Australian Stock Market Report – Midday 2/21/14

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By Steven Daghlian, CommSec Market Analyst | February 21, 2014 3:13 PM EST

MID-SESSION REPORT
(12.15pm AEDT)

The Australian sharemarket is higher at lunch for the sixth consecutive trading day and for the 11th time in 12 sessions. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) is up 0.6 per cent, with the miners the start performers. The last time the XAO improved from Monday through to Friday was 14 months ago. Largely positive economic news in the U.S. (relating to jobs and manufacturing) helped lift global markets overnight.

The miners are leading the gains, rising by 1.2 per cent. BHP Billiton (BHP) is trading at its best level in 2.5 years, up 1.3 per cent. The smaller and more iron ore focused Rio Tinto (RIO) is 0.76 per cent firmer and at a 12 month high. Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals (FMG) is 2.2 per cent higher and hovering around the $6/share mark (a level it has struggled to rise above over the past few years).

The earnings season continues today, with Crown (CWN), IAG, Santos (STO) and National Australia Bank (NAB) issuing results.

Casino operator, Crown (CWN) posted a 64.3% rise in net profit to $382.5m. This was a weaker than expected result, partly blamed on weak consumer confidence. CWN declared an 18 cent/share, 50% franked interim dividend which will be payable to eligible investors on 11th April. CWN shares are down 4 per cent.

IAG, the owner of NRMA issued a 39.3% jump in half year net profit to $642m, together with a 15 cent half year dividend. The result was helped by cost cuts and was better than expected. IAG shares are up 1.7 per cent.

Energy company, Santos (STO), reported a weaker than expected full year profit of $516m. The result was boosted by record crude oil sales and higher gas and oil prices. Net profit was negatively impacted by a rise in depreciation expenses and exploration costs. STO is the largest producer of natural gas to the Australian domestic market, supplying around 14% of our gas needs. STO shares are down 2.6 per cent.

No major economic data is scheduled for release in Australia today.

The Australian dollar briefly rose above US90c this morning; however is now at US89.8c.

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