Market Wrap: Aus shares nudge 2014 highs

Market Reports

The Australian share market opened and ended higher, extending last week’s advance and nudging the highs of the year. The local bourse got a boost after global markets lifted at the end of last week and China’s credit data released over the weekend eased concerns of a slowdown. 

Aussie miners rallied on the back of stronger commodity prices and bullish gold buying with all sectors except for consumer staples ending the session stronger. Financials were weighed down by Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) with Australia’s biggest bank trading ex-dividend today.  
 
The local currency stayed buoyant above $US0.90 ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) February board meeting minutes due out tomorrow. 
 
Figures
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index lifted 26.6 points to finish at 5,383.

The value of trades was $4.2 billion on volume of 613 million shares at the close of trade. 
 
The top three stocks by value were Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA), National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB) and Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO)
 
On the futures market the SPI is 38 points higher.
 
Economic news
 
New car sales have dropped for the first time in three months. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports the sales of new motor vehicles in Australia fell 3.5 per cent to 93,232 in January, with sales dropping in every state and territory at the beginning of 2014. 
 
Company news 
 
Aurizon Holdings Limited (ASX:AZJ), formerly QR National, has posted a fall in its first half net profit on the back of impairment charges but boosted its annual haulage expectations. The rail freight operator’s net profit dropped 39 per cent to $107.3 million, impacted by costs associated with its rolling stock fleet, strategic infrastructure projects review and voluntary redundancies. Aurizon Holdings has almost doubled its interim dividend to 8 cents per share. Shares in Aurizon Holdings rose 1.76 per cent today to end the session at $5.19. 
 
Australand Property Group (ASX:ALZ) has reported a 25 per cent full year profit drop and maintained guidance for growth in operating earnings per security. The property investor says investment appetite for well leased assets remains strong and is expected to underpin valuations despite the softer underlying fundamentals. An unfranked final dividend of 11 cents per share has been declared and distributions have been forecast to increase. Shares in Australand Property Group gained 0.51 per cent today to end the session at $3.93. 
 
Shares in Buru Energy Limited (ASX:BRU) plunged after the oil and gas explorer posted a disappointing drilling update at its Ungani 3 well east of Broome in Western Australia. 
 
Shares in UGL Limited (ASX:UGL) dropped after the engineering company flagged plans to split or sell its property group DTZ amid softer domestic market conditions.
 
Shares in Ansell Limited (ASX:ANN) fell despite the gloves and condom maker generating a 15 per cent interim net profit gain and affirming its full year guidance amid soft economic conditions.
 
Shares in Cash Converters International Limited (ASX:CCV) lost ground after the second-hand goods retailer revealed a 46 per cent interim net profit fall but forecast a strong recovery.
 
Best and worst performers
 
Most sectors managed to end higher: The best performing sector was materials, adding 135 points to close at 10,593.
The only sector to end in the red was consumer staples, losing 7 points to close at 10,065 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Resolute Mining Limited (ASX:RSG), surging 11.45 per cent to close at $0.73. Shares in Sirius Resources NL (ASX:SIR) and Alacer Gold Corp (ASX:AQG) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Buru Energy Limited (ASX:BRU), plunging 18.78 per cent to close at $1.60. Shares in UGL Limited (ASX:UGL) and Ansell Limited (ASX:ANN) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities
 
Gold has continued to climb and is buying $US1,325 an ounce. 
Light crude is $0.05 lower at $US100.30 a barrel. 
 
Currency 
 
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9053.