Outlook: ASX looks lower before Easter

Market Reports

The Australian share market is set for a soft end to the trading week ahead of the extended Easter long weekend. Cyprus concerns continued to weigh on Wall Street investors overnight despite the S&P 500 index again testing its all-time high. Though debt laden Cyprus scored a financial rescue package earlier in the week Europe’s debt woes remain in focus, as an Italian debt auction drew soft demand on Wednesday and Cypriot banks gear up to reopen on Thursday. 
 
US economic news

The National Association of Realtors has reported pending home sales dipped 0.4 per cent in February, defying expectations for a rise. 
 
Figures

Wall Street closed mixed on Wednesday: The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 34 points to close at 14,560, the S&P 500 dipped 1 point to close at 1,563 and the NASDAQ firmed 4 points to close at 3,257.
 
European markets lost ground on Wednesday: London’s FTSE lost 12 points, Paris lost 37 points and Frankfurt lost 91 points.
 
Asian markets ended higher on Wednesday: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 154 points, Tokyo’s Nikkei added 22 and China’s Shanghai Composite added 4 points.
 
The Australian share market climbed 0.9 per cent on Wednesday, ending at the session’s high: The S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 45 points on Wednesday to finish at 4,995. On the futures market the SPI is 13 points lower. 
 
Currencies

The Australian Dollar at 7:30AM was buying $US1.044 cents, 69.03 Pence Sterling, 98.6 Yen and 81.74 Euro cents.
 
Economic news due out today

Reserve Bank of Australia: Financial aggregates for February

Australian Bureau of Statistics: Job vacancies for the three months to February
 
Company news

Crown Limited’s (ASX:CWN) proposed $1 billion six-star hotel and casino at Barangaroo has hit the headlines amid calls to the state government to make public all documents relating to the project. New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell has promised to release the reports on the project only once the state government has announced its final decision. Property developer Lend Lease Group (ASX:LLC) is currently developing two commercial towers at its $6 billion Barangaroo South development in Sydney.Shares in Crown rose 0.98 per cent on Wednesday closing at $12.34. 
 
After booking a first half net loss of $74.6 million Hills Holdings Limited (ASX:HIL) has affirmed plans to offload its building materials businesses. CEO Ted Pretty says the company will hold onto its lifestyle products business which includes the iconic Hills Hoist clothes lines. In an investor update Mr Pretty also revealed the company intends to annually invest up to $15 million on product development and is on the hunt for potential acquisitions. Shares in Hills Holdings closed 0.45 per cent higher at $1.125 after the announcement was made on Wednesday. 
 
Ex-dividends
 
ARB Corporation Limited (ASX:ARP) with a 12.5 cent fully franked dividend
Cedar Woods Properties Limited (ASX:CWP) with an 11 cent fully franked dividend
Funtastic Limited (ASX:FUN) with a 0.5 cent fully franked dividend
Scott Corporation Limited (ASX:SCC) with a 1.5 cent fully franked dividend
STW Communications Group Limited (ASX:SGN) with a 5 cent fully franked dividend
Webster Limited (ASX:WBA) with a 1 cent fully franked dividend
 
Commodities

Gold is up $10.50 to $US1,606 an ounce for the April contract on Comex.
Silver is down $0.07 to $28.61 for May.
Copper is up $0.01 at $3.45 a pound.
Oil is up $0.24 at $US96.58 a barrel for May light crude in New York.

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