The Australian share market is tracking higher for the eighth consecutive session, following a positive session on Wall Street and generally upbeat company forecasts.
In early trade, the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) reached an intra-day high of 5471.8 points, its highest level since mid-June 2008. The ASX 200 (XJO) is holding at levels not seen since October last year.
In company news, insurer QBE (QBE) has posted a US$254 million full year net loss after tax, as expected and previously flagged to the market in December. The insurer will pay a final dividend of 12 cents per share, which is down 36 per cent on last year's payment. QBE shares are moving higher however as this result was expected and mainly due to write-downs associated with its North American business. At lunchtime QBE is up 4.7 per cent to $12.19.
Elsewhere Ramsay Health Care (RHC) shares are firmer by 6.4 per cent to $47.43 after the healthcare firm forecast full year underlying earnings growth of 12-14 per cent, with underlying profit expected to increase by 16-18 per cent on the year. First half net profit came in as expected, up 14 per cent to $157.8 million. An increased interim dividend of 34 cents per share will be paid to eligible shareholders.
Cabcharge (CAB) has reported an eight per cent increase in 1H profit to $36 million and lifted its revenue by 3.5 per cent to $103.3 million. An increased interim dividend of 15 cents per share will be paid. CAB is trading higher by 6 per cent to $4.27 as this result was above expectations and the company looks to have a strong balance sheet.
Oil Search (OSH ) has been placed in a trading halt pending an acquisition announcement. The Papua New Guinea based oil and gas producer was due to release its full year results today, OSH last traded at $8.57.
Graincorp (GNC) has announced it expects a full year profit between US$80 - 100 million, down significantly from last year's FY $175 million result. Graincorp says the guidance depends upon the volumes of grain during the second half, foreign exchange rates and the duration of the drought. GNC shares are lower to $7.79 at lunchtime.
Flight Centre (FLT) shares are higher by 0.7 per cent to $49.67. The travel company will now issue results tomorrow instead of today.
The Australian dollar is holding around US90c with no major economic data released today.
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