Evening Report (16:30 AEDT)
The ASX 200 ended Thursday's session with a flourish having posted highs in the late morning. The index tapered away in the afternoon although it kicked higher to end the week with a gain of almost 0.5%. This was a noteworthy turnaround considering the weak tone that marked the early part of the week.
Financial stocks guided the market higher over the course of the day. Particularly the regional banks. The Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announced that Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Australia and Macquarie Capital would act as joint lead managers for the initial public offering of Medibank Private. The IPO is planned for the new financial year, although the timing and deal structure have still to be finalised. Medibank Private has 3.8 million members and posted profit of $315 million in the last financial year. It has approximately 30% of the Australian health-insurance market, ahead of NIB Health Funds Ltd. and HCF, which have 900,000 and 500,000 members, respectively.
Energy stocks were well supported led by Woodside Petroleum (WPL). The group reported 1st quarter production number earlier in the session. Revenue in the period rose 16% compared to the same period last year. The increase came at the hands of production at its oil venture in WA which was restarted, increasing output by 5%. Revenue during the period rose $US1.68bn. Output rose to 23 million boe compared to 21.9m boe in the previous period. WPL talks are continuing with the Israeli government and partners in the Leviathan gas field, which include Noble Energy Inc. and Delek Drilling LP, after a March 27 deadline to complete a deal passed without a result.
Elsewhere in the energy sector Santos (STO) Chief executive David Knox said the Santos-operated $US18.5 billion Gorgon coal seam gas project (GNLG) was 80 per cent complete up from 75 per cent in February and is on track for first LNG in 2015. STO reported 1st quarter sales rising by 28% despite production for the period substantially below market expectations. Sales in the period were at $913m compared to $713m previously. Production rose 1% to 12.2m boe from 12.1m boe. The group maintained production guidance for the full year at 52m-57m boe.
The Aussie dollar was trading in a narrow range against the Greenback through today's Asian session, until weakening late in the session. In the US today, Jobless Claims data for the payrolls reference is released , along with the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Index.
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