Market Wrap: Aus shares close 0.12% lower

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed 0.12 per cent down after gains in morning trade were erased by afternoon losses in the materials sector. 
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 6.4 points down to finish at 5,434. 
 
The value of trades was $4.7 billion on volume of 800 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO), BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA).

On the futures market, the SPI is 8 points down.

Economic news

The ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence survey fell 1.6% last week to 110.4. The index has dipped below its long-run average to sit at levels not seen for 18 months. The steady rise in the index before last week’s results has lead ANZ-Roy Morgan to predict consumer spending will improve this year. They forecast household consumption will increase 2.4% this year, growing to around 3.2% in 2015.
 
Company news
 
The ACCC has announced it has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Coles and Woolworths Limited (ASX:WOW) for allegedly breaching court enforceable undertakings in relation to their fuel shopper dockets. 
 
The competition watchdog had started investigating new offers by both supermarket chains earlier this month after the chains had undertaken to ban fuel discounts of more than 4 cents a litre. The regulator alleges Woolworths had allowed discounts of 8 cents per litre while Coles had gone as high as 14 cents per litre.
 
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the commission had been concerned that fuel savings offers could have longer-term effects on the structure of the retail fuel markets and also short term effects of increasing general pump prices in those markets. Shares in Woolworths Limited (ASX:WOW) closed 0.14 per cent up at $36.60. 
 
Graincorp Limited (ASX:GNC) has lowered its full year earnings guidance for 2014 due to poor seasonal conditions across Western Queensland and New South Wales. The grain handler said it expects full-year 2014 EBITDA of $275 million to $315 million, and net profit after tax of $80 million to $100 million before significant items. The company said today in a release that is not dwelling on the failed takeover bid by Archer Daniels Midland and is well down the path of appointing a new CEO.
Shares in Graincorp Limited closed 0.51 per cent down at $7.77. 
 
Superannuation manager IOOF Holdings Limited (ASX:IFL) has reported funds under management increased $3.8 billion to $124 billion in 2013. Net profit after tax was $48.2 million in the first half of Fiscal 2014, 45 per cent higher than the same time last year with revenue also 11% higher. The wealth management group will pay an interim dividend of 22.5c per share, fully franked up 15% on its interim dividend a year ago. Shares in IOOF Holdings closed 4.86 per cent down. 
 
Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX:RHC) has reported a 15.8 per cent rise in interim net profit to $171.6 million for the first half of fiscal 2014. The company increased earnings in all foreign jurisdictions, most notably France where EBITDA was 61.9 per cent higher. CEO Christopher Rex says the company will be pursuing further capacity expansion in its Australian operations as well as joint ventures overseas. Ramsay will pay an interim dividend of 34c per share, fully franked, 17.2% higher than the same time last year. Shares in Ramsay Health Care are trading up 6.69 per cent. 
 
QBE Insurance Group Limited (ASX:QBE) recorded a loss of $US254 million in the 2013 calendar year, down from a profit of $US761 million the year before. The result was due in large part to the one off costs associated with QBE’s North American Operations relating to the previous year’s claims, write downs in the value of goodwill and intangible items as well as restructuring costs. CEO John Neal said changes to key management and steps to reposition and right-size underperforming businesses will enable the insurer to target a markedly improved performance in the second half of 2014. QBE will pay a final dividend of 12c per share fully franked. Shares in QBE are trading up 5.32 per cent. 
 
The best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Utilities adding 79 points to close at 5,800.The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 97 points to close at 10,678 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX:RHC), rising 6.69 per cent to close at $47.54. Shares in Cabcharge Australia Limited (ASX:CAB) and Northern Star Resources Limited (ASX:NST) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was yesterday’s best performer. Transfield Services Limited (ASX:TSE) dropped 9.1 per cent to close at $0.90. Shares in Buru Energy Limited (ASX:BRU) and Beach Energy Limited (ASX:BPT) also closed lower. 

Commodities

Gold is buying $US1,335 an ounce. Light crude is $0.62 up at $US102.82 a barrel.

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9031.