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Markets Live: Rally takes a break

Date

Shares close lower, ending the longest winning streak in a decade as the market takes sluggish US growh figures as an opportunity to consolidate the recent gains.

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Looks like we forgot to close the blog... Anyway, have a good night everyone.

Here's our evening wrap.

Here's what you need to know:

Markets

  • The ASX200 fell 0.4%, snapping a 10-day winning streak
  • The dollar lost ground, buying $US1.0401, 94.5 yen, 76.65 euro cents
  • The Nikkei was up 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite gained 0.1%
  • Wall Street futures were slightly lower, FTSE100 futures were down 0.2%
  • WTI crude oil inches up to US98.01, Brent to $US115.09 a barrel
  • Spot gold climbs 0.2 per cent to $US1680.15 an ounce

Overnight

  • In the US: initial job claims are tipped to rise to 365k
  • Personal income in December: +3.4% expected
  • Chicago PMI: a reading of 50 is forecast
  • Altria Group (prev Philip Morris) reports earnings

Tomorrow

  • ABS Producer prices indexes for the December quarter
  • Reserve Bank of Australia index of commodity prices for month just ended.
  • The Australian Industry Group performance of manufacturing (PMI) index for January
  • RP Data-Rismark home prices (January)
  • ACCC holds a pre-determination hearing on Qantas-Emirates deal
  • Sundance Resources scheme meeting regarding the Hanlong takeover

 

Bad news for banana lovers: the floods in Queensland and northern NSW may cause a temporary shortage of bananas, but those fearing the sky high prices of 2011 can rest assured that this time it will be shortlived.

Woolworths chief executive Grant O’Brien says that while the full impact of the floods is yet to be determined there would be some short-term shortages.

‘‘We’re still waiting to hear from farmers what the full and long term effects will be but suffice to say there will be some shortages in the short term,’’ he told reporters after announcing Woolworths’ first half results.

Banana prices soared to about $14 a kilo after Cyclone Yasi destroyed most of far north Queensland’s crops in February 2011.

Gina Rinehart has held on to the top spot on Forbes Asia’s annual Australian rich list despite falling iron ore prices eating into her $US17 billion ($16.41 billion) mining fortune.

The latest who’s who of Australia’s wealthy types revealed that while $US1 billion had been knocked off Mrs Rinehart’s estimated fortune in 2012, she remained leagues ahead of her compatriot billionaires.

Casino operator James Packer recorded the biggest leap in fortune, with his net worth increasing by $US1.5 billion  to $US6 billion.

Other miners also saw their fortunes flag, with Glencore International’s chief Ivan Glasenberg’s net worth falling to $US6.7 billion from $US7.2 billion. However the South African born 56-year-old, who became an Australian citizen in the 1980s, retained the number two spot on the Forbes list.

Andrew ‘‘Twiggy’’ Forrest had $US500 million lopped off his net worth, taking it to $US4.8 billion and pushing him down the list two places to number five.

Overall, the number of Australian billionaires rose by three to 23 in 2012.

OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun says the US economic data set the Australian market off on the wrong foot.

Le Brun also says a fall in the shares of supermarket operator Woolworths weighed upon the consumer staples sector.

‘‘It‘s just a bit of a pause for reflection today,’’ he says. ‘‘It was just a bridge too far to make it 11 (market rises) out of 11 (trading sessions).’’

Despite the slightly lower market, momentum is still on the upside given that the market had bounced off 4906 points twice in the last couple of sessions, he reckons: ‘‘That’s just proved to be a little bit of a glass ceiling for the market to get on top of at this stage."

Investors were erring on the side of caution, says BBY institutional trader Anson Rosewall, with reporting season due to kick-off next week:

  • The market had been getting a little bit ahead of itself and with the uncertain macro factors that we saw last night in the US[GDP], it’s prompted a theme of consolidation.
  • [The day] has an overall theme of profit taking, with people not being sure of what exactly to do and that’s kind of evident in the mixed rotation we’re seeing across the different ASX200 sectors.

 

Economic spending levels are reaching similar proportions to those typically seen before major financial crises, prompting warnings the over-investment could lead to a significant economic correction.

And Australia, as a major commodities exporter, could be one of the most at risk, according to a new report from credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

S&P singled out China as the biggest risk factor. The world’s second largest economy has the highest investment-to-GDP ratio in the world, but a post-financial crisis stimulus binge has meant much of the spending had been done inefficiently.

China was the only country identified by S&P at ‘‘high risk’’ of an economic correction due to over-investment. But Australia was in a group of eight countries – including fellow commodities exporters Brazil, Canada and India – considered next most at risk.

Falls were led by the consumer staples sector, which shed 1.1 per cent, while energy stocks lost 0.8 per cent, financials slipped 0.2 per cent and materials fell 0.3 per cent.

The gold sub-index added 0.7 per cent and IT stocks rose 2.1 per cent.

The sharemarket has closed lower, snapping a 10-day winning streak. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 fell 17.9 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4878.8, while the broader All Ords lost 18.1 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4901.0.

Australians in financial difficulty are set to benefit from a revised code of practice for banks.

The Australian Bankers’ Association has  released an updated Code of Banking Practice, to come into effect on February 1 next year.

The code sets the standards for fairness, transparency, behaviour and accountability that customers can expect from their banks. Among the most significant changes to the code are new and stronger provisions for dealing with customers facing financial hardship, especially those who have difficulty meeting their repayments.

It also includes a commitment to provide information to concession card holders about no- or low-fee accounts, and new standards for assisting customers in remote indigenous communities.

Banks will also be obliged to send customers with a mortgage on their home or investment property an annual reminder about their insurance obligations.

With the S&P 4% from its record set in 2007 and the Dow only 2% from its all-time high traders have spent the day contemplating the catalyst to continue to push our upward trend, CMC Markets trader Ben Taylor says:

  • The lack of confidence in the US this week was over looked but a first estimate GDP figure was all too much for a market screaming overbought.
  • I believe risk will be off the table and the market's mood will be one of consolidation until next week after we have more clarity over the all-important non-farm payrolls and US unemployment read.

Is Lynas a buy? Despite the optimistic noises in today's quarterly update, Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Terry is on the back foot, retaining a 'hold' rating given the ongoing weakness in rare earth metals prices.

"While Lynas has now completed a number of de-risking steps (funding through $175million raising, importing of concentrate and successful commissioning of front end of the plant), we continue to remain cautious with price and timing of sales uncertainty," he told clients in a note this afternoon.

"Rare earth prices fell 19 per cent in the December quarter and have continued to ease to be at US$37.5/kg FOB China and US$23.4/kg for Chinese domestic.

"We continue to factor in US$30/kg as a basket price with the market remaining subdued. Our price target is $0.70/share.''

Judging by today's share reaction, investors weren't convinced Lynas's optimism, selling the stock down 3.5 per cent at 64 cents.

ASIC has suspended the licence of AAA Shares Pty Ltd, which went into liquidation on January 22, "following a surveillance of the business". 

A statement from ASIC noted that: "AAA Shares Pty Ltd has the right to seek a review in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of ASIC’s decision. ASIC has no further comment on this matter at this stage."

The sole director of AAA Shares is Errol Karl Michael Rabaud. The firm has offices in Adelaide and Sydney and offers equity trading, mortgage lending, retirement planning, fixed interest deposits, life insurance, and portfolio management. It also sells self-managed superannuation services through AAAFI Wealth Managers.  

Mr Rabaud is the former chief executive of Aurora Financial Services. 

AAA was started by the former Northern Territory Commissioner for Corporate Affairs, Ken Wybrow, in the 1980s, according to an article by South Australian magazine "In Business''. 

RBA manager Wayne Kevin Jackson, 52, is accused of attempting to dishonestly appropriate $47,550 belonging to the bank.

He is also charged with dealing with $300,000 suspected of being the proceeds of crime between May 2010 and May 2012.

Jackson is facing a committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

He worked in an area of the RBA that destroyed damaged currency.

Lee-Anne Jeal, who worked under Jackson, told the court she was looking in drawers in an office that was no longer being used when she found three tamper-proof packages of money that she had signed off as being destroyed.

The bags were supposed to have been destroyed 11 months earlier, she said.

The committal hearing is continuing.

After today's private credit figures, St George chief economist Hans Kunnen said the bank's view on the Reserve Bank meeting next Tuesday has not changed.

"The credit figures for December do not change our view that the RBA will be on hold in
February and most likely in March as well.  We do expect a rate cut to come in April on
the back of a softer labour market," Mr Kunnen said.

"The global backdrop has improved but is not without its risks. There is also the possibility
that inflation will tick upwards as the impact of the higher AUD begins to wear off."

"Beyond April 2013 we expect the RBA to remain on hold, keeping its powder dry should
the global economy take a turn for the worse."

With just over an hour to go in local trade, here's how the rest of the region is doing:

  • Japan(Nikkei): -0.6%
  • Shanghai: +0.2%
  • Taiwan: -0.2%
  • South Korea: -0.4%
  • Singapore: -0.2%
  • New Zealand: +0.1%

Orica chairman Peter Duncan has insisted there is no ‘‘unacceptable risk’’ to residents near the chemical and mining services company’s Port Botany plant despite recent independent tests finding traces of arsenic, lead and mercury in the soil outside the plant.

Still, Mr Duncan said Orica was listening to the community and the company supports a new independent review of emissions from the plant established by the NSW government.

‘‘I want to state very clearly to shareholders that we support the process established by the NSW government. I believe (Orica) can earn the confidence of the community and all our stakeholders,’’ Mr Duncan told shareholders at Orica’s annual meeting in Melbourne.

Fairfax Media recently reported independent soil testing by a mercury expert, Andrew Helps, that found dangerous levels of arsenic, lead and mercury on a nature strip between Orica's Port Botany plant and a large residential area.

Full story

There is no mistaking the findings of the Rollinson Review into energy company spending - and they do the government no favours, Michael West writes in a ripper of a yarn on ''gold plating" by the energy companies:

As it turns out, in the wake of all that kerfuffle last year about "gold plating" by energy companies – arising partly from the hue and cry by the farmer Bruce Robertson and the Manning Alliance – the government must have commissioned a report.

Authored by engineer Robert Rollinson, this review is remarkably forthright, and does the government no favours.

In the Rollinson Report, the words "gold plating" are not used once. There is no mistaking the findings, however.

Here is an experienced engineer and financier from Macquarie Bank who simply fails to understand why the NSW network providers want to spend the millions they do – or at least the millions they plan to spend.

The big question, which we will get to soon, concerns the message about electricity companies around the country. If this gold plating is rife in one part of NSW, how many billions are being wasted, indeed added, to our power bills, Australia-wide?

Here's the whole article

More on the Craig Thomson arrest.

Members of the NSW fraud squad today executed an arrest warrant on behalf of the Victorian Fraud and extortion squad.

Victorian detectives flew to Sydney this morning where they accompanied NSW police to Mr Thomson's Central Coast electoral office.

The Victorian police have spent almost 18 months investigating claims that Mr Thomson improperly used Health Services Union funds to spend on prostitutes, air travel, entertainment and cash withdrawals in excess of $100,000.

Full story.

Off-topic: We are yet to confirm it, but the ABC is reporting that Labor MP Craig Thomson has been arrested.

If he has been/is being taken into custody, it comes a day after Julia Gillard called an election 7 months before polling day to separate the signal (her policy agenda) from the noise (everything else). The noise might be about to take the upper hand.

Shaw Stockbroking senior dealer Jamie Spiteri said the market has probably reached the end of its good run for now.

‘‘It is probably just a sign that the market, to move to the next level, probably needs some degree of consolidation,’’ he said.

Losses, however, have been trimmed to 0.4 per cent.

As noted in that previous post, health is leading the market lower - down 1.32 per cent. Here's how the other sub indices on the ASX200 are faring:

  • Energy: -1.25%
  • Consumer staples: -1.12%
  • Utilities: -0.92%
  • Industrials: -0.78%
  • Materials: -0.68%
  • Info tech: +0.92%
  • Telecoms: +0.2%

Stretching the local sharemarket's current winning streak to 11 days is looking less and less likely. The ASX200 is now 0.5 per cent lower and the All Ords is down 0.6 per cent.

Health stocks are leading the ASX200 lower. Here are some of the worst-performed companies on that sub-index:

  • Resmed: -7.51%
  • Ramsay Health: -1.77%
  • Sirtex: -1.39%
  • CSL: -0.94%
  • Primary Health: -0.89%
  • Ansell: -0.76%

The Australian dollar continues to trade lower following news that the US economy shrunk in the last three months of 2012. A short time, the currency was trading at $US1.0425, down from $US1.0473 on Wednesday.

Westpac chief currency strategist Robert Rennie said markets were anticipating softer growth but did not expect such a weakening of the economy.

‘‘It was disappointing and that was a factor weighing on US equity markets, which obviously closed with modest losses, and I think it’s something that hit the Australian dollar,’’ he said.

Mr Rennie said the Australian dollar was also underperforming against the euro, which strengthened overnight.He said there were signs investors were seeing some ‘‘normality’’ breaking out in Europe.

‘‘Strangely enough that suggests, if anything, we should see the Australian dollar weaken vis-a-vis the euro,’’ he said.

Credit growth picked up in December, but is still a long way short of standing in the way of an official cut in interest rates.

The rise of 0.4 per cent, seasonally adjusted, was reported by the Reserve Bank today. The last time a bigger rise in total credit was recorded was in September 2011, but the latest gain followed two months of stagnation in lending.

But credit had risen only 0.1 per cent in October before stalling completely in November.

He may be the sole analyst willing to publicly slap a 'buy' on Commonwealth Bank, Brian Robins notes, but with the high valuations of the other top line banks, Bell Potter's banking analyst T.S. Lim reckons there could be value among the regionals.

These days the pickings are thin, given the extensive takeovers of the past decade, but after taking a pounding for its bad debt levels earlier, he reckons Bank of Queensland may be an option.

In a comparative study of Bendigo Bank and Bank of Queensland, Bell Potter reckons that Bendigo's margin edge over Bank of Queensland is eroding, with BoQ boasting higher loans per branch, while its bad debt loan run-off is now exceeded by a higher level of approvals.

He also reckons Bank of Queensland has higher bad debt buffers, that the flood impact is over-played and, more importantly, its return on equity will rebound this year and exceed Bank of Bendigo.

"We have upgraded Bendigo’s price target to $9.60 (previously $7.60) due to a lower discount rate and also de-emphasising the shorter term Price/Book valuation component as markets and ROE normalise," he told clients in a note this morning.

At the same time, Bell Potter has raised to $9 from $7.50 its target price for Bank of Queensland.

Today, both shares are trading lower: Bendigo is down 0.4 per cent at $9.28, while Bank of Queensland has lost 0.7 per cent to $8.19.

Bell Potter sees value in Bank of Queensland.

Bell Potter sees value in Bank of Queensland. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Australia's terms of trade are still falling, as export prices dropped 2.4 per cent over the quarter and 14.3 per cent over the year, while import prices rose 0.3 per cent in the quarter and are down just 0.9 per cent over the year.

The long-awaited debut of new BlackBerry smartphones has flopped on Wall Street.

The stock of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion - which is changing its name to ... BlackBerry - started to sink overnight soon after company CEO Thorsten Heins began to show off the redesigned smartphones, the Z10 and Q10.

The downturn didn’t reverse, even with the publication of mostly positive reviews of the new models. The company introduced the new devices along with a revamped operating system called BlackBerry 10, which emphasises touch-screen controls, a concept popularised by the iPhone and various devices running Google’s Android software.

RIM’s stock dropped $US1.88, or 12 per cent, to close at $US13.78. It dropped another 1.5 per cent in after-hours trading.

Here's the full article on the new phone, and the market reaction

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BlackBerry unveils new smartphone and name

Research in Motion CEO Thorstein Heins unveils a name change and the details of the BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

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Whitehaven Coal has warned its first half earnings could slump to less than $10 million as weak coal markets and the high Australian dollar take their toll.

Whitehaven’s warning came as it reported run-of-mine (ROM) coal production for the December quarter rose 96 per cent to 2.367 million tonnes (Mt) from the previous corresponding period.

Whitehaven shares were 20 cents, or 5.8 per cent, lower at $3.27 in late morning trade.

But despite the production rise, Whitehaven expects its first half earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) will be less than $10 million.

It expects a similar result for the second half if coal markets and the high Australian dollar remain unchanged.

Here's a chart showing the dramatic slide in the Pharmaxis share price today after its cystic fibrosis treatment received a negative review from advisers to regulators in the United States:

For those just tuning in, here's the full story on Woolworths. And here's a couple of other stories which have been getting a lot of reader interest since they were published:

Australia’s housing sector ended the year with some good news, reporting a third monthly rise in the number of new homes sold.

The HIA data shows new home sales rose 6.2 per cent in December, after rising 4.7 per cent in November, and 3.4 per cent in October. Sales were up 3.3 per cent over the December quarter, but remained 12.7 per cent lower than the same quarter of 2011.

HIA economist Geordan Murray suggested it indicated a possible rejuvenation of the housing market in the coming months but, he said, it would depend on any interest rate cuts and other support.

‘‘If we look at the under-performing market for 2012 - detached houses - the December improvement was broad-based as sales increased in all but one of the surveyed states,’’ he said.

‘‘However, the overall result for 2012 leaves plenty of room for improvement. It is hoped that further signs of an impending new home building recovery emerge in coming months. However, it remains the case that lower interest rates alone will not deliver a recovery of the magnitude required by Australia’s economy and population.’’

Here's something for the comments section:

Japanese shares may also be set to take a breather. Japan's Nikkei share average fell in early trade with investors booking profits after the index had risen  sharply in the previous session to end above 11,000 for the first time in 33 months.

The Nikkei eased 0.5 percent to 11,055.02, while the broader Topix index added 0.1 percent to 935.65.

Resources writer Peter Ker reports that Owen Hegarty's Tigers Realm Coal has hit its best share price since June on the back of a big resource upgrade at its coal project in far eastern Russia.

Shares in TIG were trading hands at 21 cents a short time ago, 2 cents higher than last nights close.

That makes a good two days of trading for the coal minnow, which saw its shares rise by almost 9 per cent on Wednesday ahead of todays results.

The share price improvement is a welcome boost for shareholders who have had little joy since the stock floated on the ASX at 50 cents per share in mid 2011.

The insurers are up again today as the Queensland flood disaster begins to moderate:

  • Suncorp: +0.84%
  • QBE: +1.49%
  • IAG: +0.5%

Shares in pharmaceutical company Pharmaxis have dived by more than 40 per cent after its cystic fibrosis treatment received a negative review from advisers to regulators in the United States.

An independent expert advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted negatively on all three areas of a review for Bronchitol, which was developed in Australia to improve pulmonary function in cystic fibrosis patients aged six and older.

‘‘The committee vote is disappointing. However, we are aware that these recommendations are not binding on the FDA and we will continue the process of working with the FDA to bring Bronchitol to patients in the US,’’ Pharmaxis chief executive Alan Robertson said on Thursday.

Shares in Pharmaxis were down as much as 54 cents, or 43.6 per cent, at 70.5 cents

Australia’s largest cattle producer Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) made an $8.4 million loss in 2012 due to the impact of a suspension of live exports.

But the company has forecast a turnaround in 2013, after holding back its herd to gain weight and then sell into an improving market.

AACo also said recent heavy rains had not fallen on its pastures and that would have a positive impact on cattle markets.

The company’s loss for the 12 months to December 31 was down from a net profit of $10.5 million in 2011. A $41 million write-down in the value of its properties in northern Australia was the main contributor to the profit fall.

The company's shares are 1.6 per cent lower, or 2 cents, to $1.23.

The miners are weighing on the market, which has tipped into the negative after a tentative start. Materials sub index is down 0.6 per cent, and the metals & miners are also 0.6 per cent lower:

  • BHP is 0.64% lower to $37.38
  • Rio is 0.94% lower to $66.49
  • Fortescue is 0.85% lower to $4.69

Woolworths shares are down but not heavily following today's sales update - they've lost 0.57 per cent to $31.47.

But that's in line, more or less, with the other big retailers:

  • Wesfarmers: -0.21%
  • Harvey Norman: -0.50%
  • DJs: -0.79%
  • Myer: -2.34%

More on Woolies. The grocery giant made $30.7 billion in first-half sales with the retailer saying it had placed a greater focus on its core business.

Chief executive Grant O’Brien said the result was pleasing but more work was needed.

‘‘This solid first-half result is a reflection of the sharpened focus on our core businesses and better meeting our customers needs,’’ he said in a statement.

The Woolies numbers have landed. According to Woolworths they show:

  • Sales from continuing operations up 4.8% (up 4.9% for second quarter)
  • Australian food and liquor sales + 4.7%, or $0.9 billion, with strong growth in customer numbers as well as increased market share

More soon.

On the current winning streak, shares have started the day on the right side of the ledger. But the early gain is slight.

Now for some of the early sliders on the ASX200:

  • Maverick Drilling: -7.04%
  • Resmed: -6.84%
  • Atlas Iron: -3.62%
  • Mirabela Nickel: -3.09%
  • Boart Longyear: -2.87%

The best-performed companies on the ASX200 in early trade include:

  • AWE: +2.82%
  • Perseus: +2.7%
  • Saracen Mining: +2.63%
  • Navitas: +2.51%
  • Seven Group Holdings: +2.06%
  • Gryphon Minerals: +2.02%
  • Suncorp: +1.69%

Early on, here's the sector-by-sector performance of the ASX200:

  • Consumer disc.: +0.6%
  • Telecoms: +0.55%
  • Financials: +0.37%
  • Info tech: +0.34%
  • Consumer staples: +0.19%
  • Utilities: -0.58%
  • Materials: -0.28%
  • Energy: -0.24%

Shares have opened edged higher in opening trade.

The All Ordinaries index is 7.3 points higher, or 0.1 per cent, to 4926.4, while the benchmark S&P/ASX200 is 8.4  points higher, or 0.2 per cent, to 4905.1.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was up 11  points at 4,871, with 7,985 contracts traded.

Stephen Koukoulas has consulted his calendar:

Virgin Australia’s $98 million plan to buy regional airline Skywest has been given the go-ahead by the competition watchdog. Here's a couple of lines from the ASX release:

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today announced that it would not oppose the proposed acquisition of Skywest Airlines (Australia) Pty Ltd by Virgin Australia Holdings Limited.

“The ACCC’s view is that this acquisition is unlikely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in any relevant market, primarily because the direct overlap between Virgin Australia and Skywest’s services is limited to a single route between Perth and Broome,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

More to come

Despite the softer tone leading into today’s session, the medium term outlook remain positive according to Evan Lucas at IG Markets. In a note this morning, he writes:

Our house view remains the same - the ASX is on its way to 4986 points in the short to medium term, which is the 50% retracement of the 2007 high and the GFC low of 2009. That mark is well and truly achievable with the current momentum, however local events such as the RBA meeting next Tuesday may see the timeline for this figure extend from short to medium.

But the outlook for today is a bit more clouded:

... [W]e are calling the ASX 200 down slightly to 4890 points. Overnight, financials were the hardest hit and after several strong runs, a pull-back in the financial sector is not unexpected.

We also highlight that today is the end of the month, and with equities having completely outperformed bonds, fund managers will be considering a reweight to end the month and a stronger pull-back than expected may be on the cards.

And finally in the US, Facebook reported a sharp drop in profits from a year ago, prompting a fresh decline in the share price of the world's biggest social network.

Facebook reported a profit of $64 million in the fourth quarter compared with $302 million in the same period 2011. Revenue grew 40 per cent to $1.585 billion. The results triggered a five per cent slide in shares in after-hours trade.

Facebook shares fell as much as 11 per cent in extended trading. The shares had risen 1.5 per cent to $31.24 by the close in New York. The stock has fallen 18 per cent since the initial public offering price in May.

Facebook said the decline in net income came as the company ramped up investments in new mobile and ad services that boosted costs. Facebook spent more to roll out new ad services, including mobile, in the past year as it grapples with rising competition for marketing dollars from larger rivals.

Also in the US, the Federal Reserve has left its ultra-loose monetary policy unchanged, saying the US economy had "paused" in recent months largely due to transitory issues.

Hoping to push down long-term interest rates to boost the economy, the Fed kept its record-low key interest rate at between zero and 0.25 per cent, as expected.

"Growth in economic activity paused in recent months, in large part because of weather-related disruptions and other transitory factors," the Federal Open Market Committee, wrapping up a two-day meeting, said in a statement.

Local shares are pointed lower on downbeat news from the US.

It started with data which showed the US economy contracted at a 0.1 per cent rate in the fourth quarter last year, as Washington slashed defense spending and businesses trimmed inventories ahead of the feared fiscal cliff, Commerce Department data showed Wednesday.

Governments at all levels tightened the reins in the October-December period, forcing the slowdown. But the effort was unexpectedly sharp at the federal level, with a 22 per cent reduction in defense outlays ahead of the programmed "sequester" cuts originally set to hit from January 1.

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 5 point lower at 4855
  • The $A is lower at $US1.0412
  • In New York, the S&P500 lost 0.39% at 1504.15
  • In London, the FTSE100 fell 0.25% to 6323.11
  • China iron ore added $US1 to $US149.40 a metric tonne
  • Gold fell $US3.90 to $US1675.05 an ounce
  • WTI crude oil rose 16 cents to $US97.73 a barrel
  • Reuters/Jefferies CRB index was up 0.94% at 304.69

Hi everyone. Welcome to the Markets Live blog for Thursday.

Contributors: Thomas Hunter, Jens Meyer, Richard Hughes, Max Mason

This blog is not intended as investment advice

BusinessDay with agencies

Quotes Search

Sort comments by:
  • Hi Snidery, 4880 please.

    Commenter
    Another Grump
    Location
    Melb
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 2:21PM
  • Snides, COB 7890 if you don't mind. Cheers

    Commenter
    Catch 22
    Location
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 2:00PM
    • seems a touch optimistic

      Commenter
      A Bodhi Nuisance
      Location
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 2:08PM
    • I'll ignore that one, Major - got your sneaky prediction down the bottom of the comments...

      But..... if you rilly think the market is gonna jump 3000 points in 24 hours, what is your inside source?

      :-)

      Commenter
      Snidery Mark
      Location
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 2:21PM
  • Residex figures are out and show that over the year, house values nationally lifted by 0.49%, whereas unit values fell by -0.40% .

    In other words -1.8% and -2.6% falls in real terms respectively.

    Oh dear.

    Commenter
    Allan
    Location
    Prahran
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 1:33PM
    • Allan,
      -0.5% is not the -20% that you were prophesising before

      Commenter
      Econorat
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 2:06PM
  • We wont see the crash coming, markets all over the world are being inflated by hot air and underlying all economies are consistently weaker than reported.
    All that is being avoided is to make sure panic in the markets doesnt happen.

    Commenter
    Damian Jones
    Location
    NSW
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 1:33PM
  • re the Craig Thomson debacle... about time the police got their act together...

    Looks like her partner's un pc comments are the least of Gillard's woes right now...

    Commenter
    A Bodhi Nuisance
    Location
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 1:28PM
  • This latest stunt by Gillard give 7.5 months notice of the election date is not going to win her any favours. Waleed Aly was questioning Christopher Pyne on the radio last night at seemd perpexled because early notice of the election should create more certianty not less.

    That completely ignore human behaviour. Have you ever noticed that when a plane lands everyone stands up and jams into the isle? Human behaviour is not rational.

    News just in: "Federal MP Craig Thomson has been arrested at his electoral office.

    Members of the NSW fraud squad today executed an arrest warrant on behalf of the Victorian Fraud and extortion squad."

    www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/craig-thomson-arrested-by-fraud-squad-20130131-2dmnn.html#ixzz2JW2oeGPk

    The stink from union rorts and featherbedding just went up a notch. Now that will create more uncertainty and that's never good for the markets.

    Commenter
    Allan
    Location
    Prahran
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 1:27PM
    • It's been such a circus since Turnbull and Rudd were knifed by their respective parties, I don't think anybody gives a toss.
      Do they?

      Commenter
      Catch 22
      Location
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 2:07PM
  • worth a v'quick laugh... https://twitter.com/JulesGlasses

    Commenter
    A Bodhi Nuisance
    Location
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 1:20PM
  • Low inflation and lower rates can only be a good thing for the banks.
    Their profits will skyrocket to new highs,
    Can buy today at mates rates.

    Commenter
    Asmarty1
    Location
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 1:18PM
  • "One of Australia's leading online clothing retailers, which boasts of having local staff, has been offshoring its customer service centre to India.

    The Iconic, a fast-growing online company, has been outsourcing parts of its email customer service to Hyderabad since December, with redundancy announcements expected on Thursday, internal emails obtained by Fairfax Media show."

    http://www.theage.com.au/business/retail/another-iconic-australian-shifts-offshore-20130131-2dm34.html

    Retail is not needed in Australia except for food. It can easily and more cheaply be replaced by mail order from overseas where costs are lower.

    Commenter
    Allan
    Location
    Prahran
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 1:11PM
  • "A union-funded report by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research released in October found more than 20,000 jobs being moved offshore each year and it predicted "between 700,000 and 1 million" more jobs would go over the next two to three decades."

    www.theage.com.au/business/retail/another-iconic-australian-shifts-offshore-20130131-2dm34.html#ixzz2JVvN3E6n

    Property permabulls think that because property prices have flatlined and are only going down in real terms we have escaped a property crash. You aint seen nothing yet.

    Commenter
    Allan
    Location
    Prahran
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 12:54PM
  • correction in banks is coming?

    Commenter
    wishmeluck
    Location
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 12:39PM
    • typically a major correction in banks means a shift from yield stocks to value based picks on the back of economic improvement...

      However outside of mining development and revenue the economy seems to be contracting (based on govt comments about the declining corporate tax take)...

      In other words a major correction now particularly for the popular CBA 2 weeks before a dividend ex date seems unlikely... after that who knows...

      Commenter
      A Bodhi Nuisance
      Location
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 1:55PM
  • I wonder if Jonaze sold at 10.10am again today?

    Commenter
    geoff
    Location
    burraneer
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 12:28PM
    • Of course I did. !0 wins in a row But taking into account the figures we just lost 5 of those wins in a couple of hours. What a joke. Dow 200 points off record high NZ 200 points off FTSE 300 Points off and the ASX only 1983 points off . What a joke.

      Commenter
      Jonaze
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 1:22PM
  • Oh dear Sundance is in suspension. Who would have thought that building a 500KM railway across half of Africa would be so contentious. I mean it's not like there is iron ore closer to China like say in Mongolia is it?

    "Beijing’s most powerful economic planning agency – the National Development and Reform Commission – is considering more policy support for Chinese companies struggling to get overseas projects off the ground."

    http://www.theage.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/china-still-committed-to-was-iron-ore-20121210-2b5d7.html

    If the projects aren't economically viable government policy won't make any difference. Tha fact is that China cannot afford to urbanise its entire population. And the environment can't afford it either.

    Commenter
    Allan
    Location
    Prahran
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 12:20PM
  • What stuck out in Woolies sales result to me, was that online sales rose 40%.

    There was no mention of online sales in Wesfarmers Coles sales report.

    Commenter
    Space Hippy
    Location
    70s
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 12:19PM
  • ...usually have a lot of time for the kouk's comments however it's difficult to tell if his latest post is intended as tongue in cheek / sarcastic humour...

    Any rise in housing is off a low base and speculation that it will replace resources related construction / income as a driver of national growth is so... well I don't even have the words to describe it.

    I guess we all misspeak from time to time...

    Commenter
    A Bodhi Nuisance
    Location
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 12:05PM
    • @Bohdi - just wait for rates to head back up. The US 10-year looks shaky as does the USD, flaunting with it's 79.00 resistance level. If one or the other breaks it is game on!

      In my opinion there will be no fanciful housing recovery, interest rates are going to head higher sooner than later (think of the 80s) and be high for a lot longer than most people will think. There's only so much currency one can print to buy up worthless certificates of confiscation (bonds).....

      Commenter
      Bye Bye Fiat Money
      Location
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 1:06PM
  • @Opinion Only - on yesterday's comment:.2013 unemployment will rise to 5.9% and property values will fall 7%. The movements are definitely heading in those directions. But the magnitude of change depends on those factors I talk about. So, how long is a piece of string? Remember that the true unemployment rate is hidden and it's already more like 10% because a person is classified as "employed"if they've done one hour of work in the last month. Source: http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2012/4829/

    Commenter
    Gordon Gekko
    Location
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 11:31AM
    • Craig Tompson, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott (I could go on for hours) - these people are considered employed - do they work more than an hour a day? Month? Etc.?

      Commenter
      Snidery Mark
      Location
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 2:23PM
  • "If you measure the ASX200 in US dollar terms it's not too far off its pre-GFC highs,"

    A quote from an SMH article today. One for JONAZE.

    Commenter
    Space Hippy
    Location
    70s
    Date and time
    January 31, 2013, 9:51AM
    • Pollyannas around the world have pushed equities 30% above the level supported by earnings. Now the US has posted "negative growth" for the December quarter global equities are ripe for another crash.

      Commenter
      Allan
      Location
      Prahran
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 11:25AM
    • 10.10am and the market drops.

      11.00am and the market drops.

      Hey, JONAZE is right ... sorta

      Commenter
      Space Hippy
      Location
      70s
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 11:46AM
    • Well of course, given the Aussie dollar's safe haven from sovereign risk status. With everybody else busily debasing their currencies for export advantage, the Aussie is uber strong, negatively affecting the profitability of our exporters in Aussie dollar terms and of course our stockmarket indexes, which are derived from Aussie dollar stock valuations; not debased US, Yen, Euro or Pounded values.

      Snides, will you be so kind as to raise the artillery to 4890. Thankyou.

      Commenter
      Catch 22
      Location
      7.5 mths of Gibberish! How will we cope?
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 11:55AM
    • And when the US increase interest rates and the US dollar increases and our dollar falls to 90c again how's it looking then Mr Space Hippy

      Commenter
      Jonaze
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 1:25PM
    • OK, Major. 4890. Looks like it'll be down another 100 before COB tomorrow at this rate. Julia's specs may have something to do with it, perchance? Yikes! What will that do to the house prices?

      Commenter
      Snidery Mark
      Location
      Date and time
      January 31, 2013, 1:57PM
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