Market Wrap: ASX posts golden start to 2014

Market Reports

Returning from the New Year’s public holiday the Australian share market started the trading first session of the year 0.3 per cent higher. On the back of a 15.1 per cent gain in 2013 traders were in an optimistic mood though liquidity levels remained subdued over the holiday period. Wall Street’s positive close and upbeat local housing figures supported gains and offset China’s soft manufacturing figures which dragged on regional markets. Across the sectors the miners rallied after being last year’s worst performer and the gold sector extended gains throughout the session.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 16 points to end the session at 5,368. 

The value of trades was $1.8 billion on volume of 335 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 28 points higher.
Economic news
Australian manufacturing continued to soften at the end of 2013. The Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Manufacturing Index fell to 47.6 points in December, from 47.7 the month before and again remained under the 50-point level indicating the sector is contracting. 
Property prices rose at the quickest pace in four years over 2013. It was the biggest annual gain since 2009 when values jumped 13.7 per cent. RP Data-Rismark’s Home Value Index shows home values in capital cities rose 9.8 per cent over 2013 with the median dwelling price coming in at $540,000. The gains were driven by Sydney’s property market and on the back of record low interest rates.  
Company news
Woodside Petroleum Limited’s (ASX:WPL) plans for developing its Browse liquefied natural gas project have been dealt a blow. The oil and has giant’s Japanese partners, Mitsui and Mitsubishi, have scrapped a key liquefied natural gas sales agreement which partially underpinned the project. While the venture partners, known as MIMI, have terminated the LNG purchase contract a joint marketing arrangement with Woodside sill stands. Shares in Woodside Petroleum ended the first day of the year 0.87 per cent lower at $38.56.
Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) has completed the $1.45 billion acquisition of Lloyds Banking Group assets. Westpac has purchased Lloyds Australian asset finance business Capital Finance Australia Ltd and Lloyds Australian corporate loan portfolio BOS International (Australia) Ltd. CEO Gail Kelly says the acquisition is a good strategic fit with Westpac’s existing St George and Westpac Institutional Bank businesses. Shares in Westpac Banking Corporation ended the first day of the year 0.12 per cent lower at $32.34. 
Myer Holdings Limited (ASX:MYR) ended 0.36 per cent higher as its website got back up and running after it crashed on Boxing Day and amid bullish forecasts for post-Christmas sales across Australia. 
Shares in last year’s worst performing stock Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR) was today’s best performer on the back of a higher gold price and ended the first trading day of the year almost 19 per cent higher. 
Shares in Village Roadshow Limited (ASX:VRL) ended flat after its recently opened Wet'n'Wild water theme park in Sydney made headlines for the wrong reasons on New Years Eve. Ticket holders were left stranded when external promoters cancelled the event just hours before it was due to begin. 
Shares in Buccaneer Energy Limited (ASX:BCC) plunged 21.74 per cent after the Alaska-focused energy explorer inked $US65 million of asset sales, arranged debt financing and flagged plans for a $60 million equity raising. 
Best and worst performers 
The best performing sector was materials, rising 109 points to close at 10,318.
The worst performing sector was health care, weakening 43 points to close at 14,324 points.

The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR), climbing 18.69 per cent to close at $0.64. Shares in fellow gold stocks Resolute Mining Limited (ASX:RSG) and Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX:NCM) also closed stronger.
Pulling back from its recent rally the worst performing stock was Forge Group Limited (ASX:FGE), dropping 12.64 per cent to close at $1.52. Shares in Super Retail Group Limited (ASX:SUL) and Monadelphous Group Limited (ASX:MND) also closed lower. 
Gold is trading at $US1,222 an ounce after its steepest annual loss since 1981.
Light crude is trading $0.87 lower at $US98.42 a barrel. 

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.8913.