Market Wrap: Aus shares close 0.5% higher

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed 0.5 of a per cent up as a rally on Wall Street sparked optimism that led to gains in most sectors. 

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 27 points up to finish at 5,345. 
 
The value of trades was $4.17 billion on volume of 730 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA).
 
On the futures market the SPI is 24 points higher.
 
Economic news

The RBA has flagged its rate cuts may be at an end for now. The minutes of the central bank’s March board meeting reiterated its stance that the cash rate will stay at its current level of 2.5 per cent ‘‘for some time if the economy was to evolve broadly as expected’’. The meeting cited the weak labour market and the declining exchange rate as reasons for the stance.

Company news
 
TPG Telecom Limited (ASX:TPM) has made its first submission to the Vertigan Committee headed by Dr Michael Vertigan, which will examine the legality of TPG’s ‘fibre-to-the-basement’ plans.
 
TPG has moved to exploit a loophole in NBN legislation, arguing that its ‘fibre-to-the-basement’ strategy to compete with the NBN is legal. NBN Chief Ziggy Zwitkowski has told a senate enquiry such networks in densely populated urban areas would ‘severely impact’ the NBN’s business model.
 
TPG have reportedly said in their submission that “the NBN was not intended to be a fixed line monopoly." with qualified support from the ACCC and rival second tier telco, iiNet. Shares in TPG Telecom closed 2.17 per cent up at $5.64. 
 
Shares in Macquarie Group Limited (ASX:MQG) rose almost one per cent this morning as reports circulated the investment bank has agreed to sell its private equity funds management division to the unit's three managers. 
 
Reports in this mornings’ media said the company has offloaded Macquarie Investment Management Private Markets, which has funds of around A$5 billion largely invested in and around Australia, to managers Michael Lukin, Andrew Savage and Shaw Ng. The company will be renamed ROC Equity Partners.
 
Analysts have commented that large investment banks like Macquarie are shifting away from riskier exposures to focus on more reliable, annuities-style investments. Shares in Macquarie Group finished the day only 0.17 per cent up at $54.50. 
 
Department store retailer David Jones Limited (ASX:DJS) has confirmed it is mulling a $3 billion potential merger with rival retailer Myer Holdings Limited (ASX:MYR)
 
DJs has now reappointed a strategic adviser to review a possible merger, while on the same day announcing director Leigh Clapham will leave the board immediately.
 
The company has appointed management consulting firm Port Jackson Partners to investigate the possible value of a merger.
 
New Chairman Gordon Cairns says it is imperative to undertake the review before entering talks with Myer so that it can then engage in a meaningful way. Shares in David Jones closed up 1.22 per cent.
 
Hit by a downturn in demand due to two poor growing seasons, Nufarm Limited (ASX:NUF) is set to streamline its Australian business through a reorganisation the company says is geared to improving its cost structure, product innovation and customer service.  
 
The changes will include the phased closure of two manufacturing facilities in Western Australia and Queensland and a number of regional service facilities, while facilities in Victoria will expand. The move may cost as many as 105 jobs.
 
Managing Director Doug Rathbone says the changes will enable the company to be more responsive, competitive and focused on delivering innovative, high quality products.  Shares in Nufarm closed up 2.56 per cent.
 
The best and worst performers

All major sectors closed in positive territory. The best performing sector was Real Estate Investment Trusts adding 9 points to close at 1,012.The sector with the least gains was Health Care, gaining 7 points to close at 14,688 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Wotif.com Holdings Limited (ASX:WTF), rising 6.55 per cent to close at $2.44. Shares in Western Areas Limited (ASX:WSA) and Acrux Limited (ASX:ACR) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Resolute Mining Limited (ASX:RSG), dropping 9.59 per cent to close at $0.66. Shares in Beadell Resources Limited (ASX:BDR) and Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX:NCM) also closed lower. 

Commodities

Gold is buying $US1,361 an ounce. Light crude is $0.81 down at $US98.08 a barrel. The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9080.