Outlook: Aus shares eye gains

Market Reports

The Australian share market looks to be eyeing gains this morning following generally positive offshore leads and a batch of encouraging US economic data.

US economic news

US Jobless claims hit a four year low, dropping by 14,000, last week. According to the Labor Department in the week ending on March 10, 2012, 351,000 people filed for initial unemployment benefits, less than had been expected and also less than the week before.

Manufacturing activity has continued to increase this month. The Empire Manufacturing survey for New York increased more than expected to 20.2 in March, from 19.5 the month before.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported producer prices rose a little less than expected, lifting 0.4 per cent in February after adding 0.1 per cent the month before.

Figures

Wall Street rose on Thursday: The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 59 points to close at 13,253, its highest level since the end of 2007. The S&P500 added 8 points to close at 1,403, closing above 1,400 for the first time since 2008. The Nasdaq added 16 points to close at 3,056.

European markets finished mixed yesterday: London’s FTSE lost 5 points, Paris added 16 points and Frankfurt added 65 points.

Asian markets also closed mixed yesterday: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 46 points, Tokyo’s Nikkei added 73 and China’s Shanghai Composite lost 17 points.

The Australian share market traded in the red on Thursday, closing 0.2 per cent down: The S&P/ASX 200 Index eased 9 points to finish at 4,278. On the futures market the SPI is 21 points higher.

Currencies

The Australian Dollar at 8:10AM was buying $US1.0526 cents, 67.01 Pence Sterling, 87.99 Yen and 80.49 Euro cents.

Company news

Shares in Austal Limited (ASX:ASB) closed steady at $1.66 on Thursday. Austal has been awarded a contract modification to build Littoral Combat Ships. The shipbuilding company says the contract is worth about $20 million and is a modification to a previously awarded $US3.5 billion contract. The work is expected to be completed by March next year. Austal booked a net loss almost $3 million in the first half of the 2012 financial year.

Shares in Data#3 Limited (ASX:DTL) rose 1.36 per cent yesterday, closing at $1.12. Data#3 has won a contract extension for the supply of Microsoft Large Account Reseller deliverables to the entire Federal Government. The supply is expected to provide efficiencies in Microsoft licensing procurement and management. Data#3 has already supplied these services to the Federal Government for the past four years and the latest agreement is for at least the next three years. Data#3 reported a net profit of $7.2 million in the first half of the 2012 financial year.

Ex-dividends

Five companies are going ex-dividend today:
Credit Corp Group Limited (ASX:CCP)
Cryosite Limited (ASX:CTE)
M2 Telecommunications Group Limited (ASX:MTU)
Sims Metal Management Limited (ASX:SGM)
Skycity Entertainment Group Limited (ASX:SKC)

Commodities

Gold is up $16.60 to $US1,660 an ounce for the April contract on Comex.
Silver is up $0.55 to $32.73 for May.
Copper is up $0.05 at $3.90 a pound.
Oil is down $0.32 at $105.11 a barrel for April light crude in New York.