Flat finish on ASX: Aus shares close 0.02% lower

Market Reports

by Kathy Skantzos

The Australian share market had a soft start on the back of weak leads from the US, and flat lined during the day as companies reported better-than-expected financial results throughout the day.

The consumer staples sector soared with The a2 Milk Company (ASX:A2M) surging ahead a huge 30 per cent today after announcing a whopping 150 per cent rise in net profit for the half year. Wesfarmers (ASX:WES) rallied after reporting a lift in revenue for the half year despite a fall in profit, and Worley Parsons (ASX:WOR) increased on the back of an interim profit improvement.

There was a sell-off in mining. This comes after BHP (ASX:BHP) reported weaker-than-expected results at the close of trade yesterday and Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) reporting a 40 per cent dip in profit for the half year.

At the closing bell the S&P/ASX 200 index closed 3 points higher, just 0.02 per cent to close at 5,944. On the futures market the SPI is 3 points down.

The value of trades was $5.9 billion on volume of 753 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP), The A2 Milk Company (ASX:A2M) and Wesfarmers (ASX:WES).

Local economic news

The wage price index rose more than expected in the fourth quarter of 2017, with wages rising 0.6 per cent, beating forecasts of a 0.5 per cent lift in seasonally adjusted terms.

Meanwhile, construction work fell by 19.4 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms in the December quarter, more than the 10 per cent fall expected. In the prior quarter, construction work lifted by 15.7 per cent.

Company news

Oil and gas exploration company AWE (ASX:AWE) has announced an underlying net loss after tax of $5.3 million for the half year to December 2017, which is a 54 per cent improvement on the $11.5 million underlying net loss after tax for the half year in FY17. Sales revenue increased by 19 per cent to $41 million over H117. Net production increased by 5 per cent over the prior corresponding period. Shares in AWE (ASX:AWE) closed flat at $0.96.

Engineering company Worley Parsons (ASX:WOR) has announced statutory net profit after tax (NPAT) of $1.4 million for the half year to December 2017, which is an improvement of its $2.4 million loss for the prior corresponding period. The result factors in the group being hit by about a $58 million charge against its tax assets. Shares in Worley Parsons (ASX:WOR) closed 7.04 per cent higher at $15.20.

Wesfarmers (ASX:WES) reported its net profit after tax fell 3 per cent to $1.5 billion dollars for the half year to December 2017, while its revenue lifted 2.8 per cent to $36 billion compared with the prior period.

Mining company Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) reported its net profit after tax (NPAT) decreased 44 per cent to USD$681 million for the half year to December 2017.

Property developer Stockland (ASX:SGP) reported its net profit after tax (NPAT) decreased 2.6 per cent to $684 million dollars for the half year to December 2017, despite a 14 per cent increase in revenue.

IPO

Angel Seafood (ASX:AS1) started trading today. The company floated at $0.20, opened at $0.20 and closed at $0.16.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was consumer staples adding 3.38 per cent to close at 10,384, while the worst performing sector was materials, shedding 2.25 per cent to close at 11,478 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was The A2 Milk Company (ASX:A2M), rising 29.74 per cent to close at $11.30. Shares in Corporate Travel Management (ASX:CTD) and Seven Group Holdings (ASX:SVW) followed higher.

The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Wisetech Global (ASX:WTC), dropping 23.21 per cent to close at $11.25. Shares in Steadfast Group (ASX:SDF) and Vocus Group (ASX:VOC) followed lower.

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has lost 0.01 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has gained 0.91 per cent and the Shanghai Composite is closed due to a public holiday.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,327 an ounce.
Light crude is $0.02 up at $US61.57 barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 78.52 US cents.

Cryptocurrencies

The three most traded cryptocurrencies are trading lower: Bitcoin has fallen about 4 per cent to US$11,063 Tether has fallen about 0.5 per cent to US$0.99 and Ethereum has fallen about 7 per cent to US$887.