Australian Stock Market Report - Afternoon 3/29/2012

By Vittorio Hernandez,

Shutterstock photo

(4.30pm AEDT)

After reaching a 2012 high yesterday, the local share market pulled back a little today, following falls in offshore markets and due to a lack of guidance in the form of economic data. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) closed down 9.5pts or 0.2pct to 4422 while the S&P/ASX 200 Index (XJO) lost 5.6pts or 0.1pct to 4337.9.

Energy stocks were among the biggest drags, after the price of benchmark crude oil eased overnight in response to a firmer US dollar and higher US oil inventories. After holding near US$107 a barrel all week, the Nymex contract dipped 2pct to US$105. Shares in Caltex (CTX) eased by 1.5pct on our market to $13.86 while Oilsearch ( OSH ) was off 2.1pct to $6.91.

Construction giant Leighton Holdings ( LEI ) was one of the worst performers, dropping almost 7pct after coming out of a trading halt and warning of a fall in profits. LEI has cut its profit forecasts by nearly a third due to further losses from the Brisbane Airport Link and Victorian desalination words. LEI now expects underlying profit for calendar 2012 to come in between $400 to $450 million, down from $600 to $650 million as previously forecast. LEI lost $1.59 to close at $22.16.

Shares in toll roads business Transurban ( TCL ) fell 0.9pct to $5.62 despite confirming its distribution guidance. Transurban, which owns Melbourne´s CityLink, and Sydney´s M2 and Lane
Cove Tunnel, told the market it is experiencing a difficult operating environment but still expects to pay investors "at least 29 cents per security" in the 2011/12 financial year.

Official statistics released today showed the number of job vacancies in Australia rose by 0.7pct in February. The total number of vacancies in February 2012 was 182,200 in seasonally adjusted terms, compared with 180,900 in the previous quarterly survey in November. CommSec Chief Economist Craig James said of the data "The latest data confirms that the job market has paused for breath. Employers aren't keen on hiring until consumers start spending again."

The Australian dollar eased once again against the greenback and at 4.30pm AEDT was buying US103.59c, £0.651 and €77.78c.

On the market overall, a total of 2.31 billion shares were traded, worth $5.16 billion. 451 were up, 573 were down and 371 were unchanged.

At 4.30pm AEDT on the ASX24, the share price index was at 4339, down 16pts.

Ahead tonight weekly jobless claims data is released in the US along with revised GDP figures.

Juliette Saly, CommSec Market Analyst

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing Commodities
Referenced Stocks: LEI , OSH , TCL

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