Market Wrap: A strong end before Easter

Market Reports

A strong finish today for the Australian share market ahead of the easter long weekend. The resources sector driving gains on strong commodities prices. And news just in, China’s Sinopec signs a binding agreement to buy liquefied natural gas from a project developed by Origin Energy (ASX:ORG).

The S&P/ASX200 Index is up by 55 points to close at 4,914. On the futures market, the SPI up by 57 points.

Economic news: The National Australia Bank Business Survey in the March quarter showed business confidence rose six index points.

Company news: Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd (ASX:HVN) says total global sales for the third quarter rose by 1.6 per cent but like-for-like sales fell 4.6 per cent when compared with third quarter sales the year prior. Shares dipped to their lowest levels in two years on the news. Total sales for Australia were 3.1 per cent higher for the third quarter. The retailer said furniture and bedding continue to grow, while electricals and computers are operating in a difficult environment. Harvey Norman shares were down by 1.05 per cent today, to close at $2.82. 

Equinox Minerals Ltd (ASX:EQN) has postponed a shareholder meeting to vote on the takeover of Canada’s Lundin Mining – again. It’s the second time since receiving a takeover offer from Minmetals Resources. Minmetals announced on April 3 it would make a bid for Equinox but is yet to lodge a formal offer. Once received Equinox will make its formal recommendation to shareholders. The meeting has been rescheduled for May 6. It was to be held on April 26. Equinox shares were down by 0.81 per cent to close at $7.34. 

Whitehaven Coal Ltd (ASX:WHC) says China’s Yanzhou Coal Mining Co is on a shortlist of bidders. Last year Whitehaven undertook a formal process for potential bidders. But according to Bloomberg China’s fourth largest coal producer has denied it’s in talks to buy Whitehaven.

Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX:RIO) is partnering with Tata Steel to develop an environmentally friendly direct iron smelting process. It will be called HIsarna.

Downer EDI Ltd (ASX:DOW) has finally delivered the first passenger train set to New South Wales' transport body, RailCorp under the Waratah contract.

Woolworths Ltd (ASX:WOW) has been given the green light from the ACCC to proceed with its proposed takeover of The Cellarmasters Group.

To the best and worst performing sectors now: And all sectors were trading in the black. The best performing sector was Real Estate Investment Trusts gaining 15 points to close at 871. The sector with the smallest gains was Telco Services, which was still up 3 points to close at 975.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX200 was White Energy Company with shares rising 8.3 per cent to close at $2.74. Shares in Infigen Energy and Bow Energy also closed in positive territory.

The worst performing stock was Whitehaven Coal, shedding 4.51 per cent to close at $6.78. Shares in Hastie Group and PaperlinX also closed weaker today.

In commodities, gold is trading at $US1,507 an ounce and Light crude is up by 60 cents at $US112.05 a barrel.

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