Market Wrap: Aus shares close 0.6% down

Market Reports

The Australian share market spent today’s session in negative territory and closed 0.6 per cent down after bearish comments by influential investor Carl Icahn sent Wall Street on a dive. Local stocks weren’t given much of a kick by the RBA’s November meeting minutes, with the central bank seemingly intent on keeping its rate cutting powder dry for the time being. Health stocks lead the gains for the majors, while the Energy sector dragged.  
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 32 points down to finish at 5,353. The value of trades was $3.7 billion on volume of 728 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA), Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) and BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP)
 
On the futures market the SPI is 31 points down.
 
Economic news

The RBA said in its November meeting minutes there is mounting evidence that its interest rate cuts are having the desired effect and it is prudent to hold the cash rate steady for the time being, despite retaining the option of further policy loosening measures to support growth in the Australian economy, given it is battling an uncomfortably high currency. 
 
Members noted that monetary policy is supporting interest-sensitive sectors and asset values, while inflation remains within the target band. Conditions in the housing market also continue to strengthen, with national dwelling prices currently above their late 2010 peak. Prices over the three months to October have increased significantly in Sydney. 
 
Company news  
 
Seven Group Holdings Limited (ASX:SVW) is on the hunt for growth in new sectors including agribusiness and water as it seeks to offset the downturn in mining services which has seen it slash 1000 staff from its Westrac business this year. CEO Don Voelte says the group’s executive team is actively looking at, analysing and negotiating new organic or acquisition targets associated with industrial services, energy, food and water. Shares in Seven Group closed 1.07 per cent up at $7.55. 
 
Monadelphous Group Limited (ASX:MND) has cautioned shareholders about a fall in its annual revenue as it consolidates amid tightening market conditions. Managing Director Rob Velletri says margins have come under pressure from a more competitive environment, and the resources services company is continuing to focus on efficiency improvements and cost reductions. Shares in Monadelphous Group closed 0.28 per cent down at $17.97. 
 
GPT Group (ASX:GPT) shares fell 1.63 per cent despite the property group launching an off-market cash-and-scrip takeover offer for all outstanding units in Commonwealth Property Office Fund (ASX:CPA)
 
Yancoal Australia Limited (ASX:YAL) has responded to media speculation that the Foreign Investment Review Board has knocked back an application from Yanzhou Coal to waive conditions that it list 30 per cent of Yancoal by the end of the year.
 
Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR) shares fell 3.85 per cent despite the gold producer hitting a milestone, producing 500 thousand ounces of gold bullion from its operations since its maiden pour in 2008.
 
Ruralco Holdings Limited (ASX:RHL) shares rose 3.12 per cent despite reporting a 58.7 per cent in its full year net profit of $5.7 million, saying dry and hot conditions which had a notable impact in the first half, lingered into the second half.
 
Best and worst performers

The best performing, and only major sector to finish higher was Healthcare adding 109 points to close at 14,111.
The worst performing sector was Energy, losing 99 points to close at 13,692.
 
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Commonwealth Property Office Fund (ASX:CPA), rising 4.98 per cent on the new bid from GPA, closing at $1.27. Shares in Mount Gibson Iron Limited (ASX:MGX) and Sonic Healthcare Limited (ASX:SHL) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Perseus Mining Limited (ASX:PRU), dropping 11.11 per cent to close at $0.32. Shares in Ten Network Holdings Limited (ASX:TEN) and Ausdrill Limited (ASX:ASL) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,275 an ounce. Light crude is $0.81 down at $US93.03 a barrel. 

The Australian dollar 

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9388, having responded with a lift to the RBA’s minutes.