The Australian share market closed largely unchanged, after pushing higher for most of the day. We saw gains in financials, real estate, telcos and utilites. But, it wasn’t enough to claw back from Tuesday and Wednesday’s combined loss of 1 per cent.
Energy largely dragged the chain after Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) downgraded its saleable coal production guidance and it fell 6 per cent, leading the energy space 1 per cent lower. But diamonds in the rough like Global Energy Ventures (ASX:GEV) and Senex Energy (ASX:SXY) oiled up 1 per cent.
Some healthy gains were seen in property companies like Dexus (ASX:DXS) and Cromwell Property (ASX:CMW). While little known financial company, Netwealth Group (ASX:NWL) gained over 6 per cent, ahead of Westpac Bank (ASX:WBC) which rose 1 per cent, while Challenger (ASX:CGF) fell almost 1 per cent.
At the closing bell the S&P/ASX 200 index closed with a loss of 1 point/ 0.01 per cent down finishing at 6,015.
The value of trades was $4.8 billion on volume of 688 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 (ASX:WBC).
On the futures market the SPI is 12 points up.
Local economic news
Trend employment charged ahead for the 14th straight month in December. Seasonally adjusted employment rose by 35,000 in December, beating forecasts of a 15,000 rise. The labour force participation rate bolstered to 65.7 per cent. But, the unemployment rate marginally worsened to 5.5 per cent, surprising economists who expected the rate to hold at last month’s 5.4 per cent (in seasonally adjusted terms).
Company news now
ANZ (ASX:ANZ) and ASIC have reached a settlement on suspected third party frauds that affected a number of Esanda customers from 2003 to 2015. The big four bank agreed to pay a $5 million fine as part of the settlement and $390,000 in ASIC costs. Shares in ANZ (ANZ:ANZ) closed 0.6 per cent higher at $28.53.
Mining giant BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) saw an increase in copper, iron ore and energy coal production in the December quarter of 2017, compared to the prior quarter. It also expects a write down of between US$250 million to US$350 million on its underlying EBIT in the December half year on the back of conveyor charges at Escondida.
Oil and gas giant Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) reported higher sales revenue of $939 million in the fourth quarter ending 31 December 2017, compared to the prior quarter on the back of stronger prices.
Alumina (ASX:AWC) has reported Alcoa’s fourth quarter earnings rose 111 per cent in the bauxite and alumina segments, largely due to the steep rise in the alumina price, coupled with its key position in the market.
Tietto Minerals (ASX:TIE) started trading today, floating with an issue price 20 cents, opening at 25.5 cents and closing at 24.5 cents. It’s the second IPO this week and with Cygnus Gold (ASX:CY5) another gold miner listing on Monday.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector was Real Estate Investment Trusts adding 0.6 per cent to close at 1,364.
The worst performing sector was Energy, shedding 1.1 per cent to close at 10,812 points.
The best performing stocks on the S&P/ASX 200 were led by Speedcast International Limited (ASX:SDA), rising 3.1 per cent to close at $5.31. Shares in Nanosonics (ASX:NAN) and Aristocrat Leisure (ASX:ALL) followed.
The worst performing stocks on the S&P/ASX 200 were led by Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY), dropping 6.6 per cent to close at $3.80. Shares in Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) and Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) followed.
Japan’s Nikkei has added 0.3 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has rose 0.1 per cent and the Shanghai Composite has gained 0.3 per cent.
Commodities and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,327 an ounce.
Light crude is $0.35 up at $US64.02 barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 79.63 US cents.
The three most traded cryptocurrencies are trading mostly higher.
After Bitcoin’s wild ride from its US$20,000 high, to half of that. Bitcoin has now gained 1.1 per cent in the last 24 hours to $11,103
Ethereum lost about 0.7er cent to $973.
And Ripple has gained about 15.2 per cent to $1.31.