Australian Stock Market Report - Afternoon - 19 November 2012

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By Tom Piotrowski, Market Analyst | November 19, 2012 7:11 PM EST

Since the GFC investors have become accustomed to political inertia at pivotal moments when bipartisanship or farsighted initiatives are required. The matter of the 'Fiscal Cliff' is another inflection point in this regard. When pressed, most commentators would agree that the situation will be resolved to avert a crisis. At the same time most respondents to the question would offer that a resolution will be a piecemeal one rather than a far sighted solution. As a result the new trading week commenced with investors remaining mindful of the way stocks have underperformed in recent weeks. Local investors are faced with the question of whether the market will remain supported at current levels given the political ructions in the US and Europe. As the new trading week got underway, this question remained up in the air.

The ASX200 ended at 4361.4 up 24.6 points or 0.57%. The broader All Ordinaries Index rose 22.5 points or 0.52% to 4382.6. Value was $3.3bln, 1.4 billion trades were reported, 494 stocks finished higher, 418 down, 361 were unchanged.

Whilst most sectors ended higher, the outcomes were less than convincing given the low levels of interest. The energy sector was by far the best improver. The dynamics for oil consumption are on the one hand being directed by slowing growth. Last week the International Energy Agency said the backdrop of slowing growth, particularly the weakness in Europe, was limiting demand for oil. On the other hand tensions in the Middle East have been the balancing item for weakening growth. In recent sessions NYMEX crude has risen more than 3%.

Woodside Petroleum (WPL) shares rose on the heels of environmental approval being granted for the proposed $30 billion Kimberley gas hub at James Price Point in W.A´s Kimberley region. Woodside shares ended at $33.56 up $0.35 or just over 1%. Drillsearch Energy (DLS) said it will raise $50 million in capital to fund its takeover of Acer Energy (ACN). Drillsearch was in a trading halt, whist Acer shares ended flat at 28.5 cents. Santos (STO) said it has made a significant natural gas discovery at its Crown-1 well in the Browse Basin off the coast of Western Australia. Santos indicated it will offer further details on the discovery at its Investor Update on Thursday. STO shares ended higher by 3.8% or 42 cents at $11.30. Paladin (PDN) saw a recovery today having hit a multiyear low last week. PDN shares rose 6.5 cents or 8.5% to $0.83.

Mining services stocks were in focus today. Boart Longyear (BLY) ended at $1.40 up 10.5 cents or 8.1%. The group announced it will be moving its operations Poland in an effort cut costs. The announcement co-incided with a lowering its earnings forecast to a range of $US310 million to $US320 million. Boart had recently guided EBITDA to come in between $US360 million to $US390 million.

Qantas (QAN) shares gained 2 cents or 1.6% to $1.28. An article in the AFR suggested several influential parties including former CEO Geoff Dixon had created a roadmap that might be used to challenge current management. The reported plan would involve the sale of the Frequent Flyer program in addition to the partial float of Jetstar.

Ahead in Europe tonight there is little in the way of data releases to start the week, markets will be focused on broader issues, such as the US fiscal cliff, Greece and Middle East tensions. The next major focus for the local market will be tomorrow's release of the November RBA Board minutes. Although given that the RBA's recent Statement on Monetary Policy was released after the decision to remain on hold in November, the meeting minutes are unlikely to contain any substantial new information.

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