Outlook: Aus shares look set for firmer start

Market Reports

The SPI is pointing to a firmer start for the Australian share market, following a stronger finish on Wall St. US stocks rose with gains in the technology sector offsetting falls in the energy and industrial sectors. European stocks also closed higher as investors shrugged off Portugal’s debt woes and an expected rate hike from Europe’s central bank. The price of gold and silver has continued to soar.  

To the figures: On Wednesday the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 33 points higher at 12,427, the S&P500 lifted 3 points to close at 1,336 and the NASDAQ rose 9 points to close at 2,800.

European stocks closed higher: London’s FTSE up 34 points, Paris up 6 and Frankfurt was up 40. 

To Asian markets, stocks were mixed: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 134, Tokyo Nikkei was down 31 and China’s Shanghai Composite was up 34.
 
The Australian share market closed at a fresh six-week high on Wednesday: The S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 13 points to close at 4,913. While on the futures market the SPI is currently 4 points higher.
 
Turning to currencies and the Australian Dollar at 7:30AM was buying $1.0441 US cents, 63.94 Pence Sterling, 89.25 Yen and 72.87 Euro cents.

Economic news: Due out today is the Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force data for March and also, the Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association performance of construction index for March.

Company news: On Wednesday shares in Qantas Airways (ASX:QAN) added 0.45 per cent to close at $2.24. Almost 200 Qantas managers and support staff are expected to be told from today that they no longer have a job. Insiders have told Fairfax media that the latest job cuts could even extend beyond lower management to operational positions. The move comes just a week after Australia’s largest airline announced a series of cost cutting measures in response to surging fuel prices. Qantas also outlined plans to reduce capacity on domestic and international services and retire some aircraft as it confronts its most serious challenge since the global financial crisis. For the half year ended on 31 December 2010, Qantas reported a net profit of $239 million.

Yesterday shares in Ten Network Holdings Ltd (ASX:TEN) lost 2.2 per cent to close at $1.34. Having already forecast lower interim earnings, all eyes will be on Ten Network’s future strategy when it reveals its financial results today, especially in light of the company’s recent management changes. Ten earlier warned that earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation are likely to fall 13 per cent to $103 million in the half year ended on the 28 February. Macquarie analyst Alex Pollak expects Ten to deliver full-fiscal 2011 earnings slightly lower than the year before, but has forecast that advertising revenue will fuel a stronger fiscal 2012 result. In the 2010 financial year Ten reported a net profit of $150 million.

Ex-dividends: No companies are going ex-dividend today. Coming up on Friday are Australian Governance Masters Index Fund and Noni B.

Commodities: Gold is up $6.00 to $US1,458 an ounce for the June contract on Comex, silver is up $0.20 to $39.39 for May and copper is up $0.11 at $4.37 a pound. Oil is up $0.49 at $108.83 a barrel for May light crude in New York.