RTTNews - After opening flat, the Australian market drifted lower on Thursday with the overnight negative close on Wall Street forcing a section of participants to the sidelines. Financials, industrials and energy stocks are exhibiting some weakness. Minerals, technology, healthcare and consumer discretionary stocks are trading mixed.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which fell to 4,410 in early trading, is currently down by 5.2 points, or 0.1%, at 4,433. The broader All Ordinaries index is down by 4.6 points, or 0.1%, at 4,432.

On Wednesday, the S&P/ASX200 index had declined 76.4 points, or 1.69%, to 4,438 while the All Ordinaries index ended down by 74.7 points, or 1.66%, at 4,436.

Australia's biggest lender, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, has launched a four-year, Australian dollar denominated non-government guaranteed bond. The bank expects to price the bonds on September 3 at a yield of 89 basis points above the three-month bank bill swap rate, which will be paid on a quarterly basis, Sydney-based CBA said in a statement today. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia stock is currently trading lower by 1.5%.

Among other bank stocks, ANZ Bank is down with a modest loss, National Australia Bank is down by 1.6% and Westvaco Banking Corporation is down by about 0.5%.

Key materials stocks BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are trading lower by 1% and 1.2%, respectively. Bluescope Steel and Fortescue Metals are also trading weak. Among other stocks in the materials space, Newcrest Mining is up by as much as 6.2% and Lihir Gold is gaining about 6.5%. Incitec Pivot and Orica are also trading with notable gains.

In the energy space, Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Origin Energy are trading weak, while Oil Search is trading modestly higher.

Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd has raised A$98.3 million through the retail component of a new share sale, allowing the discount carrier to survive the downturn and look for expansion opportunities. The fully underwritten retail offer had experienced overwhelming demand, meaning the airline would scale back applications made by shareholders in excess of their entitlements, Brisbane-based Virgin Blue said in a statement on Thursday. Virgin Blue said it had raised a total of $231.4 million from retail and institutional shareholders by selling 1.16 billion new shares. The newly issued shares will open for trading next Wednesday.

In economic news, a survey from the Australian Industry Group and Commonwealth Bank says the pace of contraction in the services sector slowed in August as firms benefited from a more optimistic view of the economy. The Australian Industry Group-Commonwealth Bank performance of services index (PSI) rose 3.9 index points in August to 48.0, edging closer to the key 50 level that separates expansion from contraction.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened flat this morning after strong domestic economic growth figures published on Wednesday supported the currency during the offshore trading session, which featured weak US economic data and losses on equity markets. In early trading today, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8334/38, little changed from Wednesday's close of US$0.8332/35. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8333 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan and Korea are exhibiting weakness, while New Zealand and Singapore are trading modestly higher. Stock markets across the region had closed mostly lower on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, a late session sell-off resulted in a lower close for stocks on Wednesday. The Federal Reserve released the minutes of its August meeting, indicating that the members of the Federal Open Market Committee are more confident that the economic downturn is ending and that growth is likely to resume in the second half of the year. According to a release from the Commerce Department, factory orders increased by less than economists had been expecting in July.

The Dow closed down 29.93 points, or 0.3%, at 9,281, the Nasdaq fell by 1.82 points, or 0.1%, to 1,967 and the S&P 500 declined by 3.29 points, or 0.3% to close at 995.

Major European markets posted modest losses, with the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index falling by 0.3% and 0.1%, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 slipped by less than a tenth of a percent.

Crude oil prices finished unchanged on Wednesday after posting sharp declines in the last two sessions. Investors mulled over an Energy Information Administration report that revealed inventories fell last week, but not as much as expected. Light sweet crude oil for October delivery finished at US$68.05 per barrel for a second straight session.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com