Australian Stock Market Report – Midday 3/21/14

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By Steven Daghlian, CommSec Market Analyst | March 21, 2014 12:50 PM EST

MID-SESSION REPORT 
(12pm AEDT)

The Australian sharemarket is edging higher at lunch, following a hefty 1.12 per cent slump recorded on Thursday. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) is up 0.34 per cent, with mining stocks the biggest contributors to today's strength. U.S. stocks improved by 0.7 per cent overnight.

Reuters
Asian Shares Bounce from 4-week low (Reuters).

The unrest continues in Ukraine however; with President Obama announcing additional economic sanctions against Russia. This has kept a lid on the market's gains. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) is down 0.3 per cent this week and has weakened by 2.7 per cent over the past fortnight. A number of disappointing economic reports issued in China last week was a drag. 

BHP Billiton (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO), Newcrest Mining (NCM) and Fortescue Metals (FMG) are all rising and contributing 4.7pts to the XAO's gains at lunch. Mining stocks are down for the fourth straight week and are down by 5.9 per cent since the start of March; making it the worst month since June 2013. 

Gold miners are on the receiving end of some buying support today, with Newcrest Mining (NCM) up 1.98 per cent or 21 cents to $10.82. NCM has slumped by 10 per cent since the start of this week, following comments by the head of the U.S. central bank Janet Yellen. The Fed Reserve's chair signalled that interest rates could rise sooner than previously expected, which has resulted in the selling of the precious metal and the appreciation of the greenback. 

Metcash (MTS) is down 9.5 per cent after downgrading its profit guidance for FY14 by 13-15 per cent last night. MTS distributes groceries to 1500 IGA supermarkets and has interests in Autobarn and Mitre 10. 

Online travel agency Webjet (WEB) is down 3.93 per cent as it trades ex-dividend today for its 6.25 cent per share interim distribution. The dividend is payable to eligible shareholders on 11 April. 

Japan's markets are closed due to a public holiday (Vernal Equinox Day). Japan is Australia's second biggest trading partner, purchasing close to 20 per cent of our exports. 

At lunch, 757m stocks have been traded, worth $1.22 billion. 437 are higher, 296 stocks are in the red and 271 are unchanged.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Asian Shares Bounce from 4-week low (Reuters).
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