Oil surges on Iran tension: Aus shares close 0.11% higher

Market Reports

by Jessica Ellerm

It has been a somewhat solid day of trade for the Australian share market. After opening strongly the local bourse held its gains momentarily, then slid to the finish line from late morning onwards. It dipped below the open just prior to close, but found enough life to finish the day above the open.

As for the sectors, health care dropped from its earlier top spot this morning, with energy taking its place in the afternoon. Utilities slid, posting the worst performance of the day.

Oil has struck a new two-and-a-half year high, amid geopolitical uncertainty in Iran, unusually cold weather conditions in the US and tightening inventories.

At the closing bell the S&P/ASX 200 index was up 6.7 points, or 0.11 per cent higher, closing at 6077.

The value of trades was $3.9 billion on volume of 520 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) and Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC).

On the futures market the SPI is down 5 points.

Local economic news

The Australian Industry Group has reported the services economy continued to expand in December, with the Performance of Service Index score coming in at 52.0. This represented a 0.3 point lift on November’s index.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has reported that new vehicle sales hit a record high in 2017, of close to 1.2 million cars. This is 0.9 per cent up on the prior year.

Company news 

WAM Capital Limited (ASX:WAM) has announced it has withdrawn its proposed takeover bid for Molopo Energy Limited (ASX:MPO) as a result of a ‘no material transactions’ condition being triggered. The bid was subject to Molopo not incurring or committing to any capital expenditure or liability of more than $2M. Molopo announced in early December that it had cash commitments to an energy project in the US that exceeded this amount. Shares in WAM Capital Limited (ASX:WAM) closed flat at $2.42.

GTN Limited (ASX:GTN) has announced its US subsidiaries have settled a legal case with TTWN Media Networks, LLC. TTWN is a major competitor of GTN subsidiary Radiate, which GTN acquired substantially in December 2016. Certain cross claims are ongoing however. Shares in GTN Limited (ASX:GTN) last traded at $2.75.

Medical cannabis biopharma company MGC Pharmaceuticals (ASX:MXC) has launched its first Derma Plus product.

Software as a Service (SaaS) technology company GetSwift (ASX:GSW) has appointed a new Chief Product Officer, Hal Danziger, from the US.

Cann Group Limited (ASX:CAN) has welcomed the decision by the Federal Government to allow Australian producers of medical cannabis to export their product to overseas markets.

Best and worst performers of the day

The best performing sector was Energy adding 1.41 per cent to close at 11,172.
The worst performing sector was Utilities, shedding 0.64 per cent to close at 8,189. points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Oil Search Limited (ASX:OSH), rising 3.60 per cent to close at $8.06. Shares in Beach Energy Limited (ASX:BPT) and Sims Metal Management (ASX:SGM) also closed higher.

The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was St Barbara Limited (ASX:SBM), dropping 4.85 per cent to close at $3.73. Shares in Saracen Mineral Holdings (ASX:SAR) and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) also closed lower.

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has gained 2.64 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has added 0.45 per cent and the Shanghai Composite has lifted 0.41 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,309 an ounce.
Light crude has risen $1.56 at $US61.93 barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 78.37 US cents.

Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin has dropped 1.03 per cent in the last 24 hours to $15,143
Ethereum added about 6.73 per cent to $949
And Litecoin has lost about 6.72 per cent to $238