Australian Stock Market Report – Afternoon 12/16/13

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By Juliette Saly, CommSec Market Analyst | December 16, 2013 6:22 PM EST

(5.30pm AEDT)

The Santa Claus rally is looking like more and more of a dream, with the Australian share market back in the red today despite Friday's gains.

Fortunately stocks finished off their lows, with the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) down 8.4pts or 0.2 per cent to 5093.1pts by close.

A weaker than expected reading on Chinese manufacturing added to the soft sentiment.

Three of the big four banks closed in the red with the ANZ (ANZ) the only one to close higher.

BHP Billiton (BHP) also weighed on the index, down 0.5 per cent.

Shares in Macquarie Group (MQG) are trading on a post-consolidation basis under the code MQGDA until Thursday 2nd January 2014. Any shares acquired on market will not have an entitlement to Sydney Airports stapled securities distribution.

Insurer IAG (IAG) has made a $1.85 billion move on the insurance unit of Perth conglomerate Wesfarmers (WES), just a week after rival insurer QBE (QBE) issued a shock profit warning. IAG is seeking to raise $1.2 billion in an institutional placement to pay for WES underwriting business. It's expected many investors who sold out of QBE could move into IAG. IAG shares were in a halt today at $5.70, QBE was down another 2.3 per cent to $10.36 and WES rose 0.5 per cent to $41.51.

According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of unleaded petrol fell by 2.1 cents per litre to 151.3 cents a litre in the week to December 15. In the prior week, fuel prices rose by a record 7.3 cents a litre.

On the market overall, a total of 1.4 billion shares changed hands, worth $3.6 billion. 435 were up, 483 were down and 324 were unchanged.

In the US tonight, the Empire State manufacturing index is issued together with the ´´flash´´ purchasing manager's index and revised productivity data.

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