Aussie shares are expected to open lower after having received strong negative leads. US stocks fell, weighed down by surging oil prices and losses in the tech sector. Political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa continues to impact global markets. In Europe, Greece’s debt woes were reignited as analysts slashed its credit rating.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average began the week 80 points lower, closing at 12,090, S&P500 fell 11 points to close 1,310 and the NASDAQ dropped 39 point to close 2,746.
European stocks closed lower on Monday: London’s FTSE down 17 points, Paris down 30 and Frankfurt down 17.
To Asian markets and stocks were mixed: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 96, Tokyo Nikkei was down 189 and China’s Shanghai Composite was up 54 points.
The Australian share market closed at a five-week low on Monday: The S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 66 points to close at 4,798. On the futures market the SPI is currently 23 points lower.
Turning to currencies and the Australian Dollar at 8:40AM was buying $US1.0117 cents, 62.44 Pence Sterling, 83.2 Yen and 72.4 Euro cents.
Economic news: Due out today is the Australian Bureau of Statistics balance of payments position, and also from the ABS, international merchandise trade: confidential commodities list for February. From National Australia Bank, due out is its monthly business survey for January and from Dun and Bradstreet, its business expectations survey.
Company news: Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) started the week 1.11 per cent lower, closing at $23.22 on Monday. Westpac’s CEO Gail Kelly expects Australia’s central bank to leave the official cash rate on hold for the first half of this year. The bank's chief economist Bill Evans has predicted the current rate to rise by 0.25 percentage points in the September quarter. Speaking to ABC TV, Ms Kelly also forecast funding costs to plateau at the end of next year, and promised to pass these benefits onto customers. In the 2010 financial year Westpac Banking posted a net profit of $6.4 billion.
Yesterday shares in Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX:TLS) fell 1.07 per cent to close at $2.78. Australia’s largest telecommunications company has admitted that jobs could sent offshore, after yesterday axing two contracts with call centre companies. After losing the major Telstra contract, direct marketing specialist Salmat Ltd (ASX:SLM) says over 700 people look to loose their jobs, many in regional areas. Telstra is not as yet believed to have chosen another contractor for the work, but advises that there may be opportunities for Salmat to redeploy staff. In the first half of the current financial year, Telstra posted a $1.2 billion net profit.
Ex-dividends: And 22 companies are going ex-dividend today. Among them we have CSL with a $0.35 unfranked dividend, DKN Financial Group with a $0.02 unfranked dividend, Fortescue Metals Group with a $0.03 unfranked dividend, Iress Market Technology with a 57.6 per cent franked dividend of $0.28, Ramsay Health Care with a $0.22 fully franked dividend, Whitehaven Coal with a $0.03 fully franked dividend and Watpac with a with a $0.02 fully franked dividend. Among those coming up tomorrow are Little World Beverages and News Corporation.
Commodities: Gold is up $5.90 to $US1,434 an ounce for the April contract on Comex, silver is up $0.54 to $35.86 for May and copper is down $0.16 at $4.33 a pound. Oil is up $1.02 at $105.44 a barrel for April light crude in New York.