Australian Stock Market Report – Afternoon 4/11/2012


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(4.30pm AEST)

There was only one direction for the Australian share market today: down. More falls on Wall Street and weaker commodity prices saw the local share market lose ground for the fourth session in a row, its longest losing streak in four months. Disappointing economic data added to the gloom, with the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) closing down 46.1pts or 1.1pct to 4327.6.

Every sector ended in the red. Some of the biggest losers included Macquarie Group (MQG), down 3.2pct to $27.91 and Woodside Petroleum (WPL) off 1.9pct to $34.04.

BHP Billiton ( BHP ) announced plans to close one of its metallurgical coal mines in Queensland, which has been losing money due to weaker prices and higher costs. The decision was announced just a day before another round of strikes was due to hit the Norwich Park and other mines that BHP jointly owns with Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation following a drawn-out dispute over a new workplace agreement. BHP shares closed down 2pct today to $33.59.

There were a few bright spots today, with retailer Harvey Norman (HVN) firming by 1.1pct to $1.87 and CSL Limited ( CSL ) up 0.4pct to $35.39.

Economic data released today was disappointing, but consolidated the case for a rate cut in May. The Westpac/Melbourne Institute index of consumer confidence fell by 1.6pct in April to a reading of 94.5, an eight-month low. Sentiment levels are down 10.3pct on a year ago. The 12-month rolling average of the consumer sentiment index hit a 31-month low of 97.4 in April.

Meanwhile, the number of new owner-occupier housing loans fell by 2.5pct in February. The value of all home lending fell by 1.3pct with owner-occupier loans down by 4pct while investment loans rose by 4.4pct. The average home loan across Australia stood at $282,800, down 4pct on a year ago.

CommSec Economist Savanth Sebastian said of the data "CommSec expects the Reserve Bank to cut rates once more in May in an attempt to inject a degree of confidence and stimulate the domestic economy".

The Australian dollar ended the day's trade at US102.92c, £0.6471 and €78.48c.

On the market overall, a total of 1.84 billion shares were traded, worth $4.12 billion. 258 were up, 731 were down and 397 were unchanged.

At 4.30pm AEST on the ASX24, the share prices futures was at 4252, down 53pts.

Ahead tonight, data on export and import prices are released, together with the Beige Book and monthly federal budget.

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities
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