Market Wrap: Aus shares close down as Asia slides

Market Reports

Australian shares slid 0.13 per cent lower after Woolworths results and a slide in Asian markets weighed on afternoon trade. 
 
Weekly Wrap
 
Today, the S&P/ASX 200 index closed 6.6 points down to finish at 5,405. Over the week the index is 33 points down. 
 
The value of trades was $7.9 billion on volume of 1 billion shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were Oil Search Limited (ASX:OSH), Wesfarmers Limited (ASX:WES) and BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP).
 
On the futures market the SPI is 4 points up.
 
Wall Street

US stocks have gained over the four trading days this week: The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 139 points. The S&P 500 Index added 14.5 points. The NASDAQ added 51 points. The 100 Index added 28 points. 
 
Economic news
 
Credit Suisse has released a mixed report card on reporting season so far, saying companies have delivered on profits and dividends but underachieved on free cash flow. Free cash flow is the amount of cash that a company has left over after it has paid all of its expenses, including investments.
 
The bank says 50 per cent of companies have underperformed on Free Cash Flow, leading to concerns that businesses may be spreading themselves too thin to accommodate dividend hungry investors.
 
Company News
 
Despite a tough trading environment with weak consumer spending, Harvey Norman Holdings Limited (ASX:HVN) has reported a net profit after tax of $110.75 million.
 
Global sales increased by 3.6 per cent to $2.99 billion for the half while local sales increased by 3.3 per cent. CEO Gerry Hervey put the result down to strong sales in the New Zealand division, as well as strengthening sales from its Ireland and Northern Ireland operations.
 
The company will pay a 6 cent fully franked dividend up from 4.5 cents for the same half last year. Shares in Harvey Norman closed 2.56 per cent up at $3.21. 
 
Retail Food Group Limited (ASX:RFG) has announced its highest ever half year net profit. The owners of such brands as Donut King, Brumby’s Bakery and Michel’s Patisserie booked a profit of $17.3 million for the first half of Fiscal 2014, up 18 per cent on a year ago, on total revenue of $64.6 million.
 
Crust Gourmet Pizza and Pizza Capers, the company’s pizza chains, showed strong growth, increasing their share of the group’s total pre-tax earnings to 24.9 per cent. 
 
The group flagged further brand acquisitions and reinforced its full-year guidance of 15 per cent profit growth. Retail Food Group will pay an interim dividend of 10.75 cents fully franked, up from 9.5 cents for the same half last year. Shares in Retail Food Group are trading 2.5 per cent higher at $4.51. 
 
The best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Consumer Discretionary adding 10 points to close at 1,856. The worst performing sector was Consumer Staples, losing 12 points to close at 10,042 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Western Areas Limited (ASX:WSA), rising 6.84 per cent to close at $3.28. Shares in Medusa Mining Limited (ASX:MML) and James Hardie Industries (ASX:JHX) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR), dropping 14.71 per cent to close at $0.58. Shares in Mermaid Marine Australia Limited (ASX:MRM) and Treasury Wine Estates Limited (ASX:TWE) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities

The price of gold is buying $US1,331 an ounce, and is up $13.90 over the week. Light crude is $0.19 lower at $US102.40 a barrel. The Australian dollar is buying $0.8955 and is flat for the week.