Market Wrap: ASX drops for third straight week

Market Reports

The Australian share market has dropped over the day and for the third straight week. Stocks stumbled at open and ended lower but less than feared after global markets retreated overnight. The weekly loss has been intensified by softer than expected Chinese growth and manufacturing figures fuelling concerns about the nation’s economic outlook.  
As equities took a back seat the price of gold got a lift with the safe-haven asset notching up its fifth straight weekly gain. The Australian dollar hit a high of $US0.8888 after surprise local inflation figures on Wednesday, but retreated to end near 3.5 year lows.
Looking ahead, Australian investors will enjoy an extended weekend due to the Australia Day public holiday on Monday. Attention will then move to the US Federal Reserve’s policy meeting amid expectations the central bank could announce an extra $US10 billion tapering of its quantitative easing program.
The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 22.1 points today, widening the weekly fall of 65 points to finish at 5,241. 
The value of trades was $4.04 billion on volume of 732 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 ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ).
On the futures market the SPI is 33 points lower.
Wall Street
US indexes have put in a mixed trading performance over the week so far, which was shortened by the Martin Luther King Jr public holiday on Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 220 points. The S&P 500 Index has fallen 17 points. The NASDAQ has added 0.19 points. The 100 Index has added 2.5 points. 
Company news
The Reject Shop Limited’s (ASX:TRS) stock sank after posting flat first half comparable store sales and flagging shrinking margins. The discount retailer expects its interim net profit to drop by as much as 17 per cent despite sales rising on the back of new stores. Shares in The Reject Shop sank 31.95 per cent to end the week at $11.50. 
ResMed Inc’s (ASX:RMD) stock dropped after its interim results announcement disappointed investors. The medical manufacturer reported record first half revenue and income, but noted its US sales were impacted by increased competition. Shares in ResMed dropped 4.94 per cent to end the week at $5.00. 
Echo Entertainment Group Limited (ASX:EGP) has inked a $70 million deal to sell its Jupiters Townsville casino to Colonial Leisure Group. The casino operator plans to deploy the capital into its other Queensland assets. Shares in Echo Entertainment Group ended the week flat at $2.41. 
Hutchison Telecommunications Limited (ASX:HTA) has brought in the chief of Vodaphone Romania to head its local operations. Inaki Berroeta will succeed Bill Morrow as CEO of Vodaphone Hutchison Australia from March 1, 2014. Shares in Hutchison Telecommunications rose 1.2 per cent to end the week at $0.08.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector was materials, adding 17.5 points to close at 10,063. 
The worst performing sector was consumer discretionary, losing 26 points to close at 1,751 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Mount Gibson Iron Limited (ASX:MGX), rising 8.33 per cent to close at $1.04. Shares in Evolution (ASX:EVN) and Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX:NCM) also closed higher. 
The worst performing stock was The Reject Shop Limited (ASX:TRS), sinking 31.95 per cent to end the week at $11.50. Shares in Beadell Resources Limited (ASX:BDR) and Northern Star Resources Limited (ASX:NST) also closed lower. 
The price of gold is $US1,260 an ounce, up $17.40 over the week. 
Light crude is $0.59 higher at $US97.32 a barrel. 
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.8696, down $0.01 over the week.