Market Wrap: ASX flat ahead of budget

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed flat after a rollercoaster afternoon in which fluctuations in BHP’s share price dragged the market up and down with it. Local stocks opened the week slightly lower and hovered above and below the red line with materials dragging, however most investors are seemingly content to sit tight ahead of tomorrow evening’s federal budget announcement. 
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 4 points up to finish at 5,210. The value of trades was $5 billion on volume of 700 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC), which traded ex-dividend today, National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB) and BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP).
On the futures market the SPI is 5 points up.
Economic news

NAB’s monthly business survey has indicated a 4 point drop in business confidence in April, coming in at an index reading of negative 2. The dip comes as sentiment in the mining sector fell to its lowest level in four years. The reading reverses a jump in business confidence in March. 

The ABS says home loan approvals rose by 5.2 per cent in March, above expectations of a 4 per cent climb. There were 48,071 approvals in the month, while total housing finance by value increased 4.5 per cent to $22.98 billion. 
Company news 
Coffey International Limited (ASX: COF) will slash 150 jobs across its Geosciences and Projects businesses in response to deteriorating market conditions and resultant project delays. Shares in the consultancy company took a hammering today after it confirmed a downgrade to its full year earnings guidance that was first flagged several weeks ago. Shares in Coffey International closed 56.52 per cent down at $0.10. 
Westfield Retail Trust (ASX:WRT) increased rents of specialty stores in its shopping centres by 2.4 per cent in the 12 months to the end of March despite ongoing challenging conditions. The shopping mall owner says 99.5 per cent of its portfolio is currently leased, with rents on new leases in Australia falling 4.9 per cent in the March quarter as tenants fought for lower prices. Shares in Westfield Retail Trust closed 0.59 per cent stronger at $3.41. 
Rail and freight operator Aurizon Holdings Limited (ASX:AZJ) is in talks with potential investors in relation to the possible sale of a small equity stake in its network.
Gambling services provider Tatts Group Limited (ASX:TTS) will bring in an extra $16.2 million net profit for the full year after settling a Federal Court action against the Australian Taxation Office.
Chemical manufacturer Incitec Pivot Limited (ASX:IPL) says declining performance in its fertiliser division is behind a 23 per cent fall in its first half net profit of $110.2 million.
Paint maker DuluxGroup Limited (ASX:DLX) has seen its first half net profit slide by 31.3 per cent to $32.92 million, hit by costs incurred by the acquisition of Alesco.  
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Consumer Staples adding 116 points to close at 10,357.
The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 92 points to close at 9,658.
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Southern Cross Media Group Limited (ASX:SXL), rising 4.18 per cent to close at $1.62. Shares in Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC) and CuDeco Limited (ASX:CDU) also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR), dropping 8.93 per cent to close at $1.02. Shares in Medusa Mining Limited (ASX:MML) and Northern Star Resources Limited (ASX:NST) also closed lower. 

Gold is trading at $US1,436 an ounce. Light crude is $0.67 down at $US95.37 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9984.