Market Wrap: Aus shares sink, dollar down

Market Reports


The Australian share market recovered a little from early lows to end 0.53 per cent down. BHP weighed heavy on the market as the miner traded ex-dividend meanwhile the strengthening greenback has sent the Aussie dollar dipping below 76US cents for the first time in nearly 7 years.  
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 31 points down to finish at 5,793. 
 
The value of trades was $5.5 billion on volume of 918 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 Telstra Corporation Limited (ASX:TLS)
 
On the futures market the SPI is 20 points down.
 
Economic news

Early signs that the property market is slowing as figures from the ABS show home loan approvals for January were down by 3.5 per cent. Total housing finance fell by 0.6 per cent to $30.2 billion. 
 
Company news
 
Ardent Leisure Group (ASX:AAD) has copped a beating from investors after announcing after market close yesterday that CEO Greg Shaw would be replaced by former magazine editor Deborah Thomas. Ms Thomas has been a non-executive director for just over a year and will undergo a handover period in April. Analyst say the appointment was a surprise move and some have cut recommendations on the stock citing Ms Thomas’s lack of experience in leisure and consumer services. Shares in Ardent Leisure closed 19.14 per cent down at $1.97. 
 
Singapore Telecommunications Limited's (ASX:SGT) Optus has struck a streaming deal with US based on-demand Internet media company Netflix. New and recontracting customers will get a free six month subscription to Netflix when they sign up for an eligible plan. Pre-paid customers will have access to a three month subscription. Shares in SingTel were flat at $3.88.
 
Online job outsourcing company Freelancer Limited (ASX:FLN) has bought the assets of a now defunct freelance job marketplace and aggregator called DoNanza. 
 
AJ Lucas Group Limited (ASX:AJL) has outlined details of three new Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs) it plans to acquire in New South Wales for $2.5 million.
 
A joint venture between Downer EDI Limited (ASX:DOW) and public transport operator Keolis has struck a deal to buy Australian Transit Enterprises (ATE). 
 
And Iress Limited (ASX:IRE) announced it has won a partnership with Commonwealth Bank to supply an advice technology platform to the Wealth Management business of the bank.
 
Best and worst perfomers

The best performing sector was real estate investment trusts adding 1.3 per cent to close at 1,303. The worst performing sector was materials, losing 2.6 per cent to close at 9,096 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Drillsearch, rising 8.5 per cent to close at $1.08. Shares in Horizon and Sirtex also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was the aforementioned Ardent Leisure. Shares in Beadell Resources and Sundance Energy also closed lower. 
 

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,162 an ounce. Light crude is $1.59 down at $US50.07 a barrel. The Australian dollar is buying 76.06 US cents.