EVENING REPORT (5pm AEDT)
The Australian sharemarket rose modestly for the third time this week, with the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) edging 0.1 per cent higher by the close. The XAO finished above the 5400pt mark, helped by the fourth consecutive record close for U.S. markets last night.
Three of the market's larger sectors; mining, energy and financials all finished flat. Australia's biggest miner, BHP Billiton (BHP) gained 0.43 per cent, rising for the fifth straight day. The miner has surged by 6.5 per cent over the past fortnight. The market's speculation that BHP is considering a $20 billion demerger from its core assets has helped its share price.
Cassini Resources (CZL), a small Western Australia based miner announced its plan to buy BHP's West Musgrave nickel project for around $10 million. CZI surged by 366.6 per cent today. CZI still has a market cap of only around $12.5 million (9000 times smaller than BHP).
One of the country's fastest growing telcos, TPG Telecom (TPM) rose by 2.6 per cent. TPM announced a 15 per cent surge in half year profit to $90.1 million last week; its shares up by 18 per cent since. TPM is up 28 per cent so far this year, adding to last year's 105 per cent rise.
On the economic front, the latest retail spending and international trade numbers were out today. Retail spending rose for the tenth consecutive month; albeit improving by a slower than expected 0.2 per cent in February. The low interest rate environment and firm home prices have been a positive for spending. David Jones (DJS) rose by 0.93 per cent today, Harvey Norman (HVN) jumped by 1.2 per cent and JB Hi-Fi (JBH) finished 0.58 per cent higher. Australia recorded a $1.2 billion trade surplus in February.
At the close, 1.6 billion shares changed hands, worth $4.11 billion. 463 stocks finished higher, 447 ended lower and 392 were unchanged.
Looking ahead, the European Central Bank will be meeting tonight to make a decision on interest rates. There has been some speculation that fresh stimulus could be announced.
In the U.S. a weekly update on jobless claims together with international trade numbers will be highlights. Tomorrow night, the most important monthly report on jobs will be issued.
In Australia on Friday, a report on alcohol consumption will be one of the few highlights. It is a public holiday in Taiwan tomorrow.
Next Monday, the Chinese markets will be closed for "Tomb Sweeping Day"
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