The Australian share market opened 6 points lower following a mixed session in the US overnight and is now down 3 points at noon. Santos (ASX:STO) and Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) are among the top performers after oil prices surged to five-month highs overnight due to concerns because of clashes in Libya, OPEC-led cuts, and U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela. In addition to rising oil prices, this morning Santos announced the successful completion of the first phase of its Moomba South appraisal campaign in the Cooper Basin.
Financials are in the red with the four big banks all trading slightly lower. Domain Group meanwhile, is down around 2.5 per cent following a downgrade by Macquarie Wealth Management yesterday.
The S&P/ASX 200 index is down 3 points at 6,218. On the futures market the SPI is 8 points lower.
Household lending figures for February have beaten market expectations rising 2.6 per cent against consensus of a 1 per cent drop, and, following a 2.3 per cent fall in January. Owner-occupier loan value climbed 3.4 per cent, well ahead of a 1 per cent expected increase. However ABS Chief Economist, Bruce Hockman says Despite the rise in February, the longer term story is largely unchanged with new lending to households remaining subdued and well down on levels seen over the past five years.
Crown Resorts (ASX:CWN) has confirmed they are in takeover talks with Las Vegas giant, Wynn Resorts. The proposal contemplates an acquisition of Crown by Wynn via scheme of arrangement for a combination of cash and Wynn shares at an implied value of $14.75 per share. Shares in Crown Resorts (ASX:CWN) jumped by 21.6 per cent to $14.28 after the company emerged from a trading halt on the ASX this morning.
Oil Search (ASX:OSH) has announced Total SA, operator of the Papua LNG Project, ExxonMobil and Oil Search have signed a Gas Agreement with the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. The agreement defines the fiscal framework for the Papua LNG Project. The signing of this agreement will allow all Papua LNG Project parties to proceed with confidence into Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) related activities. Oil Search says it's a major milestone for the Project and the fiscal and other terms of the Gas Agreement equitably allocate Project benefits and returns to the State, the Project participants and other stakeholders. Shares in Oil Search (ASX:OSH) are up 2.13 per cent to $8.14.
Best and worst performers
The best-performing sector is energy adding 1.9 per cent, while the worst performing sector is financials, shedding 0.7 per cent.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Crown Resorts (ASX:CWN), 21.6 per cent to $14.28. Followed by Star Entertainment Group (ASX:SGR) and Beach Energy (ASX:BPT)
The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 is Pilbarra Minerals (ASX:PLS),dropping 3.1 per cent to $0.71, followed by shares in Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) and South32 (ASX:S32).
Asian markets are lower Tokyo’s Nikkei fell 0.1 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.1 per cent and China’s Shanghai Composite dropped 0.2 per cent.
Commodities and the dollar
Gold is trading at US$1,299 an ounce.
Iron ore price is up 2.6 per cent to US$95.30
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 0.5 per cent.
One Australian dollar is buying 71.22 US cents.