Market Wrap: ASX drops before budget week

Market Reports

The Australian share market ended 0.3 per cent down for the day and steady over the week. Today’s spotlight was on the Reserve Bank of Australia’s quarterly statement on monetary policy which suggested rates will remain low for some time. 
 
The mining sector moved lower amid speculation China could be preparing for an interest rate cut following today’s weaker than expected inflation figures. Elsewhere across the sectors most ended lower with financials weighing from ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ) trading ex-dividend today. 
 
The week gone was marked by the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision to keep rates at a record low for its eighth straight meeting. In the week ahead the Abbott Government’s first budget will be in focus when it is released on Tuesday evening ahead of the market’s reaction on Wednesday. 
 
Figures
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 16 points, chipping into the weekly gain of 2.7 points to finish at 5,461. 
 
The value of trades was $3.52 billion on volume of 639 million shares at the close of trade. 
 
The top three stocks by value were ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ), National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB) and Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC)
 
On the futures market the SPI is 8 points lower. 
 
Wall Street
 
US stocks have moved lower over the four trading days this week: The Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost 8 points. The S&P 500 Index has lost 8 points. The NASDAQ has lost 76 points. The 100 Index has lost 54 points. 
 
Company news
 
Envestra Limited (ASX:ENV) closed as the 200’s best performer on news the natural gas distributor could be set to be the subject of a bidding war. The company last night scored a $2.37 billion takeover bid from its shareholder, Hong Kong conglomerate Cheung Kong. The offer price of $1.32 trumps a rival proposal from Australia’s biggest natural gas infrastructure business APA Group (ASX:APA). Shares in Envestra jumped 18.14 per cent today to finish the week at $1.33. 
 
Shares in Prima BioMed Limited (ASX:PRR) soared after the drug developer’s CVac clinical development program was granted fast-track status by US regulators. The program is targeted to improving survival rates for those in remission from ovarian cancer and the company is aiming to bring this treatment option to patients in the US. Shares in Prima BioMed soared 33.33 per cent today to finish the week at $0.05. 
 
News Corp’s (ASX:NWS) CEO Robert Thompson has spruiked a cautiously optimistic outlook on global advertising despite the company today reporting a fall in quarterly revenue. The media giant blamed a 5 per cent drop in third quarter revenue on lower advertising revenues, currency fluctuations and divesting the Dow Jones Local Media Group. Shares in News Corp gained 3.04 per cent today to finish the week at $18.29. 
 
Fairfax Media Limited (ASX:FXJ) has reported growth in digital revenue but a 4 per cent drop in revenue for continuing businesses in the first four months of this year. The publisher partly attributed an extended Easter and ANZAC day holiday for contributing to a challenging advertising revenue environment. Shares in Fairfax Media gained 2.55 per cent today to finish the week at $1.01. 
 
Best and worst performers
 
The best performing sector was utilities, adding 57 points to close at 5,901. 
The worst performing sector was materials, losing 67 points to close at 10,029 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Envestra Limited (ASX:ENV), jumping 18.14 per cent to close at $1.33. Shares in Leighton Holdings Limited (ASX:LEI) and Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Arrium Limited (ASX:ARI), dropping 4.74 per cent to close at $1.10. Shares in Cover-More Group Limited (ASX:CVO) and Mermaid Marine Australia Limited (ASX:MRM) also closed lower. 
 
IPOs 
 
Victor Group Holdings Limited (ASX:VIG) started trading today. The marketing management company floated with an issue price of $0.20, opened at $0.22 and climbed 12.5 per cent over the session to close at $0.23.  
 
Commodities
 
Gold is buying $US1,291.23 an ounce, down $52 over the week.
Light crude is $0.51 lower at $US100.26 a barrel. 
 
The Australian dollar 
 
The Australian dollar is buying $0.936, up $0.01 over the week.