Strong start to 2017, but flat Friday finish for ASX

Market Reports

by David Chau

A bit of a topsy-turvy day for the Australian share market today. It reached an intra-day high of 5,764 points at midday after investors digested the surprisingly strong trade balance data which the ABS released in the morning.

However, throughout the day, the local market went in and out negative territory several times, before it managed to finish the day flat, or just 0.04% higher.

At the close of trade today, the S&P/ASX 200 index finished 2 points higher at 5,756 points. Since the beginning of the week (or rather, the start of 2017), the local index had a solid start, gaining 1.5%.

The value of trades was $3.5 billion on volume of 526 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA), Telstra (ASX:TLS) and ANZ Bank (ASX:ANZ).

On the futures market, the SPI is down 3 points.

Looking at Wall Street, US major indexes made some gains during the past trading week: The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.7 per cent. The S&P 500 Index was up 1.3 per cent. The NASDAQ rose 1.9 per cent. The 100 Index has was up 2 per cent.

Economic news

The ABS announced a surprise trade surplus for the country, according to its November figures released today. The data shows Australia had a surplus of $1.24 billion that month, which far exceeded economists’ predictions of a $0.5 billion deficit. This is also the first monthly surplus in nearly 3 years – driven by an 8% rise in commodity exports, while imports were flat. In comparison, the October figures showed the country’s trade balance was a deficit of $1.12 billion.

Company news

Litigation funder IMF Bentham (ASX:IMF) says it has received $18.8 million from certain claims which settled in the UK and Netherlands. The company expects to recognise net revenue of $10 million and a profit of around $3 million in the current financial year from this settled litigation matter. Shares in IMF closed 1.1% higher at $1.84.

Atlas Iron Limited (ASX:AGO) says it has paid off $54 million in debt and is on track to be in a net cash position by mid-2017.

Apiam Animal Health Limited (ASX:AHX) has completed its acquisition of All Stock NSW for $1.75 million. All Stock is one of Australia’s leading goat and sheep genetics and reproduction companies.

Ardent Leisure Group (ASX:AAD) has announced the progressive re-opening of Dreamworld has seen a 63% drop in revenue. The theme park closed in October 2016 after an accident on its Thunder Rapids River Ride resulted in the deaths of four people.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Telcos, adding 0.7 per cent to close at 1,845. The worst performing sector was Materials, which lost 0.6 per cent to close at 9,907 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Saracen Minerals, rising 2.83 per cent to close at $1.09. Shares in National Storage REIT and Aconex also finished higher.

The worst performing stock was Western Areas, dropping 3.07 per cent to close at $3.16. Shares in Incitec Pivot and CSR also closed lower.

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,177 an ounce and has gained $27 over the week.
Light crude is $0.50 higher at $US53.76 a barrel.
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.7316, and has gained 1 cent over the week.