Market Wrap: Aus shares close 0.62% higher

Market Reports

The ASX has finished 0.62 per cent up after a very eventful day. A glitch put the exchange’s computers into ‘enquire’ mode for about half an hour just as reporting season ramped up and some major players asked for a trading halt.  

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 32 points up to finish at 5,255. 
 
The value of trades was $3.9 billion on volume of 608 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) and Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC).
 
On the futures market the SPI is 35 points up/down.

Economic news 
 
In the National Australia Bank's monthly business survey, business confidence recorded its first rise in four months in January, to be above long run average levels. Business conditions consolidated the strong pick up in December, reaching an almost 3 year high. The NAB’s wholesale leading indicator suggests much weaker underlying conditions, however, pointing to below trend demand growth continuing into the first quarter of 2014 at around 3%. Against that, the improving trend in business conditions (if maintained) implies underlying GDP growth of around 3.75% in the first quarter of 2014, well above our forecast.
 
The ABS has reported owner occupied housing finance commitments were expected to rise 0.7 per cent in December but instead have fallen 1.9 per cent. The result comes on the back of a 1.4 per cent rise in November. The ABS also reported the house price index posted a year-on-year rise of 9.3 per cent. That represents quarterly gain of 3.4 per cent for the fourth quarter. Sydney lead the rise with a 13.8 per cent rise, while prices in Canberra lost 0.3 of a per cent. 
 
Company news
 
Forge Group Limited (ASX:FGE) has been placed in a trading halt after ANZ pulled financial support for the mining services company. Event took another turn this afternoon with The Australian and The Financial Review reporting insolvency experts Ferrier Hodgson have been appointed as administrators with KordaMether believed to be appointed by ANZ as receiver. 
 
Reports on Fairfax websites indicate that overruns had lead ANZ to extend credit on the condition Forge find equity, which they weren’t able to do.
 
The trading halt will stay in force until Forge management issues a statement to the boarse. Shares in Forge Group Limited (ASX:FGE) last traded at $0.92. 
 
APN News and Media Limited (ASX:APN) has off loaded online retail business brandsExclusive. Buyer Aussie Commerce Group has paid $ 2 million dollars plus 8% equity to APN. 
 
Aussie Commerce already operates 7 online retail operations with up to 125 employees. APN CEO Michael Miller says the move will consolidate the structure of APN, while Aussie Commercee MD Adam Schwab says brandsExclusive will compliment their existing e-retail offerings.
 
Shares in APN News and Media Limited (ASX:APN) closed 10.26 per cent up at $0.43. 
 
Disappointing reports were punished today with Macquarie Group Limited (ASX:MQG) reaffirming earlier guidance that it would record a profit of $1.2 billion in Fiscal 2014. Though the bank talked up its de-risking strategy and efforts to deal with more reputable companies, investors were left cold and shares in Macquarie Group Limited (ASX:MQG) closed 3.78 per cent down. 
 
Cochlear Limited (ASX:COH) also disappointed the market after it reported a fall in EBIT 54% for the first half of Fiscal 2014, with a similar fall in net profit. Cochlear blamed delays in regulatory approval for new products that also hindered sales of old products. Shares in Cochlear Limited (ASX:COH) closed 8.85 per cent down. 
 
The best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Financials excluding REITs adding 93 points to close at 6,790.The worst performing sector was Consumer Discretionary, losing 0.2 of a point to close at 1,767 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Energy World Corporation Limited (ASX:EWC), rising 7.58 per cent to close at $0.35. Shares in Northern Star Resources Ltd (ASX:NST) and G8 Education Ltd (ASX:GEM) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Bradken Limited (ASX:BKN), also a disappointing reporter, it dropped 9.40 per cent to close at $4.72. Shares in today’s other disappointer Cochlear Limited (ASX:COH) and Acrux Limited(ASX:ACR) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities

Gold is buying $US1,284 an ounce. Light crude is $0.18 up at $US100.06 a barrel. The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9003.

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