The Australian share market closed 0.2 per cent weaker today, recovering from steep losses at open. Continuing unrest in the Middle East and a mixed bag of corporate results weighed on the market.
The S&P/ASX200 Index closed 11 down to 4,846. On the futures market, the SPI is up 17 points.
Economic news: The Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown that total construction work done in Australia increased 0.8 per cent in the December quarter to a value of $41.9 billion. The increase came in lower than had been expected and only slightly above the prior quarter’s figure. The ABS also reported total hourly rates of pay, excluding bonuses, increased 1 per cent in the December quarter while the wage price index rose 3.9 per cent in the same period.
Company news: Worleyparsons Ltd (ASX:WOR) has recorded a 7 per cent fall in its first half earnings to $128.6 million for the six months to 31 December. The engineering services provider says a stronger Australian dollar chipped $14 million of the interim result, while in the same period revenue increased 12 per cent to $2.8 billion. Worleyparsons expects market conditions to improve through the second half and based on stable currency markets has forecast a lift in full year earnings. A fully franked interim dividend of 36 cents per share has been declared. Shares in Worleyparsons closed 3 per cent higher today at $29.19.
Macarthur Coal Ltd (ASX:MCC) has tripled its first half earning, delivering a 256 per cent jump in net profit to $141.3 million on the back of higher coal prices. The coal producer says demand remained robust throughout the half year with sales revenue growing 32 per cent to $420.4 million. A fully franked interim dividend of 24 cents per share has been declared. Shares in Macarthur Coal firmed 0.08 per cent today to close at $12.03.
Shares in Macmahon Holdings Ltd (ASX:MAH) fell today after the civil construction and mine contracting company posted a first half loss of $13.2 million, weighed down by a $48.9 million write-down.
Mortgage Choice Ltd (ASX:MOC) has announced a 13 per cent lift in its half year earnings, achieving a net profit of $8.8 million. The mortgage broker has also boosted its interim dividend to 6 cents per share, fully franked.
Beverages manufacturer Coca-Cola Amatil (ASX:CCL) has delivered a full year net profit of $497 million, up 11 per cent from the year before and in line with its earlier forecast of 10 per cent growth.
Origin Energy Ltd (ASX:ORG) has announced that its 50:50 joint venture with ConocoPhillips, the $US35 billion Australia Pacific LNG project in Queensland, has been given the green light by the federal government.
In the best and worst performers: The best performing sector at close was Telco Services with the index rising 6 to close at 955. The worst performing sector was Utilities easing 6 points to close at 871. The best performing stock in the S&P/ ASX200 was Murchison Metals shares gained 11.79 per cent to close at $1.47. Shares in Gindalbie Metals and Wotif.com Holdings also closed stronger today. The worst performing stock was West Australian Newspapers Holdings shares plunged 14.51 per cent to close at $5.42. Shares Macmahon Holdings and Spotless Group also dropped today.
In commodities, gold is trading at $US1,398 an ounce. Light crude is 19 cents up at $US95.61 a barrel.