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Markets Live: Big banks lead the way


Australian shares have closed at a fresh 19-month high as firming expectations of a February interest rate cut helped banking stocks.

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That's all from us here at blog central, have a wonderful evening, we hope to see you again tomorrow.

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

A gold nugget with an estimated value of more than $300,000 has been unearthed near Ballarat, in Victoria’s west.

An amateur prospector found the nugget weighing 177 ounces or 5.5kg with a metal detector just outside Ballarat in a popular area for prospecting.

BHP bought 100,000 tonnes of the raw material on the spot market, a move traders said was rare and likely triggered by Wednesday's decline in prices which was the steepest in over 13 months.

The recent rally in iron ore prices, which have risen to 15-month highs, is a boon for miners such as BHP but the rapid surge has taken the market by surprise and turned off many Chinese buyers, triggering a decline in prices from late last week.

BHP purchased the cargo of 62-per cent grade Australian iron ore fines for February delivery at $US145.50 a tonne via the GlobalOre trading platform on Wednesday, traders said.

"This is very unusual. Maybe BHP wants to support prices because there's no reason for it to buy the cargo, it's a producer," said an iron ore physical trader in Shanghai.

The fact that the cargo is not for immediate delivery adds weight to the argument that BHP is seeking to support prices, traders said, although some market participants believe BHP's move was likely due to supply issues.

Here's a look at the best and worst performers on the ASX200 today:

Among the sectors, financial and energy stocks both jumped 0.5 per cent, consumer discretionary rose 0.8 per cent and consumer staples gained 1 per cent. Materials traded relatively flat, down less than 0.1 per cent.

The market has finished higher, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 added 18.2 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4756.6, while the broader All Ords rose 14.7 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4779.7.

Foreclosure activity in the United States was at a near six-year low in December and declined over the entire year as the housing market continues to recover after foreclosures peaked two years ago.

But a build-up in backlogs, brought about in part by tougher rules for lenders to foreclose, could see new spikes in foreclosure activity this year, according to a report by RealtyTrac released on Thursday.

"Although we are comfortably past the peak of the foreclosure problem nationally, 2013 is likely to be book-ended by two discrete jumps in foreclosure activity," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

There were about 2.3 million foreclosure filings on 1.8 million properties in 2012. That represents a decline of 3 percent on the year before and a drop 36 percent on a peak of 2.9 million properties in 2010.

India’s aviation regulator says it has instructed Air India to ground its fleet of Boeing Dreamliners following similar orders from authorities in the United States and Japan.

‘‘We have asked Air India to ground all six Dreamliners after getting an advisory from the FAA (US Federal Aviation Administration) citing safety concerns,’’ Arun Mishra, the director-general of civil aviation, said on Thursday.

Boeing’s troubled next-generation model has suffered a series of glitches that have prompted investigations by aviation regulators in Japan and the United States, although Boeing insists the plane is safe.

The big banks are once again a driving factor for the market today, making up four of the top six movers for the day.

Combined, Westpac, ANZ, NAB and CBA account for an 8.75 point upward push on the ASX200.

The RBA sold $752 million of Australian dollars on a net basis on the spot foreign exchange market during December, central bank data shows.

The RBA manages the forex needs of the government, which may need foreign currency, say, to buy military hardware or pay for embassy wages, and that makes up the vast bulk of its spot transactions in any month. The RBA sold $780 million for foreign currency on behalf of the government in December.

The RBA also transacts with other central banks and institutions and had been taking on more foreign currency from July to October, in what analysts assumed was a modest attempt to lessen upward pressure on the Australian dollar.

However, those flows have now slowed. In December it bought just $46 million of foreign currency, the smallest amount since January 2011. That was down from $117 million in November and a peak of A$482 million in October.

The dollar has lost some more ground on the weak jobs numbers, briefly dipping below $US1.05 and currently trading at $US1.0506.

Today’s data ‘‘underscores much of the economic weakness from last year’’, says Westpac currency strategist Jonathan Cavenagh. ‘‘I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit more of a correction in the Aussie ... but I still think dips will be well-supported.’’

It has also dropped 0.7 per cent to 92.80 yen, extending its 1.2 per cent decline in the previous two days.

The market's focus will now turn to Chinese fourth-quarter GDP figures, out tomorrow, which are expected to show 7.8 per cent annual growth.

‘‘In the very, very short term, there’s a risk to the downside for the Aussie,’’ says Thomas Harr, head of Asia local markets strategy at Standard Chartered in Singapore. ‘‘That said, I think the theme is still that we have a China recovery, which is very important for Australia.’’

Volumes are starting to pick up again on the market, with 630 million shares traded so far; well above the moving 15-day average of 450 million, but still lower than the 1 billion-plus shares traded in the sessions before Christmas.

Acting Employment Minister Kate Ellis has blamed an increase in the national unemployment rate on Queensland’s conservative government.

Queensland’s unemployment rate rose to 6.2 per cent while the national rate climbed to 5.4 per cent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on Thursday.

The unemployment rate in Queensland stood at 5.5 per cent when the Liberal National Party’s Campbell Newman came to power in March 2012.

Mr Newman’s time as premier has been marked by massive public sector job losses.

‘‘Were it not for the Queensland job losses, the unemployment rate today would have actually fallen to 5.2 per cent rather than slightly rising,’’ said Ms Ellis.

Japan’s 10.3 trillion yen fiscal stimulus may add less than a quarter of the jobs the government predicts, casting doubt on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe engineering a sustained recovery.

Even with more central bank easing, most of the impact of Abe’s spending won’t spread far beyond public works projects, Citigroup says. It estimates that 100,000 jobs will be created, compared with the government’s figure of 600,000. BNP Paribas SA says 150,000.

Abe is returning to a strategy that failed to end Japan’s stagnation over the last two decades even as the nation’s debt burden nearly tripled and extra stimulus spending totaled 80 trillion yen, according to BNP Paribas. Another failure may deepen voter apathy in a political system that has produced seven prime ministers in six years, while adding to the risk of a surge in bond yields.

“Fiscal stimulus is like morphine, because if you want to maintain the same level of effect you have to keep upping the dose,” said Azusa Kato, an economist at BNP Paribas. “Japan has failed to achieve a sustainable economic expansion, and the country’s record proves the strategy is wrong.”

Here's how the rest of the region is doing:

  • Japan (Nikkei): +0.3%
  • Hong Kong: -0.2%
  • Shanghai: -1.3%
  • Taiwan: -0.05%
  • Korea: -0.4%
  • Singapore: -0.25%
  • New Zealand: +0.7%

"There's a growing sentiment among investors that international risks have been significantly reduced, particularly after the US made a start on its fiscal negotiations," says Ric Spooner, market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

The ASX200 is trading at a 20-month high, bolstered by the big banks and BHP. Rio and Fortescue are trading in the red.

Other noteable gainers are:

  • FKP Property: +6%
  • Iluka Resources: +5.65%
  • Billabong: +5.2%

Well, today's unemployment figure certainly is a surprise, not because it rose to 5.4 per cent but because that was the number predicted by the average market economist - a rare win for the crystal balls, says Michael Pascoe:

The labour force statistics have been notoriously unpredictable in their detail but the broad story remains unchanged: the Australian labour market is soft, as everyone knows, and the unemployment rate is likely to drift modestly higher, as it has, as the number of people of work force age increases, which it is.

Treasury and the Reserve Bank have both forecast the unemployment rate to be around 5.5 per cent by md-year. Mind you, they forecast it would be that by the middle of last year as well - a difficult and complicated beast for everyone to forecast, that labour market.

The reaction by the cooler heads today is that the latest figures are not of themselves enough to make a change to the RBA's outlook.

Here's the whole piece

Boeing insists its 787 Dreamliner is safe after US authorities ordered airlines to stop flying the plane over a fire risk linked to its lithium batteries.

‘‘We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity,’’ Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney said in a statement. ‘‘We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the travelling public of the 787’s safety and to return the airplanes to service.’’

Japan’s two biggest airlines had already taken almost half the global fleet out of service, but the announcement by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) means 30 of the world’s 50 Dreamliners have now been grounded.

Mineral sands miner Iluka will cut production resulting in job losses after tough trading conditions led to a loss of nearly one-third in revenue in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Iluka’s Eneabba operations in mid-west Western Australia will be idled, costing 65 jobs.Those employees were told on Wednesday and Thursday.

Other operations is South Australia, Victoria and in the US will be idled or operate on reduced rosters. The company blamed difficult economic conditions globally, saying the ageing WA mine had been reactivated in 2011 when demand for zircon and titanium dioxide was high.

‘‘With recent challenging economic conditions globally, demand for these products has reduced,’’ Iluka’s general manager of Australian operations Steve Wickham said in a statement.

If there any readers struggling for inspiration with a script for a heist movie, perhaps one with a bit of Soviet-era backstory, here’s something which may be of interest.

Germany's central bank plans to bring home hundreds of tonnes of gold, part of the reserves it kept in the United States and France during the Cold War for safety from any Soviet invasion.

The Bundesbank's decision to move the bullion stems partly from a desire among some German politicians to keep a direct eye on its condition. The bank also now has space in its own vaults for a metal widely seen as underpinning confidence in the country's economic clout.

Only a third of Germany's nearly 3,400 tonnes of gold, valued at almost 138 billion euros ($US184 billion) are now stored in Frankfurt, with 45 per cent in New York. Germany's gold reserves are second in size only to those of the United States.

"Now, the political security situation has changed because the East-West conflict is over. Considerations to store the gold as far west and as far from the Iron Curtain as possible had to be reconsidered," Bundesbank board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele told reporters.

Another data release for today. Australia's international merchandise imports fell back sharply in December, from the previous month, suggesting the country's trade deficit also narrowed significantly.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported imports on a balance of payments basis fell 8 per cent in December to $20.2 billion, compared to $21.86 billion in November.

That suggests the trade deficit could shrink materially from November, when it was the largest in nearly five years at $2.6 billion. Indeed, rising prices for iron ore, Australia's single biggest export earner, and higher shipments to China mean the deficit could well be under A$1 billion in December.

Much of the drop in imports in December came in capital goods which have been rising strongly as miners bring in heavy equipment and structures for major investment projects, particularly in liquefied natural gas.

Looking at the jobs numbers state by state:

In Victoria, 14000 jobs were added as participation rate rose to 65.2 per cent while the unemployment rate inched higher to 5.6 per cent.

In NSW, 8000 jobs were added as the unemployment rate rose by 0.1 per cent to 5.1 per cent. The participation rate lifted slightly to 63.3 per cent.

The unemployment rate rose the highest in Tasmania, from 6.7 to 7.3 per cent. In South Australia, the rate rose by 0.5 per cent to 5.8 per cent.

In Queensland, the unemployment rate lifted slightly to 6.2 per cent as the participation rate dropped to 66 per cent.

In Western Australia, the participation rate remained flat at 69.3 per cent as the unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.3 per cent.

The unemployment rate in Northern Territory fell to 3.8 per cent. In the ACT, the participation rate remained level at 72.5 per cent as the unemployment rose slightly to 4.2 per cent.

The full story on the December jobs data, and what it means for the Feb rates meeting, can be found here.

Looking more closely at the consumer staples sub index

  • Goodman Fielder: +1.63%
  • Metcash: +1.41%
  • Woolworths: +1.22%
  • Wesfarmers: +1.19%
  • Graincorp: +1.19%
  • Coca-Cola: +0.26%
  • Treasury: -0.1

With the ASX now strongly higher for the day, it's the consumer staples stocks at the head of the field:

  • Consumer staples: +1.14%
  • Energy: +1.06%
  • Info tech: +0.99%
  • Consumer disc.: 0.89%
  • Financials: +0.84
  • Materials: +0.6%

David Scutt on some of the forces at play on the ASX this afternoon:

Here's a couple of charts showing the movement in the some of the employment numbers in recent months. Helping to keep a lid on a gradually rising unemployment rate, the number of people employed is edging higher:

Commonwealth Bank senior economist Michael Workman said the fall in employment was expected, as the number of people entering the jobs market exceeding the number of positions created.

"Over the past year, jobs were up about 148,000, on average of about 12,000 a month, and that’s just not enough to meet the next entrants to the jobs market, which are about 15,000 to 16,000 [people] a month," Mr Workman said.

But the level of unemployment would have been anticipated by the Reserve Bank, and was what sparked the current easing cycle.

"We don’t think these are the kinds of numbers that would induce a rate cut from the RBA soon," Mr Workman said.

"We believe that they’ve been indicating for six to nine months while they cut rates that these were the kinds of outcomes they were expecting on the jobs market. So we’ve ended up with a 3 per cent cash rate because of the expectation that this was going to happen."

What was a good day on the ASX has become a very good day. The All Ords is now up 0.6 per cent and the benchmark ASX200 is 0.7 per cent higher. Investors were expecting more weakness. Perhaps they'll get it in coming months.

CommSec's Craig James is circumspect:

It’s clear that the job market isn’t shooting the lights out but by no means is unemployment soaring. In a big picture sense the job market is in a holding pattern with a modest degree of softening. Employers aren’t keen to hire unless they have to, given the global uncertainties. But while jobs are being lost in some industries, clearly they are being created in other industries.

RBC’s Michael Turns warns against giving the jobs numbers too much credit for changing the RBA’s thinking on rates.

"We are probably overdue for a correction...vacancies are weak, employment hiring intentions are pretty soft.

"The RBA cut twice in Q4 to get ahead of soft data. It's hard to say this is having too much influence on near-term policy deliberation.

"At the margin, it helps argument for a cut...but they have been on the front foot. They probably can withstand a bit of soft data in the near term."

The unemployment rate was 5.4 per cent in September and October, dipping below it to an upwardly revised 5.3 per cent in November. Before last September, the last time the jobless rate was at or above that mark was when it 5.5 per cent in April 2010.

Another view, highlighting the weakness in the national labour market. Tom Kennedy, economist at JPMorgan, says "it's a pretty bad figure":

... [E]mployment was weak across the board ... but the increase in the jobless rate was not as bad it looks given the upward revision last month.

The RBA looks at the employment data closely, and this figure is definitely supportive for the argument to cut rates further. Our outlook is for a 25 basis cut in February.

Further rate cuts will be predicated on more weakness in employment.

Some perspective:

Matthew Johnson at UBS a rate cut is a live option for February if CPI data, due next week, is contained:

Data was soft. It keeps rate cuts alive for the Reserve Bank. This is consistent with job ads data. You'd think the unemployment rate would be a bit higher but it does seem fairly certain that the labour market is slackening. A core CPI below 0.5 percent and I think the RBA will cut in February.

The ASX200 rose after the release of the jobs numbers, climbing from 4762.5 to 4774.5 in the minutes after the release. The Aussie dollar went in the other direction, falling from $US1.0563 to $US1.0537. It has since recovered to $US1.0542.

Jobs. The 5.4 per cent reading is a rise from 5.2 per cent in November. Total employment fell 5,500 to 11.539 million in the month, according to the seasonally adjusted figures released by the ABS.

The participation is steady at 65.1 per cent.

The national jobless rate for December has come in at 5.4 per cent, in line with expectations. The economy shed 5500 jobs in the month.

Jobless data out in two minutes. Expectations are for the jobless rate to rise to 5.4 per cent from 5.2 per cent in November, and for the economy to add 4500 jobs for the month.

The dollar is currently trading at $US1.0564.

Australia is expected to drop out of the world’s 20 biggest economies by 2050 as fast-growing developing countries such as Argentina, Nigeria and Vietnam overtake it, a report says.

China is projected take over the US as the world’s largest economy by 2017 with a gross domestic product in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms of $US53,856 billion, the report by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers found.

By 2050, India is expected to be the world’s third largest economy, behind the United States. Brazil would be ranked fourth, ahead of the Japan.

Here's the full article

The sharemarket is closer to its peak than you might think, says CommSec chief economist Craig James:

  • The S&P/ASX 200 index is currently 44.1 per cent below the record highs set in November 2007. But the S&P/ASX 200 accumulation index reveals a far different picture, a mere 12.2 per cent away from record highs.
  • If the Australian sharemarket produces similar gains in 2013 to last year then record levels will be quickly in sight.
  • In fact three of the key sector accumulation indexes are at record highs. Yesterday the ASX 200 accumulation indexes for Consumer Staples, Utilities and HeathCare hit record highs. The Telecom sector hit record highs on Monday and is just 0.3 per cent away from record levels. And the Financials (excluding REITs) and Information Technology sectors are just 3 per cent off record levels.
  • Certainly total returns on shares have posted solid gains of around 20 per cent over the past year with HealthCare (up 55.1 per cent) and Telecoms (up 47.5 per cent) outperforming.

It's a bit off topic but here's an interesting Bloomberg yarn on what happens at the Australian Open when temperatures hit 40 degrees, which they may do in Melbourne today. 

“We can really take a commonsense approach,” Wood said in an interview. “People are always taking temperatures near the court surface and saying ‘It’s 54 degrees or something like that,’ but it’s not the true reflection of what the players are experiencing. As far as I’m aware, in professional tennis, we’ve never had a confirmed case of heatstroke.”

Sector by sector on the ASX200 now:

  • Consumer disc: +0.49%
  • Health: +0.42%
  • Consumer staples: +0.41%
  • Financials: +0.33%
  • Energy: +0.23%
  • Materials: -0.38

More on jobs data versus the Aussie dollar:

The early sliders on the ASX200 include:

  • Decmil Group: -3.56%
  • Bradken: -2.38%
  • Mineral Deposits: -2.31%
  • Gryphon Minerals: -2.22%
  • AWE: -2.08%
  • Altas Iron: -1.55%

Now for the best-performed companies on the ASX200:

  • Paladin: +4.76%
  • Iluka: +4.16%
  • Mirabela: +2.83%
  • Boral: +2.71%
  • Discovery Metals: +2.66%

The retailers are ahead of the general market early on:

  • Woolies: +0.56%
  • Wesfarmers: +0.37%
  • Harvey Norman: +1.18%
  • DJs: -0.43%
  • Myer: +1.29%

Steven Dooley, head of research at ForexCT, reckons there’s a chance of big upside gains in the Aussie dollar if today’s job numbers are strong. 

“Employment numbers have beaten expectations in seven of the last nine monthly releases. If they come through with a surprise upside again then there is every chance the dollar could break through the crucial $US1.06 level.

In a release this morning, he said that if the dollar was to break through $US1.06 it could then go on to test new highs.

“If the local employment numbers come to the party and the dollar breaks through $1.06 then the next major target will be $1.10, which is a level we haven’t seen since August 2011”, Mr Dooley said.

What do you think? Is $US1.10 a bit optimistic in the short to medium term?

The big miners are on the wrong side of the ledger in early trade. The ASX200 is now 0.2 per cent higher, but the big diggers are in the red:

  • BHP is 0.03% lower to $36.24
  • Rio is 1.46% lower to $64.59
  • Fortescue is 1.75% lower to $4.49

Woodside shares are 0.4 per cent higher in early trade following today's production update, and Santos shares have pushed 1.55 per cent higher.

Stocks have opened higher. In early trade, the All Ordinaries index is 6.6 points higher, or 0.1 per cent, to 4771.6, while the benchmark S&P/ASX200 is 0.2 points higher, or 0.1 per cent, to 4745.6.

Qantas shares up 1 per cent to $1.55 in early trade on news of interim authorisation for its Emirates tie-up.

Full story.

Early take - markets are 0.1 per cent amid opening trade. 

Another production update, this time from Santos.

Oil and gas company Santos is on track to meet its 2013 production forecasts after enjoying a 10 per cent rise in 2012.

Santos said production for the 2012 calendar year rose to 52.1 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe) from 47.2 mmboe in 2011.

Its annual sales revenues also hit a record $3.2 billion, up 18 per cent on 2011.

‘‘Santos expects 2013 production to be in the range of 53 to 57 mmboe and capital expenditure (excluding capitalised interest) to be approximately $4 billion, both unchanged from guidance issued at the investor seminar in November 2012,’’ Santos said in a statement. 

Just before the ASX200 springs to life, a quick reminder that we're keen to get your thoughts on the day's markets and business news. Drop us a comment if you think there's something we've missed or there is something you'd like to have your say on. Any and all insight/spleen venting/sparkling repartee is welcome.

And thanks to the regulars for your company since our return on Monday.

On the subject of today’s jobs numbers, St George Bank chief economist Hans Kunnen said any rise in unemployment figures is still unlikely to convince the Reserve Bank to cut rates at its next meeting, in February. 

''We think the RBA will hold off because of the global backdrop. There's less nervousness about Europe and America,'' Mr Kunnen said.

''The RBA will be waiting to see the full impact of its previous cuts … [but] they will possibly be disappointed with the next lot of jobs figures and come April, we think they will move again [by cutting 25 basis points].''

Former RBA board member Warwick McKibbin said that instead of monetary policy, the federal government needed to use taxation more effectively to help to improve productivity by reducing the costs of labour, capital and energy.

Mr McKibbin did not think the central bank should cut rates again. He said any further interest rate cuts would be unlikely to fix the problems we were now seeing.

''There's a structural adjustment going on and the effectiveness of monetary policy is being offset by substantial portfolio shifts which are keeping the Australian dollar from falling,'' he said.

"All cutting rates will do is lead to a misallocation of capital within the economy and won't actually change the fundamental story."

IG Markets Stan Shamu says it’ll pay to watch the AUD/USD today with the jobs numbers in focus. In a note to client this morning he writes:

Any further disappointment on the jobs front will likely lead to calls for more rate cuts, and in turn a slide in AUD/USD to possibly test 1.052. However, should the data surprise to the upside again, AUD/USD could easily test the 1.058 high which would leave it open for a move back to 1.06. 

On the likely direction of the market in early trade, he writes:

Ahead of the open, we are calling the Aussie market up 0.1% at 4744. This year’s high of 4750 from January 7 will be the level to watch should the local market open higher today. We wouldn’t be surprised to see selling kick in at that level. 

In economics news today, the ABS releases jobs data for December. A Bloomberg survey of 27 economists expects the unemployment rate to rise to 5.4 per cent from 5.2 per cent amid ongoing signs of weakness in the labour market. Market consensus is for 4500 jobs to have been added in the month. 

The data is due at 11.30am. Full coverage here when it lands.

Some stocks to watch today:

  • Iluka Resources releases fourth-quarter output
  • Santos fourth-quarter output
  • Woodside fourth-quarter output
  • Iron ore explorers and producers after price dived overnight but Goldman expects to see another year of “exceptional prices” before supplies start outpacing demand 
  • Qantas: Qantas-Emirates alliance has been given an interim green light by the ACCC

More on iron ore. While the price dropped sharply overnight, marking the fifth day of losses, the first time that's happened since August, Goldman Sachs says iron ore will see another year of “exceptional prices” before supplies start to outpace demand. 

Prices will probably average $US144 a dry ton in 2013, up from $US140 estimated previously, Goldman Sachs said in a report. The ore may decline to $US126 in 2014 before averaging $US90 in 2015 and $US80 in 2016, it said.

Iron ore surged 76 per cent since dropping to a three-year low in September on optimism China, the biggest buyer, is recovering. JPMorgan Chase & Co. today increased its 2013 estimate to an average $US130 from $US110, while Deutsche Bank AG said Jan. 8 prices may climb to $170 in the first half before falling below $US120. 

Here’s more on the report.

Iron ore extended its decline, posting its biggest daily drop in 14 months, on uncertainty over steel demand from top consumer China which curbed appetite for the steel ingredient.

Iron ore with 62 percent iron content, the industry benchmark, fell $7.5 a tonne, its biggest daily drop since Nov. 2011, to $145.40 a tonne, according to data provider Steel Index. This represented a 4.9 percent daily drop for iron ore, which reached a 15-month peak a week ago after a one-month rally which pushed its value up 40 percent.

‘‘We saw that coming. After the big price increase last month, people thought prices were not sustainable anymore and since two to three days ago we have started to see Chinese customers in a waiting mode,’’ a London-based iron ore trader said.

More here.

More on Qantas. The watchdog says it believes a Qantas-Emirates alliance could reduce or limit capacity growth on Trans-Tasman routes, and has sought more information from the two airlines and the industry on the issue.

‘‘The ACCC is granting interim authorisation on the condition that the applicants do not engage in the conduct for which authorisation is sought in relation to services between Australia and New Zealand,’’ Mr Sims said.

The competition watchdog has given interim authorisation of Qantas’ alliance with Emirates.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) ruling allows the two airlines to begin preparations for their proposed tie-up, ahead of a final ruling from the ACCC expected in March.

‘‘The ACCC is allowing Qantas and Emirates to start implementing their alliance because of the long lead time required to market and sell tickets before the commencement of long-haul services,’’ ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

The proposed alliance involves an extensive codesharing arrangement, reciprocal frequent-flyer benefits and joint marketing, pricing and coordination on certain routes between the two carriers.

For a comprehensive look at this morning’s business news, check today’s need2know. Here are this morning’s key markets numbers:

  • SPI futures are 12 points higher at 4717
  • The $A is higher at $US1.057
  • In recent trade in New York, the S&P500 was 0.1% higher at 1473.83
  • In Europe, the FTSE100 lost 0.22% to 6103.98
  • China iron ore lost $US7.50 to $US145.50 a metric tonne
  • Gold fell $US5.90 at $US1,678 an ounce
  • WTI crude oil gained 83 US cents to $US94.11 a barrel
  • Reuters/Jefferies CRB index lost 0.16% 297.63

Good morning folks. Welcome to the Markets Live blog for Thursday.

This blog is not intended as investment advice

Contributors: Thomas Hunter, Jens Meyer, Max Mason

BusinessDay with agencies

Quotes Search

Sort comments by:
  • "Australian stocks have been boosted by today's jobless numbers, which show unemployment rose in December."
    So if we can get to say 25% unemployment i should make a fortune; or have i missed something.

    Ed: Guessing it's more an expectations thing. Employment's up, but in line with forecasts. So stocks rise because, well, no news is good news.

    Another Grump
    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 1:17PM
  • I see the algo's are having a good day. There is no point in 'trading' any more. Just swing by the PC at 4 PM and see if you like the price or not.

    How long since the XJO had a daily 1% drop? Manipulated is an understatement.

    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 1:00PM
  • "Australia is expected to drop out of the world’s 20 biggest economies by 2050?" Uhmmm, Augmented by a rapidly ageing population, followed by sharp decline in property market values; is it time to leave? Perhaps so.

    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 12:24PM
  • "Bob had come up with the idea of outsourcing his own job — to China. So, while a Chinese consulting firm got on with the job he was paid to do, on less than one-fifth of his salary, he whiled away his working day surfing Reddit, eBay and Facebook"

    White collar jobs are now being offshored at a rapid rate. Accounting & IT salaries have already dropped 25% in the last few years. Australia is a high cost, low productivity country with the biggest property bubble the world has ever seen.

    Think you're worth $150K/yr? You're not. Think income will underpin bubble house prices? They won't. The recent census shows that the average household income is $64K.

    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 12:12PM
  • Does anyone have an opinion as to how bad things will get while the US fumbles about dealing with their debt ceiling.

    Obviously they will end up raising it as they have on the previous 90 odd occasions and the world will then rejoice. Until then though, is it really likely to cause pain in the markets?

    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 11:48AM
    • The problem with raising the debt ceiling, again and again, is apparent for all to see. The idea that the US is too big to go broke seems to be lodged in the minds of the money managers and most analysts - they are wrong. We here in Australia are of the same ilk and living in the same fantasy world. We have a dishonest government who has to talk the economy up, remember, the only job of a politician is to get elected again, and eventually pass the parcel. Well at some stage you have only one wrapper left and you find that there is not enough money or productivity in the economy to pay the bills. When that happens you are like Mexico, Greece, Spain, etc. relying on international monetary funds to put food on the table i.e. a Welfare Nation. At this point we suddenly find we also have to tell the truth about unemployment, and from there on it’s a long, long recovery. When will it happen ? who knows; the politician and wall street lies are just as brazen, and the US seems to have gone back to sleep now that the so called fiscal cliff has been, temporarily, avoided. I originally predicted that we would have a collapse this Feb. but the way people seem to just be ignoring all the warning signs makes my prediction look wrong. I will make one prediction; when Gillard and Swan get justifiably turfed into the street and the books are opened for all to see there is going to be pain, not for the likes of Murdoch and the Packers and Hancock’s, no they will have done their squirreling well in time, but the salvos will be flat out like lizards drinking.

      Another Grump
      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 1:04PM
    • Markets rise on "hopes" and "plans" these days. They go up for no other reason.

      The New Black
      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 1:26PM
    • Grump, too much realism please....

      But I do agree, the crunch is coming. If what happened last time the deb ceiling was debated over, the gold price started going nuts (the US got downgraded by S&P). If this happens again (i.e. another downgrade) the ESF and others wont be able to stop it, the bond market will implode and the collapse begins.
      Jim Rickards (author of currency wars) has some interesting comments on his twitter about the German repatriation of their gold too and the gloom coming down the pipe.

      Bye Bye Fiat Money
      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 1:31PM
    • S&P futs flat but we've put on 1.5% in two days. Took care of all those buy stops above the recent high. Best play now would be a quick run to 4700 cash by XJO expiry to kill the calls.

      The four horsemen (BHP,CBA,FMG,RIO) are taking a breather as we select a daily stock to 'goose' - any news will do.

      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 1:42PM
  • Looks like "Gangbusters" started at 11.00 AM but we'll see later Markets Live team. You certainly love these headings.

    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 11:26AM
  • Every single morning the stock market is ramped. If you do not understand the ramifications of this on price discovery and efficient markets, the very underpinnings of the forcefeeding of super money into the market, you should probably not even comment on the market. The index should be seen as a cost level for the inflow of super money. This cost is manipulated upward by daily manipulation. Not one of you could reconcile the current ridonkolous oz market with any concept of efficient markets. But never mind. Please go on.

    I love manipulated markets, as long as they go up, what could possibly go wrong?
    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 11:19AM
    • Shouldn't be a problem because not all super goes into our market. some into bonds, cash, overseas markets, etc. Besides the increases are not significant enough to distort the market due to it's depth. There may be a clustering around the ASX100 companies though but shouldn't be a statistical significance.
      Of course if you put it in the Fijian stock exchange it would distort it, but the ASX is large enough

      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 12:07PM
    • The concept of efficient markets is a hypothesis and far from anything other than idealised wishful thinking except perhaps over the long term...

      Over the long term fundamentals play a far more significant role, though in the short term those who trade agressively and with enough money to move the market will always influence other traders and as a result be a very significant driver of share prices over the short term...

      At the end of the day most investors are cautious sheep... you could keep complaining or try to read the actions of traders to make some money yourself...

      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 12:16PM
    • The top 100 companies represent 80% on the market. The big 4 banks make up 26% of the total market capitalisation.

      Depth? Don't think so.

      Where's that trade surplus you said was coming 11 months ago?

      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 12:46PM
  • " Gains, but not gangbusters " !!!!!

    I'd call a 0.4% gain by 11 am pretty damned solid, especially given there is NO good news around. The same nearly everyday for months now, a steady climb up on the back of nothingness.

    Quite remarkable really.

    The New Black
    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 11:18AM
  • "Iron ore extended its decline, posting its biggest daily drop in 14 months on Wednesday, on uncertainty over steel demand from top consumer China which curbed appetite for the steel ingredient.

    Iron ore with 62 per cent iron content, the industry benchmark, fell $US7.50 a tonne, its biggest daily drop since November 2011, to $US145.40 a tonne, according to data provider Steel Index."

    I've been predicting this for a while now. The spot price spiked on pure speculation and is not supported by the 12 month swap price (which is back below FMG's break even point) or the price of other commodities.

    Closed FMG short for 10% on the expectation that pollyannas will bid it up again because they now think it's cheap.

    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 11:12AM
  • Given the labour force participation rate is generally considered as not giving a accurate picture of the number of those currently looking for work, is the unemployment rate still a relevant statistic these days?

    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 11:00AM
    • The way the stats are calculated are dismal.
      None of them are relevant in their current format. The methods need to be overhauled in a major way, and similarly the data needs to be presented in a much more, lets say "honest" or "non-biased" fashion.

      Bye Bye Fiat Money
      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 11:31AM
    • The stats are not ridiculous. There are deficencies, for sure, but the ABS boys and girls are very well aware of them, they are statisticians, after all.They are useful for the trends they show and constantly meddling with the methodology will make them less useful in this regard. Of course, we could always adopt China's almost instant stat processes that is never prone to sneaky local and regional authorities....never, ever,,I mean its racist to say such a thing, don't you think?.

      Catch 22
      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 11:58AM
    • "The increased prominence of casuals across diverse industries may help to explain the very high rates of underemployment in the current labour market. As of February 2012, over 900,000 Australian workers had insufficient work (531,500 women and 384,800 men) comprising around 8% of the workforce (in addition to an unemployment rate of around 5%)."

      Casual worker now make up more than 20% of the workforce. When you add in sham contract workers it is more like 30%. Casual workers can be sacked without notice meaning that any downturn in the economy will lead to a rapid increase in unemployment.

      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 12:05PM
    NICK / Times Played / Accum Points / Points for place / PLACE POINTS (Combined) / OVERALL PLACE

    Seriously... / 5 / 33 / 11 / 21 / 1
    Another Grump / 4 / 21 / 10 / 19 / 2
    Oragelo / 2 / 11 / 6 / 17 / 3
    Catch 22 / 5 / 20 / 9 / 16 / 4
    Snidery Mark / 5 / 20 / 8 / 14 / 5
    Oracle / 1 / 8 / 4 / 12 / 6
    The New Black / 5 / 11 / 6 / 10 / 7
    Liberator / 4 / 16 / 7 / 10 / 7
    Dan / 2 / 7 / 3 / 8 / 9
    Jonaze / 1 / 4 / 2 / 4 / 10
    Space Hippy / 1 / 3 / 1 / 2 / 11
    Competitors = 11

    Snidery Mark
    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 10:59AM
  • RUNNING BALANCE / Times Played / Accum Amt Off / Average Amt Off / Points for place

    Oragelo / 2 / 37.795 / 18.898 /11
    Seriously... / 6 / 132.641 / 22.107 / 10
    Another Grump / 6 / 142.625 / 23.771 / 9
    Oracle / 1 / 26.848 / 26.848 / 8
    Catch 22 / 6 / 192.584 / 32.097 / 7
    Snidery Mark / 6 / 266.621 / 44.437 / 6
    Dan / 2 / 152.341 / 76.171 / 5
    The New Black / 6 / 464.473 / 77.412 / 4
    Liberator / 4 / 313.543 / 78.386 / 3
    Jonaze / 1 / 84.152 / 84.152 / 2
    Space Hippy / 1 / 85.152 / 85.152 / 1
    Competitors = 11

    Snidery Mark
    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 10:54AM
  • who was the analyst who a few weeks ago warned us that Iluka shares would drop to $6.50. Since then Iluka shares have jumped to now $9.86. Could this analyst please explain.

    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 10:51AM
    • Who's dumb enough to listen to analysts?

      It's like saying you listen to Goldman, they have been wrong more times than I could count over the last few years.

      Remember the cat won the stock tipping game (an article from a few days ago).

      Bye Bye Fiat Money
      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 11:29AM
  • WEEK 6 21/12/2012
    Nick / Prediction / Amt off / Rank / Accum Points Off / Accum Points
    Catch 22 / 4630 / 6.422 / 1 / 192.584 / 6 / 30
    Snidery Mark / 4650 / 26.422 / 2 / 266.621 / 5 / 20
    Seriously... / 4595 / 28.578 / 3 / 132.641 / 4 / 33
    Liberator / 4588 / 35.578 / 4 / 349.121 / 3 /
    Another Grump / 4585 / 38.578 / 5 / 142.625 / 2 / 21
    The New Black / 4500 / 123.578 / 6 / 464.473 /1 / 11

    Competitors = 6
    AT C.O.B. on 21/12/2012 4623.578 NOTES to Week 6:
    Because I could not locate any comments from Liberator and New Balck, I used their predictions from the previous week.
    2 tables to follow.

    Snidery Mark
    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 10:48AM
  • "All cutting rates will do is lead to a misallocation of capital within the economy and won't actually change the fundamental story." - Warwick McKibbin

    Holy geebus, an intelligent comment regarding never-ending rate cuts and credit expansion! The pumpers of lower interest rates are the same people that stand to benefit - the bankers and real-estate shills.
    If we want to get out of this debt mess we could raise rates to say 3.5% - 4.5% and speed up the recession a bit.

    Bye Bye Fiat Money
    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 10:10AM
    • The only benefits of lower interest rates go to the banks' (capital) funding. It surely doesn't affect my spending, if anything encourages reducing one's spending as (historical) lower rates implies...We're in trouble!

      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 10:31AM
    • Why would you want to speed up a recession? What good does that do? It may clean out some of the deadwood in the system but it would be largely making us run at less optimal speed and cause large losses in efficiency in the economy? We are running in or close to the sweet spot now. The balancing act is to remain where we are.

      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 12:10PM
    • It cleans out the misallocations of capital at a faster rate, freeing up capital to be used in more productive areas of the economy.
      Furthermore it discourages people from levering up as their interest repayments will increase.
      Less buyers for overpriced property = falling prices, but also, more property on the markets = lower prices.
      This leads to more money being freed up to support business. It's business that support economies, not debt-driven credit bubbles.
      Raise rates, burst the bubble.
      The longer we leave rates at low levels, the worse the conditions for business will get. Sure more people might have their houses, but there will be less businesses left, and hence less jobs.

      Bye Bye Fiat Money
      Date and time
      January 17, 2013, 12:49PM
  • Interesting that the iron ore price came back a little overnight...

    Will traders quickly forget that it's rallied a long way from 90 to 145 in recent months or will they fixate on the small drop over the last few days?

    btw I stand by my last call for the iron ore price (made in dec) consolidating in a trading range of 135-145 before rallying higher over the next few months.

    Should be an interesting session which may provide investors in FMG a decent entry price either later in the day or sometime over the next few trading days.

    Date and time
    January 17, 2013, 10:07AM

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