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Markets Live: Late dash drives shares higher

Australian shares close at the day's high, led by a surge in miners. Banks, though, dragged as ANZ went ex-dividend.

4.59pm: That's all for today, folks. Thanks for reading the blog - and sorry we didn't open for comments earlier. We'll try to remember tomorrow morning...

Here's our evening wrap.

4.48pm: Perth-based Mirabela Nickel's share price continued its slide today, after dropping 30 per cent yesterday which prompted ASX questions and a trading halt.

The miner plunged another 13 per cent to 26 cents today.


The rapid price fall of Perth's Mirabela only hours before BHP Billiton announced it was grouping its own nickel assets with its equally quiet aluminium business, turned heads back towards the flailing nickel price mid-week.

Nickel has experienced a steady descent over the past year from more than US$11 per pound in May 2011, to about US$7.80 yesterday.

4.40pm: European stock index futures are up, pointing to a tentative recovery following an almost uninterrupted 10-day slide, but gains could be capped as investors fret about Greece's political deadlock while China trade data disappoints.

Futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were up 0.7-0.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, S&P500 futures are up 0.3 per cent, indicating some gains at the start of trade on Wall Street.

4.30pm: The Australian dollar bounced back today after the surprisingly upbeat jobs report eased expectations of deep cuts to interest rates, but risk sentiment remained fragile due to uncertainty in the eurozone.

The Aussie gained 0.6 per cent on the day to $US1.0106 in late trade, recovering from a fall to a four-month low of $US1.0021 overnight.

"(The jobs numbers) are exceptionally strong... It does substantially reduce the chance of a (rate) cut in June... The odds are the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) will simply sit tight at the next meeting," says Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital Investors.

4.24pm: Here's how some of the bigger names closed:

  • BHP: +0.85%
  • Rio: +1.15%
  • ANZ: -1.4%
  • CBA: +0.5%
  • NAB: -0.15%
  • Westpac: +0.3%
  • Wesfarmers: +1.4%
  • Telstra: -0.3%
  • Newcrest: +5.6%
  • Iluka: +5.8%

4.16pm: Gains were led by the gold sector, which jumped 4.2 per cent, recovering from yesterday's slump. Materials rose 1.7 per cent, energy gained 0.9 per cent, while financials were the main drag on the market, falling 0.5 per cent after ANZ went ex-dividend.

4.13pm: The market has closed, with the All Ords climbing to the day's high and the ASX200 just below. The ASX200 climbed 20.5 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4295.6, while the broader All Ords rose 21.6 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4353.8.

4.01pm: Woodside Petroleum’s has had its credit rating reaffirmed by Moody’s and the outlook was changed to stable from negative.

The ratings affirmation of $2.65 billion of debt securities and stable outlook reflected Woodside’s successful completion of the Pluto project, which was now producing natural gas, Moody’s assistance vice-president Matthew Moore says.

3.49pm: Today's Chinese trade data shows the change in the structure of its trade, ANZ says:

  • As ordinary imports are becoming increasingly important, we think the Chinese economy’s rebalancing will continue to boost its demand for European exports: China’s large trade deficit with Germany is a case of point.
  • Labour intensive export sectors are gradually losing competitiveness due to rising wages and other factor prices.
  • Given that labour intensive industries dominate China’s processing trade, and that the processing trade is a major source of the economy’s trade surplus, the loss of competitiveness in this sector suggests that the trade surplus will continue to decline, leading to a more balanced trade account in the not so distant future.
  • On the policy front, we think that a 50bp reserve requirement ratio (RRR) cut this month is highly likely, although recent reverse repo operations may have postponed the timing of RRR cut somewhat.

3.34pm: Skills shortages are the flip side to the strong jobs data, and they're probably the most severe in Western Australia, where the sjobless rate fell to 3.8 per cent, a three-and-a-half-year low.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief economist Dana Mason says growth continues to be uneven across industries, with resources and resources-related sectors performing strongly, but small businesses and consumer-related companies suffering from low consumer confidence.

About half of the chamber’s members have reported difficulty in sourcing labour, and the shortage of skilled staff is expected to continue for the next few years, she said.

3.25pm: Electricity prices have gained a bit of attention lately, not least because of the imminent start to the carbon tax from July 1.

BusinessDay's Brian Robins notes in this analysis - Power prices out of whack - that distributors in Victoria have been doing nicely, even as service levels decline.

3.20 pm: Northern Iron has asked for a trading halt to its shares, pending an announcement.

Northern Iron shares, though, were up about 13 per cent in recent trade, after India's Aditya Birla group  submitted a non-binding bid for the iron ore miner, according to a newspaper report (see 2.55pm).

3.16pm: Local shares heading for modestly higher close. Markets in Europe and US are also pointed flat to slightly higher, with

Dow futures up 12 points to 12,807 and London's FTSE up 1.5 points.

3.07pm: Get ready for the Spanish bailout, Nouriel 'Dr Doom' Roubini writes in today's FT.

Anyone who has closely followed developments in the eurozone will be struck by déjà vu looking at Spain’s current predicament. The corrosiveness of banking sector uncertainty for investor confidence in Spain is reminiscent of Ireland in 2009 and 2010. Spain’s austerity-recession feedback loop is similar to the process that fed the economic contraction in Greece and Portugal. But there can only be one roll of the dice for a country as large as Spain.

2.59pm: Meanwhile, in China, the world's top four accounting firms will have to bring in Chinese citizens to run their operations in China and end the dominance of foreign partners under new rules announced by the Finance Ministry today.

The Big Four auditors - Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Pricewaterhousecoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG - must start to convert their practices this August and comply with all the new rules by the end of 2017.

The rules require them to "localise" their operations so that they are led by Chinese citizens and dominated by accountants holding China's accountancy qualifications.

2.55pm: India's Aditya Birla group has submitted a non-binding bid for locally listed iron ore miner Northern Iron, a newspaper report says, sending shares of the target firm up 19 per cent to a six-month high.

Northern Iron, which has operational mines in Norway with an annual production capacity of 2.2 million tonnes of iron ore, is expecting a valuation of about $500 million, the Economic Times reports today, citing people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Northern Iron shares, which rose as high as $1.14, were recently trading at $1.085, giving it a market valuation of $401 million.

"We are in the process of examining the mines, it looks like an attractive asset," the paper cites a source at Aditya Birla Group as saying. The Indian conglomerate's natural resources arm has initiated the talks, it says.

2.29pm: China's trade data today is just the first of a flurry of economic indicators to be released this week - inflation, producer prices, industrial output, fixed asset investment and retail sales are all due on Friday, which will all give an indication how the world's second-largest economy, and Australia's biggest trading partner is faring.

If today's trade data is an indication, the recovery is slower than hoped for.

"Both export and import figures gave the market a downside surprise," says Jiang Chao, an analyst at Guotai Junan Securities, in Shanghai. "We had expected China's export growth to reach a trough by the end of the second quarter, but now I think we will have to revise down our trade forecast for the full year."

2.20pm: On the relatively sharp fall in the participation rate over the past year or so outside of WA, ANZ writes this partly reflects that jobs are being created in locations, and with skill requirements, that cannot be easily met by those losing their jobs elsewhere.

In trend terms, WA produced more than all of the net increase in jobs over the 12 months to April; employment in Queensland also rose but declined elsewhere.

The bank also says: "Last week we changed our interest rates call to 75bps of rate cuts by the end of this year and today’s labour data do not change this view..

2.07pm: Back to jobs for the minute. This blogger reckons next month's numbers (for May) will contain a big revision for the month of April.

Let's see. In the meantime, though, our poll on the main jobs story suggests the scepticism is fairly widespread.

1.59pm: Those China trade figures include some for iron ore - of interest to Rio, BHP, Fortescue.

In April, shipments of the mineral used in steelmaking (in case you didn't know), fell 8 per cent for the month to 57.69 million tonnes, Reuters reports.

Shares of all three miners, though, are basically flat to slightly lower in recent trading.

1.50pm: The dollar has retreated back below $US1.01 and is now at about $US1.008. One reason for the pullback is that China's trade numbers aren't quite as strong as expected.

Still, China's trade surplus came in at $US18.4 billion - twice the amount expected. Exports rose 4.9 per cent, but economists had been tipping an 8.5 per cent rise, according to Bloomberg.

Imports - which matter for Australia - rose just 0.3 per cent. Economists had bet they would rise 11 per cent.

1.42pm: ANZ will release its interest rates tomorrow - probably around noon if previous months are any guide.

In the meantime, BusinessDay's Eric Johnston reports that NAB is sticking with its mortgage discounts.

NAB may struggle to increase its profit with such a plan unless there's an upturn in the mortgage market.

1.26pm: Altogether it's a pretty mixed picture on the market: the big miners are slightly higher, while the banks are mainly down, led by falls in NAB (-1.5%) and ANZ (-1.8%), with the latter trading ex-dividend. Wesfarmers is up 1 per cent but Woolies has slipped 0.1 per cent. Telstra can't extend its recent rally, falling 0.8 per cent.

1.22pm: Talking about bouncing around: gloom has returned to the local market, pulling shares back into the red. Financials have increased their losses and are now down 1 per cent, while materials are up 0.8 per cent.

1.18pm: The jobs figures look great, but don’t take them too seriously. Between the lines, that’s the assessment of Employment Minister Bill Shorten, and he’s absolutely right, Tim Colebatch writes.

Much of the economy is still soft, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania, and the jobs figures bounce around.

Indeed, in the past year, the Bureau’s monthly jobs figure has gone down, up, down, down, up, up, down, down, up, down, up and up. You’d have to expect the next move to be down.

1.02pm: Virgin Australia and Skywest Airlines have received final approval to jointly bid for corporate contracts and charter operations as part of an expanded alliance.

The ACCC gave the tie-up the green light, having earlier granted the pair interim authorisation.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the alliance was likely to result in public benefits such as lower prices due to closer competition with Qantas Airways and its affiliates.

12.47pm: Optus is going to the High Court to appeal the decision that stopped its near-live streaming service to its mobile phone customers.

A fortnight ago the federal court stopped the service which streams sport to customers phones because it constituted a breach of copyright. Telstra, the AFL and the NRL had taken the telco to court arguing the TV Now service was robbing them of revenue. The rights holders had between the millions of dollars at stake in rights fees and advertising revenue.

“We believe the TV Now case is extremely important in deciding the future for innovation, consumer choice and competition. Increasingly, developments like cloud computing will see Australians using applications held online and wanting to store online rather than just using fixed hardware based in the home," Optus CEO Paul Sullivan says.

12.41pm: But it's not only good news on the jobs front: the job losses continue at Australia's largest dairy food processor and marketer, co-operative Murray Goulburn, which is cutting another 301 positions.

The redundancies are additional to the 64 jobs shed in March when Murray Goulburn announced it would shut down its milk driers at Rochester in northern Victoria.

Murray Goulburn will be left with a total work force of approximately 2100 people employed mostly in rural and regional Australia.

12.37pm: There may be doubts about the reliability of the monthly jobs numbers, but it can't be denied the Australia has one of the lowest jobless rates among developed countries:

  • USA: 8.1%
  • Canada: 7.2%
  • Eurozone: 10.9%
  • Germany: 6.8%
  • UK: 8.3%
  • France: 9.8%
  • Japan: 4.5%
  • South Korea: 3.4%
  • New Zealand: 6.3%
  • Australia: 4.9%

12.33pm: Shares in Centro Retail Australia have jumped after the company agreed to a $200 million settlement in a shareholder suit.

Centro Retail rose as much as 3.9 per cent, the biggest gain since January 3, and are currently up 2.8 per cent at $1.90.

Centro’s former shareholders, who claimed they were misled over the company’s debt, agreed to end a lawsuit in Melbourne in mid-trial after the mall manager and PricewaterhouseCoopers consented to the Australian record $200 million settlement.

12.29pm: The dollar's surge may be short-lived, Commonwealth Bank foreign exchange economist Peter Dragicevich says:

  • We still think the Australian dollar can move down towards parity, mostly driven by offshore events.
  • Concerns in Europe are the main focus, and they’re not likely to go away in the next couple of trading sessions.
  • Softer Chinese trade data, due out later today, could also pull the Australian dollar down.

12.25pm: Thanks to the jobs boost the local market is one of the strongest in the region today:

  • Japan (Nikkei): -0.1%
  • Hong Kong: +0.1%
  • Shanghai: +0.3%
  • Taiwan: +0.5%
  • South Korea: -0.2%
  • Singapore: -0.1%
  • New Zealand: +0.5%

12.20pm: Despite the warnings on the reliability of the jobs data, the market has just hit the day's highs, rising 0.4 per cent. Leading the way is the gold sector, with a jump of 3.4 per cent. Materials are 1.5 per cent higher and energy has gained 1.1 per cent. Financials are holding the ASX200 back, dropping 0.8 per cent.

12.16pm: Some more doubts:

12.13pm: We shouldn't get too carried away by the strong jobs data, Citi’s Paul Brennan warns, saying the structural change in the economy is making it more difficult to grasp the labour market dynamics:

  • A lot of people in hospitality in retail are working multiple jobs. They will be working a couple of hours with one employer and a couple of hours with another employer.
  • It’s getting harder to read exactly where the labour market is.
  • But looking at recipients on Newstart Allowances, that hasn’t deteriorated in a meaningful way.
  • There is no indication of a massive groundswell of people coming on to unemployment benefits.
  • Nonetheless, by most measures, the April figures tell a pretty good story overall.

12.09pm: The strong jobs data looks like a vindication for the Treasurer in pushing the budget into surplus. But did the RBA overshoot? Koukoulas thinks the 50bp cut was justified and that we're now enjoying a Goldilocks moment in the economy:

What do you think - is the economy in Goldilocks territory? Send us your comments.

12.04pm: Here's how the states are faring:

  • NSW: 4.9% (March: 4.8%
  • Victoria: 5.3% (5.8%)
  • WA: 3.8% (4.1%)
  • Qld: 5.1% (5.5%)
  • SA: 5.2% (5.2%)
  • Tasmania: 8.3% (7%)

ANZ's Justin Fabo says the 23,000 jobs created in Victoria is ‘‘pretty unbelievable’’ given other reports on the health of the state’s economy.

11.59am: And in another number pointing to the health of the economy: total numbers worked grew by 2.6 per cent, the biggest yearly rise since March 2011.

11.56am: Definitely some good news for the dollar: the Aussie has just climbed back above $US1.01 - chalking up a rise of half a US cent.

11.54am: The sharemarket is till quite enthused about the jobs data, but it hasn't managed to breach the day's high, hit earlier this morning.

A closer look shows the market is actually quite mixed, with the materials sector up 1.5 per cent, while financials are down 0.8 per cent, led by a slump in ANZ after the bank went ex-dividend.

11.50am: ANZ senior economist Justin Fabo is cautioning the numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt as they are just monthly data:

  • We still think overall labour market conditions are soft, the job ads are telling us that.
  • The participation is rate is down over the year. Some of the fall in unemployment rate is related to the structural change story.
  • There is a mismatch in where some jobs are being created and where some are being lost.

11.48am: Economist Adam Carr, who is more bullish for the Australian economy than many others, just tweeted:

Carr reckons monetary and fiscal support will combine to push growth even higher.

11.44am: Credit Suisse interest rate futures are still indicating a 65 per cent chance of a rate cut in June, but that's down from nearly 100 per cent before the release of the data.

11.42am: Economist Stephen Koukoulas agrees the RBA is likely to delay further cuts:

11.38am: The RBA is likely to delay any further rate cuts until after June because of the strong jobs data, says RBC Capital Markets economist Su-Lin Ong:

  • You’ve got another reasonable gain in employment and while the previous month was revised down, the last couple of months have been decent.
  • The unemployment rate seems to be firmly in the 5 per cent or or below range for the best part of nine or ten months.
  • I don’t think it’s a great sign that the participation rate continues to track lower.
  • The market is anticipating too many rate cuts.

11.35am: The fall in the jobless rate is even more surprising considering new jobs have only grown because of a surge in part-time jobs, while full-time jobs actually shrank. And while the number is positive, it's not actually that big. On top of that, last month's new job numbers were revised down from 44,000 to 37,600.

The participation rate, meanwhile, slipped from 65.3 per cent to 65.2 per cent.

11.31am: The dollar has jumped on the jobs surprise, rising to $US1.0090.

11.30am: Big surprise: the jobless rate has dropped to 4.9 per cent as 15,500 new jobs were created.

11.28am: Just ahead of the jobs figures, the dollar is trading at $US1.0060 and financial markets are seeing a 95 per cent chance of a rate cut.

11.27am: Jobs data for April coming up: expectations are that 5000 jobs were lost and a rise in the unemployment rate to 5.3 per cent, from 5.2 per cent.

11.24am: Shopping centre owner Centro Retail Australia says a $200 million settlement in a class action against it allows it to move on and focus on improving value for its securityholders.

Centro Retail has confirmed it will contribute $85 million to an in-principle settlement payment of $200 million agreed to a day earlier.

The class action was undertaken by law firms Slater and Gordon, and Maurice Blackburn against Centro Group and its auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers more than four years ago.

Investors involved accused Centro of misleading and deceptive conduct by not disclosing in its 2007 financial report that it had at least $3 billion of interest-bearing debt falling due within 12 months.

Centro Group has since restructured and is now Centro Retail Australia.

11.20am: Meanwhile, outside the AGM, union members are protesting against the miner's involvement in the London Olympic Games.

Rio Tinto will make medals for the Games but has locked out 800 employees from a smelter in Canada after they refused contracts that would put new workers on half the pay, the unions say.

Unions have written to Australian Olympic Committee chairman John Coates asking for an emergency meeting to discuss what it sees as Rio Tinto's undermining of Olympic ideals.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said the Canadian workers only wanted a fair go and a decent future for their families.

''We are particularly trying to highlight Rio's attempt to deceive the world into believing that somehow they have similar values as the Olympic movement,'' he said at the Brisbane protest.

''They are not a good corporate citizen. They need to be outed as a very bad employer, not just in Alma, Canada, but in their mining operations around the world as well.''

11.17am: Rio boss Tom Albanese quips that the company's iron ore business in the Pilbara is the best business in the entire world, expect for perhaps the production of Apple Ipads.

He adds that he expects Rio to be selling iron ore longer into the future than Apple is making Ipads.

11.13am: Rio is also repeating its mantra about Australia being a hard place to do business after shareholders have asked where Australia ranks as an investment destination.

Rio chairman Jan Du Plessis says Australia is not an ''unattractive" place to invest, but his company's view has changed over recent years with the imposition of new taxes and political instability.

"Our perspective of the country sadly has changed ... there is no doubt that Australia as an investment destination has changed for the worse," he said.

"The government knows that looking into the future they are going to have to create a stable environment."

Mr Du Plessis added that costs of living in Australia were also becoming a challenge.

''Unfortunately Australia has become an expensive country, an expensive place ... a number of our mining projects in Queensland are today not as attractive as we assumed they would have been 3 or 4 years ago," he said.

11.09am: More from Rio Tinto... chief executive Tom Albanese has praised mining magnate Nathan Tinkler for the way he turned a former Rio asset into a lucrative business play.

Rio's subsidiary Coal and Allied sold the Maules Creek coal asset to Nathan Tinkler's Aston Resources in 2010, and Tinkler used that asset as a flagship for Aston to float on the ASX, then eventually merge with Whitehaven Coal this year.

Shareholders have asked Mr Albanese why Rio missed this opportunity and whether the company planned to get back into Maules Creek, but Mr Albanese says Rio has no interest in returning to the site.

''He did a pretty good job," Albanese said of Mr Tinkler.

11.05am: Qantas's long-haul pilots have lost their challenge of the industrial umpire's decision to ban industrial action in the aftermath of the airline's controversial grounding of its entire fleet.

A full court of the Federal Court today dismissed the pilots' application.

The appeal by the long-haul pilots was seen as a legal manoeuvre aimed at giving them a fallback position if they lose out when Fair Work makes a binding decision on their dispute with Qantas later this year.

10.57am: Resources reporter Peter Ker is listening to the Rio meeting. He reports:

Rio chairman Jan Du Plessis tells his company’s AGM that Julia Gillard has personally praised him on multiple occasions for the company’s work with Aboriginal people.

10.54am: Speaking to shareholders today, Rio Tinto’s chairman said that he is more confident about the global economic picture than he was six months ago.

The world continued to face considerable uncertainty and ongoing volatility, but China, although slower, remains a bright spot.

‘‘China is not growing at the same rate as we have seen in recent years, but the rate of growth is still very favourable in comparison to global economic growth,’’ Jan Du Plessis said.

‘‘Overall, we are somewhat more confident than six months ago, in addition to which I believe our strong balance sheet will serve to strongly underpin our business in the face.’’

10.50am: The big miners are enjoying the more positive mood of the market today:

  • BHP is 0.87% higher to $34.63
  • Rio is 0.47% higher to $61.52
  • Fortescue is 0.94% higher to $5.38

10.46am: Banking and finance reporter Eric Johnston tweets:

10.40am: To the other early sliders on the ASX200:

  • Dart Energy - down 4.17%
  • Aquarius Platinum - down 3.9%
  • Fleetwood Corp - down 2.1%
  • Transpacific Industries - down 1.82%
  • Pacific Brands - down 1.6%

10.36am: ANZ shares are the worst performed on the ASX - down 4.1 per cent - after the company went ex-dividend today. Its shares have lost 95 cents to $21.17.

10.32am: To some of the companies on the ASX200 which are trading in positive territory so far today:

  • Perseus Mining - up 7.27%
  • Intrepid Mines - up 5.80%
  • Medusa Mining - up 5.71%
  • Alumina - up 4.66%
  • OneSteel - up 3.64%

10.28am: Australian bonds are continuing their remarkable rally as investors seek safe havens. The yield on the 10-year government bond fell as low as 3.305 per cent this morning, from 3.366 per cent at yesterday’s close. It was recently yielding 3.315 per cent.

Global investors are pouring money into Commonwealth government bonds as Australia is one of the last remaining countries with a ‘AAA’ rating.

10.23am: Among the sub indices:

  • Financials - down 0.7%
  • Telecomms - down 0.2%
  • Gold - up 2.8%
  • Energy - up 0.9%
  • Materials - up 1%
  • Metals & mining - up 1%

10.15am: NAB shares are 0.2 per cent lower in early trade after reporting a record first-half cash profit of $2.83 billion, a rise of 4.8 per cent. The shares are down as much as 11 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $24.50.

NAB's first-half net profit came in at $2.052 billion, down 15.5 per cent from a year earlier. Full story.

10.12am: The All Ordinaries index is 9.1 points higher, or 0.2 per cent, to 4341.3, while the benchmark S&P/ASX200 is 10.5 points higher, or 0.2 per cent, to 4285.6. 

10.05am: Early take - shares are trading flat as markets open.

9.56am: Australian bond futures prices are higher, as the market continues to worry about Greek election results.

At 8.30am, the June 10-year bond futures contract was trading at 96.730 (implying a yield of 3.270 per cent), up from 96.685 (3.315 per cent). The June three-year bond futures contract was at 97.400 (2.600 per cent), up from 97.330 (2.670 per cent).

ANZ senior economist Shane Lee said Europe continued to be the focal point for investors, as left leader Alexis Tsipras failed in a second attempt to form a government overnight.

‘‘Concerns around Greece are the main thing driving markets at the moment,’’ he said.

9.50am Some analyst rating changes for today:

  • Downer EDI raised to 'buy' at Deutsche Bank
  • Aristocrat Leisure cut to 'hold' from 'buy' at RBS
  • Sonic Healthcare cut to 'neutral' at Goldman Sachs
  • Primary Health Care raised to 'buy' at Goldman Sachs
  • Tabcorp raised to 'neutral' at BofA-Merrill Lynch
  • Dexus Property Group cut to 'neutral' at Credit Suisse
  • Leighton Holdings raised to 'hold' at Deutsche Bank

9.46am: Optus has managed to lift its annual net profit by 1.5 per cent to $787 million despite intense competition from its telco rivals.

The result for the year to March 31 has been unveiled as Optus, which is owned by Singapore Telecommunications, announced its fourth quarter net profit also rose 2.1 per cent to $267 million. However, revenues dipped 1.1 per cent in the quarter to $2.296 million.

9.43am: China will release trade balance, and data on imports and exports today, while locally the Australian Bureau of Statistics will release jobs figures at 11.30am, with a consensus of analysts tipping a loss of 5000 jobs in the month of April, taking the unemployment rate to 5.3 per cent from its current level of 5.2 per cent.

9.40am: The Aussie dollar has bravely held above parity overnight, but April jobs number due out this morning could push it below the mark. It was recently buying $US1.004, down from the $US1.007 late yesterday.

Arab Bank Australia treasury dealer David Scutt said while the dollar it clearly remains a ‘sell-on-rallies’ prospect given the news flow out of Europe, domestic data ‘‘will determine whether the mystical parity barrier will be breached for the first time since December last year.’’

"For this to occur, one suspects the domestic and Chinese data will need to miss on the downside," he said. "Should this occur, expect heavy selling pressure to overwhelm buying support ahead of parity".

9.38am: Also this morning, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation reported a 47 per cent lift in third-quarter net profit to $US937 million ($929.79 million) as improved earnings from cable TV networks and films more than offset lower earnings from newspapers. In after-market trade, News Corp shares were up 4.4 per cent at $US20.25, after closing at $US19.38 on the Nasdaq.

9.35am: National Australia Bank’s net profit for the six months to March 31 fell 15.5 per cent to $2.05 billion due to its underperforming operations in the United Kingdom. The bank flagged the weaker profit earlier in May as it announced a restructure of its UK banks to prevent further financial damage.

Chief executive Cameron Clyne said the bank continued to expand its number of mortgage customers.

‘‘We’ve seen substantial switching over the last three years,’’ he told reporters in Sydney. ‘‘We’ve had the lowest standard variable rate for 34 months so the switching to NAB has been very substantial.’’

Full story.

9.32am: For a comprehensive look at this morning's business news, check today's need2know and the business press digest. Here are the key markets links for today:

9.30am: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Markets Live blog for Thursday.

This blog is not intended as investment advice

Contributors: Thomas Hunter, Peter Litras, Peter Hannam, Jens Meyer

BusinessDay with agencies


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