Australia’s debt levels fall more than expected, RBA to hold rates: Aus shares 0.5% lower at noon

Market Reports

by Jessica Amir

The Australian share market retreated at the open and has remained underwater with most of the sectors on the ASX trading lower.

It comes as Wall Street lost steam overnight with the S&P 500 falling under the key 2,800 point level and the Dow Jones shedding 0.8 per cent or over 200 points as construction spending fell 0.6 per cent when it was forecast to gain 0.2 per cent in December.

The S&P/ASX 200 index is 0.5 per cent or 33 points lower at 6,184. On the futures market the SPI is 39 points lower.

Local economic news

The service sector contracted for the second month after a reading of below 50 was seen in February. It follows the prior 22-months of growth, according to the latest Australian Industry Group readings.

Meantime, Australia’s current account improved in the December 2018 quarter, with the deficit falling $3.2 billion to $7.2 billion, on the back a rise in exports in goods and services, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The result also beat consensus estimates the deficit would fall to $9.2 billion.

RBA tipped to hold rates at 1.5 per cent for the 28th time. The last time the RBA moved rate was on 3 August 2016 when the RBA dropped rates 0.25 per cent, down from 1.75 per cent. All eyes will be on the statement which is handed down at 2.30pm.

Company news

Dairy company, Fonterra Co-operative Group (ASX:FSF) appointed Miles Hurrell as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), with immediate effect, saying he brought a breath of fresh air to the group, after acting in the role since August last year. On 4 March 2019 a rating agency downgraded its outlook for the firm to ‘negative’, down from ‘stable’. The company is in the midst of portfolio review, re-evaluating its investments, major assets and partnerships. Fonterra Co-operative Group (ASX:FSF) are trading 0.7 per cent higher at $4.11 at noon. Year on year its shares are 26 per cent lower.

Top 10 gold producer, Westgold Resources (ASX:WGX) has topped up its hedge for the precious metal at $1,863.35 per ounce, for delivery in April, May and June in 2019. It comes as the gold producer looks to protect up to 50 per cent of its gold sales in the short-term (12-18 months). Shares in Westgold Resources (ASX:WGX) are trading 1.8 per cent lower at $1.07 at noon.

Satellite company, Sky and Space Global (ASX:SAS) has inked a trial agreement with a Nigerian mobile telecommunications provider, MTN Nigeria, to explore collaborative projects. The African company serves 52 million subscribers and the duo will consider collaborating to grow the nations telecommunications market. Sky and Space Global (ASX:SAS) are trading 5.2 per cent higher at $0.03 at noon. Year on year its shares are 8 per cent higher.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is S&P/ASX Real Estate Investment Trusts, adding 0.2 per cent, followed by staples, while the worst performing sector is S&P/ASX Consumer Discretionary, shedding 1.5 per cent, with Materials and Telcos following.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Metcash (ASX:MTS), rising 3.4 per cent to $2.76, followed by shares in Wisetech Global (ASX:WTC) and Appen (ASX:APX).

The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY), dropping 4.7 per cent to $2.03, followed by shares in Ausdrill (ASX:ASL) and Orocobre (ASX:ORE).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1,286 an ounce.
Iron ore price fell 0.3 per cent to US$87.69
Iron ore futures are pointing to a fall of 2.4 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 70.83 US cents