Market Wrap: ASX recovers to finish flat

Market Reports

The Australian share market opened 0.3 per cent down but rose into positive territory by early afternoon and closed almost where it started as investors remain cautious ahead of US earnings reports.

The S&P/ASX 200 index eased 1.5 points to finish at 4,097. On the futures market, the SPI is now 2 points lower.

Economic news

Australian consumer confidence has increased for the third straight month following two straight months of rate cuts. According to Westpac Banking Corporation Limited (ASX:WBC) and the Melbourne Institute their Index of Consumer Sentiment, taken from a poll of 1,200 people, lifted by 3.7 per cent to 99.1 in July from 95.6 in the month before but under 100, indicating pessimists still outweigh optimists.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported the number of home loans approved dropped 1.2 per cent to 46,120 in May, down from 46,702 granted the month before. Total housing finance by value dropped 1.4 per cent to $20.19 billion in May.

Company news

National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB) has reportedly told staff it will slash more than 700 jobs from its British operations within months. The job cuts are understood to form part of a major restructure of the bank’s struggling UK arm and even more jobs are expected to go in the coming years. Shares in National Australia Bank closed 0.17 per cent higher at $23.59.

Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia Limited (ASX:ERA) has reported a rise in second quarter uranium production. The Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) controlled company says uranium output rose 3 per cent compared to the quarter before and 661 per cent compared to the year before when operations were impacted by flooding. Shares in Energy Resources of Australia closed 1.87 per cent higher at $1.64.

Engineering company Downer EDI Limited (ASX:DOW) has won a mining services contract in Queensland from TEC Coal worth between $600 million to $800 million.

Supermarket giant Woolworths Limited (ASX:WOW) has reportedly paid $125 million to buy an extra six hotels from the private Waugh family and the de Angelis group after receiving clearance from Australia’s competition regulator earlier this week.

Reports have speculated Primary Health Care Limited (ASX:PRY) may be looking to swoop on more of Vision Eye Institute Limited (ASX:VGH) after boosting its interest to 19.8 per cent earlier this week.

Mining services company Ausdrill Limited (ASX:ASL) has inked a non-binding heads of agreement to buy an earthmoving business named Best Tractor Parts Group.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Telco Services, rising 17 points to close at 1,320. The worst performing sector was Energy, losing 136 points to close at 11,658 points.

The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC), rising 8.43 per cent to close at $0.90. Shares in Aquarius Platinum Limited (ASX:AQP) and Singapore Telecommunications Limited (ASX:SGT) also closed higher.

The worst performing stock was Evolution Mining Limited (ASX:EVN), dropping 6.43 per cent to close at $1.31. Shares in Coalspur Mines Limited (ASX:CPL) and Whitehaven Coal Limited (ASX:WHC) also closed lower.

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,576 an ounce.
Light crude is $0.80 higher at $US84.71 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US1.022.