The Australian share market managed to end the day in positive territory despite some end of quarter book-squaring and a weaker energy sector. Most of the gains were made by the big miners.
The S&P/ASX200 Index lifted 16 points to close at 4,838. On the futures market, the SPI is up 24 points.
In economic news: According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics retail sales rose 1.5 per cent in February. The result was better-than-expected and came on the back of a strong number from Queensland.
Figures from RP Data Rismark show Australia’s home prices were steady in February. The research group put it down to higher interest rates and several natural disasters.
And building approvals fell 7.4 per cent in February to 12,011 units...that’s down from an upwardly revised 12,975 units in January.
In company news: The Foreign Investment Review Board is expected to return its verdict on the takeover of the ASX by the Singapore Exchange earlier than expected. Unconfirmed reports suggest the FIRB is now looking at completing its assessment within the initial 30-day period specified under its legislation. The two exchanges were hoping for a longer timeframe so as to continue their lobbying efforts in Canberra...where the deal has failed to win many supporters. Shares in the ASX shed 0.23 per cent to close at $34.42.
And MAp Airports looks set to be at the centre of a looming tax investigation. The alleged tax avoidance scheme involves its stake in Copenhagen Airports. It’s claimed that withholding tax had not been paid on 400 million dollars in funds MAp transferred from the airport into a Bermudan tax haven. Copenhagen Airports chairman has called for Danish tax authorities to investigate the accusations. Shares in MAP Group lifting 0.33 per cent to close at $3.04.
Also making news: Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund has become the target of a takeover by Thai power producer Ratchaburi – the offer’s currently at a 38 per cent premium.
And Southern Cross Equities director Charlie Aitken has gone on the record saying he is increasingly convinced BHP Billiton is on the verge of a 50 billion bid for Woodside Petroleum.
In other news: News Corporation has appointed Rupert Murdoch’s youngest son, James Murdoch, into the newly created position of deputy chief operating officer.
The latest appointment has renewed speculation that James Murdoch will eventually succeed his father in the top job.
And Lynas Corporation has completed its 55 million dollar institutional placement. At a 5 per cent discount, the placement was oversubscribed and received strong demand from domestic and international institutional investors.
To the best and worst performing sectors now: The best performing sector today was Healthcare gaining 130 points to close at 8,886. The worst performing sector was Consumer Staples falling 56 points to close at 7,730.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX200 was Iluka Resources rising 8.75 per cent to close at $13.30. Shares in White Energy and Primary also closed in the black. The worst performing stock was Roc Oil, shedding 3.66 per cent to close at 39.5 cents. Shares in Kingsgate and St Barbara also closed weaker today.
In commodities, gold is trading at $US1,426 an ounce and Light crude is 32 cents firmer at $US104.59 a barrel.