Outlook: ASX eyes soft start before China GDP

Market Reports

The Australian share market looks set for a soft start to the session after Wall St stayed shut on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr federal public holiday. All eyes will be on China’s fourth-quarter growth figures today amid expectations the annual pace of growth will slow from 7.3 per cent to 7.2 per cent. Also due today China will release monthly activity readings for retail sales and industrial production, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will unveil its latest world economic outlook and local miners will report production figures. 
Global markets 
Wall Street was on holidays on Monday but rose at the end of last week: The Dow Jones Industrial Average last closed at 17,512 on Friday, the S&P 500 last closed at 2,019 on Friday and the Nasdaq last closed at 4,634 on Friday.
European markets lifted into the new week: London's FTSE 100 gained 0.5 per cent, France's CAC 40 gained 0.4 per cent and Germany's DAX gained 0.7 per cent.
Asian markets put in a mixed performance on Monday: Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.9 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 1.5 per cent, and China’s Shanghai Composite plunged 7.7 per cent.
Steep falls on China’s benchmark index pushed the Australian share market off its highs yesterday: The S&P/ASX 200 index ended just 10 points higher at 5,309 on Monday. On the futures market the SPI is 5 points lower. 
The Australian dollar at 8:00am was buying $US0.8213, 54.34 Pence Sterling, 96.55 Yen and 70.77 Euro cents.
Economic news due out today 
Australian Bureau of Statistics: International merchandise imports figures for December
ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ)-Roy Morgan: Weekly consumer confidence survey
Company news
Shares in Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) rose into the new week amid expectations it will today report record iron ore production. The global mining company’s fourth quarter operations review is also tipped to show iron ore sales exceeded the company’s annual guidance of 300 million tonnes. Perseus Mining Limited (ASX:PRU) is also posied to release its December quarter activity report today while BHP Billiton Limited’s (ASX:BHP) production numbers are due tomorrow. Shares in Rio Tinto rose 0.5 per cent to close at $54.16 on Monday ahead of the output results. 
National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB) has appointed a new CEO for its UK subsidiary Clydesdale Bank. Allied Irish Banks boss David Duffy has been asked to take the top spot at Clydesdale, replacing current chief David Thorburn after almost four years in the role. NAB says the appointment is subject to regulatory approval but the bank expects Mr Duffy to be in post within the next few months. Shares in National Australia Bank fell 0.15 per cent to close at $33.32 on Monday ahead of the announcement. 

Tower Limited (ASX:TWR) paying a 6.22 cent unfranked dividend. 

Gold has gained $0.30 to $US1,277 an ounce for the February contract on Comex. 
Silver has slipped $0.05 to $17.70 for March. 
Copper has eased $0.04 to $2.57 a pound. 
Oil has lost $1.24 to $US47.89 a barrel for February light crude in New York.