Outlook: Aus shares set to open weaker

Market Reports

The Australian share market looks in for a weaker start to the day, receiving mixed overseas leads. US stocks eased on softer than expected retail sales and a rise in the US dollar, turning investors cautious ahead of the December jobs report, a key indication of the country’s economy.

US economic news: The Labor Department showed the number of Americans filing for new unemployment benefits increased by 18,000 to 409,000 in the latest week, above forecasts from economists.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, closed 26 points lower to 11,697. S&P500 lost 3 points to close 1,274 and the NASDAQ added 8 points to close at 2,710.

European stocks were mixed: London’s FTSE is down 24 points, Paris is flat and Frankfurt is up 42.

To Asian markets, stocks were also mixed: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 28 points, Tokyo’s Nikkei up 149 and China’s Shanghai Composite down 14 points.

The Australian share market edged slightly higher on Thursday. The S&P/ASX 200 Index added 10 points to close at 4,725 and on the futures market the SPI is 5 points lower. Turning to currencies and the Aussie Dollar at 8:50AM was buying 99.44 US cents, 64.34 Pence Sterling, 82.97 Yen and 76.54 Euro cents.

Company news: On Thursday shares in Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd (ASX:HVN) closed steady at $2.90. Founder and Chairman of Harvey Norman, Gerry Harvey has told Fairfax Media that getting involved in the campaign to implement GST on overseas online purchases has been suicidal. On Tuesday 21 Australian retailers launched an advertising campaign which has since been met with intense criticism by consumers that Mr Harvey describes as vicious and hateful. Mr Harvey has conceded the campaign was poorly communicated and badly timed in the Christmas period, and now looks set to distance himself from argument, despite more planned advertisements. Harvey Norman booked a net profit of $237.98 million in the 2010 financial year.

Yesterday shares in Equinox Minerals Ltd (ASX:EQN) slipped 0.49 per cent to close at $6.13. Copper miner Equinox Minerals says it is to compulsorily acquire all the outstanding shares in Citadel Resource Group Ltd (ASX:CGG). In October 2010, dual listed Equinox launched a $1.25 billion friendly bid for Citadel. On Thursday Equinox advised it has a 90.59 per cent interest in Citadel and has lodged a compulsory acquisition notice with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Equinox Minerals recorded a net profit of $124.33 million in fiscal 2010.

Ex-dividends: No companies are going ex-dividend today, coming up on Monday is Tower.

To commodities: Gold is down $2.00 to $US1,371 an ounce for the February contract on Comex, silver is down $0.07 to $29.13 for March and copper is down $0.08 to $4.33 a pound. Oil is down $1.92 at $88.38 a barrel for February light crude in New York.

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