The Australian share market has ended the last day of the trading week in the red. Local equities had shed 1 per cent by noon after global markets retreated amid rising Spanish borrowing costs and the US Federal Reserve’s reluctance to launch a fresh round of stimulus. But local equities clawed back from session lows after the release of positive Chinese data, to end 0.3 per cent down. Ahead of a four-day Easter-long weekend, investors await the key US jobs report due tomorrow.
The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 14 points to finish at 4,320 and lost 16 points over the shortened trading week. On the futures market the SPI is currently 23 points down.
Wall Street over its three trading days this week: The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 71 points. The S&P 500 Index lost 4 points, the Nasdaq lost 27 points, and the 100 Index lost 17 points.
China's services sector expanded last month. The seasonally adjusted HSBC Services Purchasing Managers Index came in at 53.3 in March down 0.6 points from the month before but still above the 50 level that indicates expansion.
Oil Search Limited (ASX:OSH) is considering partnering up with major energy companies to develop its its Papua New Guinea LNG project after receiving strong interest from potential joint venture partners. The oil and gas producer’s main asset is its 29 per cent interest in the $US15.7 billion liquefied natural gas project which is operated by Exxon Mobil. Shares in Oil Search rose 1.3 per cent today, closing at $7.01.
Shares in Spotless Group Limited (ASX:SPT) firmed today amid reports its suitor, private equity fund Pacific Equity Partners, is considering sweetening its $711 million bid for the cleaning, catering and maintenance services provider. Pacific Equity Partners is in the final stages of due diligence now and understood to have raised more than $500 million in leveraged loans to raise the bid and secure board recommendation. Shares in Spotless Group closed 0.83 per cent higher to close at $2.42.
Packaging manufacturer Amcor Limited (ASX:AMC) has continued its acquisition spree and acquired the Aluprint tobacco packaging plant in Mexico.
The Asia Pacific’s largest funeral, cemetery and crematorium operator, InvoCare Limited (ASX:IVC), has revealed fewer deaths this year have impacted its sales revenue.
Best and worst performers
Most sectors retreated: The best performing sector was Utilities adding 26 points to close at 4,887. The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 104 points to close at 10,865 points.
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Saracen Mineral Holdings Limited (ASX:SAR), rising 6.73 per cent to close at $0.555. Shares in Aquila Resources Limited (ASX:AQA) and Pacific Brands Limited (ASX:PBG) also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Macmahon Holdings Limited (ASX:MAH), dropping 6.25 per cent to close at $0.75. Shares in Intrepid Mines Limited (ASX:IAU) and Linc Energy Limited (ASX:LNC) also closed lower.
Gold is trading at $US1,626 an ounce and dropped $70.22 over the week.
Light crude is $0.71 higher, sitting at $US102.18 a barrel.
The Australian dollar
The Australian dollar is buying $US1.0313 and has dipped for the fifth straight week.