Market Wrap: Aus shares lower, RBA holds

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed 0.4 per cent lower. Its second consecutive negative finish, with the miners weighing on the local bourse. The Reserve Bank offered few surprises, keeping interest rates on hold again at 2.5 per cent. RBA Governor Glenn Stevens says overall global financial conditions remain very accommodative, as volatility in financial markets has recently abated, with long-term interest rates remaining low and ample funding available for creditworthy borrowers. Mr Stevens said even though the Australian dollar has dropped recently, it still remains uncomfortably high. 
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 23 points down to finish at 5,256. The value of trades was $4.4 billion on volume of 857 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were Aurizon Holdings Limited (ASX:AZJ), Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) and BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP)
 
On the futures market the SPI is 24 points down.
 
Economic news

The Australian Bureau of Statistics says retail sales rose above expectations in October. Retail spending went up by 0.5 per cent to $22.28 billion in the month, ahead of economist tips for a 0.4 per cent rise. The reading follows a 0.8 per cent lift in September. 
 
Also from the ABS, Australia's current account deficit widened in the September quarter more sharply than analysts expected. The nation's trade deficit for the quarter widened five per cent to a seasonally adjusted $12.71 billion. Analysts had expected the figure to come in at $11.5 billion. The result follows a upwardly revised $12.09 billion deficit in the June quarter. 
 
Company news  
 
The Queensland government has reduced its stake in freight rail company Aurizon Holdings Limited (ASX:AZJ) to less than 5 per cent. 
Queensland’s Liberal National Party sold off 74.3 million shares, valued at $350 million, in the formerly state owned Aurizon, and plans to use the proceeds to reduce state debt. Shares in Aurizon closed 1.71 per cent up at $4.75. 
 
Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) CFO Chris Lynch has told an investor seminar that the miner wants to erase its net debt from $US22 billion to the mid-teens range. Mr Lynch says Rio’s 2014 focus will be on cutting debt, aided by cash from asset sales. Shares in Rio Tinto closed 0.55 per cent down at $65.49. 
 
Stockland Corporation Limited (ASX:SGP) says it is on track to achieve its guidance after making good progress in restructuring the business over the last year.
 
Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN) has forged a code-share deal with Asia's largest airline, China Southern. The tie up comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott seeks to downplay expectations the federal government will buy a stake in the national airline or guarantee its debt.
 
Mortgage Choice Limited (ASX:MOC) shares eased 0.68 per cent after it was fined for false advertising, after it wrongly claimed customers had saved an average of $10,000 over five years by refinancing their home loans.
 
Virgin Australia Holdings Limited (ASX:VAH) shares firmed 2.6 per cent after the carrier welcomed a decision by the Takeovers Panel declining to make a declaration of unacceptable circumstances after Stephen Mayne applied to amend the terms of the airline's capital raising.
 
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Healthcare adding 70 points to close at 14,179.
The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 137 points to close at 9,759.
 
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Whitehaven Coal Limited (ASX:WHC), rising 6.48 per cent to close at $1.73. Shares in Ausdrill Limited (ASX:ASL) and Santos Limited (ASX:STO) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR), dropping 17.39 per cent to close at $0.38. Shares in Evolution Mining Limited (ASX:EVN) and Resolute Mining Limited (ASX:RSG) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,220.52 an ounce. Light crude is $1.10 up at $US93.82 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9067.