Market Wrap: ASX shakes off early weakness

Market Reports

The Australian share market has returned to positive territory after two sessions of losses, shrugging off early weakness to climb 0.2 per cent at the end of trade.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 11 points up to finish at 5,588. 
The value of trades was $3.66 billion on volume of 581 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were QBE Insurance Group Limited (ASX:QBE), BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) and Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG)
On the futures market the SPI is 10 points up.
Economic news

June new home sales lifted by 1.2 per cent for the month bringing the quarterly gain up to 2 per cent. According to the Housing Industry Association, the main driver was multi-unit dwellings, up 15.9 per cent while detached house sales fell by 1 per cent.
And the ANZ Roy-Morgan weekly consumer confidence index has regained its pre-budget levels, adding 2.4 per cent to 116.2.  
Company news
ALS Limited (ASX:ALQ) disappointed investors today saying it expects underlying net profit after tax for the half year to 30th September 2014 to be $74 million, a 27 per cent drop from last year. At its annual general meeting, the analytical testing services company said that results are being affected by difficult economic conditions and a strong cost focus from clients. ALS says it will continue to see volatility in the company’s markets which are suffering heavily from the downturn in commodity prices. Shares in ALS have slumped to a two month low, today slipping 6.48 per cent to $7.50. 
QBE Insurance Group Limited (ASX:QBE) has warned its first half result will be impacted by its Latin American operations. Australia’s largest insurance company expects its interim net profit to fall to about $US390 million, from $US477 million the year before. First half cash profit is also expected to drop to about $US415 million, from $US590 million the year before. QBE says the result has been impaired by strengthening claims reserves to the tune of $US170 million in Latin America, mostly from its Argentine workers’ compensation business. Shares in QBE took a beating, shedding 11.10 per cent to $10.57. 
Monadelphous Group Limited (ASX:MND) announced an iron ore construction contract with Sino Iron worth $160 million. 
Nickel miner Mincor Resources (ASX:MCR) said it has substantially outperformed its production and cost targets for the 2014 financial year. Unaudited, provisional accounts indicate a swing to profit of up to $2 million from last year’s loss of $22 million. 
Beach Energy Limited (ASX:BPT) has recorded a 20 per cent jump in production for the 2014 financial year, but lowered its output guidance for the year ahead.  
And Poseidon Nickel Limited (ASX:POS) says it’s on track to integrate its acquisition of the Black Swan nickel project with capital savings of $200 million and first production possible a year ahead of schedule.

Best and worst perfomers

The best performing sector was staples adding 0.9 per cent to close at 10,081. The worst performing sector was industrials, losing 0.2 per cent to close at 4,152 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Lynas Corporation, rising 7.50 per cent to close at $0.21. Shares in Atlas Iron and BC Iron also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was QBE, dropping 11.10 per cent to close at $10.57. Shares in ALS and Navitas also closed lower. 

Gold is trading at $US1,304 an ounce. Light crude is $0.42 down at $US101.67 a barrel. The Australian dollar is buying 94.01 US cents. 

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