Market Wrap: Aus shares close flat

Market Reports

The Australian share market has closed flat, pulled down by losses in the materials sector. The local market edged higher at open, spiked in early trade to a 33 month high before surrendering its early gains.
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.5 points down to finish at 4,959. The value of trades was $3.5 billion on volume of 623 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA), BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) and Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC).
 
On the futures market the SPI is 6 points up.
 
Economic news

National Australia’s Bank’s monthly business survey indicated a slight rise business confidence in January, rising 1 point to an index reading of plus 3, a result aided by a rally in the Australian share market. 
 
Company news 
 
Hydrocarbon explorer Central Petroleum Limited (ASX:CTP) says it has completed a substantial program of technical analysis within its Surprise discovery in the Northern Territory. Central believes the lowest known oil within the prospect is deeper than originally expected and the oil column thicker than had been previously thought. The company says Surprise is a continuously evolving exploration area with the potential size of the reward more than justifying continued exploration efforts. Shares in Central Petroleum closed 8.7 per cent up at $0.13. 
 
Whitehaven Coal Limited’s (ASX:WHC) shares jumped today after its Maules Creek and Boggabri mine proposals in New South Wales have received conditional approval from the Federal Government. Despite the approval, Environment Minister Tony Burke says there is no guarantee the controversial projects will actually go ahead. Shares in Whitehaven Coal closed 7.77 per cent up at $3.19. 
 
Civil and mining contractor NRW Holdings Limited’s (ASX:NWH) shares rose almost 6 per cent  today after wholly owned subsidiary Action Drill and Blast was awarded a $140 million contract by Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX:FMG).
 
Oil and gas explorer Nexus Energy Limited (ASX:NXS) shares eased today despite the discovery of the source of a fault that halted gas production at its Longtom gas project in Victoria.
 
SP AusNet (ASX:SPN) has been blocked by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) from increasing charges to pay for its rollout of smart meters.
 
Brisbane Broncos Limited (ASX:BBL) shares jumped over 8.5 per cent today after the rugby league club announced it will pay its shareholders a fully franked final dividend of 1.75 cents per share for its 2012 financial year. 
 
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Industrials adding 53 points to close at 3,825.
The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 53 points to close at 10,887 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Bradken Limited (ASX:BKN), rising 10.98 per cent to close at $6.77. Shares in Acrux Limited (ASX:ACR) and Boart Longyear Limited (ASX:BLY) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Alacer Gold (ASX:AQG), dropping 6.97 per cent to close at $4.27. Shares in Gryphon Minerals Limited (ASX:GRY) and Troy Resources Limited (ASX:TRY) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,647 an ounce. Light crude is $0.14 down at $US96.89 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US1.024.

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