The Australian share market jumped at open and is 1 per cent stronger at noon, buoyed by strong offshore leads, positive comments from the US Federal Reserve and encouraging US economic data. Across the boards all sectors are adding value, boosted by gains in the retailers, miners and financials.
The S&P/ASX 200 index has jumped 43 points and is 4,290. On the futures market the SPI is 42 points stronger.
Consumer confidence took a hit this month. Westpac and the Melbourne Institute’s survey of consumer sentiment showed consumer confidence dropped 5 per cent to 96.1 points in March, reversing an increase of 4.2 per cent the month before. Westpac chief economist Bill Evans says, "With the index below the 100 level, pessimists clearly outnumber optimists".
Housing starts fell more than expected in the last three months of 2011. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics dwelling unit starts dropped 6.9 per cent in the December quarter to 33,653 units, following a drop of 5.8 per cent in the September quarter 2011.
Stockland (ASX:SGP) has announced the extension of its share buyback and that it will receive $123 million for selling its stake in the Moorebank Industrial Property Trust. The property group is now gearing up to double its buyback to 10 per cent of its issued capital. Stockland has also today inked a deal to sell Qube Logistics Holdings Limited (ASX:QUB) a 55 per cent stake in the Moorebank Industrial Property Trust. Shares in Stockland are trading 2.44 per cent higher at $3.145.
Ludowici Limited (ASX:LDW) has confirmed its Scottish suitor, Weir Group, has officially withdrawn its bid. The mining services company says Weir’s withdrawal does not impact Danish engineering group FLSmidth’s bid to acquire Ludowici for $11 per share. Ludowici shareholders should receive a scheme booklet with details of the FLSmidth offer in due course. Shares in Ludowici are trading 5 per cent lower at $10.83.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector is Consumer Discretionary gaining 20 points to 1,298. Shares in Fairfax Media Limited (ASX:FXJ) have risen 3.33 per cent and trading at $0.775. Shares in Flight Centre Limited (ASX:FLT) and Harvey Norman Holdings Limited (ASX:HVN) are also stronger.
The sector with the smallest gains Telco Services, adding 3 points to 1,117. The only stock in the red is Singapore Telecommunications Limited (ASX:SGT) falling 0.64 per cent, trading at $2.335. Shares in Broad Investments Limited (ASX:BRO) and Hutchison Telecommunications Limited (ASX:HTA) are also steady at noon.
The NZSX50 is 33 points higher at noon. Taking a look at the top four stocks by turnover, Telecom Corporation of New Zealand is at the top of the list with stock 1.02 per cent higher at $2.485, followed by Fletcher Building, Goodman Property Trust and Telstra Corporation.
Gold and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,676 an ounce.
The Australian dollar is buying $US1.053.