Australian Stock Market Report –Midday 2/28/14

By @ibtimesau on

Mid Session Report (12:00 AEDT)

Having sagged in Thursday's session there was a little more vitality in the opening part of trade on Friday although that experience was short lived. The 30 point improvement seen at the outset was quashed rather quickly as the index quickly returned to the levels of the close last evening.

One of the factors that has helped the general tone of trade has been the testimony offered by Federal Reserve Chair Yellen overnight. Ms Yellen provided testimony to the Senate Banking Committee and the tone was more dovish than commentary provided two weeks ago. Ms Yellen said the Fed would be on alert to make sure recent economic weakness was due to cold weather rather than a fundamental slowdown. Ms Yellen reiterated that the Fed "will likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings"

Woolworths (WOW) said its first half net profit rose by 14.5 per cent to $1.32 billion for the six months to December 31, up from $1.15 billion a year ago. The rollout of the home improvement business Masters continues to weigh on the group's performance, posting a $72 million loss for the half, compared to a $70 million loss previously. The grocer increased its full year guidance slightly, and now expects net profit growth of between five and seven per cent for 2013-14. WOW declared an interim dividend of 65 cents per share, up 4.9 per cent. The shares were at $35.70down 72 cents or 1.9 per cent

James Hardie (JHX) has announced a special dividend after reporting that net profit attributable to shareholders increased to $US286.3 million in the nine months to December 2013, compared with $US115m in the previous period. Sales rose to $US1.12 billion over the period compared with $US994.5m previously. A rise in US housing approvals was the driver of the improved result, although JHX remained cautious, indicating that even though US housing activity has been improving, economic conditions remained uncertain and cost of sales were volatile.

Toy wholesaler Funtastic (FUN) has requested a trading halt ahead of a market update on results and a potential asset divestment

The Aussie dollar has recovered the ground lost after Thursdays larger than expected fall for business investment in the December quarter.

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