Market Wrap: Aus shares close flat as China data bites

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed flat today after the release of weaker than expected Chinese manufacturing data pulled the market sharply lower around midday. The materials sector suffered as the data started a sell-off, though banking and financials stemmed serious losses. The S&P/ASX 200 index closed only 4 points up to finish at 5,412. 
 
The value of trades was $6 billion on volume of 1.11 billion shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA).
 
On the futures market the SPI is 3 points up.
 
Economic news

HSBC has reported Chinese business conditions deteriorated at a moderate pace in February with the flash manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) at 48.3 in February down from 49.5 in January to a seven month low. A result above fifty indicates expansion in the sector while below fifty indicates contraction. The flash China manufacturing output index was also down to 49.2 in February from 50.8 in January), also a seven month low.
 
Company news
 
The fallout from the collapse of Forge Group continues as litigation funder Bentham IMF Limited (ASX:IMF) has flagged a possible class action on behalf of Forge’s shareholders. Forge went into voluntary administration on 14 February after ANZ pulled financial support, forcing the group to lay off 1300 workers. IMF says shareholders who bought shares after January 1, 2013 and held some or all of their shares between November 4, 2013 and February 11, 2014, will be eligible to participate in the claim. Shares in Bentham IMF closed flat at $1.69. 
 
Drug manufacturer Acrux Limited (ASX:ACR) has reported a net profit of $24.6 million dollars for the first half of Fiscal 2014, up a massive 1257 per cent on the previous corresponding period. The result was largely driven by a milestone cash payment from partner distributor Eli Lilly of $27.8 million for meeting a sales target. Operating revenue also increase by 751 per cent to $43.7 million. The company said it expects further large milestone payments this calendar year and will award a 12 cent special dividend. Shares in Acrux closed 3.5 per cent up at $2.07. 
 
Leisure and entertainment group Amalgamated Holdings Limited (ASX:AHD) has reported a first half net profit of $46.2 million for Fiscal 2014. The result is 2.2 per cent down for the previous corresponding period. A terrible year for skiing in Thredbo was blamed by the company for the result, pushing earnings for the company’s Alpine Resort down 31.1 per cent. Shares in Amalgamated Holdings rose 1.86 per cent.
 
iiNet Limited (ASX:IIN) has reported record results across all key metrics according to its first half results announcement. The company reported an underlying net profit of $31.4 million for H1 of Fiscal 2014, up 19 per cent on the previous corresponding period. Underlying revenue and EBITDA were also up 4 and 6 per cent respectively for the half. iiNet says it will pursue growth in the business segment going forward. Shares in iiNet are up 6.00 per cent.
 
Fairfax Media Limited (ASX:FXJ) has reported a 48.5 per cent increase in underlying net profit to $86.4 million for the first half of the 2014 financial year, despite a 1.2 per cent drop in total revenue. The figures were boosted by the sale of websites InvestSMART, Stayz Group and FRG Asia during the period, netting $221 million. Fairfax’ troubled print publications showed double digit decline in earnings while their digital earnings increased by 50 per cent. The company will double its interim dividend to 2 cents, fully franked. Shares in Fairfax Media are up 23.08 per cent.
 
The best and worst performers of the day

The best performing sector was Consumer Discretionary adding 17 points to close at 1,831.The worst performing sector was Materials, losing 36 points to close at 10,611 points. 
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Breville Group Limited (ASX:BRG), rising 13.07 per cent to close at $9.00. Shares in AMP Limited (ASX:AMP) and iiNet Limited (ASX:IIN) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN), dropping 10.42 per cent to close at $0.43. Shares in NRW Holdings Limited (ASX:NWH) and Resolute Mining Limited (ASX:RSG) also closed lower. 
 
IPOs

Simavita Limited (ASX:SVA) started trading today. The medical device company floated with an issue price of $0.41, opened at $0.50 and a closed at $0.62.    

Commodities

Gold is buying $US1,313 an ounce. Light crude is $0.88 up at $US103.31 a barrel.

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.8952.