Market Wrap: Miners push ASX 0.5% lower

Market Reports

The Australian share market opened softly and declined throughout the session to close 0.5 per cent lower. Losses in the mining and energy sectors dragged on the broader bourse after commodity prices fell overnight. 
 
Figures
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 29 points to close at 5,932. 
 
The value of trades was $4.4 billion on volume of 601 million shares at the close of trade. 
 
The top three stocks by value were Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO), BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) and Caltex Australia Limited (ASX:CTX)
 
On the futures market the SPI is 30 points lower.
 
Economic news
 
Australia’s construction activity jumped last month on the back of stronger housing construction. The Australian Industry Group and Housing Industry Association’s performance of construction index rose 6.2 points to 50.1 in March, lifting above 50 into expansion territory. 
 
Company news
 
AGL Energy Limited (ASX:AGL) has struck a deal with BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) and Esso Australia to purchase gas from Bass Strait for three years. The energy giant says the deal will allow it to access a continual supply of competitively priced gas for its 1.5 million residential and business customers. Shares in AGL Energy slipped 0.27 per cent to close at $15.00. 
 
Singapore Telecommunications Limited’s (ASX:SGT) Australian arm Optus has renewed a managed network services contract with the Australian Taxation Office. Under the deal the telco will continue to deliver voice and data services, contact centre and video-conferencing for the ATO. Shares in Singapore Telecommunications dropped 0.71 per cent to close at $4.19. 
 
Construction company Leighton Holdings (ASX:LEI) has scored a $160 million contract to design and construct an extension of the Mitchell Freeway in Perth. 
 
Alumina Limited (ASX:AWC) says its 40 per cent owned Alcoa of Australia operations have secured further long term energy supply for its Australian alumina refineries. 
 
Shares in drug developer Novogen Limited (ASX:NRT) jumped after studies revealed its experimental drug Anisina kills off melanoma cells, irrespective of their mutational status.
 
Shares in BC Iron Limited (ASX:BCI) rose after the mining company increased its third-quarter shipments by 20 per cent and flagged further cost cuts.  
 
Best and worst performers
 
The best performing sector was consumer discretionary, adding 0.3 per cent to close at 2,011.
The worst performing sector was materials, losing 1.3 per cent to close at 9,152 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Sirtex Medical Limited (ASX:SRX), rising 5.68 per cent to close at $22.89. Shares in Myer Holdings Limited (ASX:MYR) and UGL Limited (ASX:UGL) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Sandfire Resources NL (ASX:SFR), dropping 6.25 per cent to close at $4.35. Shares in Sirius Resources NL (ASX:SIR) and Western Areas Limited (ASX:WSA) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities
 
Gold is buying $US1,195 an ounce. 
Light crude is $3.56 lower at $US50.42 a barrel. 
 
Currencies
 
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.7692.