The Australian share market closed 0.7 per cent down after spending the day in the red, as some upbeat GDP data failed to supercede investor concerns about the situation continuing to unfold in Syria. Gold stocks were given a boost as the precious metal clung to a safe haven rally on fears of escalation in Syria, however the materials sector overall shed 0.4 per cent. Consumer staples stocks also fell, with Australia’s services sector fell to its lowest level since the GFC. Both were outdone by the healthcare sector though, which led the local markets losses. The Aussie dollar rallied on the GDP result, touching a two week high of $US0.9105.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 35 points down to finish at 5,162. The value of trades was $4.2 billion on volume of 749 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 Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC)
On the futures market the SPI is 35 points down.
The Australian Industry Group's Performance of Services Index (PSI) fell 0.4 points to 39.0 in August. Activity in the services sector is at its lowest level since the GFC, and AIG chief Innes Wilcox says cautious consumers are keeping a lid on discretionary spending and in turn placing further strain on wholesalers and freighters.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the national economy expanded in line with expectations in the June quarter. GDP grew 0.6 per cent in the quarter, and 2.6 per cent annually. Australia’s terms of trade grew 0.1 per cent in the quarter, however remain 4.9 per cent lower than this time last year.
Dart Energy Limited (ASX:DTE)
shares emerged from a trading halt and jumped this afternoon, as it confirmed a capital raising. The coal seam and shale gas explorer says it has raised $20.7 million to press forward on its shale gas assets in the UK. Shares in Dart Energy closed 15 per cent up at $0.12.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX:ANZ)
has been given a A+ credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, the fifth highest on its scale.
In boosting the rating, S&P’s assumed that ANZ’s China arm would continue to play a key role in the parent company's Asian strategy. Shares in ANZ closed 0.93 per cent down at $29.77.
Monadelphous Group Limited (ASX:MND)
shares rose 3.64 per cent after it won a substantial contract with Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO)
for construction work at the miner's Cape Lambert project in Western Australia.
Hills Holdings Limited (ASX:HIL)
shares jumped 6.15 per cent after it announced it will acquire two leading Australian interactive patient care businesses for $33.5 million, to be funded from its existing facilities.
Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO)
chief executive Sam Walsh has told its iron ore unit to reduce operating and capital costs in the Pilbara, according to media reports.
BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP)
officially opened its Daunia coking coal mine in Queensland today, several months early and around $US250 million under budget, coming with assurances of a more stable royalty framework in future from QLD Premier Campbell Newman.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector was Industrials adding 13 points to close at 3,865.
The worst performing sector was Healthcare, losing 209 points to close at 13,832.
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Emeco Holdings Limited (ASX:EHL)
, rising 12.82 per cent to close at $0.22. Shares in McMillan Shakespeare Limited (ASX:MMS)
and Decmil Group Limited (ASX:DCG)
also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Billabong International Limited (ASX:BBG)
, dropping 6.12 per cent to close at $0.46. Shares in Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN)
and Atlas Iron Limited (ASX:AGO)
also closed lower.
Gold is trading at $US1,408 an ounce. Light crude is $0.89 up at $US108.54 a barrel.
The Australian dollar
The Australian dollar has crept up a bit further, it’s buying $US0.9108.