Market Wrap: Aus shares close flat

Market Reports

Despite Telstra and the Commonwealth bank both trading ex-dividend, the Australian share market put in a good performance, closing down just 6 points or 0.1 per cent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 6 points down to finish at 4,364. On the futures market, the SPI is currently 19 points higher.

Economic news

The Australian Bureau of Statistics today released its report on merchandise imports for July. Imports of goods fell $372 million, or two per cent, to $21.354 billion, seasonally-adjusted. Imports of intermediate and other merchandise goods rose one per cent, or $108 million unadjusted, mainly influenced by fuels and lubricants.

Company news

Former Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) CEO Ralph Norris stands to earn $9.6 million from his final five months at the bank. Mr Norris was paid $4.2 million between July and his retirement on November 30, 2011 and will receive a further $5.4 million in long term share-based incentives in the next two years if CBA meets required customer satisfaction and performance targets. New CBA boss Ian Narev was paid $5.7 million in the 2011/12 financial year, up from $2.7 million the previous year before replacing Mr. Norris. The bank last week posted a record full year net profit of $7.1 billion. Shares in Commonwealth Bank of Australia closed 2.7 per cent down at $55.80, with the stock trading ex-dividend today.

Investment company Clearview Wealth Limited (ASX:CVW) today reported a full year net profit of $22.3 million, a 158 per cent rise on last year’s profit of $8.67 million. CEO Simon Swanson says the life insurance and wealth management sectors enjoyed strong long-term growth potential due to underinsurance and the forthcoming increase in mandated superannuation contributions. Mr Swanson also said that the company’s investment in developing life and wealth product suites will deliver enhanced sales growth in the years ahead. Clearview board members unanimously recommended that shareholders reject the July 12 takeover bid from CCP Bid Co, considering the offer of 50 cents per share inadequate. Shares in Clearview closed 1.67 per cent down at $0.59.

Challenger Limited (ASX:CGF) net profit has slumped 43 per cent to $148.5 million in the 2012 financial year amid investment market volatility. CEO Brian Benari says conditions have been trying over the last four years however the company’s assets under management, sales and profits have been growing.

Macmahon Holdings Limited (ASX:MAH) has rebounded to a record full year profit of $56 million, from a loss of $2.7 million the year before. The contract mining and construction company’s result was boosted by record levels of revenue and project wins in fiscal 2012.

NIB Holdings Limited (ASX:NHF) has improved its net profit by 3 per cent $67.64 million in the 2012 financial year. The health insurer has posted a positive outlook for the industry, claiming the Australian health insurance market will keep growing.

BlueScope Steel Limited (ASX:BSL) has posted a net loss of $1.04 billion for the 2012 financial year, hit by impairment charges, restructuring costs and a strong Australian dollar. Just last week BlueScope Steel announced a $1.4 billion joint venture with Japan’s Nippon Steel Corporation.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was health care adding 201 points to close at 9,783.
The worst performing sector was telco services, losing 65 points to close at 1,272 points.

The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Bathurst Resources Ltd (ASX:BTU), rising 11.49 per cent to close at $00.48. Shares in OceanaGold Corporation (ASX:OGC) and Macmahon Holdings Limited (ASX:MAH) also closed higher.

The worst performing stock was Fleetwood Corporation Limited (ASX:FWD), dropping 7.85 per cent to close at $11.98. Shares in Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC) and Whitehaven Coal Limited (ASX:WHC) also closed lower.

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,620 an ounce. Light crude is $1.00 up at $US96.31 a barrel.

The Australian Dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US1.045.