Market Wrap: Aus shares close 0.2% lower

Market Reports

The Australian share market slipped into the red at open, anchored down by lingering US fiscal cliff concerns, and hovered in slightly lower negative territory throughout the day to finish flat.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 10 points down to finish at 4,573. The value of trades was $3.2 billion on volume of 728 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Commonwealth Bank of Australia  (ASX:CBA) and National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB).

On the futures market, the SPI is currently 8 points down.

Company news

Brambles Limited (ASX:BXB) will acquire CEVA Logistics bulk shipping arm Pallecon for $166.8 million, with the company’s existing management team to remain in their posts under Brambles’ ownership. The pooling solutions company says the acquisition will support its plans to grow its Intermediate Bulk Shipping operations worldwide. Shares in Brambles closed 0.14 per cent down at $7.34.

Billabong International Limited (ASX:BBG) shares rose this morning amid speculation the surf wear retailer has received a fresh takeover bid worth $1.10 per share. The company entered into a trading halt this afternoon, citing a possible change of control proposal. Reports speculate Billabong International Director Paul Naude has lined up New York based Sycamore Partners as an equity partner in a potential bid for Billabong valued at $526.8 million. Shares in Billabong closed 4.81 per cent up at $0.98.

Insurance Australia Group Limited (ASX:IAG) has confirmed the sale of its specialist UK broking arm Independent Commercial Brokers (ICB) for approximately $15 million.

Coal explorer White Energy Company Limited (ASX:WEC) has inked an exclusive 90 day option agreement to buy a US coal company in a deal worth up to $US29 million if executed.

Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX:FMG) shares firmed 3.71 per cent today after the iron ore producer started the process to explore selling a minority interest in The Pilbara Infrastructure (TPI).

Rural services company Elders Limited (ASX:ELD) shares eased more than 4 per cent today after it struck a deal to divest its Indian Sandalwood assets and plans to put the sale proceeds to paying down debt.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Telco Services adding 13 points to close at 1,468.
The worst performing sector was Health Care, losing 83 points to close at 11,499 points.

The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Macmahon Holdings Limited (ASX:MAH), rising 9.3 per cent to close at $0.24. Shares in Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN) and NRW Holdings Limited (ASX:NWH) also closed higher.

The worst performing stock was Integra Mining Limited (ASX:IGR), dropping 8.26 per cent to close at $0.50. Shares in Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR) and St. Barbara Limited (ASX:SBM)  also closed lower.
 

IPOs

Diversified mining company Tungsten Mining (ASX:TGN) started trading today with an issue price of $0.20. The stock opened at $0.21 and closed the day at $0.205.   

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,692 an ounce.
Light crude is $0.16 up at $US86.89 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US1.054.