft of measures to reduce Australia’s skills shortage. But business shouldn’t get too excited by these new training dollars.

TECHNOLOGY SPECTATOR: The Apple you don't know
Andrew Harris
The two things most seem to know about Apple are iPad sales have disappointed given the outrageous success of the iPod and iPhone, and Mac computers are seen as old-hat. In both cases, the opposite is true.

The 3% factor – breaking the banks' silence on gambling
Josh Dowse
Pursuing the Henry Review's recommendations on gambling would be shrewd, but what incentive is there for the states given problem gamblers supply 3 per cent of tax revenue? And why are the banks staying silent?

Giles Parkinson
Australia's backward attitude to the green revolution has been laid bare, in a budget that saw a host of clean energy schemes cut, closed, recycled or pushed back beyond spending horizons.

No budget wonderland for housing
Steve Keen
As both sides of the political divide agree to disagree over plans to return to surplus, the real point is being missed – private debt levels have begun to surge, leaving us ripe for recession.

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