MID-SESSION REPORT (12.15pm AEST)
The Australian sharemarket has returned from the three-day long weekend a little uninspired, with local stocks largely unchanged. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) is up 4pts or 0.08 per cent and remains above the key 5500pt mark. The XAO is rising for the seventh consecutive trading day and is near a six-year high. This is the first full trading week following both the Easter and Anzac holidays over the past fortnight.
Most sectors are higher, with the exception of the miners, consumer discretionaries, healthcare and telco industries. The miners are down 0.1 per cent, with both BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) slipping by around 0.5 per cent. Australia's largest gold miner Newcrest Mining (NCM) is an outperformer as it improves by 5.5 per cent at lunch. On Wednesday, Woodside Petroleum (WPL) will be holding its Annual General Meeting while Origin Energy issues its quarterly production report.
The financials continue to do much of the heavy lifting, rising by 0.3 per cent at lunch. The sector is improving for the seventh day, with Westpac (WBC) and ANZ trading at record highs.
Construction firm, Leighton (LEI) has announced a joint venture with Hong Kong construction company, Chun Wo. It has secured a contract worth $1.16bn to build the Passenger Clearance Building for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge HK Boundary Crossing Facilities. LEI shares are down by 1.6 per cent.
On the economic front, CommSec's State of the States report has been issued. This aims to provide insight into the current health of each Australian state and territory. Western Australia continues to lead the country as the best performing economy, the Northern Territory is in second place while NSW has jumped a few positions thanks to the housing market to sit in third place. CommSec's chief economist Craig James said that "Western Australia continues to lead the way on retail trade and is strongest on housing finance. It is the second strongest on economic growth, construction work done and population growth and finished third on business investment and dwelling starts.´´
Looking ahead to the rest of the week in Australia, ANZ will be issuing its first half profit results on Thursday. An update on home prices and China's Purchasing Managers Index will also be released on the same day. Public holidays in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and India will keep their markets closed on Thursday. The focus will be on the U.S. this week however, with the Federal Reserve meeting mid-week together with the all-important monthly U.S. jobs report (non-farm payrolls) out this Friday. The report has the ability to set the tone for local stocks next week together with potentially impacting the Australian dollar.
At lunch, 887.5 million shares have traded, worth $1.73 billion. 345 stocks are higher, 468 are in the red and 321 are unchanged.
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