It has been a cautious start to the trading week for the Australian share market, following weak leads from Wall Street on Friday. The local bourse dropped at the open, but bounced back in the first hour of trade; however is now struggling for direction and tracking virtually flat or 0.01 per cent higher at noon. In terms of sector performance, Materials and Energy are proving to be the biggest weight on the index with losses in the big miners BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) of around half a per cent. REITs are leading the charge so far with gains of around 0.6 per cent, followed by the Healthcare and Discretionaries sectors.
The S&P/ASX 200 index is flat at 5,865. On the futures market the SPI is 8 points higher.
Australian PMI is still strong, according to the latest data from The Australian Industry Group. Manufacturing expanded in March to a read of 57.5, albeit at a slower pace to February. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has also released figures with respect to retail trade and building approvals. For the month of February, Australian retail turnover fell 0.1 per cent and dwelling approvals increased 8.3 per cent, seasonally adjusted.
Wellard Limited (ASX:WLD) has announced it will raise $52 million comprised of a placement, an entitlement offer and the issue of convertible notes. The cattle exporting company says the funds will be used to replenish working capital and enable the company to take advantage of any changes to the commercial trading environment in live cattle exports. The company has noted that trading conditions have been very difficult, due to higher price pressure. Shares in Wellard are trading down 10.2 per cent at $0.22.
Macmahon Holdings Limited (ASX:MAH) has been selected as the preferred mining contractor for the establishment and operation of the new Byerwen Coal Mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, subject to the granting of mining leases. The proposed contract with QCoal is expected to be based initially on a cost reimbursable model. The potential value of the mining contract over its life is still yet to be determined. Shares in Macmahon Holdings are trading flat at $0.15.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector is REITs, gaining 0.5 per cent to 1,387. Shares in Iron Mountain (ASX:INM) have risen 1.74 per cent and trading at $46.66. Shares in National Storage (ASX:NSR) and SCA Property Group (ASX:SCA) are also stronger.
The worst performing sector is Energy, falling 0.5 per cent to 9,184. Shares in Worley Parsons (ASX:WOR) have fallen 2.91 per cent, trading at $10.69. Shares in Santos (ASX:STO) and Beach Energy (ASX:BPT)are also lower.
Gold and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,249 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US0.7619.