Outlook: Aus shares set for strong open

Market Reports

Following positive leads the Australian share market looks set to open stronger. Wall Street rose overnight despite a lower than expected read on US retail sales and higher than expected unemployment claims. 
In US economic news, retail sales dropped 0.4 per cent in January according to the US Commerce Department. A steady read had been expected. Also, the US Labor Department has said jobless claims rose unexpectedly to 339,000 last week, 8,000 higher than expected. 
In Australia, the week will finish with more company earnings reports, lending finance figures and inflation data from China. 
The data

Wall Street closed up yesterday: The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 64 points to close at 16,028, the S&P 500 added 11 points to close at 1,830 and the NASDAQ gained 39 points to close at 4,241.
European markets closed mixed: London’s FTSE lost 16 points, Paris gained 7 points and Frankfurt also gained 57 points.
Asian markets closed lower: Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 265 points, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 120 points, and China’s Shanghai Composite fell 12 points.
The Australian share market reversed gains to end in the red after a disappointing local jobs report: The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 1.95 points higher on Thursday at 5,308. On the futures market the SPI is 33 points higher. 

The Australian Dollar at 7:20AM was buying $US0.8986 cents, 53.96 Pence Sterling, 91.84 Yen and 85.7 Euro cents.
In economic news: Due out today from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are lending finance figures for December. 
Company news

Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX:NCM) will today release its first half financial report. Australia’s largest listed gold mining company has been hit by a significant drop in the price of gold over the past year, pushing its share price down more than 60 per cent in 2013. Newcrest also took a significant write-down in the middle of last year after which it attracted the attention of the corporate watchdog. Shares in Newcrest Mining rose 2.93 per cent on Thursday to end at $11.26. 
Automotive Group Holdings Limited (ASX:AHE) will also release its financial report for the first half of fiscal 2014. Over the full 2013 financial year the automotive retailer increased its net profit by 32 per cent to a record $66.8 million. Earlier this week Automotive Group advised Toyota’s decision to end local production in Victoria is not expected to have any material impact on the company’s business. Shares in Automotive Group Holdings rose 0.82 per cent on Thursday to end at $3.70. 

The only company going ex-dividend today is GUD Holdings Limited (ASX:GUD) with an 18 cent fully franked dividend.

Gold is up $5.10 to $US1,300 an ounce for the April contract on Comex. Silver is up $0.05 to $20.40 for March. Copper is down $0.01 at $3.25 a pound. Oil is down $0.02 at US$100.35 a barrel for March light crude in New York.