Market Wrap: AUD drops after ABS trade data

Market Reports

The Australian share market finished a soft session of trade almost where it started. Local stocks initially got off to a bright start as the US Senate confirmed Janet Yellen will become the Federal Reserve’s first chairwoman from the beginning of February.  
With few other positive catalysts stocks drifted and the benchmark index dipped into the red by close. Sentiment was weighed down by Wall Street’s falls after the release of a mixed batch of economic indicators. 
At home, official trade figures put pressure on the local currency which dropped almost half a cent following the release. 
The S&P/ASX 200 index ended the session 8 points down at 5,317. 
The value of trades was $3.3 billion on volume of 612 million shares at the close of trade. 
The top three stocks by value were Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA), BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) and Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO)
On the futures market the SPI is 18 points lower.

Economic news
Australia's trade deficit narrowed more than expected as November imports fell 1 per cent and exports stayed steady. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports the trade deficit came in at $118 million in November, smaller than the $300 million expected. October’s deficit was downwardly revised to $358 million.
Company news
Australia’s petroleum industry could be headed for a shake up amid reports multinationals such as BP and Shell are considering selling out of the country. The headlines come on the same day speculation has grown Alcoa Inc (ASX:AAI) could shut its struggling Geelong smelter in Victoria. The aluminium giant is expected to release the findings of a review on the ageing facility by March. Shares in Alcoa last traded at $10.70.  

Woodside Petroleum Limited’s (ASX:WPL) potential partners in Israel's Leviathan gas project have inked their first gas sales deal worth $1.2 billion over 20 years. The oil and gas giant is currently negotiating to buy a 30 per cent stake in the project but the process has been delayed. Woodside is now awaiting the outcome of a review into Israel's domestic gas policy which is expected to be released early February. Shares in Woodside Petroleum eased 0.11 per cent today to end the session at $37.66. 
Shares in Sundance Energy Australia Limited (ASX:SEA) slipped 0.51 per cent after announcing its increased its US footprint through buying $US5.9 million of land in Oklahoma. 
Shares in Beadell Resources Limited (ASX:BDR) rose 1.23 per cent after the gold producer posted record quarterly gold production from its Tucano Gold Mine in Brazil.
Shares in Nucoal Resources Limited (ASX:NCR) climbed 94.12 per cent to end the session at $0.03. Responding to an ASX price query the New South Wales-focused coal developer could offer no reason for the sharp spike.
Shares in Red Mountain Mining Limited (ASX:RMX) surged 75 per cent after the gold explorer said it has made an exceptionally high-grade gold discovery at its Lobo Prospect in the Philippines. 
Best and worst performers 
The best performing sector was real estate investment trusts, adding 10 points to close at 1,003.
The worst performing sector was materials, losing 101 points to close at 10,055 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Buru Energy Limited (ASX:BRU), rising 8.82 per cent to close at $1.98. Shares in Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC) and REA Group Limited (ASX:REA) also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Atlas Iron Limited (ASX:AGO), dropping 8.19 per cent to close at $1.06. Shares in Forge Group Limited (ASX:FGE) and Mount Gibson Iron Limited (ASX:MGX) also closed lower. 

Gold has firmed and is sitting at $US1,241 an ounce. 
Light crude is has continued to weaken and is $0.53 lower at $US93.43 a barrel. 

The Australian dollar fell against its peers and against the greenback is buying $US0.8921. 

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