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Australian Stock Market Report – Midday 4/3/14

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By Tom Piotrowski, CommSec Market Analyst | April 3, 2014 12:49 PM EST

Mid Session Report
(12:00 AEDT)

The early part of Thursday's trade on the ASX has been marked by a balancing act. On the one hand miners have been a positive influence, although sellers have focussed on the financials. As a result the market has been held to only modest improvements in the hours leading up to lunchtime on the east coast. The ASX 200 peaked with a gain of 15 points in the first hour of trade. Market participation was light with around $1 billion in turnover having changed hands. It could be argued that investors are applying a cautious approach ahead of the US payrolls data due at the end of the week.

Of the big 4 banks the NAB was leading the declines. The lender announced this morning that CEO Cameron Clyne will retire in August, to be replaced by Bank of New Zealand CEO Andrew Thorburn. Mr Thorburn was previously NAB´s head of retail banking, had responsibility for the bank´s Asian and US operations and has led Bank of New Zealand since 2008. 

Miners were generally well supported over the morning helped my improving metals prices. Aluminium prices continued to rise to their highest level this year on supply concerns after Brazil, Alcoa and RUSAL signalled potential cutbacks in aluminium output this year. Copper also lifted on concerns that supply may be constrained in the near term after an earthquake triggered tsunami warnings in Chile, the world's largest copper producer. Gold futures rose on expectations physical demand will lift in China. On the heels of recent chatter around BHP's potential divestment of assets, the miner today announced the sale of its West Musgrave nickel project in Western Australia to Cassini Resources (CZI). Cassini will pay a $250,000 cash deposit in addition to a 2 per cent smelter royalty and a further $10 million 12 months after production starts. CZI shares were at 24 cents a rise 19 cents or more than 430 percent

Retailers were generally higher. Figures released by the ABS showed that retail sales rose by 0.2 per cent in February, which was marginally below an anticipated rise of 0.3 per cent.The figures were seen in the context of improving retail trade has continued to improve over recent quarters. Billabong (BBG) and Pacific Brands (PBG) stood out with gains of around 4 per cent. David Jones (DJS) was one of the better gainers amongst the consumer discretionary stocks with a gain of almost 1.5 per cent.

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