The Australian share market extended this week’s falls and ended in the red following weaker than expected Chinese data and ahead of America’s monthly jobs report. Soft leads weighed on stocks at open while the miners widened losses after China’s trade surplus came in smaller than expected. Weaker than expected Chinese iron ore imports stoked concerns about the nation's economic strength and pushed the local benchmark’s biggest resources sector to the bottom by close.
Traders were also hesitant ahead of America’s jobs figures with many speculating the report could show the US recovery is on its way and give the US Federal Reserve more reason to taper its economic stimulus. Analysts are tipping US nonfarm payrolls may have risen by between 205,000 to 230,000 in December 2013 while the unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 7 per cent. Ahead of the report regional markets were trading cautiously and commodities prices had firmed.
The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 12 points today, widening the weekly fall of 37.7 points to finish at 5,312.
The value of trades was $3.1 billion on volume of 586 million shares at the close of trade.
The top three stocks by value were Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (ASX:FOX)
, BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP)
and Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO)
On the futures market the SPI is 2 points lower.
US indexes have put in a mixed trading performance over the trading week so far: The Dow Jones Industrial Average has added 3.41 points. The S&P 500 Index has added 6.15 points. The NASDAQ has added 13.12 points. The 100 Index has lost 10.99 points.
Australian new home sales hit a 2.5 year high last year and recorded the quickest monthly pace of growth since the beginning of 2010. The Housing Industry Association’s (HIA) New Home Sales report shows new home sales grew 7.5 per cent in November on the back of a 30.5 per cent lift in multi-units and a 3.6 per cent rise in detached house sales.
Australia’s communications watchdog has slapped Telstra Corporation Limited (ASX:TLS)
with the regulator’s biggest ever fine for taking too long to connect urban landline customer connections in the last financial year. The Australian Communications and Media Authority ordered the telco to pay a $510,000 fine which it says was paid yesterday. Telstra says its network faced unprecedented damage from natural disasters last year and affirmed its continued investment and learning to recover from these extreme events. Shares in Telstra Corporation ended the session flat today at $5.26.
Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (ASX:FOX)
has decided to ditch its Australian listing and move entirely to the NASDAQ stock market to boost its liquidity. Rupert Murdoch’s film and television business started trading as its own entity after being spun out of News Corp (ASX:NWS)
in 2013. The company will put the proposal to a shareholder vote in March or April and hopes to de-list from the Australian Securities Exchange the following month. After climbing almost 60 per cent last year shares in Twenty-First Century Fox dropped 4.65 per cent today to end the week at $36.31.
Shares in aluminium giant Alcoa Inc (ASX:AAI)
and its joint venture partner Alumina Limited (ASX:AWC)
made headlines today after releasing financial results and settling a legal case. Alcoa posted a steep quarterly loss on the back of a $US1.7 billion impairment charge and advised its venture with Alumina will pay about $400 million to resolve charges related to bribery in Bahrain. Shares in Alumina fell 2.19 per cent today to end the week at $1.11.
Ten Network Holdings Limited (ASX:TEN)
today responded to a price query from the ASX after its shares ran up more than 30 per cent in a week. The media company could offer no definite reason for its spike but suggested its coverage of the KFC T20 Big Bash League may have contributed to the stock’s upward momentum. Shares in Ten Network Holdings ended the week 1.47 per cent higher at $0.35.
Best and worst performers
The sectors ended the session mixed: The best performing sector was utilities, adding 30 points to close at 5,426.
The worst performing sector was materials, losing 131 points to close at 9,864 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC)
, rising 6.78 per cent to close at $0.32. Shares in Horizon Oil Limited (ASX:HZN)
and Fairfax Media Limited (ASX:FXJ)
also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Mount Gibson Iron Limited (ASX:MGX)
, dropping 6.67 per cent to close at $0.91. Shares in Atlas Iron Limited (ASX:AGO)
and Evolution (ASX:EVN)
also closed lower.
Gold has firmed today and is currently fetching $US1,233.94, up $3.14 over the week.
Light crude is $0.67 lower at $US91.66 a barrel.
The Australian dollar
The Australian dollar is up from this morning to $US0.8907 but down $US0.0077 over the week.