Market Wrap - 18/06/09, 5.30pm EST

General News

The Aussie market copied Wall Street today and closed mildly lower. Losses in the mining sector outweighed gains in financial and healthcare stocks.

On the local markets, The S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 12 points to 3,892 and on the futures market the SPI 200’s down 8 points.

In economic news, The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) - Westpac said the index of overall business conditions rose 3.9 points to 38.3 in the June quarter. A reading below 50 indicates contraction in business activity. However, business sentiment, jumped 57 points to minus –four, the biggest jump since 1975.

To company news around this afternoon: Shares of online accommodation booking company Wotif.com (ASX: WTF) jumped today as it upgraded its full year forecast late yesterday. Wotif said it expects 2009 net profit to be at least $42 million, up from $34.5 million in 2008. Wotif shares finished the session 10.22% higher at $4.53.

Caltex (ASX: CTX) said today at a UBS conference that market fundamentals are supportive in the medium to long term. Caltex’s chief financial officer also said he expects low gross domestic product growth in the next couple of years and expects increased pressure on margins ands sales in the second half although said the company has no further refinancing due until 2011. Caltex shares closed 1.78% higher at $12.02.

In other news, Macquarie CountryWide Trust (ASX: MCW) and its joint venture partners have successfully completed the refinancing and extending two U.S. debt facilities worth US$165.7 million.

Paladio Group’s (ASX: PDO) subsidiary company Decmil Australia has been awarded a $500 million contract with joint venture partners to design and construct an accommodation village for Chevron Australia. Paladio Group will be renamed Decmil Group after the 22nd June and that company said its share of the contract is worth about $170 million.

Re-capping now some of the major stories covered in earlier reports, Santos (ASX: STO) shares closed higher after it agreed to sell 2 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas from its Gladstone project to Malaysian venture partner Petronas and said it was in talks with other parties about more sales.

Macarthur Coal (ASX: MCC) said it now expects to report a 2009 net profit of between $155 and $170 million and also announced a $190 million capital raising.

Now to today’s best and worst performers: The best performing sector at the close was the Healthcare index, up 107 points to 7,934. The worst performing sector was the Materials index; falling 310 points to 10,095.

Eastern Star Gas shares were the best performer in the S&P/ASX200 today and gained 13.29 per cent to $0.81. Wotif Holdings and Sundance Resources shares also rallied.

The worst performing stock was Lynas Corp and shares declined 12.84 per cent to $0.475 today. ING Industrial Fund and Paladin Energy shares also fell.

Moving onto commodities now: Gold is currently trading at $US941.10 an ounce and light crude is down $0.06 at $US70.97 a barrel.