Australian Stock Market Report – Evening 12/18/13

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By Juliette Saly, CommSec Market Analyst | December 18, 2013 5:58 PM EST

(5pm AEDT)

Australian stocks finished slightly weaker today, as investors elected to remain on the sidelines until the US Federal Reserve delivers the outcome of its two day policy meeting.

It is widely expected the "Fed" will announce it will begin to taper its US$85 billion a month bond buying program by around US$10 billion a month. The announcement will be made around 6am AEDT tomorrow.

The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) today closed lower by 6.8 points or 0.1 per cent to 5099.3 points.

Online accommodation provider (WTF) was the worst performer on the ASX 200 today, dropping 31.8 per cent to $2.85 after flagging a weaker first half profit. WTF reported a $27.5M 1H profit last year, which was down 4.6 per cent. It's forecasting this year 1H will come in between $21.9 to $22.6 million

Bega Cheese (BGA) appears set to pull out of the three way chase for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (WCB) telling the ASX today it won't be increasing its offer further. Canada's Saputo and Australia's biggest dairy company Murray Goulburn remain in the race, with Murray Goulburn declaring its $9.50 per share offer the most superior. WCB shares fell 0.9 per cent today to $9.19.

Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens delivered testimony to the House of Representatives Economics Committee today, labelling the past year as "not quite good as hoped for, but not as bad as feared". The Governor indicated that the recent fall in the Australian dollar has been a welcome development "The exchange rate has also behaved, of late, more as might be expected in such circumstances: that is, it has declined".

The Australian dollar ended the day's trade at US89c.

1.7 billion shares changed hands today, worth $5 billion. 400 are up, 491 down and 351 unchanged.

Ahead tonight, the Federal Reserve hands down its monetary policy decision.

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