It has been a disappointing end to the trading day for the Australian share market. The local bourse followed a weak lead from Wall Street on the back of a slide in commodity prices, opening lower and losing momentum throughout the session and subsequently closing down 0.32 per cent. Materials were the biggest drag today, largely due to a drop in BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) which went ex-dividend. There were also losses in the energy sector, following a drop of close to US$3 in the price of crude oil. Consumer Discretionaries lead the charge, followed by Property and Industrials.
At the closing bell the S&P/ASX 200 index closed 19 points down to finish at 5,741.
The value of trades was $4.8 billion on volume of 718 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA).
On the futures market the SPI is 1 point down.
Hunter Hall International Limited (ASX:HHL) has gone into a trading halt, pending the release of a market sensitive announcement by the fund manager. Hunter Hall’s CEO Peter Hall made a shock exit from the company late last year and the announcement is said to relate to a change of control of the company. Hunter Hall has asked the halt to remain in place until Monday, or when the announcement is released to the market. Shares in Hunter Hall last traded at $2.42.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has formed a preliminary view on the proposed merger between Tabcorp Holdings (ASX:TAH) and Tatts Group (ASX:TTS), saying the merger would substantially lessen competition.
Telco giant Spark New Zealand (ASX:SPK) has made a formal takeover offer to acquire its smaller competitor TeamTalk.
Embattled infant formula company, Bellamy's Australia (ASX:BAL) has been hit with a second class action in the Federal Court of Australia.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector was Consumer Discretionaries adding 0.8 per cent to close at 2,095. The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 2.6 per cent to close at 9,644 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Qube Holdings (ASX:QUB), rising 4.66 per cent to close at $2.47. Shares in Seven West Media (ASX:SWM) and Ardent Leisure (ASX:AAD) also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Western Areas (ASX:WSA), dropping 5.08 per cent to close at $2.24. Shares in BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and South32 (ASX:S32) also closed lower.
Jiajiafu Modern Agriculture (ASX:JJF) started trading today. The organic vegetable producer floated at $0.30, opened at $0.29 and closed at $0.26.
Commodities and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,205 an ounce.
Light crude is $2.94 lower at $US50.20 a barrel.
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.7513.