Market Wrap: Aus shares close higher on bank gains

Market Reports

After opening lower and being in negative territory for much of the day the market closed marginally higher led by gains in the banks and Macquarie. The market closed x of a per cent higher.
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 9 points up to finish at 5,347. 
 
The value of trades was $3.7 billion on volume of 639 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Macquarie Group Limited (ASX:MQG) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA).
On the futures market the SPI is 21 points up.

Overseas economic news

The HSBC flash China Purchasing Managers Index for March was lower than expected. The index fell to an eight month low of 48.1 in March, down from 48.5 in February. Results below fifty indicate a contraction.
 
HSBC’s chief China economist Qu Hongbin said the result was due to a broad based weakness on the back of sagging domestic demand and he expects wide reaching measures to support growth from Beijing. 
 
Company news
 
Macquarie Group Limited (ASX:MQG) has upgraded its annual profit guidance on the back of better market conditions for its fixed-income, currencies and commodities unit. (FICC) 
 
FICC division results are now expected to be in line with or slightly better than 2013, significantly better than previous expectations. Full year earnings may be 40 per cent to 45 per cent higher than 2013, with annual profit possibly reaching $1.23 billion. Shares in Macquarie Group are trading up 2.9 per cent at $56.42. 
 
Shares in Kathmandu Holdings Limited (ASX:KMD, NZE:KMD) are up over 12 per cent after the company announced it has improved its interim profit and is trekking towards even higher profits over the full year. 
 
The New Zealand-based adventure sports retailer increased its net profit by 10.7 per cent to $10.7 million ($NZ11.4 million) in the first half of the 2014 financial year. 
 
The company has attributed the result to continuing strong same store sales growth, particularly in Australia, improved gross margins and cost management. 
 
CEO Peter Halkett says New Zealand’s economic environment and consumer sentiment is currently positive, but there is more uncertainty in Australia’s prospects.
 
Looking ahead Kathmandu says it will continue to invest in growing its store network, enhancing its online offering and developing true omni-channel capability. Shares in Macquarie Group are trading up 11.29 per cent at 3.45. 
 
G8 Education Limited’s (ASX:GEM) says the $228 million acquisition of Sterling Early Education, as well as 91 childcare and education centres from other vendors will see its centre portfolio jump by more than 28 per cent. 
 
Settlement will occur over coming months and by the end of September G8 expects its licensed care places will have increased from about 6,200 to almost 28,000. 
 
G8 Education says it will be operating 388 Australian centres by 30th September providing almost 28,000 places and will deliver $39.4 million of centre based EBIT in the 2015 financial year. Shares in G8 Education went into a trading halt this morning before market open and are expected to resume trading Wednesday pending an announcement to the market. Share in G8 Education last traded at $4.76
 
Takeover target Leighton Holdings Limited (ASX:LEI) has scored a $US1.7 billion contract as part of a joint venture to deliver national infrastructure in Qatar. 
 
The construction giant’s Habtoor Leighton Group joint venture with Al Jabar Engineering will work on the New Orbital Highway Project. 
 
Under the contract the JV will design and construct the highway project for Qatar’s Public Works Authority over the next 36 months. Shares in Leighton Holdings are trading down 0.67 of a per cent.
 
West Australian ship builder Austal Limited (ASX:ASB) has announced the delivery of another Joint High Speed Vessel to the US Navy. USNS Millinocket is the third of the high-speed, shallow draft vessels delivered. The twin hull ships are intended for rapid intra-theater transport of medium-sized cargo payloads and up to 310 troops. Ten vessels of the class are planned in total.
 
Earlier this month, Austal announced a $US125 million contract from an unnamed naval customer in the Middle East as well as a contract for two more littoral combat vessels, also for the US Navy. Austal’s order book now sits at a record $3.3 billion. Shares in Austal are trading up 4.69 per cent. 
 
The best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Financials adding 24 points to close at 5,946.The worst performing sector was Consumer Discretionary, losing 8 points to close at 1,825 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Kathmandu Holdings Limited (ASX:KMD), rising 11.29 per cent to close at $3.45. Shares in Transfield Services Limited (ASX:TSE) and Beadell Resources Limited (ASX:BDR) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC), dropping 8.7 per cent to close at $0.21. Shares in Metcash Limited (ASX:MTS) and Aristocrat Leisure Limited (ASX:ALL) also closed lower. 

Commodities

Gold is buying $US1,328 an ounce. Light crude is $0.56 up at $US99.46 a barrel.

The Australian dollar fell slightly on the weak PMI data out of China to be trading at $US0.90.80.