Evening Report (17:00)
The ASX 200 acquitted itself well on Wednesday in the face of a mixed picture for regional stocks the index was able to post a fourth consecutive day of gains.
Australia's third biggest iron ore miner, Fortescue Metals (FMG) reported a 260% surge in half year profit to US$1,723m. The result was driven by higher iron ore production, a focus on cutting costs and a steady rise in the iron ore price from June 2013. A better than expected A$0.10 per share interim dividend was declared, payable to eligible investors on 2nd April. FMG shares ended the session lower by 2.3%
Diversified business Wesfarmers Limited (WES) has beaten market expectations with an 11% rise in first half profit to $1.43 billion. The result was driven by strong sales at its Coles supermarket, while Target sales fell almost 53% in the period. Shareholders will receive a fully franked 85c per share dividend. WES shares eased by 0.5 per cent over the session.
Woodside Petroleum (WPL) has reported a net profit for the year ending December 2013 of US$1.75 billion. The figure fell from US$2.98 billion a year earlier due to the one-off benefit of the partial sale of its stake in the Browse Basin. Underlying profit fell by 17% to US$1.70 billion, which was substantially lower than the market's consensus expectation of US$1.80 billion. WPL shares eased by 0,3 per cent
Transport firm Toll Holdings (TOL) reported a 1.4% lift in net profit for the first half of 2014. TOL's profit and earnings were slightly below market expectations. Revenue from Specialised and Domestic Freight was $714 million, higher over the half but hit by the loss of its defence contract to LinFox. Toll did reiterate its full year forecast that it "expects underlying earnings before income tax (EBIT) for 2014 FY to be ahead of the prior year".
AUD was slightly weaker on the day, despite the weaker USD. Today's Q4 Australian wages data was slightly stronger than expected, with public sector wages growth boosting the outcome. This is unlikely to persist, given intentions to tighten fiscal policy. More broadly, the soft Australian labour market is likely to keep wages contained, and offer little challenge to the RBA's neutral policy stance
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