Ending 2016 on a low: ASX finishes 0.58% lower

Market Reports

by David Chau

Today, Australian trading volume was a little low and the local share market finished 0.58% lower.

Financial shares dragged the local market down today, with most of the “Big Four” banks slipping more than 1% each.

Mining giants, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto also fell by more than 1%. However, over the year, BHP rose 43% while Rio Tinto was up 36%.

The big winner today was gold. A surge in gold prices overnight led to a boost in the share prices of gold mining companies – with Newcrest Mining and Perseus Mining both up at least 4.7%.

Healthcare stocks were among the worst performers today, and are indeed the worst performing stocks this year.

At the close of trade today, the S&P/ASX 200 index finished 33 points lower at 5,666 points. But compared to the same day last year, the ASX 200 has risen 6.3%.

The value of trades was $2.5 billion on volume of 346 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP), Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA) and ANZ Bank (ASX:ANZ).

On the futures market, the SPI is 28 points lower.

Looking at Wall Street, US major indexes were lower during the past trading week: The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.58 per cent. The S&P 500 Index slipped 0.65 per cent. The NASDAQ was down 0.56 per cent. The 100 Index has retreated 0.44 per cent.

Economic news

In November, private sector credit rose 5.4% over the year, which was in line with expectations, according to the Reserve Bank.  On a monthly basis, November’s private sector credit was up 0.5% over the previous month.

Taking a closer look at the November figures, compared to the same time last year:

- Housing credit rose 6.3%
- Personal credit fell 1.2%, and
- Business credit gained 4.9%

Company news

Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Company Ltd (ASX:SOL) has entered an agreement to purchase 19.9% of the shares in Hunter Hall International Ltd (ASX:HHL) from Peter Hall, its chief investment officer who resigned earlier this week. Peter Hall is Hunter Hall’s largest shareholder, controlling 43.95% of the company. Mr Hall has informed Soul Pattinson that he intends to accept its offer for his remaining 24.05% shareholding in the absence of a superior proposal. And this proposal will be effected by way of an off-market takeover offer. Shares in Soul Pattinson closed 0.8% higher at $15.13.

Peter Hall is expected to serve out his six month notice period as Chief Investment Officer of Hunter Hall International Ltd (ASX:HHL).

Downer EDI (ASX:DOW) has been awarded an engineering, procurement and construction contract for the Clare Solar Farm project, worth $190 million.

Strike Energy (ASX:STX) has sold off its remaining production and exploration assets in the US.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was REITs (which was actually yesterday’s worst performer), adding 0.74 per cent to close at 1,395. On the flip side, the worst performing sector was Staples (which was yesterday’s best performer), which lost 1.17 per cent to close at 8,870 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was St Barbara, rising 10.57 per cent to close at $2.04. Shares in Resolute Mining and Evolution Mining also finished higher.

The worst performing stock was Fisher &Paykel Healthcare, dropping 2.38 per cent to close at $8.19. Shares in Western Areas and Blackmores also closed lower.

To commodities, Gold is trading at $US1,160 an ounce and has gained $29 over the week.
Light crude is $0.21 lower at $US53.85 a barrel.
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.7231, and has gained half a cent over the week.