After choppy trade, the Australian share market ended the day almost where it started. Weak leads pushed local equities down at open but inflation data, supporting the case for a rate cut next week, pushed the market up to 0.5 per cent higher before pulling back to close just slightly higher ahead of tomorrow's ANZAC day public holiday.
The S&P/ASX 200 index added 8 points to finish at 4,360. On the futures market, the SPI is now 9 points lower.
The latest inflation figures have come in weaker than expected. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported consumer prices edged up 0.1 per cent in the March quarter and 1.6 per cent for the year to March, Defying expectations, for a rise of 0.6 per cent for the quarter and a rise of 2.2 per cent for the year.
Shares in Wesfarmers Limited (ASX:WES) rose after the conglomerate posted 3.9 per cent sales growth from its supermarket chain, Coles. The result beat its rival Woolworths Limited (ASX:WES) and represented the eleventh straight quarter Coles had achieved higher comparable-store sales growth. Shares in Wesfarmers rose 1.84 per cent today, closing at $29.88.
Shares in Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX:NCM) fell after the gold and copper miner cut its full year production guidance. Newcrest’s key operations have been hit by heavy rains, higher cost inflation, a stronger local currency and lower labour productivity. Shares in Newcrest Mining dropped 3.62 per cent today, closing at $26.60.
Oil Search Limited (ASX:OSH) has posted a drop in its first quarter production, impacted by a facilities shutdown, and, says it is reviewing offers from possible joint venture partners.
Shares in PMP Limited (ASX:PMP) slumped after the printing company warned its trading results have fallen 20 per cent under its initial forecast due to further deterioration in demand from the retail and publishing markets.
Thakral Holdings Group (ASX:THG) has claimed a $400 million takeover offer made by Brookfield Asset Management Inc (NYSE:BAM) last week, undervalues the Australian property developer and manager, and, that is considering rejecting the bid.
Shares in fellow-takeover target Spotless Group Limited (ASX:SPT) entered into a trading halt today as the cleaning, catering and retail services company advances talks with its suitor, Pacific Equity Partners, amid speculation the bid has been increased.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector was Telco Services adding 24 points to close at 1,193. The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 124 points to close at 10,890 points.
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Mirabela Nickel Limited (ASX:MBN), rising 5.32 per cent to close at $0.495. Shares in Telecom Corporation of New Zealand (ASX:TEL) and SP AusNet (ASX:SPN) also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN), dropping 6.25 per cent to close at $1.575. Shares in AWE Limited (ASX:AWE) and Discovery Metals Limited (ASX:DML) also closed lower.
Gold is trading at $US1,636 an ounce.
Light crude is $0.13 down at $US102.98 a barrel.
The Australian dollar
The Australian dollar is buying $US1.0274.