Market Wrap: Aus shares close 0.55% lower

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed 0.55 of a per cent down as softness in big miners and banks and a general weakness in consumer sectors before noon was offset later by bargain hunters in materials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 30 points down to finish at 5,384. 
 
The value of trades was $4.4 billion on volume of 870 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 Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC).

On the futures market the SPI is 33 points down.

Overseas economic news
 
China’s bullish prediction of economic growth of 7.5 per cent took another hit after exports dropped the most in February than since 2009. China’s overseas shipments plunged 18.1 percent last month according to customs data. Analysts are stopping short of calling an export crash, saying March data will shed more light on the current export trend.
 
Company news 
 
Lend Lease Group (ASX:LLC) shares took a hit this afternoon as social media and internet reports of a fire at the Barangaroo development in Sydney. 
 
The price dipped as much as three per cent against a benchmark fall of 0.6 per cent as news and social media sites erupted with images of billowing flames and huge smoke plumes spilling from the basement of a contraction project at the harbourside site. Authorities have cleared the site and closed surrounding freeways as fears emerge a heavy crane may collapse.
 
Lend Lease was selected in December 2009 as the developer for Barangaroo South.
Shares in Lend Lease closed 2.58 per cent down at $11.31. 
 
TPG Telecom Limited’s (ASX:TPM) plans to compete with the National Broadband Network were today criticised by NBN chief Ziggy Zitkowski at a senate hearing into high speed broadband. The second tier telco plans to connect up to 500,000 apartments with high-speed internet on its own system by exploiting a loophole that allows extensions of less than a kilometre for networks built before 2010.
 
Zwitkowski said allowing rival telecommunications companies to build their own fibre networks alongside the $41 billion NBN would have a “severe impact” on the government company’s ability to make money and pay back its debt.
 
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull had earlier questioned TPG Telecom’s plan saying the business model of the NBN relied on using high density urban areas to subsidise operations in more sparsely populated and remote areas. He also called into question the legality of such activities. TPG Telecom has not responded to the comments. Shares in TPG Telecom closed 1.8 per cent down at $5.51. 
 
iSelect Limited (ASX:ISU) has appointed Alex Stevens as the company’s new chief after past CEO Matt McCann resigned in October last year.  
 
The insurance comparison service says Mr Stevens will join the company at the end of this month when he will start a handover with interim CEO David Chalmers.
 
Incoming CEO Alex Stevens has more than 20 years of domestic and international executive experience and his last role was as CEO of PepsiCo Australia and New Zealand. 
 
iSelect has seen its share price sink about 30 per cent since it listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in the middle of last year. Shares in iSelect closed 4.07 per cent up.
 
Shares in Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN) have fallen after news broke that one of the world's largest gold producers Newmont Mining Corporation (NYSE: NEM) has sold a 5.4 per cent stake in the company. 
 
Newmont acquired the interest in the uranium producer following its acquisition of Fronteer Gold in 2011.
 
At the time of acquisition the stake was valued at about $278 million but Paladin’s share price was struck shortly after by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
 
Shares in Paladin Energy had fallen 4.5 per cent this morning and were trading at $0.53. Shares in Paladin Energy closed 5.41 per cent down. 
 
Movement continues for Leighton Holdings Limited’s (ASX:LEI), as the Spanish giant ACS announced the current CEO of subsidiary Hochtief, Marcelino Fernandez Verdes, will take over as global head. Hochtief already held a 58 per cent majority holding in Leighton before it launched a $1.15 billion conditional cash takeover bid on Monday morning. 
 
Current CEO of ACS Florentino Perez made comments about succession planning during an interview on Spanish television though not say when he would step down. Shares in Leighton closed 0.45 per cent up.

The best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Materials adding 28 points to close at 9,992.The worst performing sector was Consumer Discretionary, losing 26 points to close at 1,870 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR), rising 10.11 per cent to close at $0.49. Shares in Resolute Mining Limited (ASX:RSG) and Medusa Mining Limited (ASX:MML) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC), dropping 9.26 per cent to close at $0.24. Shares in Automotive Group Holdings (ASX:AHE) and Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities

Gold is buying $US1,358 an ounce. Light crude is $1.09 down at $US100.03 a barrel.

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.8957.