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Markets Live: Banks lead rally


The Australian sharemarket has finished higher, despite CBA and Telstra trading ex-dividend, as investors focus on the busiest week in profit season.

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It's been at entertaining day, but it's time to say adieu. We hope to see you bright and early again tomorrow for another edition of Markets Live.

Click here for the full wrap of the day's session.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's remained cautious about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies to stimulate growth and end deflation, and maintained its negative outlook on Japan's debt.

The ratings agency said in a statement today that it will take time to determine whether Abe's policies will be effective.

The measures could eventually lead to a reflation in Japan's economy, but public finances are likely to remain weak even if the government goes ahead with its plan to raise the 5 per cent sales tax, the ratings agency said.

S&P reaffirmed its AA minus rating on Japan and maintained a negative outlook, meaning there is at least one-in-three chance of a downgrade in the coming fiscal year.

Here's what you need2know this Monday evening:


  • ASX200 finished up 0.6% at 5063.4
  • AUD fetching $1.0294
  • Nikkei is up 2.1%, Hang Seng is down 0.2%, Kospi is down 0.1%
  • Gold at $US1614.04, Gold at $US95.62
  • Wall Street futures are flat, FTSE up 0.2%



  • US markets closed for President's Day holiday


  • Asciano: Est FH profit $171.27 million
  • Australian Infrastructure Fund
  • Arrium: Est FH profit $207.33 million
  • Coca-Cola Amatil: Est FH profit $310.43 million
  • Monadelphouse Group: Est FH profit $78.7 million
  • Southern Cross Media: Est FH profit $44.3 million

For those who are curious, here are the best and worst performers on the ASX200 today:

Among the sectors, financials and consumer staples jumped 1.1 per cent, consumer discretionary added 0.9 per cent and health rose 0.6 per cent.

Materials finished down 0.2 per cent and telecommunications slumped 1.2 per cent, however Telstra, the sector's largest stock, was trading ex-dividend.

The market has finished higher, buoyed by strong gains in the financial sector, despite the country's largest banks, CBA, trading ex-dividend.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 rose 29.5 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 5063.4, while the broader All Ords gained 28.3 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 5082.9.

We've mentioned BlueScope Steel quite a few times in the blog today, and with good reason.

Here's chief executive Paul O'Malley talking about the company's results and its plans for the future.

Video courtesy of BRR media.

Amcor has released a statement regarding reports of job losses in both its Victorian and Queensland businesses:

Nigel Garrard, Managing Director Amcor Australasia, confirmed today that Amcor would make changes to its Beverage Closures business in Victoria as part of a program to realign its Australian operations to the challenging conditions facing all Australian manufacturers.

The Thomastown manufacturing site is anticipated to close mid-year, resulting in approximately 80 redundancies, and changes at the company’s North Laverton site will see a further 17 redundancies.

“Significantly increasing cost pressures and the continued strength of the Australian dollar have made it impossible for these sites to remain competitive.”

“While I regret that these changes will see a number of co-workers leave the business, we must transform our Australian operations in order to remain a viable business for the long term.”

Gold has rebounded from a six-month as bargain hunters resurface and jewellers in China return to the physical market after the Lunar New Year holiday, but a firm US dollar is likely to limit the upside.

Gold is up $US5.18 an ounce to $US1614.24 after falling to around $US1598 on Friday, its weakest since August. Friday's loss marked bullion's biggest one-day drop since December.

In Hong Kong, premiums for gold bars rose to as high as $US1.70 an ounce to the spot London prices from $US1.50 last week, reflecting a surge in buying interest from jewellers, says Ronald Leung, director of Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong. But he doubts whether the buying interest will last.

"The strong (US) dollar is the major point. Sentiment is not bullish for the time being, even though we see there's tension in North Korea," says Leung.

Despite sharemarket heavyweights Commonwealth Bank and Telstra both trading ex-dividend today, down 1.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively, the ASX200 continues to drive into the black.

The ASX200 is currently up 24 points, or 0.5 per cent to 5057.9 and is on target for another fresh four-and-half year high.

The financial sector is one of the major reasons behind today's upward move, up 0.9 per cent. Westpac is leading the pack, currently accounting for 11.05 points on the ASX200. While CBA is responsible for the biggest lag on the market, 7.76 points.

Bluescope shares have surged today, up 16.3 per cent, after the company announced earlier today it had cut its first half loss to $12 million, down from $530 in the corresponding period during the previous year.

Its share have more than doubled since the middle of 2012.

Amcor will cut about 300 jobs at three manufacturing sites in Victoria and Queensland, blaming the high value of the Australian dollar and increasing cost pressures.

The managing director of Amcor Australasia, Nigel Garrard, said in a statement today that ‘‘Amcor would take steps to realign its Australian operations to the challenging conditions facing all Australian manufacturers, resulting in approximately 300 redundancies’’.

Shares are up 3 per cent to $9.185.

Here's a change of pace from our Executive Style team, some marketing companies in the US have begun to employ people on the basis of their Twitter form, which they say gives a much better read on applicants than a carefully compiled resume.

Click here for the full story.

Global conflict over currency policy has emerged as a new key risk to South Korea's financial system whereas concerns about the Chinese and US economies have abated, a Bank of Korea survey found today.

Household debt, measuring more than 1.5 times the average annual disposable income and ranking among the heaviest in the world, continued to top the list of five biggest risks facing the country's financial system, the survey showed.

In the survey of 90 financial market participants including senior executives and fund managers who were asked to pick more than one item each, 82.2. per cent chose household debt as the biggest risk, while categorising it as medium-term.

Exchange-rate conflict, prompted by expansionist monetary policies adopted by some advanced countries to energise their economies and reducing the value of their currencies, followed with 57.8 per cent of the respondents seeing it as a risk factor.

Compared to the previous survey published in August last year, household debt remained as one of the five risks facing South Korea's financial system but currency conflict made its first appearance, the Bank of Korea said in a statement.

Complaints mainly from emerging-market economies have piled up over Japan's recent moves to sharply expand its already ultra-loose monetary policy, which resulted in a dramatic fall in the value of yen against most currencies.

The South Korean won has risen around 6 per cent against the Japanese yen this year after having posted a 23 per cent surge last year, raising concerns that exports to key markets may struggle amid a delayed recover

National Australia Bank’s quarterly Small and Medium Enterprise (SME’s) survey showed both confidence and trading conditions fell in the final three months of 2012.

National Australia Bank (NAB) said the decline in confidence and conditions occurred across small and medium business in all categories, though conditions were weakest in businesses with an annual turnover between $2 million and $3 million.

‘‘The deterioration was broadly based across all SMEs, though smaller firms continued to underperform their larger counterparts,’’ it said.

‘‘The deterioration in activity reflected declines in profitability and employment, while trading conditions were unchanged.’’

Click here for the full story.

Chinese shares are trading flat on their first day after the Lunar New Year holidays. The Shanghai Composite Index is little changed, with advancers and decliners almost evenly split.

‘‘Stocks will play catch-up with the region after a one-week break,’’ says Zhang Haidong, an analyst at Tebon Securities. ‘‘China’s shares will continue to rally because the economy is still recovering as seen in January economic data and there is sufficient liquidity. There may be some impact on consumer staples today because of weak Lunar New Year sales.’’

Some more on Bluescope's results and share rally: "We've seen a result without any write-downs," BBY analyst Mike Harrowell says:

  • The shares are trading below net tangible asset value, and the US steelmakers trade historically have traded at 0.9 times book during periods of low earnings.
  • We would expect to see its shares trade up to around $6 a share, as long as the growth profile is intact.
  • Bluescope's net tangible asset backing is $6.86, although closing this gap would depend on no further asset write-downs.

The common, everyday passenger car was the odd man out in January with sales of 4WDs (sports utility vehicles) and work vehicles (like buses, utes, trucks and panel vans) both at record highs over the year but passenger car sales falling short of new highs, CommSec chief economist Craig James notes:

  • Aussie consumers continue to switch away from cars to 4WDs while Aussie businesses continue to update fleets in line with needs, acquiring more trucks and utes.
  • In just three years, 4WDs have jumped from around 20 per cent of all new vehicles sold to almost 28 per cent. One in every four vehicles sold is now a 4WD or sports utility vehicle.
  • Aussies seem to like their higher driving positions, size and flexibility of seating arrangements. And even a few love the versatility to access different road surfaces.

Bluescope Steel has shifted its focus to pursuing growth opportunities from restructuring its operations after heavy write-offs and losses over the past four years, which included closing one of its two blast furnaces.

"The major restructuring is done and (is) being implemented," the company's managing director Paul O'Malley told journalists when discussing the group's first half performance.

In the six months to December, Bluescope posted a net loss of $12 million, while forecasting a small profit for the second half, which holds the prospect of a break even performance for the full year

"We expect to be profitable at this very low point in the market," Mr O'Malley said of the group once the restructuring is completed. "We have to change our focus to increase sales, increase new product implementation."

Bluescope's shares have rallied 14 per cent today.

Shares in nib have dropped 3 per cent after the private health insurer reported a fall in first half net profit as claims rose more than forecast.

The company’s net profit for the six months to December 31 fell 5 per cent to $36.29 million from the corresponding period.

Higher than forecast year-on-year claims costs, an increasing contribution to the industry’s risk equalisation scheme (up 9.5 per cent) and one-off ambulance levy expense have impacted the company’s first half gross margin,’’ nib said.

An early earnings season trend is emerging, Adele Ferguson writes:

Profit forecasts are being upgraded for the first time in three years. Companies including JB Hi Fi, Leighton Holdings, Commonwealth Bank and Downer EDI have all issued results that have been better than expected, with only a few tiddlers disappointing.

It is a far cry from a year ago when investors were nervous after companies came out in droves issuing profit downgrades to the point where analysts – and investors - were left with their pants down.

This time around the 48-plus companies that have so far reported - representing 25 per cent by market cap and 20 per cent of companies to report - have either met consensus or outperformed slightly.

It has prompted investment houses including Macquarie Equities to start upgrading full year earnings per share by 7 basis points in two weeks. Overall EPS is still expected to be down for the full year but up for industrial stocks.

Here's the whole article

Steel maker and iron ore miner Arrium has named the head of its mining materials business as the successor to current chief executive Geoff Plummer.

Andrew Roberts will join the company’s board immediately, and is expected to take over as chief executive in the first quarter of the 2013-14 financial year, Arrium said on Monday.

Mr Plummer had agreed to remain in his role until December 31, 2013.

The company’s shares were up 6.8 per cent at $1.26

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank says interest rates on deposit accounts may be about to fall as other sources of funds become cheaper and more accessible for banks.

The regional lender’s managing director Mike Hirst said wholesale funding had become cheaper in recent months, as world markets stabilise.

He said he expects the big four banks to strike more of a balance between funds from deposits and wholesale markets as a result.

‘‘I would expect that, as long as there’s continued strength in those wholesale funding markets, I would think there will be some abatement of the pricing around retail deposits,’’ he said.

Competition for deposits has also been cited by banks as a major reason for not cutting mortgage rates in line with the central bank’s cash rate.

Amcor will close a beer can facility it runs in Thomastown in July and outsource the work to another manufacturer.

The closure will also mean other job losses at an Amcor factory in Laverton North.

Nigel Garrard, Amcor's Australian managing director, said there would be 80 redundancies at Thomastown and 17 at Laverton North.

“Significantly increasing cost pressures and the continued strength of the Australian dollar have made it impossible for these sites to remain competitive," Mr Garrard said.

Amcor told the ASX in a statement this morning that the closure of the plant would cost it an initial outlay of $7 million, but deliver it profits before income tax of $5 million.

Amcor shares are up 3.1 per cent to $9.19

Japanese investors are selling record amounts of Australian debt, betting a rout in the yen that sent it to a four-year low against the Australian dollar has run its course.

The biggest investors in Australia’s bonds cut holdings by a 652.6 billion yen ($7 billion) over November and December, the most in Ministry of Finance data going back to 2005. Benchmark 10-year yields climbed 57 basis points since September 30, heading for the longest stretch of monthly increases in 3 1/2 years. Australian government bonds returned 37 per cent in yen terms over the past five years, the most among 26 developed markets tracked by Bloomberg.

The yen tumbled against the Australian dollar and other currencies over the past six months as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prodded the central bank to pump money into the economy. The currency is reaching “equilibrium” against the US dollar, Kazumasa Iwata, a former deputy head of the Bank of Japan and a candidate to take over as the next central bank governor, said last week. Not only is investing in Australia expensive, improvement in Europe’s debt crisis is curtailing demand for the haven of Australia’s AAA rated debt.

Any doubt about being in a bull market?

The market may be rallying, but small businesses are still stuck in a rut: small business is pleading with the federal government not to lift business taxes or remove beneficial tax arrangements in the May budget because the sector remains in a dismal state.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s latest small business survey for the December quarter showed the sector was still in deep contraction.

The chamber’s chief economist Greg Evans said specific indicators in the survey for sales activity, profitability, investment and employment were ‘‘all fairly dismal’’.

‘‘The sector was under significant pressure over that period and it is certainly continuing to endure very difficult trading conditions,’’ he told reporters in Canberra.

The small business conditions index eased to 40.5 points in the December quarter from 40.7 in the previous three months, remaining well below the 50-mark that separates contraction from expansion.

Mr Evans said profitability was testing levels seen during the 2008-09 global financial crisis, while selling prices were at historic lows.

Here's how the stocks of the main companies reporting today are doing:

  • Amcor: +2.9% to $9.18
  • Bendigo Bank: +3.9% to $10.23
  • Boart: -7% to $1.99
  • Bluescope: +12.5% to $4.24
  • Lend Lease: -2.2% to $10.46
  • Pacific Brands: +6.2% to 77.5 cents
  • Specialty Fashion: +7.9% to $1.025

For an overview of today's reports, scroll down to 10.20am.

For all the season's earnings, click here.

Centrebet has Kevin Rudd equal favourite with Julia Gillard to lead Labor into the September 14 election, BusinessDay's Peter Martin notes:

Rudd has been backed from $2.40 into $1.90 in the past couple of days. Current Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Rudd are now $1.90 each to be the PM at election time.

“There has been a groundswell of support for Rudd in the past week. He has said he won’t challenge the leadership again but the punters and the polls say he will,” Centrebet’s Michael Felgate says.

“Rudd was as long as $3.70 to be PM at election time late last year, with the continued support it’s only a matter of time until he is outright favourite.

Today’s poor poll results have also seen the ALP drift out to $5.00 in the Federal Election market with the Coalition getting into “Black Caviar” odds of $1.16 to take government in September.”

Two that are swimming against the tide: the upswing of drill servicing operators Boart Longyear and Imdex came to an abrupt halt today following the release of earnings which have raised a question mark on the rebound in exploration activity.

In 2012, Boart Longyear posted a $US68 million net profit, down from $US160 million a year earlier following a severe second half downturn which resulted in the replacement of its chief executive with the chairman also stepping aside.

Imdex reported a December half net profit of $16.6 million, down 27 per cent, on revenue down 8 per cent at $127.6 million.

In response, Boart Longyear's share price fell 11 cents to $2.09 with Imdex off 6.5 cents at $1.75.

Looking at the year ahead, Boart Longyear pointed to the ongoing pressures on mining juniors which account for 12 per cent of revenues, while flagging caution on any pick-up in revenue.

Michael Pascoe's take on the earnings season:

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Corporate results on a high

Markets are rallying with better than expected results on the corporate earnings front. The week ahead with Michael Pascoe.

PT5M5S 620 349

The market's focus remains firmly on the earnings season and investors are liking what they see.

RBS Morgans senior equities adviser Tony Russell says that today's earnings results are setting a positive tone and helping investors overlook Wall Street’s weak finish on Friday.

‘‘At the moment, the Australian market is focused on our company profits,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s continuing the strong performance of last week despite more subdued markets overseas.’’

Click here for all of today's and this season's earnings.

George Soros has made almost $US1 billion since November from bets that the yen would tumble, according to a person close to the billionaire's $US24 billion family office.

The Japanese wager helped the firm return about 10 per cent last year and 5 per cent so far this year, said the person, who asked not to be named because the firm is private. The yen has weakened 17 per cent versus the dollar since about the start of the fourth quarter, the worst performance over a similar period since 1985.

Here's the whole article

The man who 'broke' the Bank of England has made another billion betting against a currency.

The man who 'broke' the Bank of England has made another billion betting against a currency. Photo: Getty Images

Tokyo shares have rebounded in early trade, with exporters and banks leading the pack after the yen softened on the G20's decision not to single out Japan for undertaking policies that have weakened its currency.

The Nikkei is up 1.4 per cent to 11,338.20.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>So far today around $4.8 billion has been added to the market capitalisation of the sharemarket.</p>&mdash; Craig James (@craigjamesOZ) <a href="">February 18, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

Lend Lease has unveiled a series of senior management changes in its half year result to shore up its Australian operations.

These include the promotion of David Saxelby, ex Abigroup to the role chief executive of Construction & Infrastructure, Australia, who will be replaced by Dale Connor. Mark Menhinnitt, the current CEO of Construction & Infrastructure, Australia, will be assisting with the transition and will also continue to report to the overall CEO,Steve McCann.

In the past year there have been four significant changes to senior management at real estate investment trusts, as many enter a new phase of activity. All have said Australia is the focus, which was also evidenced by Lend Lease today when its results were boosted by the Barangaroo South project in Sydney.

And another profit result: Acrux has reported a net profit of $2.1 million for the six months to December, a fall of 58 per cent from the previous corresponding period.

The Australian biotechnology company declared an interim unfranked dividend of 8 cents per share.

Acrux, which recorded a 2013 first-half revenue of $5.1 million, said it expected significant  growth" in the royalties on Axiron - an underarm cream used to treat men with testosterone deficiency - net sales in 2013.

"The positive impacts of growth in the US market and Axiron's increasing market share will be compounded by reduced deductions from gross sales through 2013, reflecting the increased access to healthcare fund formularies."

Here's how the banks and the big miners are doing - all up except for the two trading ex-dividend:

  • CBA: -1.6%
  • ANZ: +1.5%
  • NAB: +1.5%
  • Westpac: +1.7%
  • BHP: +0.4%
  • Rio: +0.9%
  • Telstra: -2.5%

The rally is gaining traction again. ASX200 and All Ords both up 0.4 per cent.

Among the sectors, financials are leading the gains, rising 0.6 per cent, despite CBA trading ex-dividend. Looks like the money is flowing into the other high-yielding banks, like IG Markets predicted. Materials are up 0.3 per cenrt and energy is 0.4 per cent higher.

Telcos are bucking the trend, sluping 2.7 per cent on the back of Telstra trading ex-dividend.

And here's how the shares of the companies reporting are doing in early trade:

  • Amcor: +3.6% to $9.24
  • Bendigo Bank: +1.9% to $10.04
  • Boart: -3.7% to $2.06
  • Bluescope: +7.4% to $4.05
  • Lend Lease: +0.2% to $10.71
  • Pacific Brands: +6.9% to 78 cents
  • Specialty Fashion Group: +6.3% to $1.01

Here's an overview over today's main earnings reports:

  • Amcor: $238.3 million net profit, 16.3 per cent increase;  interim dividend of 19.5 cents per share
  • Pacific Brands: $38.9 million net profit, improvement from $362.4 million net loss; interim dividend of 2.5 cents per share fully franked
  • Bendigo and Adelaide Bank: $189.4 million net profit, 227.1 per cent rise; $169.7 million cash earnings, 4.4 per cent rise;  interim dividend of 30 cents per share, fully franked
  • BlueScope Steel: $12 million loss, from a $530 million loss last year; underlying profit was $10 million, up from a loss of $136 million
  • Speciality Fashion Group: $18 million net profit, 192 per cent increase; interim dividend of 2 cents per share, fully franked
  • Boart Longyear: $US68 million ($65.7 million) net profit, 58 per cent decrease; interim dividend of 1 US cent per share.
  • Lend Lease: $302.3 million net profit, 39 per cent increase; unfranked interim dividend of 22 cents per share.

The market has opened slightly higher, despite CBA and Telstra trading ex-dividend. The ASX200 is up 5.1 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 5039.0, while the All Ords has added 5.6 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5060.2.

Gains are being led by the miners.

Lest we forget this one: builder and developer Lend Lease has increased its first half profit by 39 per cent.

Lend Lease made a net profit $302.3 million in the six months to December 31, up from $217.8 million in the same period the previous year.

Its Australian business delivered much of the profit growth, due in part to the first commercial agreements for Lend Lease’s Barangaroo project on Sydney harbour.

Lend Lease’s local business posted a profit of $304 million, up from $207 million in the previous corresponding period.

Next earning is out: Boart Longyear has reported a net profit of $US68 million ($65.7 million) for the six months to December, a 58 per cent decrease from the previous corresponding period, which it said was due to sharp slowdown in mining activities.

At the same time, the drilling company said it had appointed Richard O'Brien, who was the president and chief executive of Newmont Mining, as its president and chief executive.

Barbara Jeremiah was also appointed the company's new chairwoman, taking over from David McLemore from March 1. Mr McLemore would remain on the board.

The firm, which has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, recorded revenue of $US1.52 billion for the 2012 calendar year, a growth of 5 per cent from the year before. Boart Longyear declared an interim dividend of 1 US cent per share.

Mr McLemore, Boart Longyear's current chairman and interim chief executive, said the mining services company had worked to take cost out of the business through cutting staff and consolidating manufacturing at lower-cost centres.

"The global outlook for mining services remains uncertain. However, our key indicators of rig utilisations and the order backlog for drilling products which includes drilling equipment and performance tooling have stabilised," Mr McLemore said.

Where these monies go will be the question; will investors rotate out of CBA and TLS into other yield stocks, or move into high growth stocks? IG Markets strategist Evan Lucas asks in his morning report:

  • Having seen the rally in Westpac over the last few weeks, the answer looks to be yield plays. Watch for the likes of ANZ, NAB, WBC, WOW and WES to benefit from the switch out of CBA and TLS.
  • I would also suggest that the drop in CBA’s share price will not be much more than the dividend price.
  • The result on Wednesday coupled with the prospect of continued dividend and share price growth, might be enough for investors to jump on board today, as any dips are looking like a time to buy at the moment

One thing likely to weigh on the index this morning is that both CBA and Telstra will be trading ex-dividend, which will shave a bit more than 18 points off the ASX200 - so despite SPI futures trading higher, we're likely to get a softer index reading.

Speciality Fashion Group has reported a net profit of $18 million for the six months to December, a 192 per cent increase from the previous corresponding period.

The womenswear retailer declared an interim dividend of 2 cents per share, fully franked.

The group said it achieved its results through sales growth - in particular online sales, margin expansion, supply chain improvements and minimisation costs inflation, and despite the "challenging economic and retail market conditions" during the period.

Speciality Fashion Group, which reported $311.2 million in revenue for the 2013 first-half results, said it expected an improved trading performance for the second-year compared to the previous corresponding period.

"The strategic initiatives in relation to eCommerce, customer relationship management and the supply chain are expected to continued to be the key drivers of improvement in performance," the firm said.

But it warned that macroeconomic factors locally and offshore could affect its customers' discretionary spending patterns.

Private health insurer nib says its first half net profit has dropped, due to higher-than-forecast claims costs.

The company said net profit for the six months to December 31 was $36.29 million, down five per cent from $38.31 million in the prior corresponding period. Revenue rose 11 per cent to $633.34 million, nib said in a statement on Monday.

‘‘Higher than forecast year-on-year claims costs, an increasing contribution to the industry’s risk equalisation scheme (up 9.5 per cent) and one-off ambulance levy expense have impacted the company’s first half gross margin,’’ nib said.

nib said it expected a more stable underwriting experience for the second half of the year.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank has reported a net profit of $189.4 million and underlying cash earnings of $169.7 million for the six months to December.

The regional lender's cash earnings were a 4.4 per cent increase from the same period the year before, while its net profit soared 227.1 per cent.

The bank declared an interim fully franked dividend of 30 cents per share.

Mike Hirst, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank's managing director, said his firm was faced with a "lacklustre demand for credit and heightened competition for retail deposits".

"Like all Australian banks we have had to adapt to these conditions, however our strategy of focusing on customer engagement and our drive to be more efficient has held us in good stead."

bendigo bank

bendigo bank Photo: Supplied

The Australian bond market has opened weaker in quiet trade as the market awaits the release of the minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) last board meeting.

Westpac interest rate strategist Tim Jung said both the Australian and US bond markets were trading in a tight range with very little economic news to drive price action.

‘‘The US market on Friday night didn’t give us any real indications,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s no real trends in play, so we’re expecting a quiet start to the week.’’

At 8.30am AEDT the March 10-year bond futures contract was trading at 96.485 (implying a yield of 3.515 per cent), down from 96.500 (3.500 per cent) on Friday. The March three-year bond futures contract was at 97.130 (2.870 per cent), down from 97.140 (2.860 per cent).

Pacific Brands has reported a net profit of $38.9 million for the six months to December, an improvement on the $362.4 million loss for the previous corresponding period.

The clothing wholesaler declared an interim dividend of 2.5 cents per share, fully franked.

"This result reflects gains achieved through strong operating and financial discipline across the business in continued challenging market conditions," chief executive officer John Pollaers, who was appointed in August, said.

"There is still plenty of work to be done to stabilise sales performance and return the business to sustainable growth.

"It is early days, but we are encouraged that the Underwear group turned to growth in the period, with Bonds, Berlei and Jockey all up. It shows that good results can be obtained from strategic focus, discipline and investment in great brands."

Amcor has reported a net profit of $238.3 million for the six months to December, an increase of 16.3 per cent from the previous corresponding period, with the firm noting that the strong Australian dollar affected overseas earnings.

The Australian packaging group declared an interim dividend of 19.5 cents per share, a rise of 8.3 per cent.

"The high Australian dollar meant that the translation of overseas earnings into Australian dollars, for reporting purposes, had an adverse impact on profit after tax of $20 million," Amcor's managing director and chief executive Ken MacKenzie said.

"On a constant currency basis, earnings per share increased by 14.1 per cent.

"The result again highlights the defensive nature of our businesses. Volumes across a number of the key market segments in developed countries continued to be stable and there was strong volume growth in emerging markets."

The firm also posted an underlying profit after tax of $322 million for the first-half of the 2013 reporting year, a 5.7 per cent rise from the same period the year before, on the back of a one-off $83.7 million charge from the closure of its Queensland cartonboard plant.

First up in earnings, BlueScope Steel has posted a $12 million loss for the first half of the financial year, and expects continuing improvement in its underlying profit.

The manufacturer’s loss in the six months to December 31 was an improvement from a $530 million loss in the same period in the previous year.

The previous corresponding period’s loss was a result of massive restructuring within the business, including job cuts, aimed at overcoming the impact of the high Australian dollar and strong competition from overseas.

BlueScope’s underlying net profit in the six months to December, which excludes one-off charges, was $10 million, up from a loss of $136 million in the previous corresponding period.

The company on Monday said it expected continued improvement in its underlying profit in the second half of the financial year, forecasting a small profit for the period.

It's going to be a very busy week on the earnings front. Today we've got:

  • BlueScope, Lend Lease Corp, nib Holdings, Specialty Fashion Group, Boart Longyear, OceanaGold, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Automotive Holdings, Amcor and Imdex

And here's a look ahead to the earnings and economics action for the rest of the week:

  • Tuesday: RBA minutes of February rates meeting. Coca-Cola, Arrium, Asciano
  • Wednesday: ABS Wage price index for December, Westpac-Melbourne Institute Leading Indexes of Economic Activity. BHP, Seven West Media, Woodside, Fortescue, Suncorp, Toll and SEEK first half results
  • Thursday: Fairfax, Qantas, Origin, Consolidated Media Holdings, AMP and Echo Entertainment first half results. David Jones reports David Jones Q2 sales.
  • Friday: Santos, Sims, Macquarie Atlas and Crown first half results

Click here for the full calendar.

Being a Monday, there's not a huge amount of overnight markets news, but the local bourse is pointed higher despite the S&P 500 dipping in a late decline on Friday as Wal-Mart dropped following a report of a weak start to February sales. However, the index just barely extended weekly gains to seven. Here are some markets links:

Good morning all. Welcome to the Markets Live blog for Monday.

Contributors: Thomas Hunter, Jens Meyer, Max Mason

This blog is not intended as investment advice

BusinessDay with agencies

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  • 12:41 pm

    In relation to Japanese investors selling our bonds, hopefully the upcoming sequestration in the US will force some pessimism back in to lower our dollar.

    If the US has another downturn (even though it is for their own good) they will come out stronger in the long run and people will want their currency again.

    All local traders doing it tough under high $ thank the good people of the world who are rewarded in their pension funds for choosing our AAA rated bonds.

    Opinion Only
    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 3:34PM
  • This market has been boring me lately, to say the least but every now & again comes along a blockbuster that makes my day "...George Soros has made almost $US1 billion since November from bets that the yen would tumble". Now that's what I'm talking about, forget about little nibble here & there; just love this guy! Wish he was my mentor.

    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 3:20PM
  • It's great weather for shorts. Not sure about the market though. While a down day is due, the very large daily trading volumes show the sheer weight of money is driving the market higher.

    Life Is Good
    The Real World
    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 2:40PM
    • Get in now or miss out forever!

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 3:44PM
    • Completely agree. This is no dead cat bounce. The volumes indicate a shift. How long will it last? I don't know but a lot of money is moving off the sidelines chasing better returns. Not that I'm a shorter but if I were doing it, I'd only short those companies at risk of a bad report. There will be a time when I take money off the table but this is not it. Not yet.

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 4:56PM
  • "Speciality Fashion Group chief executive Gary Perlstein has labelled the decision by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to announce the timing of this year's election eight months out as an "absolute disaster" for retail.

    Uh yeah... anyone in retail could have told her that. Gillard will only be remembered for stabbing Rudd in the back. The latest poll puts Rudd at twice the % as favoured leader. The God botherer Tony Burke is also looking more sheepish than ever.

    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 1:18PM
  • interesting the betting odds on a Rudd comeback...(can't see that ever happening) wonder what the odds are that Shorten takes the ALP to the next election? any idea anyone?

    A Bodhi Nuisance
    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 1:15PM
    • Gillard/Rudd both $1.65. Coalition $5 - Labor is toast.

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 2:42PM
    • Given the poles, Shorten wouldn't want it. Too much of a poisoned chalise to lead the ALP at the next election as its starting to look like a whitewash.

      Life Is Good
      The Real World
      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 2:50PM
    • Shorten would be as popular as Craig Thompson.

      Other than a solid few, majority of ALP caucus has lost my confidence and need to be cleaned out.

      If the election goes the way of the polls then it will occur through natural attrition.

      Opinion Only
      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 3:24PM
  • This market is just the pits. a 3 month month mth no volitility.

    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 11:35AM
    • I make it 65 trading days without a 1% down day. Could this be a record?

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 2:22PM
  • First short NAB $30.25.

    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 11:20AM
    • Keep shorting Allan. I need you to drive this market higher when you have to cover. Just something to keep in mind. NAB has the highest yield of all the banks. If they decide to offload its UK assets, there is substantial upside to it's share price!

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 1:51PM
    • Nope, 10yr total shareholder return a paltry 6.4%.

      Homeside lending debacle -$2.2 billion
      Rogue trader devacle -$600 million
      CDOs debacle -$1.2 billion
      UK business debacle -$1.5 billion

      CEO and senior execs have the hide to take multi million dollar salaries.

      In the future people will look back at the late 20th century/early 21st century and wonder at how these corporate cowboys managed to gouge such huge sums from public companies.

      Oh and thanks but Iwill be covering lower not higher.

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 2:39PM
    • Allan, NAB closed around $30.15 today. First time its breached $30 and broken through resistance. From a charting perspective, it's going higher. Same with the overall ASX200. It may meet resistance at 5100 but looks like consolidating above 5000. There's just sheer wall of money moving from fixed interest to equities. The volumes say it all. Not the best time to short banks. You should've shorted Boart instead.

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 4:51PM
  • Commsec has changed their chat room and the howls of complaints are everywhere. The new room is deserted as 100+ of the old chatters have moved on to
    IT seems as bad move for a teck savy company Like CBA to upset its regulars. Has anoune in here heard any reports of commsec traders revolting and moving brokers??

    sw vic
    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 11:10AM
  • "The clustering of workplaces in inner city areas will also mean more demand for well-located, inner-city housing.

    Often, in such areas, it can be more affordable to rent rather than buy the same property. Home prices are pushed up because of location, location, location. And rents can lag behind. Often, the rent you pay on an inner-city pad is cheaper than the interest cost of servicing a mortgage on the same property.

    Better to rent, and invest the difference in a term deposit or shares, which outperformed house prices last year. Indeed, with affordability so stretched, it’s hard to see house prices taking off for some time."

    Couldn't have said it better myself.

    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 10:57AM
    • Have followed that sound strategy for the last few years.

      Most professional jobs seem to be 2-3 years before you look elsewhere so why have that mortgage chain around you when you could move about.

      Opinion Only
      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 11:31AM
    • Allan, you could also remind those government protected species, the littlelandlords and their bankster overlords, that there is this wonderful late nineteenth century invention denominated as the skyscraper; a most remarkable and productive device by which prodigious amounts of accomodation can be produced in a restricted area. Now we wouldn't want to block progress, would we?


      Catch 22
      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 12:06PM
    • That's right. There is no housing shortage. Floorspace can be createc out of thin air. Huge blocks of flats are popping up all over Melbourne. And guess what? They aren't worth $10-15K psm. You can buy a house with land for $4,000 psm in inner city Melbourne. And even that is over priced.

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 12:44PM
  • Hi Catch 22, since you and i where the only ones in the tipping comp last week i have decided to discontinue it. Thanks.
    p.s. you beat me.

    Another Grump
    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 9:24AM
    • Pity. It was the first time I felt almost like a winner.


      Catch 22
      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 11:47AM
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