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Markets Live: Shares on a high

Australian shares power on - with the big miners leading the way - on the back of Chinese GDP which hit expectations, and strong leads early on from Europe and solid housing data from the US.

5.27pm: That's all for today. Thanks everyone for reading this blog and posting your comments.

Here's our evening wrap.

5.15pm: Atlas Iron is talking to customers who have expressed interest in buying minority stakes in its mines, the company's chief says, after the iron ore miner took on a major loan for the first time.


"We consider that the option of selling minority joint venture interests actually is a reasonable way to continue to fund the long-term growth of the company or to be part of the funding solution," managing director Ken Brinsden told reporters on a conference call.

5.05pm: European stock index futures are signalling a slightly higher open as a slew of macroeconomic releases pointed to a stabilisation in the Chinese economy, a day after US numbers showed an improvement in the housing sector.

Futures for Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX and France's CAC are all up 0.2 per cent.

4.38pm: Rio Tinto posted the largest gain among blue chips, climbing 4.8 per cent. Fellow miner BHP Billiton rose 3.3 per cent.

Woodside jumped 2.4 per cent on a strong production report.

Retailer Woolworths slipped 7 cents despite decent sales numbers for the September quarter.

Struggling broadcaster Ten Network ended nearly 2 per cent lower after initially jumping. The network is looking to shed 100 jobs through voluntary redundancy after slumping to a full year loss in fiscal 2012.

4.25pm: Market confidence seems to have turned a corner today, says CMC Markets sales trader Ben Taylor said in a research note.

'‘The wave of optimism has ensured all sectors, bar the defensive healthcare sector, have enjoyed a rise today with the miners leading the charge.’’

4.17pm: Among the major sectors, materials soared 2.7 per cent, while energy stocks gained 0.8 per cent and financials inched up 0.2 per cent.

Defensive sectors utilties and telcos were some of the biggest losers, shedding 0.8 and 0.5 per cent respectively.

4.14pm: The sharemarket has closed at its highest level since July 2011. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 rose 31.2 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4559.4, while the broader All Ords gained 30 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4580.9.

4.06pm: The trashing of Hills Industries' share price didn't let up throughout the day, with buyers sidelined, leaving the shares in freefall, and looking like they will finish near the day's lows.

It warned of a collapse in earnings in the first quarter, which has resulted in the shares hitting long term lows.

In closing trading, it was down 32 per cent, dropping a staggering 36.5cents to the day's low of 78.5 cents, with more than 4.66 million shares done.

3.56pm: Some more on Atlas Iron, which put its shares in a trading halt earlier as it seeks to raise money:

Atlas has been viewed by investors as being in a relatively strong position with no debt, relative to Fortescue, which last month slammed the brakes on its expansion plans, slashed jobs and scrambled to refinance debt following a sharp and prolonged slide in iron ore prices.

Atlas says it is going to announce a "financing transaction" and is due to publish its September quarter production report.

Iron ore prices slid to a three-year low of $US87 a tonne last month but have since rebounded to $US115. They remain well below a high of $US149 earlier this year, with iron ore producers warning they expect prices to remain volatile in the near term.

Funding is key for Atlas to achieve its target of doubling capacity to 12 million tonnes a year by December 2013. The company has ambitious plans to expand output to 46 million tonnes a year by 2017.

Atlas transports its ore to port by truck, but will eventually need a rail line, which it is studying in partnership with Australia's top coal-freight operator, QR National and Brockman Resources.

3.44pm: Arrow Energy remains confident its $20 billion-plus project to convert coal seam gas from its Bowen and Surat Basin gas fields to LNG for export will be approved by owners Shell and Petrochina despite cost pressures and competitive markets.

Arrow chief executive Andrew Faulkner told reporters visiting the Moranbah Gas Project, in the northern Bowen Basin, that 50:50 shareholders Shell and Petrochina had committed as much as $8 billion on a two-train LNG development proposal scheduled for a final investment decision by late 2013.

That figure included roughly $5 billion spent acquiring Arrow and Bow Energy and (assuming next year’s budget is approved) another $3 billion to be spent on exploration including roughly 200 wells to be drilled in 2013.

3.36pm: Some news for Sydneysiders: the face of Circular Quay is set for a $300 million revamp after the NSW Government gave the green light for the demolition of the former Coca-Cola headquarters and the development of upmarket apartments.

It is the final phase of the East Circular Quay redevelopment which was termed the ‘‘toaster’’ when the original apartments and hotel were constructed on the site of an old car park.

AMP Capital and Mirvac have been negotiating with the NSW Government planning department and the City of Sydney since before Coca-Cola Amatil re-located to St Leonards two years ago.

Under the new scheme the ugly office block at 71-79 Macquarie Street is to be demolished for a ‘‘world class’’ residential tower and luxury serviced apartments.

3.31pm: Recap of the Chinese data dump: the world's second biggest economy grew 7.4 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, its slowest pace in three years but in line with expectations.

However, industrial output, retail sales and urban investment were all ahead of forecasts, offering hope the worst of the slowdown may be over.

"The latest Chinese economic data readings were either in line or slightly above expectations. The good news is that there are no signs of the economy stalling. And for Australia and the world economy generally, that is a very positive development," says Craig James, chief economist at CommSec.

3.27pm: The Australian dollar is nudging $US1.04, its highest since the beginning of the month before the RBA cut the cash rate, underpinned by solid risk appetite as markets saw some encouraging signs in a batch of Chinese economic reports.

The dollar is up 0.2 per cent to a 2-1/2 week high of $US1.0397, extending Wednesday's rally of more than 1 per cent. It has surged over a full cent in just the past two sessions, leaving this month's trough of $US1.0145 but a distant memory.

3.13pm: Atlas Iron have gone into a trading halt ahead of an announcement about a funding transaction.

Atlas has major expansion proposals in front of it and the funding could be linked to one of those.

The company will release its quarterly results and front the media later today.

3.08pm: As Sydneysiders eagerly *cough* await a performance by South Korean pop artists Psy, Bloomberg have put together an interesting graph correlating the success of Gangnam Style with that of the singer's father's company DI Corp.

2.55pm: As we approach the final hour of trade, here's what markets around the region have been doing:

  • Nikkei(Japan): +1.9%
  • Shanghai: +1%
  • Taiwan: -0.1%
  • South Korea: +0.2%
  • Singapore: +0.5%
  • New Zealand: +0.9%

2.40pm: Moody's Investors Service has today assigned a definitive Ba1 rating to US$5 billion Senior Secured Syndicated Facility (`Term Loans') entered into by Fortescue Metals and FMG America Finance. The outlook is negative.

2.31pm: Investors in mining services groups may be interested in the first quarter performance of Imdex, which has disclosed broadly steady revenues, but squeezed margins, as the decline in exploration spending hit its performance, Brian Robins reports.

Even so, shares in the company surged more than 8 per cent to trade at $1.53.7 cents, up 12.2 cents, since they have been sold off steadily in recent weeks on pessimism over its near term prospects.

Revenue rose 2 per cent to $73.7 million, with an 11 per cent decline in mining sector revenues offset by gains across its oil and gas arm.

‘‘More difficult trading conditions have been evident in [the first quarter] where we have seen some weakness from the junior [explorers],’’ shareholders were told at today’s annual meeting.

‘‘However, continued spending by the major and intermediate miners, which account for the majority of our revenues, has underpinned our results for the quarter. ‘‘There is little doubt that we are experiencing a cyclical slowdown in the minerals business which has reduced our margins.’’

Earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) fell to $16.6 million from $21.1 million a year earlier.

It pointed to the firm gold price, which has helped some gold juniors raise funds recently, which may flow trhough to demand for its services. 

2.16pm:  Qantas will spend $30 million upgrading its Brisbane heavy maintenance facility. The move suggests Brisbane remains the warm favourite to emerge as Qantas’ sole heavy maintenance base, as the airline moves to consolidate its existing three facilities into one site.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has told guests at an Australian Institute of Company Directors lunch in Brisbane that modern aircraft required less work.

‘‘With that in mind, we’ve already started on a process to consolidate our heavy maintenance facilities from three sites, to now two sites, to ultimately one site in Australia,’’ Mr Joyce said.

‘‘We have no set time frame, but it’s something that needs to happen."

2.08pm:  Job cuts, project deferrals and salary reductions have hit the struggling iron ore miners in the mid-west region of WA, Peter Ker reports.

The bad news was rolled out this morning by both Mt Gibson Iron and Sinosteel MidWest Corporation, as the impact of the recent iron ore slump continues to play out.

Mt Gibson has been reviewing its operations for several months, and confirmed this morning that 270 jobs would be lost as it seeks to remove up to $150 million worth of spending from its budget for the year to June 30, 2012.

The company will also cut back on mining operations, but believes it can maintain its export target by selling down its stockpiles of iron ore.

More on this story coming soon.

2pm: South Australia has completed a deal to sell off future timber harvests for $670 million. Treasurer Jack Snelling says the deal with a consortium led by The Campbell Group would put the state’s forests in safe hands.

A number of conditions have been imposed on the sale of about 100 years of timber growth in the state’s southeast.

The treasurer says the consortium’s bid is above the government’s reserve price, and the funds would be invested across the state in key areas such as roads, hospitals, schools and government infrastructure.

1.53pm: Chinese appliance company Haier has increased its offer for Fisher and Paykel shares from $1.20 a share to $1.28.

Haier says ACC, AMP and Harbour Asset management have agreed to accept the offer, and that Fisher and Paykel Appliances’ independent directors now recommend shareholders accept the revised offer.

Fisher and Paykel Appliances shares had been halted pending the announcement after an independent evaluation deemed the takeover offer from Haier, which owns 20 per cent of Fisher and Paykel Appliances, was too low.

‘‘While we differ with the valuation provided by the independent adviser, we are pleased to indicate our intention to provide an increased offer price to within the valuation range,’’ Haier New Zealand chairman Liang Haishan says.

‘‘We feel this allows our offer to move forward on a positive basis.’’

Shares of the Auckland-based manufacturer of fridges, stoves and dishwashers last traded at $1.235, above Haier’s $1.20-a-share offer for the rest of the company.

1.44pm: Miner and steel maker Arrium has made its first sale of iron ore from its Southern Iron operation in South Australia.

Arrium says the new mine at Peculiar Knob was operating and the first sale was made via rail to Darwin. The company is working to expand its Whyalla Port facility to enable a significant increase in iron ore sales, and shipments are expected to begin later this year.

‘‘The early availability of ore has enabled us to make sales ahead of plan via Darwin,’’ Arrium chief executive Geoff Plummer says.

Arrium shares are up three cents, or 3.9 per cent, at 79.5 cents.

1.40pm: Unions have slammed Productivity Commission calls for the privatisation of state-owned electricity networks, saying it would give any new owner a ‘‘licence to gouge consumers’’.

A draft report by the commission says regulation and ownership arrangements for networks need overhauling.

It has found that privatising all state-owned electricity networks and new pricing would improve efficiency and help reduce costs for consumers. But Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said the public was already aware a sell-off would not deliver lower prices.

‘‘In the real world, sell-offs achieve very little,’’ he says. ‘‘Privatisation will simply provide a new monopoly owner with a licence to gouge consumers."

1.30pm: The market's now close to a session high - the ASX200 is up 48.1 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 4576.3.

1.13pm: More Chinese economic data is out. China's power output in September rose 1.5 per cent to 390.7 billion kilowatt-hours from a year earlier. The rise in September compared with a 2.7 per cent year-on-year expansion in August.

1.11pm: There's been a bit of a wobble with the Australian dollar. It dropped to $US1.0368 in the seconds before the Chineses data was released but then jumped to a new high for the day of $US1.0391 straight after the figures came out.

Shares, which had been climbing in the lead-up to the data coming out, eased back in the moments after.

1.04pm: China's GDP wasn't the only data released. Industrial production growth for the year was also ahead of expectations, coming in at 9.2% compared with an expectation of 9.0%.

And retail sales were also stronger, growing at 14.2% year-on-year, compared with expectaitions of 13.2%.

1.00pm: BREAKING China's GDP figure is 7.4% for the year - in line with expectations. The September quarter however was a bit stronger than expected, coming in at 2.2%, up from the 2% expected by economists.

12.49pm: More on the markets where, despite a small pre-lunch slide, the All Ordinaries index is 42.2 points higher, or 0.9 per cent, to 4593.1, while the benchmark S&P/ASX200 is 43.6 points higher, or 1.0 per cent, to 4571.8.

Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, seems pleased with how things have gone so far today, but is keeping an eye out for the Chinese GDP data - due out at 1pm. This is what he had to say:

We are in a break-out situation here, having cracked through the level that formed the ceiling for the market for more than 12 months. If we do see something [from the Chinese GDP data to] suggest the growth is continuing to contract, we could see very negative reaction. But I suspect if it is in line with other data we’ve been seen recently, that is going to confirm a more stable growth environment in China.  

12.46pm: Back to Canberra, where Treasury’s head of macro-economics, David Gruen, has told a Senate hearing that Australia was ‘‘unusual’’ in that gross domestic product growth was well above the level before the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

Dr Gruen said the US had only recently achieved its pre-GFC level, while other countries like the UK were four per cent below.

‘‘Australia is almost alone in having seen growth in GDP per capita since before the financial crisis,’’ Dr Gruen said.

12.38pm: More on the job cuts at Ten and chief executive James Warburton, who said during Ten’s full year results presentation today that the decision to offer voluntary redundancy came out of the company’s strategic review, which commenced earlier in 2012. This is what he had to say:

Today we have started to communicate the outcome of that review to our staff and one of those key communications is a change program that we are driving through our news and operations division Discussions around the details of that plan are starting today with our staff, but it will involve a voluntary redundancy program. In addition, core elements include new ways to gather and present news, taking advantage of rapidly changing technology in all parts of the news process.

12.36pm: Hills Industries sharemarket worth has fallen by a quarter today, following a profit warning which indicated there is little prospect of a quick turnaround in its prospects.

Its shares were dumped on the back of its profit warning at the start of trading this morning, with the shares down a heavy 24 per cent at 87.5c, the day’s low, in very active trading for the stock, with more than 2 million shares already changing hands.

It warned of a 45 per cent profit slide in the September quarter, with the slump in its share price vindicating the recent decision of funds manager Perpetual to cut its holding in the company to 11 per cent from 12 per cent previously.

The shares are now trading at levels not seen for well over a decade.

12.30pm: IG Markets market strategist Stan Shamu said the Australian market was benefiting from a positive lead from United States markets which were boosted by strong data on new home building.

Mr Shamu said investors had also been encouraged by comments from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao - ahead of GDP data due out at 1pm - that China’s economy in the last quarter was relatively good.

‘‘Overall it seem the risk sentiment has improved,’’ Mr Shamu said.

12.25pm: BREAKING NEWS More on the job cuts at Ten Network. BusinessDay understands up to 100 staff would be affected nationally. The company had about 1300 staff in 2011.

While the details of the proposal remain unclear, media commentator Peter Ford tweeted that the company will institute a centralised news desk.

"Centralised news desk means national & international stories will be edited & voiced in Sydney rather than in each city," he wrote.

12.22pm: Even more economic data out today, this time it's land sales, which went up in the three months to June 30 - suggesting that the housing sector could be on the path to recovery.

A residential land report from the Housing Industry of Australia and RP Data showed a rise of 23.3 per cent in land sales in the June quarter 2012, and a rise of 29.7 per cent from the same period last year.

HIA chief economist Harley Dale said that, short-term factors aside, it was a positive sign for the housing sector.

"Land sales [rose] in all six state capitals and in a majority of regional areas and that is an encouraging result," he said.

12.08pm: BREAKING NEWS More on the troubles at Ten Network  which is asking for voluntary redundancies on the same day it revealed a $12.9 million loss in the year to August.

The company has confirmed that a "proposed voluntary redundancy" has been offered to news and operations staff, although no figure has yet been provided.

"Staff advised of voluntary redundancies but if they don't get the numbers they will cull," tweeted showbiz commentator Peter Ford.

12.06pm: More on the economy, this time from a Senate hearing which has been told that Treasury anticipates sluggish global economic growth for the next 12 to 18 months.

Since May, the international economy had remained subdued with the outlook ‘‘highly uncertain’’, Treasury’s Barry Sterland said.

While there had been some positive international developments in recent months, further steps would be required to lift global growth and decisively reduce ‘‘downside risks’’ he said.

‘‘The prolonged uncertainty, including weakness in financial and credit markets, mean we are looking at sluggish global growth outlook for the next 12 to 18 months.’’

12.00: The Australian dollar is higher, as investors become increasingly confident about prospects in Spain, and ahead of crucial Chinese GDP data.

The dollar has been trading at levels higher than those recorded before the Reserve Bank’s interest rate cut on November 2. The dollar was trading at $US1.0380, up from $US1.0313 at yesterday’s close.

Any monetary policy that is targeted towards lowering the currency is problematic is the current environment, said ANZ currency strategist Andrew Salter.

‘‘Over the last few days we’ve received some better economic data, particularly in the United States, housing starts were very impressive as were recent claims data."

11.55am: Property trust Charter Hall Retail is seeking to raise $100 million to fund the acquisition of several regional shopping centres in NSW.

Charter Hall said this morning that it had agreed to acquire the Tamworth City Plaza in Tamworth, the Dubbo Shopping Centre in Dubbo, and the adjoining Lake Macquarie Fair and Mount Hutton shopping centres at Lake Macquarie, for a combined price of $100.7 million.

‘‘The acquisition of the portfolio is in line with Charter Hall’s strategy of acquiring supermarket-anchored centres in the $20 million to $80 million asset value range that improve the quality of Charter Hall’s already strong Australian property portfolio,’’ Charter Hall fund manager Scott Dundas said.

Charter Hall shares have been in a trading halt this morning.

11.51am: More economic data out this morning, this time from the ABS who tell us that Australia's international merchandise imports on a balance of payments basis fell 3 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms to $20.6 billion in September, compared with $21.22 billion in August.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said imports of capital goods fell by 8 per cent, or $465 million, in September driven by a drop in machinery and industrial equipment.

Imports of intermediate goods dipped 1 per cent, while consumption goods fell 6 per cent. Imports of non-monetary gold jumped 70 per cent, or $281 million.

In original terms, imports fell 11 per cent to $19.29 billion in September, partly due to a sharp fall in machinery imports.

11.45am: BREAKING NEWS More on the suspected market manipulation of the share price of a number of major ASX 200 stocks. 

It's not just ANZ shares that have suffered. Large fluctuations have also hit the share prices of Ansell, Aristocrat and AGL. Commonwealth Bank and Bank of Queensland also spiked when the ASX opened.

"I've had five of my brokers contact the ASX and they are clueless as to what has gone on," said one of Australia's leading stockbrokers.

"They are saying the trades fall within a reasonable range, but if a broker pushed a stock up five per cent we'd cop a $25,000 fine. Right now, I'd say this is in the 'too hard' basket for market control at the ASX."

Read the full story here

11.41am: The Australian Energy Markets Commission has warned that the renewables energy target is distorting power markets, both driving up power prices for consumers while causing uneconomic outcomes for generators and their  owners.

‘‘I do have some issues with the competitive sector of the electricity market,’’ the AEMC’s chairman, Mr John Pierce, told a business forum today.

‘‘The renewables energy target, especially, [since] one consequence is to depress wholesale [electricity] prices and drive retail [electricity] prices up.’’

11.32am: Australian business conditions and confidence are slightly better but still at fairly weak levels, especially in the mining sector.

The National Australia Bank’s quarterly survey showed the business conditions index for the September quarter was plus one, up from minus two in the June quarter.

Business confidence rose to minus two in the quarter, up from minus three in the previous quarter.

11.30am: More on Ten Network, where chief executive James Warburton says discussions with Champ private equity over the sale of outdoor advertising business Eye Corp are still going on.

Shares in the network slumped yesterday after it announced that Outdoor Media Operations, owned by Champ Private Equity, had terminated an agreement to buy Eye Corp for up to $145 million.

Speaking to media and analysts during Ten’s full year results presentation, Mr Warburton said talks between the parties were ongoing.

‘‘We are still in discussions,’’ he said. ‘‘The asset is held for sale in terms of the financial treatment, but we’ve also been very clear through the process that Eye is not for sale at any price."

11.28am: BREAKING NEWS Stockbrokers across the country fear that market manipulation of the share price of a number of major ASX 200 stocks -  including ANZ Bank - occurred when the ASX opened this morning. 

Mystery trades in ANZ pushed the share price of ANZ up $1.67 $2 per share, or 6.5 per cent, when trading began this morning.

ANZ, which closed at $25.79 yesterday, soared to $27.63 per share on the opening bell, before the share price collapsed to $26.16.

In the first few minutes of trading, a third of the average daily number shares in ANZ changed hands.

MORE to come

11.22am: Telstra analysts expect to see company dividends go above 30 cents in the next few years. They're pinning their hopes on a comment by chairwoman Catherine Livingstone at Tuesday's annual meeting that dividends are likely to ‘‘increase over time’’.

Deutsche Bank analysts expect dividends to reach 32¢ fully franked in 2013-14 and possibly 35¢ the next financial year and Citi analysts are predicting a leap to to 36¢ by 2014-15.

Telstra shares have gained almost 10¢ since the AGM, trading at $4.045 today.

11.18am: An hour and a bit into the day and the early gains on the market are being maintained. The All Ordinaries index is 36.3 points higher, or 1.0 per cent, to 4597.2 - edging toward a psychological barrier at 4600 - while the benchmark S&P/ASX200 is 48.0 points higher, or 1.1 per cent, to 4576.2.

11.17am: Santos shares are higher after the oil and gas company lifted its third quarter production and maintained its forecast for the full year.

Santos produced 13.5 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe) in the three months to September 30, up six per cent from 12.7 mmboe in the previous corresponding period.

Sales revenue in the quarter was $851 million, up 15 per cent from $738 million in the same period in the previous year. Santos has maintained its guidance of full year production in the range of 51 mmboe to 55 mmboe.

Its shares are ahead of the general market - up 1.4 per cent, or 17 cents, to $11.97.

11.14am: Japan's Nikkei has opened higher today, on track for a third day of gains on the back of a softer yen that helps exporters such as car makers, although trade was likely to be thin ahead of Chinese GDP figures due out later today.

The Nikkei added 0.9 per cent to 8,883.81 while the broader Topix also advanced 0.9 per cent to 746.29.

11.13am:  A reminder: NAB business confidence data for the September quarter is out at 11.30am. Read it here first.

11.04am: More on Bank of Queensland, which says it has turned a corner after posting a full year loss of $17.1 million. Chief executive Stuart Grimshaw said the next 12 months should be more positive:

We’ve addressed the basics to become operationally fit and are focused on delivering better services for our customers and profitable growth for shareholders. I believe we have reached a crucial turnaround point and I’m looking forward to the next 12 months. We have seen a fall in mortgage arrears over the past few months. However, we continue to be prudently provided for, hence the top-up of our collective provisions.

Shares in the bank are down, though, falling 5 cents, or 0.7%, to $7.30.

10.56am: Woodside shares are up 3.2 per cent after the oil and gas company lifted its production target range to 83 million to 86 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe) from 77 to 83 mmboe previously, largely due to a better-than-expected performance from its Pluto gas project.

Woodside also said overall third quarter output increased 65 per cent on a year ago to 26.5 mmboe.

10.52am: Today’s early gain takes the ASX200 to a new 15-month high. It was last above 4570 in very late July last year. The big question at this point of the day has been well put by reader JJ. He asks: 

So, does anyone think this market will even blink when the Chinese GDP data is released?
Up, down or sideways?

Drop your thoughts into the comment field. The Chinese data is due at 1pm AEST.

10.50am: More on the big miners who've been leading the charge this morning.

RBS Morgans Brisbane director of equities Bill Chatterton said the mining giants had opened positively as iron ore prices continued their upward trend.

‘‘The big movers are BHP, Fortescue and Rio,’’ Mr Chatterton said.

‘‘Iron ore is back to $US120 a tonne after being down around $US90.’’

10.47am: Woolworths’ first quarter sales have risen by 4.3 per cent to more than $15 billion.

Total sales in the quarter to the end of September of $15.2 billion were up from $14.6 billion in the previous corresponding period.

Chief executive Grant O’Brien seems happy with the result. ‘‘This was a pleasing start to the year,’’ he said.

Woolies shares are up 12 cents - 0.4% - at  $29.28

10.42am: Bank of Queensland has posted a full-year loss of $17.1 million, the first full-year loss by an Australian bank in 20 years.

The loss for the year to September - which BOQ had forecast - compares with a net profit of $158.7 million in the previous 12 months.

10.40am: By comparison with the miners and the ASX in general, which is now 1 per cent higher, the banks are solid early on:

  • CBA is 0.16% higher to $57.08
  • ANZ is 0.77% higher to $26.16
  • NAB is 0.6% higher to $26.95
  • Westpac is 0.54% higher to $26.03

10.36am: With the materials sub index leading the market higher, it’s no surprise to find the big miners showing healthy gains in early trade.

They may have the Chinese premier to thank for it after he offered some reassuring words late yesterday about the strength of his nation’s economy. BHP and Rio were also up in US trade:

  • BHP is 2.69% higher to $34.35
  • Rio is 3.25% higher to $57.87
  • Fortescue is 2.7% higher to $4.18

10.31am: Here are some of the early sliders on the ASX200 this morning:

  • Energy World: -4.41%
  • Fleetwood: -2.81%
  • MacMahon: -1.02%
  • Pacific Brands: -0.86%
  • Sonic Healthcare: -0.84%

10.28am: Billabong shares are also strongly higher following an upgrade at UBS, which raised the stocks to a ‘buy’ rating from ‘neutral’.

Analyst Ben Gilbert noted that the share price has fallen 48 per cent below the recent bid price following the withdrawal of the takeover bid, and the market was pricing in a pessimistic earnings outlook.

But UBS saw the company outperforming into the first half of next year, and it did not think the surfwear retailer would need to raise more equity.

The price target has been lowered from $1.45 to $1.10. The shares are trading at 80.5 cents, up 3.5 cents, or 4.5%.

10.25am: More on Ten Network, which has announced a $13 million dollar loss, a result chief executive James Warburton described as ‘‘disappointing’’.

‘‘Undoubtedly, we are operating in challenging market and competitive conditions, which have impacted our revenue performance,’’ he said.

Ten shares - which were plumbing fresh lows  of 30 cents yesterday - have recovered a bit in early trade this morning. They’re currently up 1 cent - 3.2% - at 32 cents

Read the full story here

10.20am: Here are some of the early gainers on the ASX200.

  • Mount Gibson Iron: +12.03%
  • Billabong: +4.55%
  • Iluka: +4.17%
  • Atlas Iron: +3.33%
  • Ten Network: +3.23%
  • Rio Tinto: +2.94%

10.18am: Here’s how the sub indices on the ASX200 are performing early. All 10 are higher:

  • Materials: +2.13%
  • Telecoms: +0.98%
  • Consumer disc: +78%
  • Industrials: +0.7%
  • Consumer staples: +0.64%
  • Energy: +0.64

10.12am: In early trade, the All Ordinaries index is 38.2 points higher, or 0.8 per cent, to 4589.1, while the benchmark S&P/ASX200 is 41.3 points higher, or 0.9 per cent, to 4569.5.

10.09am: Looks like the predicted positive start has happened. Stocks are up in very early trade.

10.05am: Clothes line maker and investment company Hills Holdings is stepping up its cost-cutting drive after suffering a slump in first quarter earnings.

The company said earnings for the first three months of its financial year were 45 per cent lower than for the same time in 2011/12.

Read the full story here

10.01am: Resources writer Peter Ker reports that Newcrest has completed another underwhelming quarter, confirming today that four of its six mines produced less gold in the September period than in the three months to June.

The 460,425 ounces of gold produced by Newcrest in the September quarter was more than 20 per cent less than the previous quarter, with unit costs duly rising.

While the slump would not have surprised most shareholders following the announcement of production problems in September, today's release of the quarterly results demonstrates how the poorer performance was spread across most of Newcrest's big assets.  

9.58am: Australian bond futures prices are lower following improved sentiment in Spain and ahead of Chinese growth data.

At 8.30am, the December 10-year bond futures contract was trading at 96.865 (implying a yield of 3.135 per cent), down from 96.965 (3.035 per cent). The three-year bond futures contract was at 97.440 (2.560 per cent), down from 97.550 (2.450 per cent).

Commonwealth Bank interest rate strategist Phillip Brown said the decision by ratings agency Moody’s to keep Spain’s credit rating at BAA3 - above junk status - provided a boost to sentiment in the euro zone.

9.55am: Ten Network has reported a full year loss and double-digit decline in revenue for fiscal 2012.

The broadcaster and outdoor advertising company said it recorded a net loss of $12.9 million for the 12 months to August 31, 2012, compared with net profit of $14.2 million in the prior corresponding period.

Ten’s full year result came in well below market expectations of $15 million net profit. Revenue declined 13.7 per cent to $861.8 million, Ten said in a statement, adding that it didn’t expect to pay a dividend for 2012.

9.50am: Some analyst rating changes for today:

  • Stockland cut to 'hold' at Deutsche Bank 
  • Billabong raised to 'buy' from neutral
  • ALS cut to 'sell' at Goldman Sachs 
  • Ten Network cut to 'underperform' at Macquarie
  • Evolution Mining rated new 'buy' at Deutsche Bank
  • OZ Minerals raised to 'sector perform' at RBC Capital
  • Seven West Media cut to 'neutral' at Macquarie

9.45am: The big miners could be at the forefront of gains on local markets today after rising sharply in US trade. BHP added 3.06 per cent and Rio added 4.63 per cent after the price of China iron ore snapped four days of losses. It gained  $US2.49 to $US115.40.

9.42am: We get the China GDP data at 1pm. We'll have full coverage of the result at 1pm with commentary to follow. A Bloomberg survey of economists expects a growth rate of 7.4 per cent for the quarter, which would be the slowest rate since the fourth quarter of 2001. The data is due at 1pm AEST.

9.37am: One of the key markets stories is the performance of the Aussie dollar. It's jumped about half a US cent overnight and is now higher than before the RBA cut rates two weeks ago.

HiFX senior trader Stuart Ive said news that Moody’s would keep Spain’s  credit rating above junk status at BAA3 had fuelled risk appetite.

‘‘After Moody’s decision yesterday not to downgrade Spain, we saw a massive rush of risk coming in to the market,’’ he said.

But the Aussie has also firmed on strong words from Chinese premier Wen Jiaboa who said the country's economic situation last quarter was “relatively good,” a signal today's report on gross domestic product may show the country's slowdown ebbing.

9.34am: Aussie stocks will start trading in a generally positive fame of mind this morning, after US stocks fought off early selling pressure linked to disappointing quarterly results from IBM and Intel to close broadly higher. Part of the reason for the turnaround was a surge in new US homes in September, which rose to their fastest pace in more than four years.

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

  • SPI futures are 18 points higher at 4533
  • The $A is higher at $US1.0384
  • In the US, the S&P500 rose 0.41% to 1460.9
  • In Europe, the FTSE100 rose 0.69% to 5910.91
  • China iron ore added $US2.49 to $US115.40 a metric tonne 
  • Gold rose $6.70 to $US1753 an ounce
  • WTI crude oil fell 15 cents to $US91.98 a barrel
  • Reuters/Jefferies CRB index rose 0.54% at 306.20
9.32am: Good morning folks. Welcome to the Markets Live blog for Thursday.

Contributors: Thomas Hunter, Jens Meyer, Peter Litras, Richard Hughes 

This blog is not intended as investment advice 

BusinessDay with agencies


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