Market Wrap: Aus shares close 0.4% lower

Market Reports

The Australian share market has closed 0.4 per cent down after fears of conflict in Ukraine lead the market down over fifty points in early trade. Strength in the Energy sector helped recover some early losses. 

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 21 points down to finish at 5,384. 
 
The value of trades was $4.8 billion on volume of 816 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA).
 
On the futures market the SPI is 6 points down.

Economic news
 
ANZ Monthly Job Advertisements survey rose strongly in February after a flat start to the year. The 5.1 per cent rise last month followed a stabilisation in the labour market.
 
The growth in job ads comes after the unemployment rate hit six per cent in January, its highest level in a decade. ANZ economists say more data will be needed before a recovery in job ad numbers can be declared.
 
The TD Securities - Melbourne Institute Monthly Inflation Gauge rose 0.2 per cent in February, following 0.1 and 0.7 per cent increases in the two months previous. Fruit and vegetables, non-alcoholic beverages and furniture and furnishings lead the rise. Prices were up 2.7 per cent year-on-year, up from 2.5 per cent in January.
 
Company news

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed that Federal Cabinet will tonight discuss lifting all foreign ownership restrictions on Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN), a move that would open the way for majority foreign ownership.
 
The Financial Review is tonight reporting that a majority-foreign owned Qantas would have to restructure its international and domestic operations to ensure it remained a designated carrier – which allows access to lucrative routes such as Los Angeles. Virgin was also forced to take similar measures to obtain those routes.  Shares in Qantas Airways closed Qantas 1.29 per cent down at $1.15. 
 
AMP Limited(ASX:AMP) has announced PETER Mason will step down as chairman after eight years in the role at the group’s upcoming annual meeting. Mr Mason will be replaced by Simon McKeon, as part of a planned succession.
 
Simon McKeon joined AMP from Macquarie Group in April of 2013. He has since worked on the company’s audit committee and as Director of AMP Capital Holdings. His 30 year career has seen him work in corporate mergers and acquisitions, fund raising and strategic advice.
 
Mr McKeon said the move was timed to follow the smooth transition to the new CEO Craig Meller and the completion of the recent merger with AXA. Shares in AMP are trading down 2.28 per cent at $4.72. 
 
WorleyParsons Limited (ASX:WOR) has won a contract worth about $130 million to provide engineering and procurement services in Canada.

WorleyParsons will start work immediately on Phase 1 of the North West Redwater Partnership’s greenfield bitumen refinery project. Commercial operations are targeted for September 2017. 

CEO Andrew Wood says the project will be the first Greenfield refinery built in Canada since 1984. Shares in WorleyParsons are trading down 0.95 per cent.
 
Transpacific Industries Group Limited (ASX:TPI) says it will consider the resumption of dividends after inking a deal to sell its New Zealand waste management business for about $880 million to a Chinese state owned infrastructure enterprise, Beijing Capital Group.

Transpacific CEO Robert Boucher says the sale will give the company increased flexibility as it looks to enhance its Australian waste management business, focus on long term growth opportunities and generate improved returns.  

The company has advised proceeds from the sale will also allow it to redeem the Step-up Preference securities, refinance debt and fund future investments. Shares in Transpacific Industries are trading up 0.43 per cent.

The best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Energy adding 189 points to close at 13,882.The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 143 points to close at 10,327 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Medusa Mining Limited (ASX:MML), rising 13.36 per cent to close at $2.46. Shares in Resolute Mining Limited (ASX:RSG) and Beadell Resources Limited (ASX:BDR) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was McMillan Shakespeare Limited (ASX:MMS), dropping 5.47 per cent to close at $10.20. Shares in Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC) and Ausdrill Limited (ASX:ASL) also closed lower. 

Commodities

Gold is buying $US1,342 an ounce. Light crude is $0.20 down at $US102.20 a barrel.

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.8920.