EVENING REPORT (4.30pm AEST)
The Australian sharemarket has kicked off the trading week modestly higher, in what has been a very light day of trade for local stocks. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) rose by 0.1 per cent. Volume was light partly due to market closures in a number of major markets. A public holiday in Japan, South Korea and the U.K. will keep their markets closed today. U.S. equities failed to rise on Friday despite the most significant monthly jobs growth in over two years. Continued concerns surrounding Ukraine is keeping investors on edge.
Australia's second largest bank by market capitalisation (its size on the sharemarket), Westpac (WBC) issued an 8 per cent rise in half year profit to $3.7bn. The result was largely boosted by a bigger than expected fall in bad and doubtful debt charges. A better than forecast first half dividend of $0.90 per share was announced and will be paid to eligible investors on 2 July. No bonus dividend was announced. The market pushed WBS lower despite the strong result as three of the four major banks hit record levels over the past week.
The miners had a much better start to the week, with the gold producers and diversified players improving most. Firmer commodity prices helped the industry make up for last week's 3 per cent slump. Iron ore prices fell by 5.5 per cent last week.
News Corp (NWS) is up 0.88 per cent ahead of its third quarter profit results scheduled for release this Friday. At the weekend, NWS agreed to pay $415m to purchase romance publisher Harlequin Enterprises. NWS already owns HarperCollins Publishers.
On the economic front, building approvals in March rose by 3.5 per cent which was above the market's expectations. The national average unleaded petrol price fell 1.4 cents per litre to 150.2c/l last week.
By the close, 1.48 billion shares had been traded worth $3.6 billion. 472 stocks finished higher, 497 in the red and 337 were unchanged.
Tonight, European leaders will be meeting while a report on the services industry will be issued in the U.S.
Tomorrow, the Reserve Bank is unlikely to raise interest rates at its monthly meeting. A $1.7 billion trade surplus is expected to be recorded tomorrow in the latest international trade report. The Victorian State Budget will be released on Tuesday.
Looking ahead to the rest of the week, retail trade numbers are out on Wednesday, a jobs report is out on Thursday together with National Bank's latest half year profit result.
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