Australian Stock Market Report - Afternoon 12/02/2011


The Australian sharemarket managed to rise for the fifth consecutive day today with the All Ordinaries index (XAO) up 1.4 pct or 58.2 pts to 4346.3. Almost all sectors improved with Information Technology (I.T) stocks the only exceptions. This week the market improved by close to 7 pct. This was in stark contrast to the 4.5 pct pullback which took place last week.

The S&P/ASX 200 Financials index (a way to measure the market performance of the companies in the financial sector such as the big four banks) rose 1.7 pct or 68.3 pts to 4078.9. Westpac ( WBC ) was the best performer today after rising by 2.08 pct or 44 cents to $21.57, Commonwealth Bank of Australia ( CBA ) gained 1.95 pct or 95 cents to $49.55, ANZ Banking Group (ANZ) improved by 1.85 pct or 38 cents to $20.88 and National Australia Bank (NAB) ended 1.57 pct or 38 cents higher to $24.55.

Australia's big four major banks had their credit ratings downgraded by one of the big three ratings agencies, Standard & Poor's today. One of the main reasons for the downgrade was the fact that sourcing cash from offshore providers has become more expensive for the banks. This did not seem to adversely impact the sector however.

The S&P/ASX 200 Materials index (a measure of the mining sector's performance) gained 0.95 pct or 107.4 pts to 11468.8. The world's largest miner BHP Billiton ( BHP ) rose 0.83 pct or 30 cents to $36.65 while RIO Tinto ( RIO ) ended 0.61 pct or 40 cents higher to $66.32.

This week there were around 450 Australian companies holding their Annual General Meetings (AGMs) with shareholders, however over the past two days the number of businesses meeting has significantly diminished.

Department store owner, David Jones (DJS) held its AGM today and highlighted the fact that this Christmas period could be a tough one for the retail sector. DJS rose 0.35 pct or 1 cent to $2.89.

Tonight, a spokesperson from the European Central Bank (ECB) will be delivering a speech.

In the U.S, the latest report on non-farm payrolls will be released. This is a monthly report showing the change in the number of employed people in both the private and government sectors and is an official government paper. Economists are currently expecting that around 135,000 jobs were created in November and for the unemployment rate to remain at 9 pct.

The jobless rate is still around 3 pct higher (worse) now than it was just three years ago during the time of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). This is one area of the U.S economy which is yet to significantly improve and is an absolutely necessary component for a fully-fledged American recovery.

As is the case at the beginning of a new month, the economic calendar is looking relatively full over the next week. The Reserve Bank's ( RBA ) monthly meeting on monetary policy will be one of the highlights of the trading week. The RBA meets 11 times a year (excluding January) on the first Tuesday of the new month.

The RBA cut rates for the first time this calendar year last month by 25 basis points (i.e 0.25 pct). The central bank historically has rarely only cut rates for one month only without making another cut in the months soon after.

Around the middle of the week we will find out the extent to which the Australian economy has grown. The market is expecting growth of around 1.2 pct for the September quarter (July to September).

The week will be topped off with a speech by Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens who is scheduled to speak at the Inaugural Warren Hogan Memorial Lecture. This is an annual series devoted to the economic analysis of public policy issues. Warren Hogan was a Professor of Economics at the University of Sydney for 30 years.

The volume of shares traded came in at 2.2 billion today, worth $5.7 billion. 572 shares were up, 421 finished weaker and 362 ended unchanged.

At 4.30pm AEDT on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the ASX24 futures contract is up 0.12 pct or 5 pts to 4303.

Due to daylight savings, most major European markets are now trading between 7pm (AEDT) and 3.30am (AEDT). Futures in Europe are pointing to a stronger start to trade tonight.

Dow Jones futures are currently higher, indicating that U.S stocks could start in the black tonight when American markets open at 1.30am (AEDT). Due to the Americans going back an hour on November 5, U.S markets will be trading between 1.30am (AEDT) and 8am (AEDT).

Turning to currencies, the Australian dollar (AUD) has continued to remain above parity for the fourth consecutive day with the AUD buying US102.1 cents.

Steven Daghlian, 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.

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

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