Outlook: Aus shares receive mixed leads

Market Reports

The Australian share market looks to be in for a flat start to the day, following mixed overseas leads and Wall St closing lower after a worse than expected report on US retail sales. At home all eyes will be on BHP Billiton Ltd (ASX:BHP), due to deliver its interim results, while Westfield Group (ASX:WDC) is due to release its full year results.

US economic news: The Commerce Department reported retail sales lifted less than had been forecast in January, up 0.3 per cent in the first month of the year, compared to a rise of 0.5 per cent in December 2010. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the price index of the nation’s imports grew 1.5 per cent, while export prices were up 1.2 per cent in January. The National Association of Homebuilders' preliminary housing market index remained steady at 16 for February, coming in under expectations for a lift to 17.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, closed 42 points lower to 12,227, S&P500 eased 4 points to close 1,328 and the NASDAQ fell 13 points to close 2,804.

European stocks were mixed: London’s FTSE down 23 points, Paris up 14 and Frankfurt up 3.

To Asian markets, stocks were also mixed: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 221 points, Tokyo was up 21 points and China’s Shanghai Composite was flat.

The Australian share market finished with little changed on Tuesday. The S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 5 points to close at 4,931 and on the futures market the SPI is down 6 points.
Turning to currencies and the Australian Dollar at 8:35AM was buying 99.61 US cents, 61.79 Pence Sterling, 83.44 Yen and 73.87 Euro cents.

In economic news: Due out today, The Australian Bureau of Statistics new motor vehicles data for January and the Westpac-Melbourne Institute leading indexes of economic activity.

Company news: On Tuesday shares in Molopo Energy Ltd (ASX:MPO) rose 2.38 per cent to close at $1.08. Molopo Energy shareholders yesterday overthrew the oil and gas company’s board and management, signalling the departure of chairman Donald Beard and non-executive director David Hobday. In a bid to revive Molopo’s share price, shareholders voted to install property developer Max Beck and former Royal Dutch Shell executive Greg Lewin to the five-member board. Molopo CEO and Stephen Mitchell will be replaced by former chief operating officer and non-executive director Ian Gorman. In the 2010 financial year Molopo Energy reported a net profit of $2.6 million.

Yesterday Fletcher Building Ltd (ASX:FBU) closed 0.32 per cent lower at $6.20. Fletcher Building has posted an 8 per cent rise in its first half net profit to $125.62 million. In the six months to 31 December 2010, the building products manufacturer says total sales added 2.2 per cent to $2.63 billion on the back of increased volumes in many of the company's Australian businesses. Revenue however fell, as a result of the withdrawal of the Australian government insulation subsidy scheme. A fully franked interim dividend of 16 cents per share has been declared. Fletcher Building reported a net profit of $229 million in the 2010 financial year. 

To ex-dividends: The only company going ex-dividend today is Platinum Capital with a $0.04 cent fully franked dividend. Coming up tomorrow are Ansell, GUD Holdings and Oz Minerals. 

To commodities: Gold is up $9.00 to $US1,374 an ounce for the April contract on Comex, silver is up $0.16 to $30.70 for March and copper is down $0.09 at $4.54 a pound. Oil is down $0.49 at $84.32 a barrel for March light crude in New York.