The Australian sharemarket kicked off the session and the week largely flat, with the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) down just a few points. At lunch however, the XAO is managing to edge higher by 0.10 per cent or 6.9 pts to 4996.3. It will be interesting to see if the ASX 200 Index (XJO) and the XAO can crack through the 5000.0 mark and remain above that level for the first time in years.
European shares rose on Friday, recording their biggest weekly gain since late 2008 on hopes Eurozone leaders were coming together to find a solution to the Eurozone debt crisis.
It could be a slightly quiet week for markets globally due to a large number of public holidays in the region. The Chinese sharemarket will be closed from Monday through to Friday while markets in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are scheduled for a day of rest today.
JB Hi-Fi (JBH) is up 14.62 per cent or $1.61 to $12.62 after a strong profit result this morning. Between July and December last year, the discount retailer recorded a 3 per cent rise in profit to $82.1 million. It also pointed out that sales were up by as much as 11.7 per cent in January and is also expecting a 7 per cent jump in profit for the year. A higher dividend of 50 cents a share was declared. Other large retailers are also benefiting, with Harvey Norman (HVN) up 5.91 per cent or 13 cents to $2.33, David Jones (DJS) is up 3.04 per cent or 8 cents to $2.71 while Myer (MYR) is 3.09 per cent or 8 cents higher to $2.61.
Australia's second largest miner, Rio Tinto (RIO) is down 0.43 per cent or 30 cents to $69.30 despite a Competition Tribunal decision to not allow third party access to its rail network. BHP Billiton (BHP) is down 0.42 per cent or 16 cents to $37.79 while Fortescue Metals (FMG) is one of the standouts within the sector and is rising by 1.62 per cent or 9 cents to $5.03.
The major banks are mostly stronger with only ANZ Banking Group (ANZ) slipping by 0.71 per cent or 20 cents to $27.92. National Australia Bank (NAB) is the standout and is rising by 1.31 per cent or 38 cents to $29.40. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is 0.51 per cent or 33.5 cents stronger to $65.16 while Westpac (WBC) is up 0.36 per cent or 10 cents to $28.18.
On the economic front today, the December housing finance data has shown that Australians are still not favouring debt. The number of new home loans issued fell for the third straight month, slipping by 1.5 per cent over the month.
This week, the latest lending and confidence figures will be issued while the profit reporting season will pick up steam. Rio Tinto (RIO), the ASX, Wesfarmers (WES) and Westfield (WDC) are all issuing their profit numbers over the next five trading days.
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, 667 million shares have been traded worth just $1.25 billion. 424 shares are up, 399 are lower and 316 are currently unchanged.
The Australian dollar (AUD) buys US103.1 cents, €77.1 cents and £65.2 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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