The Australian share market lost its early momentum in afternoon trade, closing flat as local investors digested some disappointing business confidence data from NAB. Local stocks were dragged by losses among financials stocks, with each of the big four banks finishing in the red.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 6 points up to finish at 5,393.
The value of trades was $4.08 billion on volume of 686 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP)
, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA)
and Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC)
On the futures market the SPI is 10 points up.
NAB’s monthly business survey has fallen sharply in October, coming into plus 5 points from plus 12 in September. According to NAB Chief economist Alan Oster, businesses may have reassessed their expectations about future activity in the changed political environment given the continued weakness in actual business conditions.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says business finance commitments went up in September, while personal finance fell. Total business finance commitments rose by 2.8 per cent to $35.8 million in the month, while personal lending commitments dipped 0.9 per cent to $7.7 million.
Seven Group Holdings Limited (ASX:SVW)
will slash 630 jobs across its WesTrac business in a divisional restructure due to challenging market conditions. The cuts will cost the company $13 million and come in addition to 375 redundancies announced earlier this year.
Seven Group has also conceded that it expects full-year EBIT to be at the lower end of its previous issued guidance of 30 to 40 per cent below last year’s result. Shares in Seven Group closed 1.56 per cent down at $7.59.
SP AusNet (ASX:SPN)
has reported a 41 per cent fall in its first half net profit of $98 million after losing a court appeal against an $87 million tax bill. The electricity and gas distributor lost a federal court challenge against the ATO in September, which it again intends to appeal. Minus the impact of the hefty tax bill, net profit rose 11 per cent to $184 million, on the back of regulated price adjustments and additional revenues from the Advanced Metering Infrastructure program. Shares in SP AusNet closed flat at $1.24.
Incitec Pivot Limited (ASX:IPL)
shares jumped 7.28 per cent after the chemical manufacturer delivered a net profit of $372 million in fiscal 2013, significantly less than last year’s result due to a high Australian dollar and low global fertiliser prices.
News Corp (ASX:NWS)
shares fell 3.26 per cent despite delivering a significant turnaround in its first-quarter profit of $US38 million, swinging from a $US83 million loss for the same period last year.
Brickworks Limited (ASX:BKW)
shares fell 1.95 per cent after it recommended shareholders vote against a $2.2 billion proposal to unwind its cross-ownership structure with Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Co Limited (ASX:SOL)
Intrepid Mines Limited (Australia) (ASX:IAU)
says it plans to immediately appeal a South Jakarta District court decision relating to proceedings instituted against it in Indonesia.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector was Energy adding 96 points to close at 14,016.
The worst performing sector was Financials excluding real estate investment trusts, losing 24 points to close at 7,053 points.
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Orica Limited (ASX:ORI)
, rising 8.21 per cent to close at $23.60. Shares in Incitec Pivot Limited (ASX:IPL)
and Skilled Group Limited (ASX:SKE)
also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Linc Energy Limited (ASX:LNC)
, dropping 6.56 per cent to close at $1.14. Shares in Ten Network Holdings Limited (ASX:TEN)
and Northern Star Resources Limited (ASX:NST)
also closed lower.
Gold is trading at $US1,279 an ounce. Light crude is $0.54 up at $US95.14 a barrel.
The Australian dollar
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9335.