EVENING REPORT (5pm AEDT)
Locals stocks finished largely unchanged, with holidays across the region keeping a cap on trading volumes. This week, the highlight locally is likely to be the Reserve Bank's statement tomorrow and a monthly jobs report in the U.S. on Friday.
Markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam were closed today for the Lunar New Year celebrations. January was the worst start to a new year since 2010 when stocks slumped by 5.2 per cent.
U.S. stocks finished around 1 per cent softer on Friday, with sluggish earnings results from energy giant Chevron and online retailer Amazon hurting the market.
The first half (July-December 2013) profit reporting season has kicked off today, with discount retailer JB Hi-Fi (JBH) posting a 10 per cent jump in profit to $90.3 million. The gross margin of 21.63 per cent was a 11bps rise on the previous year; a positive sign that JBH is increasing revenues, while making more money on each sale. This is particularly a positive considering our weaker dollar. Sales growth was robust and JBH has a more conservative approach to debt - borrowings now at just $49.4m ($40.6m less than last year). Online sales rose by 15.4 per cent and are growing at 30 per cent/yr (only 2.2 per cent of total sales).
JBH pre-released its result last week; to counteract weak updates from The Reject Shop (TRS) and Super Retail Group (SUL) which has meant few surprises today. JBH delivered a fully-franked 55c dividend; payable to investors on 28 Feb. Looking ahead, JBH has maintained sales guidance of 6%-8% growth over FY14 (July 2013-June 2014) and expects NPAT between $126m-$129m (an 8.3%-10.8% rise).
Clothing retailer, Country Road (CTY) finished flat despite recording a 72 per cent rise in net profit to $38 million. It declared a 17.9cps dividend for the half. CTY has outperformed the broader market this year; rising by 12.3 per cent since January. The energy sector rose by 0.78 per cent while a 1 per cent slump from ANZ held back the banks.
By the close, only 1.63 billion shares changed hands, worth $3.34 billion. 373 stocks rose, 530 finished lower and 354 were unchanged.
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