Australian Stock Market Report –Afternoon June 17, 2014

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By Tom Piotrowski, CommSec Market Analyst | June 17, 2014 6:44 PM EST

Evening Report
(17:00 AEST)

Once again sellers have focussed their attention on the 5400 level for the ASX 200, and once again buyers have shown their willingness to defend the key psychological level. The lows of the session were made in the first half an hour of trade. Thereafter sellers retired for several hours and the index recovered to trade at the best levels of the day at 5417. With an afternoon largely free of event, the index retreated to end the session flat.

Most sectors ended with a minus sign in front of them, although it was the miners that remained the preference for sellers. The inexorable decline in the price of iron continued in the last day with a breach of the $90.00 per tonne level, having fallen from $130.00 at the end of last year. Fortescue Metals Group led the large names lower with a decline of almost 3% or 12 cents to $2.96. Amongst the junior names, which are attracting continued attention because of contracting margins, Mount Gibson (MGX) fell by a cent to 66 cents.

Engineering and property services company UGL (UGL) remained under pressure on Tuesday. On Monday the group announced the sale of its real estate business, DTZ, for $1.2 billion. Whilst the result is expected to wipe out debt and allow new acquisitions the transaction price is seen as being below the $1.5 billion that had been mooted in the market earlier this year. UGL shares ended the day down by 6% or 43 cents at $6.55

Woodside Petroleum (WPL) remained in a trading halt this afternoon. Earlier this morning it was announced that Royal Dutch Shell PLC will sell 19% of it´s holding in WPL in a transaction that will yield $6.1 billion. 50% of the shares will be sold to institutional investors, while Woodside would buy the remainder. Shell will retain a 4.1% stake.

In the face of a mix of influences on the economy, the Reserve Bank has downplayed factors that could have lent support to a change in the stance monetary policy. Neither the recent Federal Budget nor weaker consumer confidence figures were regarded as developments warranting easier monetary policy. Today's minutes consolidate the view that rates remain firmly on hold.

May CPI figures are due in the US tonight. Prices are likely to track higher to 1.9%pa, which only a modest acceleration in US inflation and unlikely to figure in the thinking on interest rate settings.

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