The Australian sharemarket at lunch is improving for the third day running and for the ninth time in 12 sessions. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) is up 0.5 per cent or 21.2 pts to 4583.6. The defensive healthcare and telco sectors are slipping modestly but all other industries are improving, with the miners the standouts.
Last night, signs of progress being made on the U.S fiscal cliff talks helped push commodity prices higher. Of benefit to our resource sector was the fact that China's iron ore imports are close to a 2-year high according to Monday's trade data. BHP Billiton (BHP) is up 1.49 per cent while the smaller Rio Tinto (RIO) is 1.36 per cent or 83.5 cents higher to $62.11. Australia's third largest iron ore miner, Fortescue Metals (FMG) is 3.83 per cent or 15.5 cents stronger to $4.20, taking the improvements so far this week to 10.95 per cent.
Three of the four major banks are higher, with National Australia Bank (NAB) up 0.61 per cent or 15 cents to $24.73, ANZ Banking Group (ANZ) is 0.4 per cent or 10 cents higher to $24.94, while Westpac (WBC) is only slightly higher. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is unchanged at $60.90.
Transfield Services (TSE) is up 1.02 per cent or 1.75 cents to $1.73 after winning $140 million worth of new work; $45 million of which is for three years work for Woodside Petroleum (WPL) in Western Australia.
One of the world's biggest banks, HSBC is set to pay $1.9 billion to settle a money laundering probe, making it one of the biggest such settlements in banking history. Keep your eye on 0005.hk (HSBC's Hong Kong listing) when it opens for trade at 12.30pm (AEDT).
On the economic front, the latest National Bank Business Survey has disappointed once again. In fact, Australian businesses are at their most pessimistic levels since May 2009 according to the report while conditions are also contracting. The survey is conducted on around 350 businesses across the country.
Following the start of daylight savings in October, major markets in the region will be trading between the hours mentioned below until April 2013.
The Hong Kong sharemarket trades in two sessions each day and will now open for trade between 12.30pm (AEDT) and 3pm (AEDT) while the second session is between 4pm (AEDT) and 7pm (AEDT).
Out of Japan, the first session will be between 11am (AEDT) and 1pm (AEDT) while the second session is between 2.30pm (AEDT) and 5pm (AEDT).
The Singapore exchange will be open for trade between 12pm and 3.30pm (AEDT) for the first session and then between 5pm and 8pm (AEDT) for the second.
U.S futures are currently pointing to a slightly stronger start to trade tonight. The U.S market trades between 1.30am (AEDT) and 8am (AEDT).
So far in trade at lunch, 511 million shares have been traded worth $1.27 billion. 397 shares are up, 349 are lower and 329 are currently unchanged.
The Australian dollar (AUD) is stronger and buys US104.7 cents, €80.94 cents and £65.1 pence.
The AUD is the world's fifth most traded currency behind the U.S dollar, the Euro, Japanese Yen and British Pound. The AUD accounts for around 7 pct of all foreign exchange trades.
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