MID-SESSION REPORT (12.15pm AEDT)
The Australian sharemarket is slightly weaker for the fifth time in six trading sessions. Concerns relating to a referendum on the future of Crimea in Ukraine is keeping investors on edge. The vote is considered by the West to be an illegal undertaking. One of the reasons why markets are a little concerned is that Russia supplies Europe with more than a quarter of its oil and gas import requirements.
Almost all sectors kicked off the trading day in the red, with the exception of the miners and telcos. At lunch however; the industrials, financials and some property trusts have joined in on the gains.
BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are slightly firmer while iron ore producer Fortescue Metals (FMG) is 0.9 per cent softer. Last week, the miners slumped by 5 per cent; the worst weekly performance for the industry in nine months.
Gold stocks are amongst the standouts. Australia's largest producer, Newcrest Mining (NCM) is 2.1 per cent firmer. Smaller producers such as Regis, Northern Star and Medusa are surging.
A number of big names are trading ex-dividend today, which is keeping the market in the red. Woolworths (WOW), Primary Healthcare (PRY) and Leighton Holdings (LEI) are all significantly softer. WOW is down 2.2 per cent, PRY is 0.72 per cent lower and LEI is losing 4.7 per cent.
The big four banks are mostly lower, with the exception of ANZ Banking Group (ANZ) which is up 0.82 per cent. Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is down 0.36 per cent, National Australia Bank (NAB) is 0.23 per cent lower and Westpac (WBC) is easing by just 0.1 per cent.
The Australian dollar remains above US90c; currently buying US90.3c.
There is no major economic news scheduled for release in Australia or the region today to drive markets. Almost all global sharemarkets should be trading normally today. Today is a public holiday in India.
At lunch, 735.6 million shares have changed hands, worth $1.27 billion. 377 stocks are higher, 374 are lower and 313 are unchanged.
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