EVENING REPORT (5pm AEDT)
The Australian share market was heavily back into the red today, although stocks managed to close off their lows as mining stocks received some positive headwind in afternoon trade. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) closed lower by 0.5 per cent with key financial players a big drag.
The big four banks all closed in the red, with the S&P/ASX 200 Financials sector lower by 0.7 per cent.
After a tough week for miners due to the slumping iron ore price, some buying in the key players Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), Rio Tinto (RIO) and BHP Billiton (BHP) finally occurred in afternoon trade. FMG added 2.9 per cent to $4.97 while RIO was firmer by 0.3 per cent and BHP was up 0.2 per cent. FMG shares have lost 8.5 per cent of their value this week. The S&P/ASX 200 Materials sector is down 4.3 per cent this week.
Qantas (QAN) announced today it will delay its planned redundancies by one month. The airline flagged up to five thousand job losses in February when it delivered a $252 million half year loss. QAN shares lost 0.9 per cent to $1.09. Rival Virgin Australia (VAH) added 1.4 per cent to 35.5 cents.
A large fire at the Barangaroo site in Sydney today forced the evacuation of the area and surrounding office buildings. Lend Lease (LLC), which is working on the site, saw its share price close down 3.6 per cent to $11.31.
In economic news, the Westpac/Melbourne Institute index of consumer confidence fell by 0.7 per cent to a 10-month low of 99.5 points in March. A reading below 100 represents a pessimistic consumer outlook. Retail stocks fell today with David Jones (DJS) down 1.5 per cent to $3.30 and JB Hi-Fi (JBH) lower by 3.7 per cent to $18.69.
1.9 billion shares changed hands, worth $4.8 billion. 346 were up, 547 were down and 383 were unchanged.
At 4.45pm AEDT the SFE 200 Futures Index was at 5373, down 42 points.
No major economic data is due for release in the US tonight.
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