Market Wrap: Aus shares close higher on US confidence

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed 0.75 per cent higher after a surge in US consumer confidence rubbed off on the local bourse, especially the big banks and miners.  

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 40 points up to finish at 5,377. 
 
The value of trades was $5.18 billion on volume of 809 million 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 38 points higher.

Company news
 
Nufarm Limited (ASX:NUF) has improved its first half profit but warned business conditions in Australia will remain challenging for some time. The agricultural chemicals supplier’s net profit jumped 124 per cent to $18.8 million on the back of one-off tax credits. The results come just one week after the company announced plans to reorganise its Australian business. Shares in Nufarm have fallen 5.33 per cent and are trading at $3.91. 
 
The world's biggest dairy exporter Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund (ASX:FSF, NZE:FSF) has reported a first half net profit fall but a rise in revenue. The company’s has described the reporting period as one of mixed fortunes with its net profit dropping 53 per cent. Revenue however rose 21 per cent as a result of high volatility driven by record demand for milk powders. Shares in Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund have dropped 1.54 per cent and are trading at $5.75. 
 
Coal developer Yancoal Australia Limited (ASX:YAL) has secured a $US300million long term debt facility from its major shareholder Yanzhou. Yancoal expects the loan facility will aid the company to fund working capital and capital expenditure. 
 
The announcement comes just days after Yanzhou aborted its privatisation proposal for the company which was launched in the middle of 2013. Yancoal’s shares tumbled following Yanzhou’s withdrawal, sinking more than 20 per cent yesterday to close at $0.455. Shares in Yancoal have fallen 6.59 per cent.
 
Insurance Australia Group Limited (ASX:IAG) has welcomed clearance from Australia’s competition regulator to buy Wesfarmers Limited (ASX:WES) Australian insurance underwriting business. 
 
IAG inked the $1.84 billion deal at the end of 2013 and expects the transaction to tie up by the middle of this year. The acquisition includes Wesfarmers’ underwriting companies trading under WFI and Lumley Insurance brands.
 
The deal is still subject to regulatory approvals from organisations including the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and New Zealand regulators. Shares in IAG have risen 1.1 per cent.
 
Sigma Pharmaceuticals Limited (ASX:SIP) will spend $24.5 million to buy smaller rival Central Healthcare. The pharmaceuticals company says the deal has already received clearance from Australia’s competition regulator. 
 
Central Healthcare is a wholesaler and distributor of pharmaceutical products to hospitals and retail pharmacies who also own and manage the Pharmasave retail brand. 
 
CEO Mark Hooper says the acquisition will provide Sigma with an opportunity to diversify its service offering by establishing an independently operated wholesale and retail channel. Shares in Sigma have risen 3.28 per cent.

The best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Materials adding 134.5 points to close at 10,021.The worst performing sector was Real Estate Investment Trusts, losing 4.5 points to close at 999 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Mount Gibson Iron Limited (ASX:MGX), rising 6.45 per cent to close at $0.83. Shares in JB Hi-Fi Limited (ASX:JBH) and Automotive Group Holdings Ltd (ASX:AHE) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC), dropping 10.00 per cent to close at $0.18. Shares in Nufarm Limited (ASX:NUF) and Sky Network Television (ASX:SKT) also closed lower. 

Commodities

Gold is buying $US1,314 an ounce. Light crude is $0.39 down at $US99.21 a barrel.

The Australian dollar keep resisting the analysts negative predictions is buying $US0.9197, a four month high.