The Australian market traded lower as the world waits for the US to make a move to avert the fiscal cliff, but it could find support in better-than-expected data on the Chinese economy out over the weekend.
- QBE faces massive Hurricane bill
- Orica slumps on Minerva charge
- Oil Search, Santos hit as PNG gas project costs balloon
4.50pm: That's all from us here at blog central, we hope you've enjoyed the bumpy ride today, be sure to tune in tomorrow from 9.30am for another edition of Markets Live.
4.30pm: The Australian dollar gained a quarter of a cent on the day to fetch $US1.0425, getting closer to a six-week high of $US1.0480 touched last week.
The dollar has been a major beneficiary of a global yield hunt, particularly from central banks and sovereign funds from as far as Colombia and Botswana.
Dealers cited tops at $US1.0450, with a Singapore-based trader adding the longer the Aussie held above $US1.0400, the more likely it was going to test the stops.
4.22pm: It was a mixed bad among blue chip stocks today:
- BHP: -0.5%
- Rio Tinto: -0.1%
- ANZ: -0.4%
- CBA: +1%
- NAB: -0.7%
- Westpac: +0.7%
- Fortescue: +3.1%
- Woolworths: -0.6%
- Wesfarmers: -0.1%
- Telstra: +0.5%
4.16pm: Among the sectors, energy shares were a significant drag on the market, down 1.1 per cent. Gold dropped 0.7 per cent, materials fell 0.6 per cent and financials slipped 0.1 per cent.
Telecommunications bucked the trend, adding 0.5 per cent.
4.12pm: The market has closed lower, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 fell 14 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4448, while the broader All Ords dropped 12.6 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4469.9.
3.49pm: The New York Times said it will proceed with its plan for Mark Thompson to take over as CEO today(US time), despite an intensifying scandal at the BBC that has raised questions about his tenure at Britain's flagship broadcasting company.
"He is going to be CEO beginning November 12," a New York Times spokesman said on Sunday.
3.38pm: As we enter the final 20 minutes of trade today, it looks as though energy and materials are the main drags on the market, down 0.9 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively. Gold is also down 0.5 per cent.
Telecommunications is doing well, up 0.7 per cent. Financials and consumer discretionary are both up 0.2 per cent.
3.18pm: QBE has been struggling of late, as you can see in the graphic, the insurance company has exposure to US markets and took a hit after Hurricane Sandy. It also had another big drop after it announced a profit downgrade earlier today:
3.09pm: Markets around the region are mixed, Japan obviously not doing well after its economy contracted 0.9 per cent in the September quarter.
- Nikkei: -0.74%
- Shanghai: +0.13%
- Taiwan: -0.16%
- South Korea: -0.4%
- Singapore: -0.09%
- New Zealand: +0.52%
2.51pm: It looks as though the dollar enjoyed a nice little bump up around midday:
2.33pm: Shares in Ramsay Health Care were strong, buoyed by speculation from Deutsche Bank that it couild be a buyer of UK's Spire Healthcare for up to $1.85 billion.
In a note to clients this morning, the broker estimated a fully debt-funded deal could be "highly accretive and would justify a materially higher target price".
Ramsay has made no secret of its interest in expanding by acquisition, although a Competition Commission inquiry in the UK could delay M&A activity until 2014.
It bought the third largest private operator in the UK a few years back, and has been looking to bulk up offshore assets.
Noting that buying Spire is speculative, the broker reiterated its 'hold' recommendation for Ramsay shares, which have rallied 35c to $24.49 so far today.
2.31pm: China's sovereign wealth fund has warned it will direct its $500 billion arsenal away from countries that were unwelcoming of Chinese investment, citing a rise in Western "protectionism", writes BusinessDay's Philip Wen.
Lou Jiwei, the chief executive of the China Investment Corporation, said there was a rise of "protectionism in both trade and investment in some Western countries" and would direct more of its investment in the faster-growing Asian economies.
"As compared to other financial investors we feel that the scrutinyn us is a little more strict, because of issues like national security," Mr Lou said on Sunday.
"We would avoid investing in countries that do not welcome us. There are other places to invest," Lou said.
2.28pm: Shares in Caltex rallied, helped by optimism of stronger earnings from its refining operations.
In a note to clients earlier today, UBS boosted its earnings forecast for the company, based on an improvement in its refining division margins, which has been holding in recent months at around $US12 a barrel, which is well above its 5-year average of $US10 a barrel.
As a result, it has upgraded to 'buy' its recommendation for Caltex shares, hiking its valuation to $20.05 from $15.90 previously.
In afternoon trading, Caltex shares were up 53c at $18.20.
2.25pm: The government has appointed Chris Jordan as commissioner of taxation for a seven-year term starting in January.
Mr Jordan is currently chair of the Board of Taxation and has been a board member since its inception in September 2000, becoming deputy chair in January 2005 and then chair in June 2011.
Last month, Michael D'Ascenzo, the Tax Commissioner, announced he would not be continuing after his seven-year term ends next month.
‘‘Mr Jordan brings a broad range of experience, including industry and public policy experience under both Labor and coalition governments’’ Treasurer Wayne Swan and Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said in a joint statement.
2.13pm: There was good news earlier on from local home loans data, but the news from China is less upbeat, with Chinese banks making fewer local currency loans in October than expected and total financing expanding more slowly than in September, suggesting Beijing may need to do more to ensure policy is loose enough to spur growth.
China's banks extended 505.2 billion yuan ($A77.9 billion) of new local currency loans in October, missing market expectations of 600 billion yuan, while total social financing, a broad measure of liquidity in the economy, stood at 1.29 trillion yuan, down from 1.65 trillion yuan in September.
Jiang Chao, analyst at Guotai Junan Securities in Shanghai, said lending growth would l remain constrained in the coming months:
The October lending figure missed the market expectations, but we should pay more attention to the total social financing data, which suggests that the monetary condition is still supportive to the real economy.
1.55pm: It seems like a case of heads I win, tails I win too for NAB boss Cameron Clyne.
Mr Clyne, who recently anounced that the bank's full-year net profit had fallen 22 per cent to $4.08 billion, stands to be awarded almost $4 million worth of bonuses.
The bank’s shareholders will vote on the grant of Mr Clyne’s performance rights next month and he stands to be awarded up to $1.2 million in NAB shares under short-term incentives (STI), and up to $2.7 million in shares as part of long-term incentives (LTI).
But even if investors say ‘‘no’’ Mr Clyne won’t miss out: ‘‘If shareholders do not approve the grant of these securities at this meeting, the STI and the LTI will be provided in cash,’’ the bank said.
Shares in the bank, which fell more than 4 per cent on Friday, are up a cent today, at $23.82.
1.51pm: The value of credit card purchases sank to the weakest level since April, as consumers remained wary of spending, writes BusinessDay's Chris Zappone.
Purchases on credit cards fell to $19.5 billion in September from $21.7 billion in August, according to the Reserve Bank, the lowest monthly level since April, when they were $19.49 billion.
"Consumers are still cautious and reluctant to get into additional debt despite earlier RBA rate cuts," said Moody's Economy.com's Katrina Ell.
Read more here
1.26pm: Adele Ferguson writes that QBE investors were gobsmacked this morning when the company announced a profit downgrade of more than $500 million on market expectations, a downgrade of more than 30 per cent on its forecast insurance margin, a $500 million capital raising and a $1.1 billion run-off on a portfolio of claims in the US. She writes:
QBE’s new boss, John Neal, began a teleconference by apologising to shareholders for the decision to further downgrade insurance margins. Mr Neal played up the effect of superstorm Sandy, attributing it to an estimated retained loss of between $350 million and $450 million.
1.19pm: It's not all bad news among energy companies today. There are some gainers:
- Caltex: +3.74%
- Coalspur: +2.96%
- Whitehaven: +2.43%
- Woodside: +0.44%
1.14pm: Energy stocks are weighing on the market today. Here are some of the worst-performed stocks on the energy sub index:
- Oil Search: -3.67%
- Paladin Energy: -2.54%
- Karoon Gas: -2.23%
- Santos: -2%
- Drillsearch: -0.9%
- Origin: -0.86%
12.57pm: Michael Pascoe writes that the banks have passed on all of the RBA's recent 25 basis rate cut, plus a bit more. Sound unbelievable? He's got the data to prove it courtesy of the RBA:
While the banks have been copping flak for not passing on more of the RBA cash rate reductions, they've actually been passing on more than the last 25-point official movement – an indication that there is indeed competition in the home loan market.
Tucked away on page 50 of the RBA's 72-page document is a chart on intermediaries' lending rates. It shows that the average of the banks' “standard variable rates” fell by 19 points to 6.64 per cent between the end of July and November 8, taking in October's 25-point cash rate cut.
12.51pm: More data, this time on local credit cards. The value of credit card purchases sank to weakest level since April, as consumers remained wary of spending in light of a mixed outlook for the health of the economy.
Balances on credit cards fell to $19.5 billion in September from $21.7 billion in August, according the Reserve Bank, the lowest monthly amount since April, when they were $19.49 billion. Balances on credit cards declined in September as well, to $49.1 billion from $49.2 billion in August, according to the RBA.
"Consumers are still cautious and reluctant to get into additional debt despite earlier RBA rate cuts," said Moody's Economy.com's Katrina Ell. "Consumer deleveraging is not only showing up in credit card spending, but also in the soft property market and retail trade data," she said.
12.40pm: We're going to hear a lot about the US fiscal cliff over the next few weeks, and, even if US politicians can reach a compromise over it, there aren't likely to be too many winners. But there is one winner beginning to emerge - gold.
Gold this morning traded near the highest price in three weeks as investors focused on the US budget debate, and after data showed Japan’s economy shrank in the third quarter. Silver also was near a three-week high.
Gold for immediate delivery climbed as much as 0.3 per cent to $US1736.75 an ounce and was at $US1735.40.
12.39pm: Losses on QBE have moderated somewhat - now down $1.09 or 8.4 per cent to $11.78.
Shares in the insurer plunged by more than 11 per cent after the company said its losses from superstorm Sandy in the United States could hit $US450 million ($A434.85 million). There's more here, and Adele Ferguson is filing a lunchtime column on the woes besetting the business. We'll have a link to that piece soon.
12.34pm: One of today's major pieces of offshore economics is out, with new data showing Japan’s economy contracted 0.9 per cent in the September quarter from the previous three months, the first dip into negative territory in three quarters.
The data underscores fears about a stuttering post-disaster recovery for the world’s third-largest economy which has suffered from the global slowdown and a Tokyo-Beijing diplomatic spat that dragged on exports.
The figures from the Cabinet Office, largely in line with market expectations, come after Japan’s economy remained in positive territory for the past two quarters, after shrinking 0.3 per cent in the last three months of 2011.
12.31pm: The big miners are showing mixed returns:
- BHP is 0.15% lower to $34.41
- Rio is 0.43% higher to $58.94
- Fortescue is 2.54% higher to $4.03
12.27pm: Now for some of the blue chips. The banks are having a good day - well, they’re ahead of the general market:
- CBA is 0.36% higher to $59.03
- ANZ is 0.41% higher to $24.66
- NAB is 0.34% higher to $23.89
- Westpac is 0.99% higher to $25.42
12.15pm: RBS Morgans Brisbane private client adviser Bruce Smith said trading had been lacklustre today as investors waited to see if the US could avoid the fiscal cliff.
‘‘It’s pretty anaemic at the moment,’’ he said. ‘‘I think it’s really just the issue of the fiscal cliff in the US and until such time as that is clarified to the market then there will be continued low volumes.’’
12.01pm: More on the rise in home loan approvals, which seems to have generated a rally on the markets and gone some way to erasing the earlier losses.
CommSec chief economist Craig James says the figures suggest home loan value could be on the rise:
The data shows that loan value is rising at a faster rate than the actual number of loans. That suggests that there’s increased confidence by borrowers, or that home prices are edging a little higher. The result could be an indication that consumers were beginning to feel the impact of rate cuts ... in previous months. There’s a solid increase in the value of loans. It’s what you would expect after a couple of rate cuts in the middle of the year.
11.54am: AGM season is still rumbling on, and today's big drawcard is Origin Energy, which is hosting shareholders in Sydney.
Chairman Kevin McCann says households will be worse off if state governments continue to regulate electricity prices. He wants governments to "support and promote competition and innovation":
Actions by state governments that seek to cap or hold retail prices artificially low will have unintended impacts, including stifling future investment in generation and significantly lessening competition for consumers.
Last week, Origin shares fell to their lowest level since early 2008 after the company said regulatory and pricing decisions would wipe between five and 10 per cent from its underlying profit this financial year.
Origin shares are down a further 8½ cents, or 0.8 per cent, at $10.335.
11.45am: It might be concidence, but the market almost made it back into positive territory right after the home loans data came out. The ASX200 hit a high of 4460.60 at 11.39, not far off Friday's close of 4462.02.
11.36am: Housing finance statistics are out this morning, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics home loans approvals are on the rise.
The bureau says 46,395 home loans were approved in September, 0.9 per cent more than the 45,983 that got the green light in August.
Economists had expected housing finance commitments to rise 1.0 per cent in September.
The ABS says total housing finance by value rose 3.8 per cent in September, seasonally adjusted, to $21.203 billion.
11.35am: Every entrepreneur needs a bullish self-belief to get through the day. But there comes a point when you may have to weigh up if you business actually has much of a future, writes David Wilson.
11.30am: If you're wondering why QBE shares have been hit so hard by the predicted costs of Hurricane Sandy, here's a tweet by Chris Weston from IG Markets:
QBE's new guidance implies consensus downgrades to the tune of 35% for 2012. Expect flow thorugh for 2013 as well.
11.22am: BrisConnections, the operator of Brisbane’s Airport Link tunnel, has been placed in a trading halt pending the release of details about crucial talks with its bankers, writes BusinessDay’s Matt O’Sullivan.
The troubled toll-road operator has also announced the sudden departure of two of its seven directors – Andrea Harcourt and Richard Wharton.
BrisConnections did not give a reason for their sudden resignations in a release to the market.
In a separate release, BrisConnections said it would release details to the market about discussions with its lenders before resuming trading on the ASX on Wednesday.
11.18am: Japan’s economy contracted in the third quarter at the fastest pace since last year’s earthquake as exports slumped and consumer spending slid and threatening to throw the country back into recession.
Gross domestic product fell an annualised 3.5 per cent in the three months through September, after a revised 0.3 per cent gain the previous quarter. Economists had expected a 3.4 per cent drop.
Barclays and Societe Generale are among those forecasting another decline this quarter, meeting the textbook definition of a recession.
‘‘September’s data showed no mercy,’’ Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief economist at Itochu in Tokyo, said. ‘‘There’s little doubt that Japan is in recession.’’
The Nikkei share index has opened 0.5 per cent lower.
11.14am: Another of the worst-performing stocks this morning is fertiliser maker Incitec Pivot, which has revealed that the shutdown of its Mount Isa sulphuric acid plant for up to a month could cost $25 million.
The waste heat boiler at the Queensland plant failed on Friday, and the plant may need to be offline for up to a month in order for repairs to be made, Incitec Pivot says.
Shares in Incitec Pivot are down 2.9% to $2.98.
11.08am: The markets are still behind, but a little of the ground lost at the open has been made up.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index is down 13 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 4449.0 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index has fallen 11.3 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4471.2 points.
IG Markets analyst Cameron Peacock says local investors are pausing to digest last week’s economic news, causing the market to open lower.
‘‘We didn’t get the interest rate cut that we thought we’d get last week and then we had the US presidential elections,’’ he said.
He said he expected the market to remain volatile until there was more guidance from the US on how it would avoid the fiscal cliff.
11.03am: We've an interesting story on BusinessDay today about small and middle-tier prospectors who are now running low on cash as commodities markets lose their lustre, pushing miners to look near and far for funds to keep afloat. According to Angelo Catalano, director at Chimaera Capital Markets:
The blip we had on commodity markets has put the scare in some lenders. So you have names like Consolidated Minerals, Atlantic and Mirabela Nickel trading way below par because of project risks and also because of soft prices due to China.
Mirabela Nickel is among the biggest losers on the ASX200 this morning. Shares in the miner are down 4.6% at 41.5 cents.
10.55am: Greece's parliament has approved an austerity budget for next year, allowing it to extend its international financial bailout and avoid bankruptcy.
With backing from all three parties in conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's coalition, the bill passed by a more comfortable margin than a separate package of deficit-cutting measures on which some of his allies had abstained on Wednesday.
Passing both bills had been necessary to unblock a new tranche of credit from the European Union and International Monetary Fund before the government ran out of cash.
Read the full story here
10.40am: There are some stocks that are ahead on the ASX200 this morning - but less spectacularly than the fallers. Among those doing well this morning are:
- Coalspur Mines: +2.96%
- Buru Energy: +2.89%
- Sundance Resources: +2.78%
- Alumina: +2.33%
- Arrium: +2.08%
10.34am: Now to the big losers on the ASX200 this morning - and we've mentioned many of them already. Among the sliders so far are:
- QBE Insurance: -13.05%
- Paladin Energy: -7.61%
- Lynas: -6.58%
- Oil Search: -5.84%
- Orica: -4.80%
- Mirabela Nickel: -4.60%
- Bluescope Steel: -4.17%
- Santos: -2.31%
10.30am: Shares in Lynas have also been hit this morning after the rare earths miner announced it had raised $150 million from institutional investors.
Lynas shares are down 6.6 per cent at 75.2 cents.
10.26am: Shares in Oil Search have also slumped early following the announcement that the cost of a liquified natural gas (LNG) project in Papua New Guinea part-owned by Santos and Oil Search has increased by $US3.3 billion ($A3.18 billion) to $US19 billion ($A18.34 billion).
Its shares are down 6.25 per cent in early trade. They've lost 42 cents to $6.94.
10.23am: Looking now at the sub indices on the ASX200:
- Energy: -1.18%
- Materials: -0.64%
- Financials: -0.46%
- Industrials: -0.3%
- Health: +0.35%
- Consumer staples: +0.22%
- Utilities: +0.19%
10.17am: In early trade, the All Ordinaries index is 12.6 points lower, or 0.3 per cent, to 4469.9, while the benchmark S&P/ASX200 is 14.2 points lower, or 0.3 per cent, to 4447.8.
10.14am: Orica shares are also down following the announcement of a 37 per cent fall in annual profit. Its shares have lost 2.7 per cent, or 68 cents, to $24.32.
10.11am: QBE shares have dived in early trade after the company announced Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the east coast of the US, would cost it $450 million. Its shares are down 12 per cent, or $1.53, to $11.34.
10.06am: Early take - stocks are flat. No decisive move in either direction yet.
9.59am: Insurance giant QBE expects its losses from superstorm Sandy in the United States to be up to $450 million. The company has cut its insurance profit margin guidance as a result, but still expects its net profit for calendar 2012 to be higher than in 2011.
‘‘Superstorm Sandy will prove to have been one of the most devastating storms in recent US history and the recorded loss of life is incredibly distressing,’’ chief executive John Neal said in a statement.
9.55am: A few analyst rating changes for this morning:
- ALS downgraded to 'sell' from 'neutral' at UBS
- SP Ausnet cut to 'neutral' from 'buy' at UBS
- Emeco cut to 'neutral' from 'buy' at Goldman Sachs
9.51am: Orica is another local company in the news today. The chemicals manufacturer has reported a 37 per cent fall in annual profit, but it expects an improvement in its underlying performance over the year ahead. Its shares could move in early trade.
Orica’s net profit in the 12 months to September 30 was $402.8 million, down from $642 million in the previous corresponding period. The result included a $247 million impairment on its specialty bolts and chemicals business Minova, which Orica announced to the market on Friday. Net profit for the year to September excluding one-off items was $650 million, up one per cent from the previous year.
9.48am: That China data may not deliver a boost to local shares today, says one analyst. Commonwealth Bank chief economist Michael Blythe said it was positive but would not be enough to lift sentiment.
“Markets always like something to worry about, and that focus has increasingly swung to the US fiscal cliff,” he said.
“On paper at least, the data should provide a solid level of support. The fact that our major trading partner and the economy that really determines growth and incomes in Australia is starting to pick up again should be seen as a positive sign.
“But markets like to worry, and this data will be downplayed to a certain extent as we worry about the US.”
9.45am: Although the futures markets points to a loss in early trade, some good data from China over the weekend, and some buyllish comments from a key economics agency, could help support the local bourse.
China announced on Saturday that it is effectively turning the corner on the economy and likely to meet its growth target for the year, more good news for Communist Party policy makers meeting in Beijing to anoint new leaders for the next decade.
The world's second-biggest economy had halted a slowing trend, the chief of the economic planning agency said, adding that he was confident GDP growth would exceed 7.5 percent in 2012 though at the same time warning against complacency.
9.41am: Oil Search has this morning reported that the cost of a liquified natural gas (LNG) project in Papua New Guinea part-owned by Santos has increased by $US3.3 billion ($A3.18 billion) to $US19 billion ($A18.34 billion).
The PNG LNG project, the country’s largest resources project, is being operated by Esso Highlands Limited, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation, and Oil Search has a 29 per stake. Santos, Japan’s JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration, a unit of JX Holdings, and the Papua New Guinea government are also stakeholders.
Esso has indicated the cost estimate for the project has risen from $US15.7 billion to $US19 billion, due mainly to foreign exchange factors, Oil Search said on Monday.
9.38am: Here's a quick look at what we've got ahead today. In economics news:
- ABS home loans and investment lending for September
- RBA credit card purchases for September
And in company news:
- National Australia Bank trades ex-dividend
- Orica full-year results
- Origin Energy hold annual general meeting. Click here for a full list of today's AGMs.
9.35am: Local stocks are pointed down to start the week despite modest gains on Wall Street on Friday and a mixed performance in Europe. The dollar is down from Friday's local close. For a comprehensive look at this morning’s business news, check today’s need2know. Here are this morning’s key market links:
- The SPI was 15 points lower at 4469
- The $A was trading at $US1.0397
- Fiscal cliff keeps ASX flat
- US investors unimpressed with leaders
- European shares recover early losses after US data
- Oil higher on strong US consumer sentiment
- Gold buoyed to three-week high by Obama re-election
- Australian business calendar: November 12-16
9.32am: Good morning folks. Welcome to the Markets Live blog for Monday.
This blog is not intended as investment advice
BusinessDay with agencies