Thursday, March 29, 2012

Australian stock markets close down march 30 2012

Australian stock markets close down march 30 2012 : THE sharemarket closed lower today after hitting a five-month high, but the bourse notched up gains for the quarter. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index ended the session down 0.1 per cent at 4335.20. During the session it traded as high as 4361.10, a closing level not seen since October 28, 2011.

The broader All Ordinaries index was down two points (0.045 per cent) at 4420.

While the benchmark index couldn’t hold on to that intra-day high, it still closed at its highest level in more than four-and-a-half months.

The index gained 1.5 per cent this week for a quarterly advance of 6.9 per cent.

The Australian dollar, in contrast, traded near 2012 lows, at $US1.0405.

IG Markets strategist Stan Shamu said expectations that the Reserve Bank of Australia will loosen monetary policy had gathered pace this week and that “a steep slide in the local currency…has encouraged buying in local equities”.

US shares closed mostly lower overnight after weekly jobless claims data and gross domestic product growth data in the world's biggest economy slightly undershot expectations.

On tap for later in the global trading day is a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers, while China is set to release manufacturing purchasing managers index data for March on Sunday.

Shanghai shares advanced today, outperforming the rest of Asia, as metal firms put in a stronger performance.

Australian mining companies also rose. Diversified minerals giant Rio Tinto was up 1.6 per cent and rival BHP Billiton climbed 1.1 per cent. BHP announced that its iron ore division head, Ian Ashby, will step down from the role in July, to be replaced by Jimmy Wilson. Iron ore is BHP Billiton’s most profitable division.

Energy firms were lower, however, as Nymex light sweet crude oil futures traded below $US104 a barrel in electronic action after ending the New York session at six-week lows.

Woodside shares lost 1.4 per cent while Linc Energy fell 3.4 per cent.

Banks also lagged, as NAB shares were down 1.6 per cent while ANZ slipped 0.9 per cent.

Qantas shares fell 1.7 per cent after the airline said that it would hike international fuel surcharges by up to $30 and domestic fares by up to $10 to counter high jet fuel prices.

Leighton extended steep losses from the previous session when it slashed its profit guidance. The firm traded down another 3.8 per cent today, losing 7.8 per cent for the week. CLSA cut its rating on the construction giant to ‘underperform’ from ‘outperform.’

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