Market Wrap: Aus shares close 0.2% higher

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed 0.2 of a per cent higher lead by strength in the big banks after trading up and down in a twenty point range for most of the day.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 11 points up to finish at 5,356. 
 
The value of trades was $5.72 billion on volume of 1.1 billion 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 6 points higher.
 
Company news
 
Shares in Wotif.com Holdings Limited (ASX:WTF) were up over 15 per cent in early trade today after Bloomberg reported a block trade of 7.5 million shares crossed just before market open this morning at $2.40, four cents below yesterday’s closing price. The exchange asked for an explanation of the unusual activity with wotif.com saying they were unaware of any reason but that company directors had been meeting with investors this week.
 
The travel website suffered a major fall in share price in January after announcing a profit downgrade. Shares in Wotif.com closed 22.95 per cent up at $3.00. 
 
Lawyers acting for Seven West Media Limited (ASX:SWM) have said in a letter that veteran programmer John Stephens was under the influence of heavy pain killers when he agreed to move to Ten Network Holdings Limited (ASX:TEN).

TEN have flagged possible legal action against Seven claiming they induced a breach of contract. Mr Stephens had undergone major hip surgery at the time of negotiations for the move.

A statement yesterday from Ten said Mr Stephens would begin work on June 9 and that he “remains under a contract with Network Ten, which is continuing and has not been terminated.” Ten said in today’s media that they would not be bullied. Shares in Seven West Media closed 1.53 per cent higher at $1.99. 
 
David Jones Limited (ASX:DJS) has reported a rise in its first half revenue but a fall in its net profit, weighed down by lower earnings from credit card operations which declined 53 per cent after partnering with American Express. The department store retailer’s revenue rose 3.8 per cent to $1.042 billion in the same period its net profit fell 4.6 per cent to $70.1 million.  
 
DJs says its fashion, beauty and homewares divisions performed strongly and its online store soared 220 per cent from the prior year on the back of new services being launched.  
 
David Jones is currently considering a $3 billion potential merger with rival retailer Myer Holdings Limited (ASX:MYR).
 
A fully franked interim dividend of 10 cents per share has been maintained. Shares in David Jones closed 0.3 per cent down. 
 
Property developer Stockland (ASX:SGP) has secured a strategic stake in industrial property investor Australand Property Group (ASX:ALZ). Stockland now owns a 19.9 per cent interest in Australand’s shares after buying 115.2 million Australand shares at an average price of $3.78 each.
 
Stockland CEO Mark Steiner says Australand has a diverse and complementary portfolio of assets, including a quality industrial portfolio and medium density residential projects.
 
Mr Steiner believes the assets are well aligned with Stockland’s strategy and will enable the company to explore strategic opportunities with Australand over time. Shares in Stockland closed 2.6 per cent down. 
 
Origin Energy Limited (ASX:ORG) says drilling operations have restarted at its Australia Pacific LNG Project in central Queensland. The news comes after the energy giant suspended coal seam gas drilling at 12 rig sites due to an asbestos scare last week. 
 
One of the company’s suppliers, owned by Imdex Limited (ASX:IMD), identified asbestos in drilling fluids but has since withdrawn the product from market. 
 
Origin has advised five drilling rigs have now returned to work and the remaining seven are expected to progressively return over the coming days. The company says it continues to assess the drilling rigs to ensure they have no traces of asbestos or have been verified as safe and cleared to resume operations. Shares in Origin Energy closed 0.5 per cent down. 
 
The best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Consumer Staples adding 69.5 points to close at 9,923.5. The worst performing sector was Real Estate Investment Trusts, losing 5 points to close at 1,007 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Wotif.com Holdings Limited (ASX:WTF), rising 22.95 per cent to close at $3.00. Shares in Cardno Limited (ASX:CDD) and Nufarm Limited (ASX:NUF) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Energy World Corporation (ASX:EWC), dropping 5 per cent to close at $0.28. Shares in PanAust Limited (ASX:PNA) and Sigma Pharmaceutical Limited (ASX:SIP) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities

Gold is buying $US1,355 an ounce. Light crude is $1.62 up at $US99.70 a barrel. The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9121.