Market Wrap: ASX backtracks on US budget battle

Market Reports

The Australian share market defied offshore leads and lifted at open but backtracked from the session’s high to close up 0.4 per cent.

The gains came amid an ongoing US budget battle and political stalemate in Washington ahead of a looming debt ceiling deadline. 

At home local investors poured into the mining sector while only the energy and industrials sectors sagged into the red by session’s end. 

Figures

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 19 points to finish at 5,235. 

The value of trades was $3.2 billion on volume of 552 million shares at the close of trade.

The top three stocks by value were National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) and Leighton Holdings Limited (ASX:LEI).

On the futures market the SPI is 18 points higher. 

Economic news
 
Activity in Australia’s services sector has recorded its best result in six months, easing at a slower rate last month. The Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Services Index added 8.1 points to 47.1 in September, but still remained below 50 which indicates contraction in the sector. 
 
Company news 
 
Shares in Leighton Holdings Limited (ASX:LEI) took a hit following media allegations of multi-million dollar corruption and cover-ups conducted by past company executives. The construction giant told the market it’s “deeply concerned” about the suggestions of impropriety and is not aware of any new allegations or instances of breach of its ethics. Media outlets report the company made corrupt payments to secure construction projects in countries including Iraq, Indonesia and Malaysia. Shares in Leighton Holdings slumped 10.42 per cent today, ending the session at $17.54. 
 
Linc Energy Limited (ASX:LNC) has boosted its coal portfolio though inking a deal to buy the Blair Athol Mine tenure in central Queensland. The mine is expected to annually produce up to 3 million tonnes of thermal coal and has been acquired from a joint venture including Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO). The announcement comes one day after Linc Energy revealed plans to shift from the Australian Securities Exchange to the Singapore Exchange. Shares in Linc Energy lost 1.39 per cent today, ending the session at $1.24. 
 
Executive appointments
 
Power and gas supplier Origin Energy Limited’s (ASX:ORG) long serving Chairman Kevin McCann will retire later this month after 13 years in the top job and be replaced by current board member Gordon Cairns.
 
New Zealand-based dairy co-operative Fonterra Shareholders Fund (ASX:FSF) has appointed Pascal De Petrini as Managing Director of its Asia-Pacific, Middle East & Africa division from November.
 
Indonesian focussed gold miner Intrepid Mines Limited (ASX:IAU, TSX:IAU) has appointed the former chief of Blackthorn Resources Limited (ASX:BTR), Scott Lowe, as its new CEO and Managing Director from November. 
 
Troubled surfwear retailer Billabong International Limited (ASX:BBG) has reportedly had another senior executive quit with media reports speculating Billabong Americas vice-president of sales Richard Sanders has resigned.

Best and worst performers 

The best performing sector was materials, adding 66.5 points to close at 9,653.
The worst performing sector was energy, easing 62 points to close at 13,946 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Ten Network Holdings Limited (ASX:TEN), rising 5.36 per cent to close at $0.29. Shares in Medusa Mining Limited (ASX:MML) and Arrium Limited (ASX:ARI) also closed higher.

The worst performing stock was Leighton Holdings Limited (ASX:LEI), dropping 10.42 per cent to close at $17.54. Shares in Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN) and Boart Longyear Limited (ASX:BLY) also closed lower. 

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,313 an ounce.
Light crude is $2.06 stronger at $US104.10 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying 93.98 US cents.

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