Local shares were up by as much as 0.84 per cent after a few hours of trade, however steadily declined from midday onwards. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) slipped by 0.46 per cent and has slumped by 2.5 per cent in just two sessions due to concerns relating to the Eurozone's third smallest economy, Cyprus.
Tim Wimborne / Reuters
People look at market display indicators through the window of the Australian Stock Exchange in Sydney
One of the more important pieces of economic news out today was the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) March 5 board minutes. The RBA seems content to remain on the interest rate sidelines for the time being however would not hesitate to loosen monetary policy if the situation deteriorated in Europe over the coming months.
The defensive telcos rose modestly while all other sectors lost ground. News today that a Rio Tinto (RIO) executive expects downward pressure on iron ore prices in the second half of the year kept RIO in the red. Its shares have fallen by more than 12 per cent this month. Three of the four major banks lost ground, with the exception of National Australia Bank (NAB) which rose modestly. The financials are down 2.5 per cent this week.
Looking ahead, the latest monthly economic sentiment reading will be issued in Germany tonight at 9pm (AEDT).
In the U.S, housing starts and building permit reports are scheduled for release at 11.30pm (AEDT). Many economists are tipping a 3 per cent rise in the number of housing starts. This essentially measures the change in the number of homes that have kicked off the construction process. Housing starts slumped by 8.5 per cent in January however soared 15 per cent in December.
The two-day monthly meeting of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) will begin tonight. The next few days will be important for markets as new forecasts for the U.S economy will be released while the Chairman, Ben Bernanke is expected to hold a press conference. No change is expected in the Fed's monetary policy stance.
Locally tomorrow, a report on the import of goods over February will be issued.
The Japanese sharemarket will be closed tomorrow due to the Vernal Equinox Day public holiday.
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