Australian market ends higher, powered by resource stocks

 @ibtimes
on May 20 2009 5:03 AM

RTTNews - The stock market in Australia managed to end in positive territory on Wednesday after remaining in negative territory for most of the day, helped by resources stocks. A mixed close on Wall Street overnight kept sentiment subdued.

U.S. stocks closed mixed on Tuesday, partly in reaction to the release of a report by the Commerce Department that showed an unexpected decline in the housing starts for April. The Dow closed lower by 29.23 points or 0.34% at 8475, while the S&P 500 closed down by 1.58 points at 908.13. On the other hand, technology-weighted Nasdaq was able to hold on to thin gains, finishing up by 2.18 points or 0.13% at 1735, ahead of the release of Hewlett Packard's earnings.

In Asian trading, the July futures rose $0.19 at $60.29 a barrel in electronic trading. Meanwhile, the June futures expired at $59.65, up $0.62 a barrel, in New York trading on Tuesday.

The All Ordinaries rallied sharply in early trading only to reverse course and moved below the unchanged line in the first hour of trading amid the release of some disappointing economic numbers. Thereafter, the index was largely confined below the unchanged line before it recovered in late trading on the support provided by resource stocks. At the close of trading, the index was up 8.3 points or 0.22% at 3,809. Meanwhile, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index added 7.3 points or 0.19% to close at 3,825.

Consumer sentiment in Australia deteriorated by 4.3 percent in May from April, according to survey results released Wednesday by Westpac Bank and the Melbourne Institute. The group's May Consumer Sentiment Index declined 3.9 points to a seasonally adjusted 88.8 compared to April's reading of 92.7.

Another report released by the Australia Bureau of Statistics revealed that Wages, excluding bonuses, increased by 0.8 percent during the first three months of 2009. The Bureau said wages were also 4.2 percent higher than they were one year earlier. Both figures were in line with the forecasts of most economists.

Mining stocks led the gains on higher copper prices in the international market. Index leader BHP Billiton advanced 1.00% and its rival, Rio Tinto gained 1.60%. The Australian newspaper , citing unidentified sources, reported that Rio Tinto is looking to replace its US$7.2 billion convertible bond issue to Chinalco with a capital raising underwritten by the Chinese firm.

Macquarie Airports announced that it has agreed to tender its holding in Japan Airport Terminal into JAT's buyback tender offer. To reflect both the removal of JAT from proportionate earnings and the expected sustainable earnings of MAp's businesses this year, Map believes that it is appropriate to amend the guidance previously provided for 2009 from 27.00 cents per stapled security to 21.00 cents per stapled security. The stock of Macquarie Airports surged 4.79%.

Among the Banking stocks, ANZ Bank slipped 0.13%, and Westpac Banking lost 1.84%. However, Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 0.14%, Macquarie Group added 0.18%, and National Australia Bank edged up 0.05%.

Gold related stocks also advanced. Lihir Gold added 3.06%, Sino Gold Mining gained 1.69% and New Crest Mining soared 6%.

Retail stocks ended mixed on profit taking. David Jones slipped 0.27%, and Harvey Norman shed 1.29%, but Wesfarmers added 0.77%, and Woolworths gained 0.95%.

Energy stocks also ended mixed despite crude oil futures advancing in New York last night. Woodside Petroleum added 0.97% and Santos edged up 0.27%, but Oil Search slipped 2.27%.

Building materials group James Hardie Industries N.V. reported an operating loss for the fourth quarter that narrowed from the year-ago period. Excluding items, net operating profit for the quarter dropped 57% from the year-ago period. Net sales for the quarter decreased 23% to US$241.3 million from US$312.9 million in the corresponding period last year. The stock advanced 2.51%.

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