Market Wrap: Aus shares down on international nerves

Market Reports

More market nerves about Italian and Spanish bond yields saw the local bourse close 0.89 per cent lower today, with all sectors in the red.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index today retreated 38 points to finish at 4,247. On the futures market, the SPI was 42 points lower.

Economic news

The nation’s economic activity appears to be growing in line with the projected long-term trend. A gauge from Westpac and the Melbourne Institute that indicates the likely pace of economic activity three to nine months into the future, came in at 3.3 per cent in September, slightly ahead of its long term trend of 3.2 per cent but below Augusts’ rate of 4.5 per cent.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported hourly pay rates rose 0.8 per cent in the September quarter, coming in slightly less than expectations and 0.1 per cent lower than the preceding quarter.

Company news

Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN) boss Alan Joyce says the Fair Work Australia process discussions will remain confidential and sternly told reporters at the launch of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner today that he’s not going to talk about them. He did however say he remains optimistic about reaching an agreement. Meanwhile the airline’s ordered 50 Dreamliners, which promise lower maintenance costs and improved fuel economy. Shares in Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN) closed 3.33 per cent higher today at $1.705.

Cabcharge Australia Limited (ASX:CAB) says first quarter results are beyond expectations and it’s confident about its prospects. Net profit for the 2010/2011 year however dropped 20 per cent compared with the year before, due to a $15 million payment after losing a court case against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for anti-competitive behaviour. Shares in Cabcharge Australia Limited (ASX:CAB) closed 0.22 per cent higher today at $4.58.

Atlas Iron Limited's (ASX:AGO) bought Gondwana Resources’ 90 per cent stake in the Corunna Downs project in Western Australia. The $2.1 million cash deal will be paid over three stages, and Gondwana will keep a royalty of $1.13 per tonne for all iron ore mined.

Starpharma Holdings Limited (ASX:SPL) has raised $32 million to accelerate its three key business areas. $16 million will be put towards the final stages of the development and commercial licensing of VivaGel, a product that contains an antimicrobial agent put on sexual health products like condoms, to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

QR National’s (ASX:QRN) finalised the terms of a 10 year, $900 million rail haulage agreement with Gindalbie Metals. QR will transport up to 10 million tonnes a year of magnetite concentrate, and haulage is set to begin in January.

And publisher of The Australian and the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, News Corp (ASX:NWS) has reported a $300 million loss for the past financial year. The Aussie arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA) had write-downs in the order of $713 million in the value of its mastheads, but reported an operating profit of $645 million, up 1.7 per cent on the year before.

Best and worst performers

All sectors closed in the red but the sector with the smallest losses was Telco Services, dropping 1 point to close at 1,083. The worst performing sector was energy, shedding 290 points to close at 13,869.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX200 was Qantas, as we saw earlier shares rose 3.33 per cent. Shares in St Barbara and Ardent Leisure Group also finished stronger today.

The worst performing stock was White Energy, dropping 8.51 per cent to close at 64.5 cents. Shares in Bluescope and Karoon Gas also fell today.

Commodities

The price of gold is $US1,767 an ounce and Light crude is down 73 cents at $US98.64 a barrel.