EVENING REPORT (4.45pm AEDT)
The Australian share market had a strong finish to the first quarter of the calendar year, thanks to a positive offshore lead on Friday and speculation Chinese policymakers could move to prop up their slowing economy by providing stimulus, which gave a boost to the Asian region.
By close of trade, the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) was firmer by 26.2 points or 0.5 per cent to 5403, off its earlier highs of 5421 as some sellers moved in at the close. The market rose 0.93 per cent over the quarter.
Every sector expect for consumer staple and health care finished in the black, with mining and energy players the best performers.
In company news, Recall (REC) rose 2.9 per cent to $4.65 after the document storage business announced a 10 year information management deal with financial services company HSBC. The agreement, once implemented, is estimated to represent more than two per cent of Recall's current annual revenue.
Toy distributor Funtastic (FUN) reported a $26 million first half loss, down from a $9.3 million profit in the same period last year. The company said it had higher costs in the period while the weaker Australian dollar and poor sales of key brands such as Power Rangers also impacted its performance. No interim dividend will be paid. FUN shares closed steady at 13 cents.
Diversified energy infrastructure business SP AusNet (SPN) rose 0.4 per cent to $1.31 after resuming from a trading halt. The company will pay $50 million to enable the early termination of a deal with SPI Management Services for the external management of its assets.
Billionaire Kerry Stokes' Seven Group Holdings (SVW) rose 0.4 per cent to $8.26 after lodging a $26.6 million takeover bid for debt laden oil and gas company Nexus Energy (NXS). SVW wants to acquire all NXS shares for two cents each. NXS shares have been suspended from trade since February, last at 5.9 cents.
In economic news, housing credit grew by 0.5 per cent in February after a 0.6 per cent rise in January. Housing credit is up 5.8 per cent on a year ago - the strongest annual growth in over years. Owner occupier housing credit rose by 0.4 per cent in February to stand 4.9 per cent higher than a year ago. Investor housing finance lifted 0.6 per cent in February to be up 7.6 per cent over the year - strongest in three years.
According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of unleaded petrol rose by 5.0 cents a litre to 157.3 c/l in the week to March 30. The metropolitan price rose by 7.2 c/l to 157.2 c/l, while the regional average price rose by 0.6 c/l to 157.7 c/l.
On the market overall, 1.8 billion shares changed hands, worth $4.4 billion. 523 were up, 440 were down and 362 were unchanged.
At 4.30pm AEDT the SFE 200 Futures Index was at 5392, up 36 points.
Ahead tonight, US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks in Chicago.
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