Market Wrap: ASX holds onto early gains

Market Reports

The Australian share market has held on to early gains to close 1.08 per cent up buoyed by miners. An unexpected interest rate cut in China has ignited hopes there will be more stimulus given to the flagging economy there.  
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 58 points up to finish at 5,362. 
The value of trades was $4 billion on volume of 667 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA).
On the futures market the SPI is 51 points up.
Company news
ALS Limited (ASX:ALQ) has announced a better than expected interim profit result. Net profit for the half year came in at $67.7 million, up from guidance of $64 million. However the numbers are still 33 per cent below last year’s profit of 
$101 million with Chairman Nerolie Withnall saying trading conditions have been impacted by tight market conditions in all sectors. The mineral testing company has experienced a 22 per cent downturn in revenue for the same period and says it remains focussed on cost management and right sizing the business for the current climate. ALS Limited closed 17.86 per cent higher at $5.28. 
And BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) says it has appointed a number of high calibre people to the management team of the new company it plans to create from its demerger. Speaking in Sydney today, CEO Andrew Mckenzie said, ‘The demerger is an important step for BHP Billiton.... We are making good progress and remain on track to complete the demerger in the first half of 2015.’ Shares in BHP Billiton closed 3.79 per cent stronger at $32.90. 
Shares in Reef Casino Trust (ASX:RCT) have tanked with Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung pulling out of a takeover offer that valued the trust at $200 million after failing to secure regulatory approval for the deal before the offer closing date. 
Charter Hall Group (ASX:CHC) has bought a $171.4 million industrial portfolio leased to poultry producer and processor, Inghams.
Primary Health Care Limited’s (ASX:PRY) founder and managing director Edmund Bateman has announced he will step down from his position and take on a non-executive director role at the end of January.  
And Uranium producer Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN) has unveiled a $205 million capital raising and a number of measures to recapitalise the company.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was materials adding 3.3 per cent to close at 9,061. The worst performing sector was telco services, losing 0.02 per cent to close at 1,991 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was the previously mentioned ALS Ltd, rising 17.86 per cent to close at $5.28. Shares in McMillan Shakespeare and Fortesque also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Resolute Mining, dropping 4.08 per cent to close at $0.24. Shares in Cardno and Vedo Group also closed lower. 

Gold is trading at $US1,199 an ounce. Light crude is $0.66 up at $US76.51 a barrel. The Australian dollar is buying 86.90 US cents. 

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