The Australian sharemarket lost ground for the first time in
three sessions, with the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) down 0.5 pct
or 21.7 pts to 4382.5. All sectors ended in the red with the
exception of the telcos, with Telstra (TLS) up 0.3 pct or 1 cent
Last week, most markets lost ground partly due to lower than
expected growth numbers in China and uncomfortably high borrowing
costs for the Spanish government. This was one of the reasons
that European markets fell by around 2.5 pct on Friday night.
Half of Spain's younger workforce (workers under 25 years of age)
are out of work while Spain has the Eurozone's worst jobless rate
at 23.3 pct. This is even worse than the official Greek
The miners were the hardest hit with the S&P/ASX 200
Materials index down 1.04 pct or 114.5 pts to 10844.7.
Australia's second largest miner, Rio Tinto (
) dropped 1.15 pct or 76 cents to $65.19 while the larger BHP
) eased by 0.46 pct or 16 cents to $34.31.
Over the coming days we are expected to hear from some of the
country's biggest names in the mining and energy sector with
their quarterly updates and production reports out. This will
include Fortescue Metals (FMG), BHP, Santos (
) and Woodside Petroleum (WPL).
Three of the four major banks fell slightly while ANZ Banking
Group (ANZ) managed to rise 0.61 pct or 14 cents to $23.12.
The retail sector was mixed, with Kathmandu (KMD), David Jones
(DJS), Myer (MYR) and Harvey Norman (HVN) all losing ground while
) and JB Hi-Fi (JBH) improved modestly.
Regional subscription television company, Austar (AUN)
announced that it had received court approval relating to
Foxtel's acquisition of the company. Foxtel's $2 billion takeover
of AUN received a tick of approval from the Federal Court last
week. The company announced that AUN will be suspended from
quotation on the market from the close of business today. It
first listed on the ASX in 1999 and has jumped by 27 pct since
the start of the year.
On the economic front today, lending finance figures were
released for the month of February and the latest weekly petrol
price report was issued by the Australian Institute of Petroleum
Total lending finance fell by 6.5 pct in February, with falls
recorded in the housing, personal and commercial lending
Commsec Economist, Savanth Sebastian said that "The lack of
lending is clearly a dampener on future activity, as any pickup
in borrowing tends to lead to spending down the track. It is
clear that businesses and consumers are lacking confidence at
present. And while households and businesses remain cashed up,
there does not seem to be a catalyst on the horizon that will
shift this conservative stance in the near term. The downside
risks to the global economy and tough trading conditions
domestically will continue to restrict momentum and dampen
Petrol prices rose slightly last week but prices are starting
to stabilise. Commsec expects the national average price of
unleaded petrol to ease by between 2 and 3 cents a litre over the
Mr Sebastian said that "Over the past week petrol prices have
risen to fresh 3½ year highs, and while it has certainly been
tough few months for motorists, it does seem like that a reprieve
is around the corner. Regional oil prices have fallen in the past
week and even the Aussie dollar has managed to trek modestly
higher - all pointing to falling pump prices in a fortnight's
Looking ahead to the rest of the week, tomorrow the Reserve
) board minutes will be issued. This will give us further insight
into the current thinking of the central bank on rates. The RBA
is likely to await the next batch of quarterly inflation figures
out early next week before making a decision on rates. Should
inflation (the change in prices for goods and services paid by
consumers) remain under control, the RBA would be more likely to
cut rates next month for the first time in 2012.
Markets in the region struggled today following the horrid
session for most markets in both Europe and the U.S on Friday.
Shares in the U.S were down by more than 1 pct while European
stocks fell by around 2.5 pct. This was due in part to borrowing
costs for the Spanish government rising to uncomfortably high
levels. Half of Spain's younger workforce (people under 25 years
of age) is currently out of work while almost one in four people
in Spain are unemployed. It currently has the highest jobless
rate of any Eurozone nation (17 nations make up the
Shares in Japan are down 1.41 pct, South Korean equities are
0.73 pct lower, stocks in Hong Kong are down 0.69 pct while
China's Shanghai Composite Index is down by 0.36 pct.
It will be a relatively quiet week for economic news in the
region this week however Japan's latest trade balance (exports
less imports) will be out for the month of March on Thursday
while the Bank of Japan's Governors Shirakawa will be delivering
a talk in New York.
In Europe tonight, the latest trade balance will be issued for
the Eurozone at 7pm (AEST). Looking ahead, the U.K's jobless rate
will be released on Wednesday while consumer confidence reports
are scheduled for issue in both Germany and the broader Eurozone
over the coming days.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be issuing its
World Economic Outlook tomorrow night. This tends to be a large
document consisting of a few hundred pages and gives a broad
overview of the health of the global economy. The IMF also
produces forecasts for most regions and large economies of the
world. The results of this report could influence markets in our
region on Wednesday.
In the U.S tonight, 12 large American companies will be
issuing their March quarter (January to March) profit results.
This includes big names such as Charles Schwab (U.S Brokerage
Company) and Citigroup (one of America's largest banks). The
American retail sales report for March will be out at 11.30pm
(AEST), with sales expected to lift by a modest 0.4 pct over the
Hundreds of major companies will be delivering their quarterly
profit results over the week, with household names such as
Coca-Cola, Intel, IBM, McDonalds, Yahoo!, YUM! Brands (the owner
of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell) and Microsoft among them. The
latest reports on the construction and property markets will be
announced over the coming days also.
Volume of shares traded came in at 1.67 billion today, worth
$3.2 billion. 341 shares were up, 641 were weaker and 380 ended
At 4.30pm AEST on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the ASX24
futures contract is up 0.16 pct or 7 pts to 4310.
Due to daylight savings, most major European markets are now
trading between 5pm (AEST) and 1.30am (AEST). Futures in Europe
are pointing to a slightly weaker start to trade tonight.
Dow Futures are currently a little lower; indicating that U.S
stocks could open in the red tonight. Due to daylight savings
taking place in the second week of March in North America and the
end of daylight savings in Australia, U.S markets will now be
trading between 11.30pm (AEST) and 6am (AEST).
Turning to currencies, the Australian dollar (AUD) buys
US103.3 cents. The AUD is currently trading at £65.2 pence and
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