It was always going to be a tall order for stocks to stay in positive territory today. US markets ended lower on Friday, albeit by a modest margin. Additionally there were several large stocks going ex-dividend, including Telstra (TLS), Woodside Petroleum (WPL), Suncorp (SUN) and Wesfarmers (WES). Given these influences the market acquitted itself reasonably well to finish largely unchanged on the session.
Another headwind working against the market today was the fall for Chinese stocks. The Shanghai Composite Index fell to the lowest levels in two weeks driven by re-newed concerns that banks will tighten property loans. This was despite figures that showed a moderation in home prices. Official China data showed that the average new home prices in 70 Chinese cities rose at a slower pace year-on-year in January. The moderation was the first in a year reflecting an easing in demand for homes and limits on mortgages capped price gains.
Monadelphous´s (MND) shares rose on news of a $680 million construction contract associated with the Ichthys gas project in Darwin. MND will install piping, mechanical and structural steel for the utility and offsite area commencing immediately with completion date of mid-2016. The project involves the piping of LNG from the Browse Basin off the Kimberley coast to Darwin for processing and export. MND shares finished up $1.08, or 6.5 per cent, at $17.66
A heavy loss has sent Boart Longyear (BLY) shares lower. The drilling group announced a net loss of $US620 million in 2013, down from a $US68 million profit in 2012. BLY didn´t provide earnings guidance for 2014, citing market uncertainty. BLY shares finished at 36 cents, a fall of 6.5 cents or 15 per cent.
In Europe tonight, the February German IFO survey (key monthly survey of the business climate in Germany) is released at 9am GMT. The IFO has historically had a strong correlation with moves in the German manufacturing PMI. The pullback in the German manufacturing PMI in February, means the market will be on guard for downside risks to the market consensus which could in turn put downward pressure on the Euro.
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