AFTERNOON REPORT (5pm AEDT)
Positive jobs data out of the US on Friday failed to give a boost to local stocks today. The main All Ordinaries Index (XAO) finished slightly lower, down 4.8pts or 0.1pct to 4738.1. On Friday, the S&P 500 Index in the US hit a five year high, while the Dow Jones Index was up 3.8pct on the week, its best weekly win since December 2007 as lawmakers agreed on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff and December jobs numbers came in higher than expected.
The local share market was victim to an elaborate hoax today. An anti-coal activist sent out a press release purportedly from the ANZ Bank (ANZ), claiming the lender was withdrawing its $1.2 billion loan facility to Whitehaven Coal (WHC) for environmental reasons. The fake press release saw WHC shares plunge 6pct, wiping $314 million off their value, before they were placed in a trading halt. WHC resumed from trade after the ANZ confirmed the press release was a hoax and that it remained "fully supportive" of Whitehaven. Whitehaven announced last month that it had received the ANZ loan, which replaced existing bank facilities, with the funds to be used to finance its flagship Maules Creek development in NSW. WHC shares ended the day's trade down 0.6pct to $3.50 after opening the day' session at $3.57. Shares in the ANZ rose 0.6pct to $25.41.
The big mining players fell victim to weaker metals prices after investors booked profits on the London Metals Exchange overnight. Shares in BHP Billiton (BHP) slipped by 0.3pct to $37.81 while Rio Tinto (RIO) was off 1.7pct to $67.40. Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) rose in response to a higher iron ore price, up 0.6pct to $4.89, with spot iron ore closing up 2.3pct in London to US$153.30/mt.
Rare earths miner Lynas (LYC) announced to the ASX that it expects to be producing finished products from its Malaysian plant within weeks. LYC has successfully commissioned the cracking and rare earth extraction units at the plant, with those units now producing a sulphate that is to be fed into extraction units for the ultimate production of rare earth products. Those products are used in products ranging from digital televisions, mp3 players and fluorescent light bulbs. LYC shares soared on today's announcement, up 14.4pct to $0.715.
The oil price was slightly higher overnight, worth US$93.09 a barrel. Shares in Caltex (CTX) closed down 0.6pct to $18.82 while Woodside Petroleum (WPL) was up 0.1pct to $34.60.
Online retail shopping surged in November, according to a survey released today. The NAB's Online Retail Sales Index rose by 241pts, up 32pts from October, as consumers bought their Christmas presents in time for a December delivery. Year-on-year growth rose 27pct in November, slightly up from 26pct in October. Shares in Myer Limited (MYR) rose 1.4pct today to $2.24 while David Jones (DJS) closed unchanged at $2.40.
According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of unleaded petrol fell by 2.4 cents a litre to 138.6 c/l in the week to January 6. The metropolitan price fell by 3.3 c/l to 135.4 c/l, while the regional average price fell by 0.6 c/l to 145.1 c/l. The average diesel price was down by 0.2 cents a litre to 150.5 cents.
"The good news is that the national average petrol price is at 22-week lows and unleaded petrol has been selling below the wholesale cost in many cities for the past week," said CommSec Chief Economist Craig James of the data. "The bad news is that it can't last and unleaded petrol prices could lift up to 4 cents a litre over the next fortnight as recent increases in wholesale prices flow through to pump prices."
The Australian dollar ended the day's session at US104.72c, £0.6535 and €80.35c.
On the market overall, a total of 1.28 billion shares were traded, worth $3.3 billion. 474 were up, 440 were down and 360 were unchanged.
At 4,30pm AEDT, the SFE 200 Futures index was at 4692, down 13pts.
Ahead tonight, the employment trends report is released in the US.
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