Market Wrap: Aus shares up 2.6%

Market Reports

Aussie shares rallied this afternoon after the European Central Bank announced a rate cut, to close 2.6 per cent higher.

The S&P/ASX200 Index lifted 109 points to close at 4,281 while for the week it was 72 points lower. On the futures market, the SPI is 107 points higher.

The US 

On Wall Street, over the four trading days this week: The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 187 points, the S&P 500 Index was down 24 points, the NASDAQ was down 39 and the 100 Index was down 34.

Economic news

The RBA has forecast economic growth to be slightly slower, headline inflation to be lower and unemployment to rise a little, then fall. Its latest Statement on Monetary Policy, released today, also says the largest risk in its forecasts is the sovereign debt and banking problems in Europe.

Company news

Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN) boss Alan Joyce told a senate enquiry this morning that the proposed legislative changes will limit the airline’s plans to extend into Asia and therefore result in job cuts. He also said his decision to ground all aircraft last weekend was because he knew he was rapidly losing customers, and he kept the decision a secret until the very last minute. Shares in Qantas finished the day 2.54 per cent higher at $1.61.5.

Santos Limited (ASX:STO) has signed a six-year contract with Minara to supply gas from its Reindeer field off Western Australia. Minara will use the gas at its Murrin Murrin nickel mine in the state’s Goldfields region. It brings the tally up to four sales contracts for the gas, and Santos says it is in talks with more potential customers. Shares in Santos gained 3.47 per cent today, closing at $13.12.

Transfield Services Limited (ASX:TSE) has secured a contract with the Department of Defence for three years worth $90 million. The maintenance and management services company’s contract has extension options of up to $75 million, and will include base support services at the defence establishment at Woomera in South Australia.

Rio Tinto Limited’s (ASX:RIO) chairman Jan du Plessis says Australia needs to change its complicated tax policies if it’s to effectively progress. He told the Australian Institute of Company Directors today that the carbon tax is a disincentive for offshore companies to invest in Australia, and that the “unfortunate controversy of the original mining tax proposals had resulted in insufficient credit being given to a number of good ideas that were previously floated in the Henry Review.”

Best and worst performers

The best performer was materials, rising 454 points to close at 11,755. The sector with the smallest gains was consumer discretionary, adding 17 points to close at 1,263 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX200 was Panaust, gaining 10.46 per cent to close at $3.38. Shares in Gindalbie and Aurora Oil also ended the week stronger.

The worst performing stock was Cochlear, it fell 1.65 per cent to close at $53. Shares in Newscorp and Industrea also closed lower today.

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,759 an ounce and is up $16.91 on the week. Light crude is flat at $94.07 a barrel. The Australian dollar is buying $US1.3.91 cents, and is down by 3 cents on the week.