Market Wrap: Aus shares close relatively stronger

Market Reports

The Australian share market has closed relatively higher today, as investors gained confidence following a proposed multi-billion dollar bailout for Ireland coupled with China’s decision to tighten monetary policy. The banks closed mixed, with the major miners leading the market. An overall positive close, although the market did pull back slightly from the highs seen at midday.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index closed 14 points higher to finish at 4,644. On the futures market, the SPI200 up 12 points.

QR National Ltd (ASX:QRN), the biggest float since Telstra in 1997, has strengthened at the ASX today after making its debut at noon. QR National shares listed on the Australian Securities Exchange at $2.54 and roared to a high of $2.68. The $2.68 high represents a 5 per cent premium from the listing price of $2.55 for institutional investors and a 9.4 per cent gain for retail investors who got their shares at a discounted price of $2.45. Queensland Government is the company’s largest shareholder, with a 33.7 per cent stake. London-based hedge fund manager The Children’s Investment Fund is QR Nationals’ second largest shareholder with a 6.1 per cent stake. Shares in QR National closed 4.7 per cent higher at $2.65.

AGL Energy Ltd (ASX:AGK) is seeking solar energy funding from the Australian government. The proposed 100-megawatt venture in New South Wales is estimated to cost around $350 million to develop. According to documents lodged at the NSW planning department, AGL plans to develop five solar projects that will have a total capacity of 200 megawatts at sites across Australia. In May, the Australian government picked AGL, TruEnergy and BP to advance in a competition for funding from the $1.5 billion Solar Flagships program. Shares in AGL closed 0.25 per cent lower at $15.71.

Emerging iron ore producer WPG Resources Ltd (ASX:WPG) says it has raised $85 million to fund the development of the firms' flagship project in South Australia.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd (ASX:CBA) has cancelled an extravagant masquerade-themed Christmas party for its Human Resources and Group Services division amid political lashing over its high interest rate rises and its chief executive, Ralph Norris’, $16 million pay package.

Westfield Group (ASX:WDC) says it will sell a 50 per cent interest in the retail component of the group’s Stratford City centre in the UK for $1.4 billion.

Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd (ASX:VBA) and Middle-East carrier Etihad are working on a multi-million dollar project to expand their alliance in a bid to slash back-office costs and improve efficiency.

In the best and worst market performers: The best performing sector was Real Estate Investment Trust which closed 13 points higher to 844. The worst performing sector was Consumer Staples with the index falling 53 points to 7,937. The best performing stock in the S&P/ ASX200 was Sundance as shares were 12.9 per cent higher at $0.35. Shares in Kagara and Sigma Pharmaceuticals also closed higher. The worst performing stock was White Energy down 9.33 per cent to $3.40. Shares in SP Ausnet and Avoca Resources also closed in the red.

In commodities, gold is trading at $US1,362 an ounce. Light crude is up $0.58 to $82.56.