Market Wrap: Fed taper sparks ASX Santa rally

Market Reports

The Australian share market soared more than 2 per cent to session highs after the US Federal Reserve announced it will start to taper its economic stimulus program early 2014. The Fed’s decision to shave $US10 billion off its monthly bond-buying program sparked a rally on Wall Street which rippled onto Australia and regional markets. 
Local stocks posted their strongest session since July 2, fuelling hopes the long-awaited Santa rally is finally underway. Across the sectors there were broad based gains with all adding value by session’s end, led by strength in the mining and energy sectors. 
The S&P/ASX 200 index rallied 106 points to finish at 5,202. 
The value of trades was $6 billion on volume of 959 million shares at the close of trade. 
The top three stocks by value were Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA), BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) and Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC)
On the futures market the SPI is 43 points higher.
Company news
Origin Energy Limited (ASX:ORG) has inked a new deal to sell gas to the Santos Limited (ASX:STO)-led Gladstone liquefied natural gas export project. The energy giant says the five-year deal stands to deliver significant value by allowing it to monetise its gas resources in line with international oil-linked pricing. Shares in Origin Energy rose 2.32 per cent today, ending the session at $13.67. 
National Australia Bank Limited’s (ASX:NAB) Chairman has warned Australia is facing modest economic growth and rising unemployment. Speaking at the bank’s annual general meeting today Chairman Michael Chaney also lashed out at financial services regulation, claiming any new regulation must take into account the potential impact on Australian banks’ ability to be globally competitive. Shares in National Australia Bank rose 1.86 per cent today, ending the session at $34.03. 
Property developer Watpac Limited (ASX:WTP) has won a $72 million contract from Charter Hall Group (ASX:CHC) to demolish and redevelop an office retail building in the middle of Sydney. 
Engineering company Monadelphous Group Limited (ASX:MND) has secured $100 million in contract extensions or renewals for work in the oil and gas sector across Papua New Guinea and the Northern Territory. 
Communications and marketing provider Salmat Limited (ASX:SLM) has inked a $US31 million deal to buy a Philippines-based outsourced service provider called MicroSourcing International. 
Engineer and construction manager Ausenco Limited (ASX:AAX) has scored a contract to provide engineering and project support services for Karara’s iron ore operation in Western Australia. 
Best and worst performers
Sectors and stocks were in a sea of green with all major sectors ending higher: The best performing sector was materials, advancing 254 points to close at 9,904.The sector with the smallest gains was health care, adding 120 points to close at 13,918 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Caltex Australia Limited (ASX:CTX), jumping after flagging marketing business growth. Shares in Caltex Australia advanced 13.14 per cent to close at $19.12. Shares in Fleetwood Corporation Limited (ASX:FWD) and BlueScope Steel Limited (ASX:BSL) also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Holdings Limited (ASX:WTF), extending yesterday’s 32 per cent fall after issuing a profit warning. Shares in sank 10.88 per cent today to close at $2.54. Shares in Forge Group Limited (ASX:FGE) and Kingsgate Consolidated Limited (ASX:KCN) also closed lower. 
Travel insurer and medical-assistance company Cover-More Group Limited (ASX:CVO) floated with an issue price of $2.00, opened at $1.75 and closed 1.14 per cent higher at $1.77.    
Self-storage operator National Storage REIT (ASX:NSR) floated with an issue price of $0.98, opened at $1.00 and closed 0.51 per cent lower at $0.97.    
Gold is buying $US1,220 an ounce. 
Light crude is trading $0.58 higher at $US97.80 a barrel. 
The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.8844. 

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