EVENING REPORT (4.30pm AEST)
The losses accelerated for the Australian sharemarket, with the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) slumping by 0.82 per cent. Despite today's weakness local shares still managed to rise by 0.3 per cent this week thanks to a 1.5 per cent surge on Thursday.
Shopping mall operators Westfield Group (WDC) and Westfield Retail Trust (WRT) both were in trading halts for most of the day as investors voted on a US$70 billion restructure. The necessary 75 per cent of votes for the split were barely reached. WRT will hold all the Australian assets while WDC will focus on its better performing international assets. WDC rose by 0.1 per cent while the smaller WRT finished flat. So far this year WDC has jumped by 7.2 per cent while WRT is up 8 per cent on the Australian market.
The major banks all finished lower, with National Australia Bank (NAB) the worst performer as it slumped by 1.37 per cent. The retail sector was mixed with David Jones (DJS) slumping by 2.31 per cent. The upmarket department store owner today announced it has postponed its 30 June meeting to vote on South African retailer Woolworths's bid for DJS. Retail billionaire Solomon Lew now holds 9.89 per cent of the company. The Scheme Meeting will now be held on 14 July.
The Australian dollar buys US94c and is probably a touch higher than the Reserve Bank and the foreign facing business community would like. At the end of 2013, our dollar was buying US89.2c. At the end of 2012, the Australian dollar was buying US103.9c.
Looking ahead, no major market moving economic news is scheduled for release overnight. Finance ministers will be meeting in Brussels at the ECOFIN meetings. This is Europe's broadest financial decision making body. The latest consumer confidence read will be issued in Europe at 12am (AEST). No data is expected in the U.S.
Next week will be a quiet week for economic news in Australia, leading up to the end of financial year. A quarterly report containing forecasts for the mining sector, the March quarter financial reports and the May reading on job vacancies will be among the highlights.
Offshore next week, China's 'flash' manufacturing report for June will be one of the more influential pieces of data for the Australian sharemarket. This is a mid-month reading on the level of activity in China's manufacturing sector. It does have a tendency of influencing the Australian market and currencies.
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