Australia Stock Market Report - Afternoon - 20 November 2012

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By Juliette Saly, CommSec Market Analyst | November 20, 2012 7:12 PM EST

AFTERNOON REPORT

(5pm AEDT) Hopes the US government will reach a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff saw US share markets soar overnight, with the Dow Jones Index adding more than 200 points. Local stocks have followed suit, adding to yesterday's 0.5pct gain with another 0.6pct win today. By close, the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) was higher by 24.9pts to 4407.5pts.

Westpac (WBC) and the National Australia Bank (NAB) were well supported, with $WBC up 1.2pct by close to $24.69 and the $NAB up 1.4pct to $23.69.

Click Frenzy gets underway at 7pm AEDT tonight. It's a first for Australian on-line retailers; a 24 hour sale with savings of between 15-90pct, based on the US phenomenon of Cyber Monday. Myer (MYR) is one of the stores participating, with its share price up 1.9pct to $2.17 today. David Jones (DJS) is launching its own rival, online sale. DJS shares today added 0.8pct to $2.57.

It was a good day for mining stocks. BHP Billiton (BHP) was up 1.1pct to $33.58 while Rio Tinto (RIO) rose 1.4pct to $57.48 and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) gained 4.2pct to $4.01.

Australia's second largest carrier Virgin Australia (VAH) today held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) with CEO John Borghetti telling shareholders the company still expects 8-9pct capacity growth in the first half of this financial year. VAH also expects to post higher earnings this financial year but stopped short of providing specific guidance, citing economic uncertainty. Last year, VAH posted an underlying pre-tax profit of $82.5 million. VAH shares fell 3pct to $0.48 while rival Qantas (QAN) was down 0.8pct to $1.265.

Elsewhere, Ruralco (RHL) booked a FY net profit of $13.8 million, down 7.5pct. The company also remains undecided on whether it will bid for Elders' (ELD) rural services business, despite discussing a potential merger back in September. "If Ruralco did participate, we would be disciplined and would not pursue any acquisition unless it was value-accretive for Ruralco shareholders," Chairman Richard England said in a statement today. ELD yesterday announced a $60.6 million loss for the year, a vast improvement on last year's $395 million loss. ELD shares fell 6.9pct to $0.135 while RHL was firmer by 1.9pct to $3.20.

Elsewhere today, the minutes from the Reserve Bank Board's November meeting were released, suggesting the decision to leave rates on hold on Melbourne Cup Day was finely balanced. The minutes also revealed the RBA maintains an easing bias, although inflation looks to have bottomed out. "Members considered that further easing may be appropriate in the period ahead. However, at this meeting, with prices data for the September quarter slightly higher than expected and recent information on the world economy slightly more positive, the Board judged that the stance of monetary policy was appropriate for the time being". As such CommSec expects the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates by a further 25bps in February.

The International Monetary Fund is said to be considering the inclusion of the Australian dollar in a key survey of central foreign exchange reserves, which would be a vote of confidence in our currency. The survey, Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER), is published by the IMF every quarter. The Aussie dollar ended today's trade at US104.15c, €81.36c, £0.6543 and ¥84.62.

On the market overall, a total of 1.4 billion shares were traded, worth $3.8 billion. 522 were up, 418 were down and 339 were unchanged.

At 4.30pm AEDT the SFE 200 Futures index was at 4397, up 18pts.

Ahead tonight, housing starts and building permits are released in the US.

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