The Australian share market dived at the open and has remained in the red. From the outset, we had negative leads to follow as Wall Street closed lower when Facebook lost 6.8 per cent, after a political analytics firm revealed the tech giant could collect data on 50 million people's profiles without their consent.
As for our sectors, the mining sector is copping the most heat after the iron ore price fell. The mining giants, BHP (ASX:BHP) and RIO (ASX:RIO) are down over 2 per cent.
Most sectors are trading below the line, except financials which are making gains. CBA (ASX:CBA) and Westpac (ASX:WBC) are trading higher amid the sixth day of banking royal commission hearings. But it’s banks that aren’t under fire that are seeing the most gains, with The Bank of Queensland (ASX:BOQ) up about 1 per cent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 0.56 per cent lower or 33 points down at 5,926. On the futures market the SPI is 48 points lower.
The RBA advised that financial markets are continuing to price in that interest rates will remained unchanged in 2018, but markets are expecting a 25 basis point rise in the first half of 2019. That’s according to its Monetary Policy Meeting minutes.
Property price growth slowed in the December quarter according to the ABS. House prices rose 5 per cent, down from the September quarter growth of 8.3 per cent. Sydney prices also slowed significantly.
QBE Insurance (ASX:QBE) is offering note holders the opportunity to tender their notes to be bought by QBE for in exchange for cash. So far about US$291 million of notes have been accepted by QBE to buy. The settlement will take place on 22 March. At noon QBE shares are trading 0.6 per cent higher at $9.81.
New Energy Solar (ASX:NEW) has completed the purchase and financing of a 200 megawatt solar project in Southern California. It’s tipped to displace 250,000 tonnes of Co2 emissions each year, powering 45,000 homes or removing 58,000 cars from the road. Operational by late 2019, the company will sell power and renewable energy credits generated to electricity provider, Southern California Edison for 20 years from mid-2020. The acquisition and construction will be funded with initial equity of US$85 million. But once operational the value of the investment will be about US$290 million. Shares in New Energy Solar are trading 0.7 per cent lower at $1.42.
Resource and energy company, WorleyParsons (ASX:WOR) has been awarded the project management consultancy contract by the largest oil refinery in the UAE, the Ruwais Refinery, which is owned by ADNOC. The contract involves accelerating and expanding its crude processing options. WorleyParsons will oversee the performance of EPC contractors over the next 14 months. After that it will supervise the construction and commissioning works until the project is delivered in 2022. Shares in WorleyParsons (ASX:WOR) are trading 2.2 per cent lower at $14.59
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector is financials adding 0.1 per cent to 7,031 points while the worst performing sector is materials, shedding 1.6 per cent to 11,223 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN), rising 3.6 per cent to $3.04, followed by shares in IPH (ASX:IPH) and Sigma Healthcare Limited (ASX:SIG).
The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY), dropping 4.8 per cent to $3.29, followed by shares in Crown Resorts (ASX:CWN) and Orocobre (ASX:ORE).
Gold and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,316 an ounce.
One Australian dollar is buying 77.12 US cents.
Bitcoin has gained 4 per cent to US$8,575, Ethereum gained about 3 per cent to US$553 and Ripple is up about 9 per cent to US$0.74.