Australian Stock Market Report – Afternoon 3/20/14

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By Steven Daghlian, CommSec Market Analyst | March 20, 2014 6:06 PM EST

EVENING REPORT
(4.45pm AEDT)

Local stocks fell for the second time this week, with the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) down 1.1 per cent. No sectors escaped the selling by the close of trade, with losses between 0.2 per cent and 2 per cent recorded across the market. The mining sector was the biggest drag, slumping by 2.03 per cent. Australia's four largest miners - BHP Billiton (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO), Newcrest Mining (NCM) and Fortescue Metals (FMG) wiped out 11.8 pts from the All Ordinaries Index (which fell by 60 pts today).

Reuters
An office worker is reflected in the window of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying the ASX50 curve for Wednesday in central Sydney August 7, 2013.

Department store owner Myer (MRY) ended 5.26 per cent softer, while its competitor and takeover target David Jones (DJS) slipped by 3.6 per cent. MYR posted an 8 per cent slump in first half profit to $81 million. Despite the drop in earnings, it was still better than expected. The gross profit margin was lower than forecast, costs were lower, while sales growth was quite modest. 

Myer's sales grew by 0.3 per cent over the half while like for like sales (excludes impact of new stores and closures of others) rose by 1.2 per cent. A fully franked 9 cents per share interim dividend was announced; a 1cps fall on the corresponding period last year and 1cps lower than David Jones's dividend declared yesterday. Looking ahead, the outlook for the full year was weaker than hoped for, which put downward pressure on MYR shares. Management seems cautious with consumer confidence not shooting the lights out. Generally, the more pessimistic consumers are about their finances and the economy, the less likely they are to spend money at the retail level. 

Across the region, Japan's Nikkei slumped by 1.49 per cent, China's Shanghai Composite fell by 0.32 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slumped by 1.44 per cent. 

At the close, 2.23 billion shares changed hands worth $7.67 billion. 323 stocks were higher, 583 ended in the red and 354 were flat. 

Looking ahead tonight marks day one of the European Union's Economic Summit. In the U.S. data on existing home sales, weekly jobless claims and the results of bank stress test will be out overnight.

No major economic data or corporate events are scheduled in Australia tomorrow. 

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(Photo: Reuters / )
An office worker is reflected in the window of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying the ASX50 curve for Wednesday in central Sydney August 7, 2013.
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