Market Wrap: Aus shares close 1.1% lower

Market Reports

The Australian sharemarket has closed more than one per cent lower as concerns over global growth and European debt resurface.

Today, the S&P/ASX 200 index fell 46 points to finish at 4,246. On the futures market, the SPI is currently 53 points lower.

Economic news

The total value of dwelling finance commitments fell 1.3 per cent in February, compared with the month before, seasonally adjusted. The number of commitments for owner occupied housing finance fell 2.5 per cent.

The Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) and the Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index dropped 1.6 per cent to 94.5 in April.

Company news

A coal mine run by BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP, NYSE:BHP) and Mitsubishi in Queensland is set to cease production indefinitely. The alliance says Norwich Park Mine has been losing money for several months. In a statement the companies say the decision follows a seven week review of the mine. The BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance president said that recent industrial action has had an impact on production, but the mine has been unprofitable for some time. BHP Billiton shares closed 1.93 per cent down at $33.59.

Lend Lease Group (ASX:LLC) has commented on reports that asbestos has been found at the Barangaroo South site in Sydney. David Hutton, Lend Lease’s Head of Development says sampling over the past five years showed small traces of isolated, historically buried asbestos material at the site. He says all workers on the site are informed of the dangers of materials such as asbestos during excavation, and that no traces of asbestos have been found in the air and there isn’t any evidence of exposure risk to workers or the community. Lend Lease shares closed 2.52 per cent lower at $6.96.

Alumina Limited (ASX:AWC) has received fully franked dividends of US$26 million from the Alcoa World Alumina & Chemicals joint venture for the quarter.

Gunns Limited (ASX:GNS) confirms it’s considering a name change and moving its headquarters.

PaperlinX Limited (ASX:PPX) says its chief financial officer Tony Kennedy will retire after 22 years of service.

And Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX:WPL) and Shell will start a $350 million exploration program that has been met with concern from environmental groups – that’s according to The Australian.

Best and worst performers

The sector with the smallest losses was Health Care losing 24 points to close at 8,601.

The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 152 points to close at 10,671 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was White Energy Company Limited (ASX:WEC), rising 2.63 per cent to close at $0.39. Shares in Evolution Mining Limited (ASX:EVN) and Alacer Gold Corp. (ASX:AQG) also closed higher.

The worst performing stock was Energy World Corporation Limited (ASX:EWC), dropping 7.35 per cent to close at $0.63. Shares in AWE Limited (ASX:AWE) and Bathurst Resources Limited (ASX:BTU) also closed lower.

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,658 an ounce. Light crude is $0.21 higher at $US101.23 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US1.0299.