Australian Stock Market Report – Afternoon 2/20/14

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By Juliette Saly, CommSec Market Analyst | February 20, 2014 6:56 PM EST

EVENING REPORT
(5pm AEDT)

The Australian share market ignored a weak finish on Wall Street and disappointing Chinese economic data to make it five wins in a row today.

The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) added 5.8 points or 0.1 per cent by close to 5421 points.

The market did come off earlier highs after Chinese manufacturing data (Flash PMI) came in lower than expected. The reading came in at a level of 48.3 in February versus expectations of 49.5, although the timing of Lunar New Year is likely to have played a factor.

In company news, Fairfax (FXJ) shares shot up 23 per cent to 88c, their highest level in two years after the media group reported a lift in underlying first half earnings to $93.1 million and doubled its interim dividend to 2c per share.

Wealth management and protection company AMP Limited (AMP) reported a better than expected 2.5% fall in full year profit to $672 million, as weakness from its wealth protection business offset strength in the wealth management arm. Shareholders will receive an 11.5c per share final dividend. AMP shares rose 9.3 per cent to $4.92, their biggest jump in five years.

Construction giant Leighton Holdings (LEI) posted a stronger than expected full year profit of $509 million, while underlying profit rose 30 per cent to $584 million. A 60 cent per share dividend will be paid on the 4th April. LEI rose 4.9 per cent today to $17.21.

In economic news, average weekly ordinary time earnings rose by 1.1 per cent in the six months to November 2013 to be just 2.9 per cent higher than a year ago. Private sector wages rose by 3.0 per cent over the year. Public sector wages rose by 3.2 per cent over the year.

On the market overall, a total of 2.2 billion shares changed hands, worth $6.4 billion. 473 were up, 492 were down and 338 were unchanged.

At 4.30pm AEDT the SFE 200 Futures was at 5381, up four points.

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