AFTERNOON REPORT (5pm AEDT)
Local stocks have started the trading week on a positive note, boosted by hopes of good results during the busiest week of reporting seas. European markets were weaker on Friday while US markets closed flat. Locally, the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) added 28.3pts or 0.6pct to 5082.9pts, its highest level since September 8, 2008.
Both the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) and Telstra (TLS) traded without rights to their dividends today but that failed to drag down the market. CBA will pay shareholders $1.64 per share, while Telstra is sticking to its 14cps dividend. CBA shares closed down $1.25 or 1.9pct to $65.78 while TLS was off 6c or 1.3pct to $4.57.
Elsewhere the financial sector was up 1.1pct while consumer discretionary stocks added 0.9pct.
Among the companies reporting today, Bluescope Steel (BSL) posted another 1H loss, although underlying earnings came in at $10 million, compared to a $136 million loss in the last period. BSL shares rose to a four and a half year high on the result, closing at $4.38, up 15.4pct.
Also today, strong profit growth for Bendigo and Adelaide Bank (BEN) which more than tripled its 1H profit and says business conditions and confidence have improved. BEN shares rose 3.3pct today to $10.17.
Boart Longyear (BLY), which provides drilling services and drilling products to the global mining industry, reported a 57pct drop in FY profit to US$68.2M. Revenue was flat at US$2B. BLY's share price fell today on fears of a further downturn in revenue. BLY closed down 8pct to $1.965.
And packaging company Amcor (AMC) saw its share price rise 2.6pct to $9.14 after increasing its first half profit by 16pct to $238M and forecasting growth in FY underlying profit.
Full analysis of all the companies reporting today can be found here:
In economic news today, a record 1,120,679 new vehicles were sold in the year to January 2013. However in seasonally adjusted terms, vehicle sales fell by 2.4pct in January after lifting by 2.7pct in December.
As CommSec forecast last week, the national weekly petrol price has risen by over 2 cents a litre. According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average retail petrol price rose by 2.4 cents last week to a three-month high of 148.6 cents a litre.
The Australian wholesale petrol price and Singapore regional petrol price already stand at 10-month highs. As a result CommSec expects a further 3 cent a litre increase in pump prices over the next 7-10 days taking the average price above $1.50 a litre.
CommSec estimates that average monthly household spending on petrol has lifted by $12 since the start of the year to over $178.00.
The Australian dollar ended the day's trade at US102.95c, £0.6645 and €77.18c.
On the market overall, a total of 2.2 billion shares were traded, worth $9.3B. 519 were up, 527 were down and 360 were unchanged.
At 4.30pm AEDT the SFE 200 Future was at 5042, up 47pts.
Wall Street is closed tonight for Presidents' Day holiday.
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