Market Wrap: ASX plunges 1.3% into red

Market Reports

The Australian share market started the first day of November in the red and plunged 1.3 per cent by close, finishing at the session's low. The steep falls came following a negative lead from Europe and a lacklustre finish on Wall Street as US markets reopened following two days of Hurricane Sandy forcing trading to stop. Locally upbeat Chinese data failed to lift the mood with all sectors closing lower, dragged down by the financials, miners and energy stocks.  
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index shed 59 points to end at 4,458. On the futures market the SPI is currently 60 points down. 
 
Chinese economic news

Two separate reports on China’s manufacturing activity have come in better than expected. The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing has reported the nation’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index increased to 50.2 in October from 49.8 the month before. The HSBC Final China manufacturing output index also improved to 49.5 in October, from 47.7 the month before. 50 is the level which divides expansion from contraction. 

Australian economic news
 
Australia's manufacturing sector has remained in contraction for the eighth straight month. The Australian Industry Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers have reported the Performance of Manufacturing Index rose to 45.2 in October from 44.1 the month before, but once again remained below the 50 level indicating contraction. 
 
Australian house prices have reversed four months of gains and dropped this month. According to RP Data Rismark capital city house prices declined 1 per cent in October after rising 1.4 per cent in September. 
 
Company news 

As the Annual General Meeting (AGM) season continues, Whitehaven Coal Limited (ASX:WHC) was in the headlines as protesters, who object to the miner’s expansion, were escorted from the Sydney venue. Despite the drama the company's board were re-elected at the shareholder meeting as 19 per cent shareholder Nathan Tinkler’s calls to vote-out the chairman and directors failed to win support. Whitehaven's Chairman cautioned coal prices show little sign of rebounding but flagged a possible pick up in Chinese demand next year. Shares in Whitehaven Coal dropped 1.64 per cent today to close at $3.00. 
 
Investment manager Perpetual Limited (ASX:PPT) has forecast a flat first half result and says its outlook remains subject to no material deterioration in financial markets and business conditions for the rest of the year. CEO Geoff Lloyd told the company’s AGM today Perpetual expects to generate an underlying profit of up to $35 million in the last six months of 2012, compared to $34.7 million in the first half. Shares in Perpetual pulled back 4.29 per cent today to close at $26.74. 
 
Shares in BT Investment Management Limited (ASX:BTT) fell 4 per cent despite the Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC)- backed fund manager boosting its annual net profit by 27 per cent to $21 million. 
 
Shares in Boral Limited (ASX:BLD) ended 0.6 per cent lower after the building products supplier cautioned it is still experiencing tough trading conditions but expecting a steady half-year profit. 
 
Shares in Arrium Limited (ASX:ARI) tumbled to the worst performer as reports emerged the mining company’s suitor has threatened to walk away from its $1.19 billion takeover offer one day after Arrium rejected the new and improved bid. 
 
Shares in Transfield Services Limited (ASX:TSE) closed 0.3 per cent higher after the construction and maintenance firm appointed interim CEO Graeme Hunt to the role permanently and announced $145 million of new contract wins. 
 
Best and worst performers

All sectors closed in negative territory: The sector with the smallest losses was real estate investment trusts easing 6 points to close at 969.The worst performing sector was consumer staples, retreating 137 points to close at 8,522 points.

The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Crown Limited (ASX:CWN), rising 2.67 per cent to close at $9.98. Shares in Regis Resources Limited (ASX:RRL) and Westfield Retail Trust (ASX:WRT) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Arrium Limited (ASX:ARI), dropping 12.74 per cent to close at $0.69. Shares in Bathurst Resources Ltd (ASX:BTU‎) and APN News and Media Limited (ASX:APN)‎ also closed lower. 
 
Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,721 an ounce.
Light crude is $0.01 up at $US86.25 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US1.037.