Markets Live: Shares finish flat

That's all from us here at Markets Live, have a great weekend, we'll see you next week.

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

What you need2know this Friday evening:

Markets

  • ASX200 finish slightly lower at 5054.6
  • Dollar sitting at $US1.0367
  • Nikkei fell 1.6%, Hang Seng slipped 0.1% Kospi flat
  • Spot gold fetching $US1633.26, while WTI was at $US97.34
  • Wall Street futures down 0.2%, FTSE100 up 0.2%

News

Here's how blue chip stocks went today:

  • BHP: -0.8%
  • Rio: -2.7%
  • ANZ: -1%
  • CBA: +0.2%
  • NAB: +0.5%
  • Westpac: +1.4%
  • Fortescue: -3%
  • Woolworths: +0.1%
  • Wesfarmers: +1.7%
  • Telstra: -0.2%

Among the sectors, materials slumped 1.1 per cent and health lost 0.4 per cent. Financials rose 0.2 per cent and consumer staples added 0.9 per cent.

shares down

The market has closed marginally lower, as gains in banks fought off losses in the mining sector. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 fell 3 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5033.9, while the broader All Ords slipped 2.6 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5054.6.

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gold

Australian-based miner Perseus is looking forward to improved earnings and production results after its first half profit more than doubled to $32.5 million.

Perseus, which produces gold at its Edikan gold mine in Ghana, on Friday reported net profit of $32.5 million in the six months to December 31, 2012 up from $13.7 million in the previous half.

Managing Director Jeff Quartermaine said the company had experienced a challenging six-month period at its Edikan Gold Mine as it dealt with unexpected operational issues as well as foreign exchange loss.

However, historically strong gold prices helped boost the company’s earnings.

Mugshot for author page

Bombshell revelations last week over alleged banned drug use and criminal links to Australia’s major sporting codes has reignited debate over another controversial performance booster for Australia’s codes: sports betting, writes BusinessDay's Colin Kruger.

While legal - and not implicated in the Australian Crime Commission’s allegations - the rapid growth of the local sports betting industry, and the tight grip it now has on Australia’s premier professional codes, has triggered another inquiry by the joint select committee on gambling reform.

Sports betting has exploded in recent years as punters slowly migrate from traditional wagering on thoroughbred horses to betting on sports they traditionally watched purely for enjoyment.

Saturation advertising and promotion of sports betting services - both on-ground and through sport broadcasters - has certainly helped this growth as well as filling the coffers of our major sporting codes, as BusinessDay will detail tomorrow.

The big question though is whether the heavy promotion of these "adult" services is appropriate given the audience of impressionable children tunring up to watch their favourite teams every week.

Click here for the full story.

Ever get annoyed by the endless stream of add-ons and surcharges you're hit with when purchasing a plane ticket? Former Qantas economist Tony Webber examines the fees and the problems they create.

Click here for the full story.

eco news

Sydney faces a lack of affordable housing into the next decade, KPMG partner Bernard Salt says.

Mr Salt says a lack of adequate planning in NSW over the past decade coupled with Sydney’s status as Australia’s ‘‘portal to the global economy’’, means the city will lag behind Melbourne in the terms of affordable housing.

‘‘I think the affordability issue is very much a Sydney issue at the moment,’’ Mr Salt told delegates at The Australian Mortgage Conference in Sydney on Friday.

‘‘I think Sydney is going to have affordability issues for a generation, for the rest of this decade and into the next.’’

Mr Salt said Melbourne made the decision in the previous decade to release more land to build houses and invested in infrastructure such as rail and roads.

At the same time, those in power in Sydney decided against rezoning land in the outer suburbs for residential purposes.

As a result, the Victorian capital was experiencing stronger population growth than its NSW counterpart.

Been out of the loop? Catch up on the week that was with Michael Pascoe:

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We mentioned the 'currency wars' earlier on in the blog today, BusinessDay's Glenda Kwek has a more in depth look - definitely worth a read.

Click here for the full story.

Just before we move into the final hour of trade, here's the best and worst performers on the ASX200 so far today:

eco news

Co-investment or government assistance in various forms is a fact of life for the global car industry, Holden boss Mike Devereux says.

Mr Devereux has defended the allocation of government funds to the company as it starts to build the new VF Commodore range at its Elizabeth assembly plant for sale both in Australia and overseas.

The company last year secured $275 million in assistance from the federal, South Australian and Victorian governments to ensure the future of its local operations until at least 2022.

That includes a commitment from Holden to develop and build two new vehicles which Mr Devereux said would inject $4 billion into the Australian economy.

ClearView has reported a net loss of $561,000 million for the six months to December 31, down from a $12.2 million profit in the previous corresponding period.

It said the loss was mainly due to costs related to CCP Bidco’s takeover of the company.

In October private equity firm CCP Bidco successfully bid 59 cents a share for ClearView.

asian markets

Here's a quick look at markets around the region, and a reminder that Chinese markets are still closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

  • Nikkei(Japan): -0.9%
  • Taiwan: +0.3%
  • South Korea: flat
  • Singapore: -0.3%
  • New Zealand: -0.9%
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US news

The US Justice Department has closed an investigation of a proposed merger between Penguin and Random House and will take no action to stop the deal that would create the world’s largest publisher of consumer books.

Media company Pearson seeks to merge its Penguin Books division with Random House, which is owned by German media company Bertelsmann. The proposed publishing house would have around a quarter of the consumer book market.

Penguin and Random are two of the so-called ‘‘big six’’ publishers in the United States.

The merger is widely seen as an effort to counteract the power of Amazon.com, which has worried publishers by aggressively cutting prices on e-books.

For Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Terry, the ongoing surge in the share price of mineral sands miner Iluka Resources should be used by any holders of the stock to sell.

Amid falling product prices and weak underlying demand, Iluka's share price has surged from around $7 last November to reach $10.80 today, up another 2.8 per cent. The rally appears to be driven by investors punting that the world is now a better place than three months ago, with global industrial production to pick up, which will feed through to higher commodity prices. But with mineral sands, perhaps the optimism has run ahead of reality.

In a note to clients today, Deutsche Bank's Terry notes that in its full year results Thursday, Rio Tinto commented that inventory remains elevated in both the titanium dioxide and zircon markets. While Rio expects conditions to improve during the year it has taken steps to reduce production, with speculation Iluka may move as well.

"Rio’s announcement indicates that both the zircon and titanium dioxide markets were not likely to come back into balance without a response from major producers. This follows Iluka’s commitment to idle Eneabba from the end of March," he told clients.

"We would not rule out further production responses which could come as early as next week with Iluka’s full year result. Iluka has recently committed to going back into high grade mining zones at the zircon rich Jacinth-Ambrosia deposit which we believe could lead to a build-up of a concentrate piles over the coming months allowing the operation to be shut in at some point in the future.

"Closure would clearly help the bottom line with inventory draw down but would also indicate the challenges facing the industry."

Inventory levels across the industry remain high, which will make any quick turnaround difficult, Terry told clients.

APN News & Media said it may sell new stock to raise cash as its largest shareholder seeks the removal of chief executive Brett Chenoweth.

The publisher asked for its shares to be halted as Macquarie Group provides advice on a potential capital raising, APN said in a statement. The company may need to raise about $100 million, said Samantha Carleton, an analyst at Credit Suisse.

Independent News & Media, which owns 29 per cent of APN, has lost confidence in Chenoweth’s ability to reposition the publisher “for the more challenged media landscape” and is seeking a special meeting of shareholders, the Dublin-based company said in an e-mailed statement. Directors not nominated by Independent News “unanimously support” the chief executive and his strategy, APN said today.

Shares were down 1.6 per cent to 30 cents before being placed in a trading halt.

dollar

Currency markets don’t seem to be doing very much at the moment ahead of the G20 summit starting later today in Moscow, Easy Forex currency dealer Anthony Botros says:

  • You can assume going into the G20 summit that moves would be contained at the moment.
  • The Bank of Japan’s reluctance to add stimulus (after its meeting on Thursday) failed to give the Aussie dollar the kick up the backside to break that 103.70 level.
  • What we’ve been saying to clients is to keep an eye on the technical levels. 103.70 does seems quite sound at the moment. There have been some rumours that there are some hedge funds that are looking to sell at 104.00 US cents or a little above.

The dollar is currently buying $US1.0356, 96.1 yen and 77.55 euro cents.

shares down

Rio Tinto is still the biggest drag on the ASX200, falling 2.3 per cent.

‘‘I think Rio’s results have taken the wind out of the sails of the market, particularly in the resources space,’’ BBY institutional dealer Anson Rosewall says.

‘‘I think the run we’ve seen of late has been quite strong and there’s been a lot of conviction and money coming back into the market.

‘‘But, at the end of day, you need to see some consolidation before you can see the kind of gains that we have seen of late continue.’’

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