Fifth day of gains on commodity rush: Aus shares close 0.3 per cent higher

Market Reports

by Jessica Amir

We saw our fifth straight day of gains today with miners leading half of the sectors higher. It comes as commodity prices are seeing a strong rally with iron ore price up 2 per cent at US$65.88 per tonne, while the alumina and nickel prices rallied too.

Stocks like Western Area (ASX:WSA) and Alumina (ASX:AWC) lifted over 7 per cent. While Fairfax (ASX:FXJ) also rubbed shoulders with the day’s big shiners and rose over 5 per cent.

Some of the biggest losses were seen in financials with Challenger (ASX:CGF) shedding over 3 per cent and AMP (ASX:AMP following.

At the closing bell the S&P/ASX 200 index closed 20 points up, or 0.33 per cent higher to finish at 5,881 (October 2017 territory still).


The Dow futures are suggesting a gain of 30 points up.
And the ASX200 futures are eyeing a 23 point gain.

Value of trades

$6.2 billion on volume of 829 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) and Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO).

Economic news

The workforce participation rate has hit an all-time high, 65.7 per cent in March (in trend terms), according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Meantime the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 5.5 per cent after the February figures were revised down. Over the past year, Queensland saw the strongest annual growth in trend employment, followed by the ACT and then New South Wales.

Company news 

The Chairman of Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) Michael Chaney used the Annual General Meeting to handover his role to Richard Goyder. The meeting also heard how 2017 was a good year for Woodside as the oil price rallied and profits grew 18 per cent to $1 billion. The maintained its 80 per cent dividend payout ratio, paying a fully-franked dividend of 98 cents per share, up from 83 cents the previous year. Woodside also has plans to tackle rising global demand from the year 2020 and raised $2.5 billion in equity recently. In his handover, Chaney took aim at barriers to cut corporate tax saying Australia is, “‘out of kilter’ with the rest of the world. Shares in Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) gained 1.1 per cent to $31.06.

REA Group’s (ASX:REA) completed the purchase of iProperty after it completed the final payment of $104.5 million. Its shares lost 0.4 per cent to $78.66.  

Wesfarmers (ASX:WES) released its quarterly statement showing completion of the sale of its large scale Curragh coal mine in Queensland to major US metallurgical coal producer Coronado Coal Group. Wesfarmers sold Curragh to Coronado for A$700 million in a deal that includes a value share mechanism linked to future metallurgical coal prices.

BHP (ASX:BHP) reported its nine month results through to March end, saying it’s on track to achieve 6 per cent volume growth for this financial year, despite the giant reducing its iron ore production guidance. Its shares gained 2.8 per cent today.

Queensland Bauxite (ASX:QBL) shares went up 26 per cent today after it subsidiary’s Medical Cannabis Limited (MCL) hemp products are now being supplied in Coles stores around Australia.

Alumina (ASX:AWC) has reported its JV with the NYSE listed Alcoa has seen a lift in its bauxite and alumina business earnings. The bauxite division reported a 37 per cent lift in earnings before interest tax and depreciation (EBITDA) in the first quarter of 2018 and a 29 per cent lift in the alumina segment’s EBITDA.

Meantime, Murray Goulburn (ASX:MGC) announced its CEO Ari Mervis and Chief Financial Officer David Mallinson will leave the group on 1 May 2018 once the proposed sale of all of its operating assets and liabilities to Saputo has been completed. This follows the Foreign Investment Review Board approving the sale of Murray Goulburn (ASX:MGC) to Saputo.

Best and worst performers of the day

The best performing sector was materials adding 2.3 per cent to close at 11,934.
The worst performing sector was telcos, shedding 0.4 per cent to close at 1,134. points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Western Areas (ASX:WSA), rising 7.8 per cent to close at $3.86. Shares in Independence Group Nl (ASX:IGO) and Alumina (ASX:AWC) followed higher.

The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Wisetech Global (ASX:WTC), dropping 4.1 per cent to close at $10.41. Shares in Eclipx Group (ASX:ECX) and Challenger (ASX:CGF) followed lower.

Asian markets 

Japan’s Nikkei has added 0.2 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has added 1.3 per cent and the Shanghai Composite has gained 0.9 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,352 an ounce.
Light crude is $2.11 up at $US68.76 barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 78.05 US cents.


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