EVENING REPORT (5pm AEDT)
The Australian share market closed lower on the first trading day of the week, as Crimea concerns continued to weigh on investors' minds. Exit polls on Sunday showed 93 per cent of voters in Crimea chose to secede from Ukraine and re-join Russia in a referendum the West has labelled illegal.
On Friday in the US, the Dow Jones Index had its worst weekly loss since late January, down 2.4 per cent on the week.
The oil price has continued to rise with investors fearful about potential supply disruptions in Europe if on-going tensions between Ukraine and Russia lead to a trade sanction. Energy stocks on our market fell 0.4 per cent.
Gold rallied three per cent over the course of last week and continued to rise in Asian trade with the Comex contract worth US$1383 an ounce. Shares in Newcrest Mining (NCM) added 0.5 per cent today to $12.16 while some of the smaller gold players like OceanaGold (OCG), which was up 10.4 per cent, outperformed.
Construction firm Leighton Holdings (LEI) lost 3.4 per cent to $20.65 as it traded without rights to its 60 cent per share dividend. German firm Hochtief has also flagged job cuts to LEI's 56,000 strong workforce as shareholders consider its $1.2 billion bid to increase its stake in the company.
A number of other stocks traded ex-dividend today including Woolworths (WOW) and James Hardie (JHX). WOW shares fell 2.3 per cent to $35.48 while JHX was up 1.1 per cent to $14.28.
Lend Lease (LLC) shares rose 0.9 per cent to $11.42. The company and its French partner Bouyges Construction have been appointed the preferred tenderer to build the $3 billion NorthConnex motorway in Sydney.
According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of unleaded petrol fell by 3.6 cents per litre to 154.0 cents a litre in the week to March 16.
New car sales rose by 0.1 per cent in February. Passenger car sales lifted while 4WD/SUV and commercial vehicle sales were weaker in February.
On the market overall, 1.8 billion shares changed hands, worth $3.9 billion. 421 were up, 509 were down and 357 were unchanged.
At 4.45pm AEDT the SFE 200 Futures Index was at 5322, down 3 points.
Ahead tonight, data on capital flows, production, and the New York Federal Reserve manufacturing survey are expected in the US.
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