Despite a firmer start this morning, the Australian sharemarket has finished 0.5 per cent lower; adding to yesterday's 1.7 per cent slump (worst day in seven months). Since the start of this week, the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) has lost 2.3 per cent, the worst week for local stocks since the start of December.
Volume was relatively healthy considering the closure of markets in China and Vietnam due to the Lunar New year. The biggest event of the week is yet to come; with the non-farm payrolls (monthly jobs report) issued this Friday in the U.S. This is important as the outcome can play a part in the Fed's decision making process for stimulus tapering.
Almost all sectors finished in the red today, with the exception of consumer discretionary stocks. REA, JB Hi-Fi (JBH) and Country Road (CTY) were three standouts following solid profit results this week. Discount retailer JBH issued a 10 per cent rise in half year profit to $90.3m, its shares are 3.2 per cent firmer today and 6 per cent this week. REA, the company behind realestate.com.au rose by 2.2 per cent and is up 10 per cent this week thanks to a 37 per cent surge in half year profit. Finally, Country Road (CTY) has been the best improver this week, rising by 7.1 per cent today and by 55.2 per cent this week. This makes it the second best week for CTY since floating on the ASX back in 1987! On Monday, the clothing retailer recorded a 72 per cent jump in earnings - its best half to date.
Today, casino operator Echo Entertainment (EGP) posted a lower than expected half year profit of $46.1 million, prompting the resignation of its Chief Executive, John Redmond. The fall in profit was blamed on a lower win rate in VIP (its international business), weak results from private gaming and new levies in NSW and QLD. Sydney's The Star continues to be the main contributor to earnings, accounting for around 70 per cent of its bottom line. Its cost cutting measures are continuing, as EGP aims to save around $60 million and using proceeds from the $70 million sale of its Townsville Casino to improve its existing assets.
1.72 billion shares were traded today, worth $5.3 billion. 404 stocks edged higher, 526 ended in the red and 349 closed unchanged. Tonight, keep your eye on a private sector jobs report in the U.S. (ADP employment report), which is generally considered a good guide of jobs health ahead of the government issued non-farm payrolls this Friday night.
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