MID-SESSION REPORT (12.15pm AEST)
Despite a firmer start this morning and a strong lead from Wall Street, the Australian sharemarket commenced its descent after just 20 minutes of trade. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) is down for the second day and remains below 5500pts. Weakness from the consumer staples and financial industries are holding the market back most.
Australia's biggest supermarket chain, Woolworths (WOW) is down 2.2 per cent, failing to impress investors with its 5.3 per cent surge in quarterly sales. $10.3bn in revenue was generated from its food and liquor division in Australia and online sales have jumped by more than 50 per cent. Wesfarmers (WES), the owner of Coles is down by 1 per cent following its quarterly sales results yesterday.
The major banks kicked off the day higher, which was helping keep the market modestly higher. At lunch however; the majors are all in the red. The big four banks make up around a quarter of the Australian sharemarket, so moves in either direction significantly impact the XAO. Note that Commonwealth Bank (CBA), ANZ Banking Group (ANZ) and Westpac (WBC) all hit record highs over the past week.
The mining sector struggled in the early part of this week due to iron ore price weakness and concerns relating to credit tightening in China. Iron ore, Australia's biggest export is trading at a seven-week low of US$108/t. China's government is taking steps to crack down on the use of the raw material in financing deals, boosting stockpiles in the process. BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are both modestly higher; however the more significant gains recorded early today are starting to dissipate.
Pallet and container provider, Brambles (BXB) is down 2 per cent despite reaffirming its profit guidance of between US$930m-US$965m in annual profit forecasts.
Singapore Telecom (SGT), which owns Optus, is up 1.1 per cent. Optus said it would cut 350 jobs as part of a restructure to remain competitive. Australia's second largest telco has reduced staff over the past year and made $722m in profits for the nine months to December 2013.
At lunch, 883 million shares have been traded worth $1.82 billion. 361 stocks are higher, 372 are in the red and 338 are unchanged.
On the economic front, lending has jumped by 0.4 per cent in March and is up 4.4 per cent over the year.
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