Outlook: Aus shares tipped to gain

Market Reports

The Australian share market is tipped to gain this morning after positive European developments. Italy and Spain's debt auctions drew solid demand and the European Central Bank keep rates steady at 1 per cent.  On Wall Street stocks were weighed down by lacklustre US economic news but still managed to close higher.

Economic news

The latest US economic reports on retail sales and initial jobless claims have missed expectations:

The Labor Department reported first-time unemployment claims came in at 399,000 for the first week of 2012, hitting a six week high and 24,000 more claims than were expected.

The Commerce Department showed retail sales increased less than expected in the holiday spending period, lifting 0.1 per cent in December despite expectations for a rise of 0.4 per cent.

Figures

Wall Street closed slightly higher on Thursday: The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 22 points to close at 12,471, the S&P500 put on 3 points to close at 1,296 and the Nasdaq rose 14 points to close at 2,725.

European markets finished mixed yesterday: London’s FTSE was down 8 points, Paris was down 5 points and Frankfurt was up 27 points.

Asian markets closed lower yesterday following a report showing China’s inflation eased in December: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 57 points, Tokyo Nikkei was down 62 points and China’s Shanghai Composite was down 1 point.
 
The Australian share market ended a choppy day of trade 0.2 per cent lower on Thursday. The S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 7 points to finish at 4,181. On the futures market the SPI is currently 30 points higher.
 
Currencies

The Australian Dollar at 8:30AM was buying $US1.0342 cents, 67.42 Pence Sterling, 79.39 Yen and 80.66 Euro cents.

Company news

Shares in Santos Limited (ASX:STO) firmed 0.08 per cent on Thursday, closing at $12.75. The first gas from the Santos-led Wortel offshore gas project in Indonesia is expected by the end of this month. The project is a joint venture being developed by Santos with a 45 per cent interest, Cue Energy Resources Limited (ASX:CUE) with a 15 per cent interest and Singapore Petroleum Sampang Ltd with a 40 per cent interest. Cue Energy has advised that the project is expected to come in within the original budget of about $102 million. In the 2011 financial year Santos posted a net profit of $504 million.

Shares in Metgasco Limited (ASX:MEL) rose 5.06 per cent yesterday, finishing at $0.415, after announcing it has entered into a binding 10-year agreement for the first sale of gas from its Casino gas project in New South Wales. Metgasco will start supplying local dairy manufacturing company Richmond Dairies with natural gas and energy supply from this year. The gas supply infrastructure is expected to tie into the development of Metgasco’s Richmond Valley Power Station project which has the state government’s development approval. In the 2011 financial year Metgasco reported a net loss of $5 million.

Ex dividends

No companies are going ex-dividend today. Among the companies going ex-dividend next week are: Countplus Limited (ASX:CUP) Euroz Limited (ASX:EZL), Merchant House International Limited (ASX:MHI) and Tower Limited (ASX:TWR)  .

Commodities

Gold is up $8.10 to $US1,647 an ounce for the February contract on Comex.
Silver is up $0.23 to $30.12 for March.
Copper is up $0.10 at $3.65 a pound.
Oil is down $1.77 at $99.10 a barrel for February light crude in New York.