Mid Session Report (12:00 AEDT)
After a volatile start to the week markets have found something resembling equilibrium as the week draws to a close. In the face of what has at times been a challenging week, one of the consolations has been the consolidation of the ASX 200 around the 5100 level. On Friday morning investors have been content to take the market higher, albeit in unspectacular fashion.
The energy sector is the best improved group. Woodside Petroleum (WPL) shares are down 0.32% after announcing it had signed a new deal to take a stake the Leviathan gas field off the coast of Israel, which will see them pay US$850m on completion of the transaction for a 25% stake in the project. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a transition from the initial in-principle agreement which had been established in December 2012 between Woodside and Leviathan joint venture participants Noble Energy Mediterranean, Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration.
In the same sector Aurora Oil & Gas (AUT) is the subject of a $1.84bn takeover bid from North American group Baytex Energy which equates to $4.10 per share. The offer price represents a 52% premium to the volume weighted average price of Aurora shares on the ASX for the last week. Aurora directors have recommended shareholders vote in favour of the scheme in the absence of a superior proposal and subject to an independent expert report. Aurora owns properties on the Eagle Ford shale, one of the most prolific shale oil plays in the US. Aurora produces 24,678 barrels of oil equivalent per day, just more than half the 57,100 boepd Baytex produced last year. Aurora shareholders are expected to vote on the proposal in late April or early May.
The RBA has raised its growth and inflation forecasts for Australia in its Statement of Monetary Policy released this morning. The bank comments that it is seeing evidence that the ´´very stimulatory´´ monetary policy (low interest rates) is supporting economic growth and that a lower Australian dollar will help in delivering balanced growth. The central bank increased its economic growth forecast for the year to December 2014 to between 2.25 per cent and 3.25 per cent, up from 2 to 3 per cent forecast in the November Statement on Monetary policy.
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