Recession averted: Aus shares close 0.13% lower

Market Reports

by David Chau

The Australian share market put in a weak performance – staying in negative territory for the entire day, before finishing 0.13% lower at the close of trade.

Around midday, the share market did pick up slightly due to the release of some upbeat economic data. However, it fell again in the early afternoon as US President Donald Trump gave his speech to Congress.

Telecommunications stocks were the biggest contributor to the local bourse’s weak performance – particularly Telstra since it was trading ex-dividend today. However, Utilities and Financials posted the largest gains.

At the closing bell the S&P/ASX 200 index closed 7 points lower to finish at 5,705.

The value of trades was $6.5 billion on volume of 1 billion shares. 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 3 points lower.

Local economic news

Australia’s GDP grew by 1.1% (seasonally adjusted) in the December quarter, beating economists’ expectations.  Year-on-year, Australia’s economy grew by 2.4%.

If, however, the country’s GDP fell in that quarter, we would be in recession. You may recall that in the September quarter, GDP contracted by 0.5%.  Since June 1991, Australia has had 101 consecutive quarters without facing a recession.  

Also, the Australian economy, the Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) rose to a reading of 59.3 in February. This surpassed economists’ expectations and is the strongest PMI read since 2002.

Company news

Cooper Energy (ASX:COE) has awarded Subsea 7 a contract for the Sole Gas Project in the Gippsland Basin, around 40km offshore Victoria. This contract will require Subsea 7 to fabricate and install 64km of pipeline, spool, and manifold, in addition to installing 64 km worth of umbilical and commissioning. Cooper Energy says offshore operations will begin next year, though has not revealed the value of this contract. Today, shares in Cooper Energy traded 1.22% higher at 42 cents.

The Department of Transport in Virginia (USA) has approved a US$460 million infrastructure project, which will be performed by the Transurban Group (ASX:TCL). Transurban is now contracted to extend the 395 Express Lanes from Virginia, 13km north towards the Washington DC border.

Macmahon Holdings (ASX:MAH) has signed a non-bonding heads of agreement (HOA) to acquire assets and provide services to an Indonesian copper-gold mine.

New Zealand King Salmon Investments (ASX:NZK) has announced a 52% increase in net profit after tax (NPAT) to $8.7 million for 1H FY17.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Utilities adding 0.5 per cent to close at 8,203. The worst performing sector was Telcos, losing 3.42 per cent to close at 1,638 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was the Steadfast Group (ASX:SDF), rising 3.75 per cent to close at $2.49. Shares in Bega Cheese (ASX:BGA) and Breville (ASX:BRG) also closed higher.

The worst performing stock was Harvey Norman (ASX:HVN), dropping 5.83 per cent to close at $4.85. Shares in Spotless Group (ASX:SPO) and Ardent Leisure (ASX:AAD) also closed lower.

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,244 an ounce.
Light crude is down 5 cents to $US54 a barrel.
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.7657.