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Australian Stock Market Report – Afternoon 2/3/14

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By Steven Daghlian, CommSec Market Analyst | February 3, 2014 5:46 PM EST

EVENING REPORT
(5pm AEDT)

Locals stocks finished largely unchanged, with holidays across the region keeping a cap on trading volumes. This week, the highlight locally is likely to be the Reserve Bank's statement tomorrow and a monthly jobs report in the U.S. on Friday.

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Markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam were closed today for the Lunar New Year celebrations. January was the worst start to a new year since 2010 when stocks slumped by 5.2 per cent.

U.S. stocks finished around 1 per cent softer on Friday, with sluggish earnings results from energy giant Chevron and online retailer Amazon hurting the market.

The first half (July-December 2013) profit reporting season has kicked off today, with discount retailer JB Hi-Fi (JBH) posting a 10 per cent jump in profit to $90.3 million. The gross margin of 21.63 per cent was a 11bps rise on the previous year; a positive sign that JBH is increasing revenues, while making more money on each sale. This is particularly a positive considering our weaker dollar. Sales growth was robust and JBH has a more conservative approach to debt - borrowings now at just $49.4m ($40.6m less than last year). Online sales rose by 15.4 per cent and are growing at 30 per cent/yr (only 2.2 per cent of total sales).

JBH pre-released its result last week; to counteract weak updates from The Reject Shop (TRS) and Super Retail Group (SUL) which has meant few surprises today. JBH delivered a fully-franked 55c dividend; payable to investors on 28 Feb. Looking ahead, JBH has maintained sales guidance of 6%-8% growth over FY14 (July 2013-June 2014) and expects NPAT between $126m-$129m (an 8.3%-10.8% rise).

Clothing retailer, Country Road (CTY) finished flat despite recording a 72 per cent rise in net profit to $38 million. It declared a 17.9cps dividend for the half. CTY has outperformed the broader market this year; rising by 12.3 per cent since January. The energy sector rose by 0.78 per cent while a 1 per cent slump from ANZ held back the banks.

By the close, only 1.63 billion shares changed hands, worth $3.34 billion. 373 stocks rose, 530 finished lower and 354 were unchanged.

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