That's all from us here at Markets Live, thanks for tuning in, we'll see you tomorrow from 9.30am.
What to watch our for overnight: US consumer prices.
And the main item on tomorrow's agenda is the employment data for December, with economists expecting a slowdown in the number of new jobs created, pushing the unemployment rate to 5.4 per cent from 5.2 per cent.
Defensives led the gains on the ASX200; blood products maker CSL Ltd surged 3.5 per cent, Telstra jumped 1.1 per cent and food retailer Wesfarmers rose 0.5 per cent.
"Investors continue to pile back into defensive-yield plays," says Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG Markets. "Health care, telecommunications and financial sectors are all outperforming the market."
The local market was today's star performer in the region, which is awash in red:
- Japan (Nikkei): -2.25%
- Hong Kong: -0.6%
- Shanghai: -1.7%
- Taiwan: -0.8%
- South Korea: -0.65%
- India: -0.1%
- SIngapore: +0.1%
- New Zealand: flat
The Nikkei's losses can be attributed to the rebound in the yen, which prompted investors to take profits on shares of exporters.
In Shanghai, investors took profits on recent outperformers such as Chinese financials ahead of more China economic data at the end of the week.
Here's a look at the best and worst performers on the ASX200 today:
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Among the sectors, consumer discretionary jumped 0.8 per cent, health surged 2.3 per cent, Telcos rose 1.1 per cent and financials added 0.6 per cent. Materials were the main drag on the market, slipping 0.2 per cent.
The market has finished higher, led by gains in the financial sector. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 jumped 21.8 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4738.4, while the broader All Ords added 22 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4765.
Rising iron ore prices could be behind Fortescue’s decision to step back from a deal to invest in a small unconventional gas exploration company.
The iron ore producer yesterday terminated discussions with oil and gas explorer Oil Basins, just two months after announcing it would take an 18 per cent stake in the company. It comes as the iron ore price continues to rise above $US150 per tonne.
Morningstar Resource analyst Mathew Hodge said while the flagged investment was minuscule by Fortescue’s standards, there was some apprehension among investors that the company would expand into the oil and gas sector after securing a cornerstone stake in Oil Basins.
‘‘There was some comment that it could be a distraction and I think that was the only concern the market had,’’ Mr Hodge said. ‘‘You’re supposed to be an iron ore miner. Why would you be getting involved in a speculative energy company?’’
The ASX200 continued it’s rather measured 2013 ascent today, with financials and industrials stocks doing more than enough to counteract weakness from the mining heavyweights, says CMC Markets analyst Tim Waterer:
- Today was perhaps best described as a tentative press forward ahead of key economic releases due in the next two days.
- While this description may be understating the actual points gained by the index today, it would appear that a number of traders are waiting to see how Friday's Chinese GDP data pans out before buying with more conviction and this is particularly true of the mining sector.
- While financial markets have enjoyed a confident start to 2013 so far, it is still a potentially hazardous environment for investors with cliff fears replaced by those of a ceiling (of the debt variety).
The big winners today are the banks, Telstra and Boral. Another noteable winner for the day is CSL, up 3.5 per cent, posting a second day of gains, but there's little news on the stock.
On the other side of the ledger we have the big miners, which are all in the red.Back to top
Units are proving a better investment than houses, with unit prices growing 1.1 percentage point more annually than house prices over the past five years.
Property researcher RP Data shows that while capital city unit prices grew by an annual average return of 2.9 per cent over the five years to December 31 last year, house prices grew by only 1.8 per cent.
However, there is a marked difference in relative price performance between houses and units in the two biggest property markets of Sydney and Melbourne. In Sydney, the average annual price growth for Sydney houses over the past five years is 2.7 per cent and 3.6 per cent for units.
But in Melbourne, where there is an oversupply of units, the gap is smaller. Melbourne house prices show an annual average growth of 3.3 per cent compared to 3.9 per cent for units.
Apple began allowing users of its Chinese website to pay in installments as the company looks for ways to make iPhones and MacBook laptops more affordable in the world’s largest computer and mobile-phone market.
Payments can be made over a two-year period for purchases of 300 yuan or more, up to a limit of 30,000 yuan, Apple said on its Chinese site. The installment plans require a credit card from China Merchants Bank, it said.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said last week that China will overtake the US to become its largest market, as he visited the world’s most-populous nation for the second time in less than 10 months. The iPhone 5, released in China last month, is priced at 5,288 yuan on Apple’s China site, equal to about six weeks’ pay for the average urban worker.
The Australian Retailers Association says Deloitte's report - ‘‘Global Powers of Retail 2013’’ - released yesterday, shows that Australian retail is experiencing a ‘‘paradigm shift’’ as the online space grows.
‘‘Conducting business seamlessly across both physical and virtual channels has exposed Australian retail not just to competition from overseas but also to overseas entrants marketing their offers directly via new, Australian-based brand outlets,’’ ARA’s executive director Russell Zimmerman said.
In the report, Deloitte stated that retailers who failed to provide their customers an integrated shopping experience across bricks and mortar and online were ‘‘at risk of becoming irrelevant’’.
More on the future of retail in the Deloitte report here (from page 9).
Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Qatar National Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are among the suitors expected to submit preliminary bids to buy Rabobank's Indonesian unit, in a $400 million deal, sources said.
The first-round bids are due by the end of January, and some suitors are already working with financial advisers to place indicative proposals, the sources added.
Rabobank, which has its roots in the Dutch farming sector, is shedding subscale and nonstrategic businesses to focus its international operations on the agricultural industry. The planned sale of its Indonesian unit is part of that process.
Japan's Transport Ministry considers the emergency landing of an All Nippon Airway's Boeing 787 jet a major incident that could have led to an accident, Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday.
ANA and Japan Airlines are grounding all Dreamliners after the ANA flight made an emergency landing when instruments indicated a battery error and an unusual smell was detected in the cockpit and cabin.Back to top
Ford Motor, estimating losses of more than $US1.5 billion in Europe in 2012, forecast similar losses there this year before turnaround efforts lead it back to profitability in the region by mid-decade.
The second-biggest US automaker expects this year’s result to be “essentially the same as what we’ll announce for 2012 later this month,” Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said today at the Deutsche Bank Global Auto Industry Conference in Detroit.
After this year, the company “would expect to start to see an improvement in the bottom line on the way towards profitability by mid-decade” in Europe, he said.
Europe’s top three equity-fund managers since the post-financial crisis market bottom all agree on one thing: banks are bad investments.
Allianz SE’s Europe Equity Growth Fund, Comgest Growth Europe Fund and Montanaro European Smaller Companies Fund produced the best risk-adjusted returns since March 2009 among European stock funds with more than 500 million euros, by bottom-up stock picking and staying away from banks, according to the Bloomberg riskless return ranking. The three managers -- Thorsten Winkelmann, Arnaud Cosserat and Charles Montanaro -- are still not buying.
“I don’t see ourselves buying into any of the banks anytime soon,” said Frankfurt-based Winkelmann, 39, whose 145 per cent return over the period in his 3.5 billion-euro fund was the best in both absolute and risk-adjusted terms.
“You ask the CEOs of the banks about their return-on-equity targets, and they can’t tell you. How can a third-party fund manager know and put his money there?”
The top-performing managers are unfazed by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s moves to shore up the region’s banks, which made financial stocks the STOXX 600 Index’s best performers in the past year.
Instead, they prefer stocks such as Swedish radiation-surgery manufacturer Elekta AB, owned by all three managers, that have simpler business models, predictable cash flows and the biggest shares of niche markets. Banks don’t fit the bill, they say.
Keeping our focus on Asia, HSBC believes 2013 will be very positive for Asian currencies, with declining risks and improving regional growth.
"We remain positive on most Asian currencies this year given global growth is looking a little brighter, particularly in China, and the perceived tail risks in the Eurozone and the US are subsiding," said head of Asian currency research Paul Mackel.
"We recognise that the problems in the Eurozone and the US have not fully gone away. But ultimately, we expect slow and steady appreciation by most of the region's currencies with a broader range of funding sources."
"With inflow pressures expected to support most Asian currencies, defining the degree of policy resistance will play a crucial role in shaping our views. In 2012, Asian FX intervention was not as strong as in previous years. This, however, does not mean Asian policymakers have turned decisively more permissive about local currency strength."
Foreign direct investment in China fell 3.7 per cent in 2012 to $US111.72 billion, the government has said.
For the month of December FDI also declined, slipping 4.5 per cent from the same month in 2011 to $11.7 billion, the commerce ministry said on Wednesday.
Investment from the European Union declined 3.8 per cent to $US6.11 billion, the ministry said.
But investment from the United States rose 4.5 per cent to $US3.12 billion, the ministry said, while investment from Japan increased 16.3 per cent to $7.38 billion.
‘‘The growth momentum of investment from some developed countries including the United States and Japan was good,’’ the ministry said in a statement.
Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang also said in a statement that in 2012, Chinese directly invested $77.22 billion overseas, an increase of 28.6 per cent from the year before.
Markets around the region are mixed today, with Japan's Nikkei taking the biggest drop:
- Nikkei: -1.5%
- Shanghai: flat
- Taiwan: -0.2%
- South Korea: +0.3%
- Singapore: +0.3%
- New Zealand: +0.1%