EVENING REPORT (4.30pm AEST)
It was an uneventful start to the trading week, with the Australian market closing largely flat. The All Ordinaries index (XAO) eased by just 0.1 per cent or 5.5pts while still remaining above the key 5500pt level. The Independence Day holiday in the U.S. on Friday and the subsequent closure of American markets provided local stocks no lead today.
Despite modest moves across many industries, online travel business Wotif.com (WTF) surged by 24.6 per cent after a $700m bid from global giant Expedia. WTF shares are up 18.7 per cent this calendar year (down 47.4 per cent in 2013).
Clothing retailer Country Road (CTY) finished flat despite reporting strong annual sales growth and an improved profit outlook. Total sales rose by close to 20 per cent to $849.6 million. CTY shares have surged by 280 per cent since January following a $213 million takeover offer from South Africa's Woolworths. CTY also operates Witchery stores which recently recorded a 72 per cent jump in half year profit.
Despite slumping by more than 20 per cent this calendar year, the price of iron ore is currently 9 per cent above its low hit three weeks ago. Australia's third largest iron ore miner Fortescue Metals (FMG) plummeted 2.7 per cent regardless, taking the losses since 1 January to 21.8 per cent.
The banks ended mixed, with ANZ the only improver. National Australia Bank (NAB) finished flat while both Westpac (WBC) and Commonwealth Bank (CBA) slipped by 0.7 per cent.
By the close, 1.81bn shares changed hands worth $3.4bn. 499 stocks finished higher, 468 in the red and 331 were flat.
Looking ahead, no major economic news is scheduled for release in the U.S. tonight. In Europe a report on activity levels in German factories will demand at least some attention.
Locally, a report on business confidence and consumer sentiment in coming days will be in focus. Business conditions have generally been patchy while Australian consumers have been a little sombre following the Federal Budget's release.
Looking further ahead, a monthly report on jobs will be out at 11.30am (AEST) on Thursday. The market is expecting the creation of 12,000 jobs and a slightly higher jobless rate in June. A total of 101,200 new full-time jobs have been added across the economy since the start of this calendar year; making it the best start to a year in seven years. Chinese trade data for June out on Thursday will also be quite important for the Australian mining sector. The market estimates a US$33bn trade surplus.
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