Market Wrap: ASX unmoved by RBA call

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed 1.3 per cent up, with investors unperturbed by the RBA’s decision to leave interest rates steady at 3 per cent. Local stocks opened higher, recovering most of yesterday’s losses and reacting positively to strong retail data before maintaining gains in a fairly quiet afternoon of trade. 
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 65 points up to finish at 5,075. The value of trades was $5.3 billion on volume of 845 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA)
 
On the futures market the SPI is 55 points up.
 
Economic news
 
The Australian Industry Group/ Commonwealth Bank’s performance of services index rose 3.1 points in February, to sit at 48.5 points. The sub 50 reading indicates continued contraction in the sector, although signs indicate recent interest rate cuts are providing a timely boost. 
 
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says retail sales beat analyst expectations in January, rising 0.9 per cent to $21.58 billion. Analyst expectations had been for a 0.4 per cent rise. 
 
Company news 
 
WestSide Corporation Limited (ASX:WCL) is in talks with potential parties who have expressed interest in acquiring the coal-seam-gas explorer, although it did not name the parties involved. WestSide says it will keep the market informed of any material developments in accordance with its disclosure obligations. Shares in WestSide closed 5 per cent up at $0.32. 
 
Oil and gas explorer Golden Gate Petroleum Limited (ASX:GGP) has signed a non-binding agreement for a $7.5 million funding facility through a US based asset management firm, to fund the continued development of its Permian project in Texas. The new facility, along with proceeds from a recent Entitlement Offer, are expected to enable Golden Gate to start drilling up the existing oil and gas reserves in the project, while allowing it to maintain the lease where they are located. Shares in Golden Gate Petroleum closed steady at $0.004. 
 
Oil and gas explorer AWE Limited (ASX:AWE) has signed an MOU with Green Rock Energy Limited (ASX:GRK) subsidiary Mid West Geothermal Power to form a potential joint venture.
 
Shipbuilder Austal Limited’s (ASX:ASB) US division will build two additional Littoral Combat Ships for the US Navy, the fifth and sixth vessels in a 10 ship contract awarded in 2010.
 
Global miner Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) has forecast an iron ore price fall of approximately 33 per cent over the next 18 months.
 
Infrastructure services company Transfield Services Limited (ASX:TSE) has secured $159 million worth of contracts in its infrastructure business in Australia.
 
Best and worst performers

 The best performing sector was Consumer Staples adding 280 points to close at 10,323.
The worst performing sector was Utilities, losing 19 points to close at 5,520 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Saracen Mineral Holdings Limited (ASX:SAR), rising 7.94 per cent to close at $0.34. Shares in Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR) and Perpetual Limited (ASX:PPT) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Nufarm Limited (ASX:NUF), dropping 12.14 per cent to close at $4.85. Shares in Boart Longyear Limited (ASX:BLY) and Mirabela Nickel Limited (ASX:MBN) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,579 an ounce. Light crude is $0.21 up at $US90.33 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US1.024. 

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