Shares end higher for a fourth straight day and chalk up a gain of 1.9 per cent for the week, as miners extend their rally.

5.26pm: That's all for today. Thanks everyone for reading this blog and have a great weekend.

Here's our evening wrap of today's session.

5.15pm: European stock index futures are pointing to a lower open, with tech shares set to feel the pinch from Google's surprisingly weak results.

Futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC are down 0.2-0.3 per cent.

4.49pm: AGL has halted all work on a proposed power station south of Sydney in the face of weak demand for electricity, with no rebound anticipated any time soon.

In a brief statement, the energy company said it has halted work on the 1000 megawatt Dalton power station, which has been planned for a site near Marulan, south of Sydney.

The move follows the decision of EnergyAustralia, formerly known as TrueEnergy, to idle one of its four generators at the Yallourn power station in Victoria’s La Trobe valley, also in the wake of weak wholesale electricity prices and demand.

4.44pm: Japan's JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp has bought 20 per cent stakes in each of two off-shore resource development fields in Western Australia, both to be operated by Apache Corp of the United States.

The fields are located in an area where geological research has suggested potential for natural gas, the resource exploration subsidiary of JX Holdings said in a statement.

4.38pm: Here's how some of the blue chips performed today:

  • BHP: +1.3%
  • Rio: +0.7%
  • ANZ: -1.1%
  • CBA: -0.4%
  • NAB: -2.7%
  • Westpac: -1.5%
  • Fortescue: +1.2%
  • Woolies: +1.3%
  • Wesfarmers: +0.6%
  • Telstra: +1.75%

4.24pm: Contributing to today's turnaround in afternoon trade was a deal struck by European Union leaders at their summit to set up a single banking supervisor for the eurozone.

Here's the full story

4.20pm: Shares enjoyed a strong week, ending higher for the fourth consecutive day and notching up a gain of 1.9 per cent for the week, which takes the ASX200 to a fresh 15-month high.

4.15pm: Among the major sectors, energy stocks jumped 1.4 per cent, materials gained 1 per cent, while financials lost 0.7 per cent.

Telcos rose 1.7 per cent, while gold stocks shed 1.2 per cent.

4.13pm: The sharemarket has closed higher, after staging a late comeback. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 11.7 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4571.1, while the broader All Ords gained 12.6 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4593.5.

4.05pm: The Australian dollar is hovering near multi-week peaks against a defensive yen, but the Aussie saw its rally against the greenback come to an abrupt halt as investors booked some profits ahead of the weekend.

The Aussie is buying 82.20 yen, having hit a four-week high of 82.51 on Thursday. Against the dollar, it fetched $US1.0366, off a three-week high of $US1.0412.

Still, it's on track to end the week up more than 1 per cent versus the greenback and over 2 per cent on the yen.

"The shorter-term risks for the yen have been on the downside and that's been playing out. We've got the Bank of Japan coming up at the end of the month where expectations are for further quantitative easing, so that's all keeping the yen under pressure," says Sue Trinh, currency strategist at RBC.

Trinh says a broad recovery in risk appetite earlier this week and increased jawboning from Japanese authorities about intervening to weaken the currency have also contributed to the softness in the safe-haven yen.

3.42pm: AGL has halted all work on a proposed power station south of Sydney in the face of weak demand for electricity, with no rebound anticipated any time soon.

In a brief statement, the energy company said it has halted work on the 1000 megawatt Dalton power station, which has been planned for a site near Marulan, south of Sydney.

The move follows the decision of EnergyAustralia, formerly known as TrueEnergy, to idle one of its four generators at the Yallourn power station in Victoria’s La Trobe valley, also in the wake of weak wholesale electricity prices and demand.

3.36pm: In another sign that the Chinese economy is edging toward recovery, steel reinforcement-bar futures are set to rise for a third week.

The contract for May delivery on the Shanghai Futures Exchange was little changed at 3671 renminbi ($A567) a tonne. It's gained 0.7 per cent this week.

On Wednesday Premier Wen Jiabao said the economy has started to stabilise and economic data released yesterday was encouraging.

‘‘Rebar may advance further as government policies and an increasing appetite for risk indicate accelerating growth,’’ Wang Yongliang, an analyst at Beijing CIFCO Futures, wrote in a report.

3.24pm: Ten Network, whose shares took a hammering yesterday after the company announced a staff redundancy plan, is the worst-performing stock on the ASX200 so far today.

Shares in the TV network have fallen another 8.2%, hitting a low of 28 cents just after lunch.

3.09pm: As the graph above shows, shares are heading higher in late afternoon trade. The ASX200 is now up 5.1 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4564.5.

3pm: Oil prices are mixed in Asian trade as investors await the final outcome of an EU summit on tackling a debt crisis while Greek protests over tough austerity measures turned violent.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for November, is down nine cents to $US92.01 a barrel in morning trade, while Brent North Sea crude for delivery in December has clawed six cents higher to $US112.48.

2.54pm: If you live in Melbourne - or have visited in the past 10 years - there's a fair chance you might have strolled around a Fitzroy institution, the Rose St. Artists' Market.

With an ever-growing number of markets popping up, MySmallBusiness speaks to founder Adam Ferrante for a few business tips on how to stand out from the crowd

Read the story here.

2.42pm: Takeover target Northern Iron has extended the deadline for final binding offers until November 20 to allow interested companies to complete their due diligence.

Northern Iron says Essel Mining and Swiss-based trading company Prominvest were conducting the second stage of their due diligence, after launching a takeover offer for the company in July.

Essel Mining, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Aditya Birla Group, and the bidders, Prominvest, are seeking to acquire all of Northern Iron’s shares as part of a highly conditional, non-binding indicative offer.

2.33pm: Consumer sentiment is showing some ‘‘green shoots’’, says Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder.

‘‘I think there are some green shoots on consumer confidence in Australia,’’ Mr Goyder has told an Australian Institute of Company Directors luncheon in Melbourne.

Mr Goyder notes recent interest interest rate cuts and commentary that there may be another one forthcoming.

‘‘I think that has been helpful,’’ he says. Mr Goyder also says there have been a lack of bad news for a while, especially on the international front.

‘‘And I do think that ’flat’ is the new ’up’. People are looking at their superannuation funds and saying at least it’s not going down. That’s not so bad as well.’’

2.21pm: After briefly popping into positive ground a little earlier, stocks have headed lower again. The ASX200 is now down just 5.5 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 4553.9.

2.10pm: The carbon tax is expected to have lifted consumer prices by around half a per cent during its first three months of operation.

Economists say the greatest impact has been on electricity prices, though the tax is also believed to have lifted gas prices, council rates and fruit and vegetables.

Still, the carbon tax’s effect is expected to be less than a quarter of the spike in prices after the introduction of the GST in 2000.

The ABS releases the Consumer Price Index measure of inflation for the three months to September, on October 24.

2.03pm: Thousands of interstate motorists have been wrongly fined for using a Melbourne tollway and will either be refunded or have their unpaid fines waived.

Tollway operator CityLink has confirmed that nearly seven thousand interstate drivers who used the freeway without first arranging payment received an infringement notice but not a required late-toll invoice.

The error - which potentially amounts to 840 thousand in fines - is being blamed on a database failure with a third-party provider.

Victoria police will be contacting all motorists affected by the problem.

1.50pm: Here's a look at how markets around the region are performing:

  • Nikkei(Japan): -0.2%
  • Shanghai: +0.1%
  • Taiwan: -0.6%
  • South Korea: -0.7%
  • Singapore: -0.3%
  • New Zealand: -0.2%

1.34pm: China’s yuan advanced for an 11th week, the longest winning streak since March 2008, as factory output and spending data fueled optimism the economic slowdown is coming to an end.

The currency touched a 19-year high yesterday after reports showed growth in industrial production, retail sales and fixed- asset investment accelerated in September, while gross domestic product rose at the slowest pace in three years.

1.26pm: Here's an interesting read from the read from the small business desk: 

Granted, it’s a First World problem, but there are few things in life as all-consuming as a job you hate. Here are six suggestions on how to make it tolerable, or at least a little less agonising.

Click here for the full story

1.12pm: Petrol prices leapt sharply upwards yesterday, in some instances by upwards of 30 cents per litre. Are those prices higher than one would expect? asks Tony Webber.

Here's the full story

1.06pm: German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that a single European banking supervisor will be built up in the course of next year and must be completed before euro zone rescue funds may directly recapitalise troubled banks.

"We give our finance ministers the ambitious task of establishing a legal framework (for supervision) by Jan. 1, 2013. This banking supervision will then be built up in the course of 2013," she told a news conference after EU leaders reached a deal on a timetable for launching the initiative.

She said another EU summit in December would set a timeframe for deeper economic integration in the single currency area.

12.47pm: The Australian dollar is trading slightly lower at $US1.0369, as the market awaits news from a summit of European leaders.

CMC chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said the Brussels summit, which is due to end Friday night (European time), was the current focal point for markets, although he did not expect big results:

  • I expect we’ll see big talk leading into it, and little delivery. We’re taking it with a grain of salt.
  • We’ve had calls from the French leadership to get action more quickly, but that’s been balanced out by comments from Germany and Sweden that they don’t want to pay.
  • Although I’m expecting disappointment early next week, I don’t think that will be sustained.
  • The rallies that we’re seeing in risk assets generally will be sustained.

12.28pm: Commercial shale gas production has begun in Australia with Santos announcing this morning its Moomba-191 shale gas well in the Cooper Basin had been connected to the eastern states' gas grid.

Santos reported strong initial flow rates from the same well in August and this morning James Baulderstone, the company's eastern Australia vice-president, said connection of the well was “a significant step forward as we work to unlock the vast unconventional potential of the Cooper Basin".

Santos said the well was only 350 metres from the existing pipeline network and eight kilometres from Moomba's gas processing plant, enabling it to be brought on line quickly. Further drilling is planned for the area, including an ongoing vertical well appraisal program and Santos’ first horizontal shale well planned for early 2013.

12.13pm: Woodside has reached a deal to explore for oil and gas in Myanmar with South Korea's Daewoo International Corp, giving the Australian firm a foot in the door in what is seen as a highly promising new oil and gas frontier.

Woodside said today that Daewoo has agreed to give it a 40 per cent stake in a production sharing contract in Block AD-7 in the Rakhine Basin, in the western offshore area of Myanmar, next to Daewoo's Shwe field development.

The deal gives Woodside a leg up over other western energy companies eager to get into Myanmar, which is opening up after nearly 50 years of military rule.

Shares are up 1.5 per cent.

12.05pm: By far the most read business story online at the moment is this one on flamboyant hedge fund manager Greg Coffey, dubbed the “Wizard of Oz”.

Coffey has quit his job in London and declared his retirement from the industry aged just 41 and after amassing a fortune estimated as high as $665 million.

Here's the full story

11.58am: Around midday, weakness in the banking sector is still weighing on the market, while the resources sector is holding onto recent gains.

NAB is the worst performer among the big banks, slumping 2.9 per cent after the bank lifted its provisions.  Westpac is down 1.4 per cent, ANZ has fallen 1.1 per cent and CBA is 0.6 per cent lower.

"The sentiment with banks has become very fragile now," says Damien Boey, an equity strategist at Credit Suisse. "Our banks are primarily exposed to Australian housing, which really hasn't shown over past years any major sign of weakness, but now (housing) is showing some real sign of distress.’’

11.44am: Stocks, meanwhile, are staging a bit of a comeback with the ASX200 down 8.3 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4551.1.

11.35am: Australia’s two largest airports say passenger numbers are up as local and overseas airlines add more flights.

Melbourne Tullamarine Airport said international and domestic travellers passing through its terminals rose six per cent in the three months to September 30, 2012, compared with the prior corresponding period.

International passengers rose by four per cent while domestic travellers were up seven per cent, Melbourne Airport said in a statement.

The biggest increase in overseas visitors came from Hong Kong, up 23 per cent in the quarter.

11.32am:  Tokyo stocks have opened 0.43 per cent lower because of profit taking following four days of gains, dealers say.

The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Friday was down 38.83 points at 8944.03 at the start.

11.25am: Here's an update on developments at Graincorp by Paddy Manning:

Australia's largest listed agribusiness Graincorp has confirmed US crop giant Archer Daniel Midlands has bought just under 10 per cent of the company in an off-market transaction this morning "and wishes to engage in discussions with Graincorp concerning a potential transaction".

Read more.

11.20am: Despite falls across the market - the mining sector is in positive ground. BHP is up 21 cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $34.77, Rio has gained 9 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to $58.93 and Fortescue is down 3 cents, or 0.7 per cent, to $4.15.

11.09am: Woodside Petroleum is taking advantage of the opening up of Burma, after reaching a deal to explore for oil and gas there with South Korea's Daewoo International.

The move would give the Australian firm a foot in the door in what is seen as a highly promising new oil and gas frontier.

Woodside said today that Daewoo has agreed to give it a 40 per cent stake in a production sharing contract in Block AD-7 in the Rakhine Basin, in the western offshore area of Burma, next to Daewoo's Shwe field development.

11.07am: The corporate watchdog is investigating whether market manipulation was behind yesterday’s sudden sharemarket spike, amid fears some traders profited from the ‘‘dislocation’'.

BusinessDay’s Clancy Yeates reports that the deputy chair of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Belinda Gibson, said the question of whether there had been illegal activity behind the activity was ‘‘very much open.’’

‘‘It seems a futures contract was expiring [yesterday] morning,’’ Ms Gibson said in a late parliamentary hearing in Canberra.

‘‘There were a number of parties in the market looking to buy and sell the underlying stock to meet the futures contract to close out their books,’’ she said.

11.04am: Australia's largest listed agribusiness Graincorp has confirmed US crop giant Archer Daniel Midlands has bought just under 20 per cent of the company in an off-market transaction this morning "and wishes to engage in discussions with Graincorp concerning a potential transaction".

Graincorp suspended trade in its shares after two block trades worth $536 million  went through at 7.05 this morning, priced at $11.75 a share, representing  a 33 per cent premium to Thursday's close of $8.85.

Graincorp told the exchange that it had received "no formal proposal" to date but if it did, it would be reviewed by the board along with "other options to maximise value for Graincorp shareholders".

10.57am: The market seems to have stopped its precipitous early tumble, but it’s still in negative territory. The All Ordinaries index is 17 points lower, or 0.4 per cent, to 4563.9, while the benchmark S&P/ASX200 is 19.3 points lower, or 0.4 per cent, to 4540.1.

Lonsec client adviser Michael Heffernan said despite the declines so far the market was in a period of consolidation.

‘‘The market is not going to go up every day, you can’t expect that,’’ Mr Heffernan said.

‘‘The fact that the market is only down 0.4 per cent early in the morning is a good effort after a lacklustre performance particularly in the US.’’

10.54am: More on NAB, which has raised its provisions to deal with the impact of an economic downturn by $250 million. Chief executive Cameron Clyne had this to say:

The UK economy has now posted three consecutive quarters of declining GDP  and expectations for recovery in 2013 have continued to be downgraded. Considering the increased level of uncertainty, we feel that increasing the economic cycle adjustment on the collective provision is a prudent measure at this time. Balance sheet strength remains a key priority for the group and this increase in the economic cycle adjustment will further strengthen our provision coverage.

More on the story here

10.51am: Along with the speculation of Wilmar International picking up a big stake in Graincorp, the Financial Review has reported US agriculture company Archer Daniels Midland is believed to be the buyer of a 10 per cent stake in GrainCorp traded earlier today.

10.48am: It's not just NAB - the other big banks are going backwards too:

  • CBA is 0.79% lower to $56.60
  • ANZ is 1.46% lower to $25.57
  • NAB is 3.3% lower to $26.05
  • Westpac is 1.06% lower to $25.675

10.39am: GWA shares have slumped 5 per cent after warning of a 41 per cent earnings collapse in the September quarter, Brian Robins reports.

The update comes hard on the heels of Hills Industries reporting a 45 per cent slump in first quarter earnings yesterday. Earnings of both companies are suffering from the downturn in the construction sector.

GWA shares have fallen 9 cents to $1.72 with over 850,000 shares changing hands, with its shares now within striking distance of its $1.69 low touched earlier this month - which was its lowest level since the early part of last decade.

Hills’ warning yesterday saw its sharemarket worth slashed by a third, to just $185 million. It has continued to fall again today, shedding another 7.5 cents, or 8 per cent, to 67.5 cents with more than 2 million shares traded.

Perhaps more importantly for GWA shareholders, it has warned there would be little chance of a recovery in revenues this financial year due to the subdued state of new dwelling construction, with any revenue recovery to only flow through towards the end of the 2012/13 financial year.

10.36am: National Australia Bank shares have fallen 90 cents, or 3.3%, to A$26.05 after it set aside more money for loans that might sour after cutting economic expectations at home and in Britain.

NAB, which owns the Clydesdale Bank, increased its collective provisions by A$250 million, it said in a statement today.

10.33am: Atlas Iron shares are up another 4.7 per cent today, adding to a 12 per cent gain the past three days, after announcing it would take on debt to fund expand operations in Western Australia.

It also follows the announcement late yesterday that 300 jobs would be shed from Australia's iron ore industry after Atlas joined Mount Gibson Iron and Sinosteel Midwest in a round of job cuts and belt-tightening.

The 27 jobs lost at Atlas were part of a major review of the company's ability to fund its growth projects, which initially focuses on lifting exports from 6 million tonnes to 12 million tonnes a year by December 2013.

Here’s a video with more details about what's been driving the Atlas Iron share price this week.

10.27am: Early sliders on the ASX200 this morning include:

  • GWA Group: -4.70%
  • CSR: -3.28%
  • NAB: -2.49%
  • Seven West Media: -2.41%
  • Mount Gibson Iron: -2.29%

10.25am: Some of the early gainers on the ASX200 include:

  • Atlas Iron: +4.11
  • Energy World: +2.86%
  • Macquarie Atlas: +2.67%
  • Bluescope Steel: +2.35%
  • Lynas: +2.31%
  • Billabong: +1.82%

10.18am: Looking at how the various sub indices on the ASX200 are performing, the losers outnumber the winners:

  • Financials: -0.83%
  • Health: -0.81%
  • Industrials: -0.34%
  • Energy: -0.17%
  • Materials: -0.1%
  • Utilities: +0.28%
  • Info tech: +0.25%

10.13am: In early trade, the All Ordinaries index is 11.9 points lower, or 0.3 per cent, to 4569.0 while the benchmark S&P/ASX200 is 13.2 points lower, or 0.3 per cent, to 4546.2.

10.09am: The day's begun and things are heading down.

9.57am: Australian bond futures prices are slightly higher, after earlier falls on improved sentiment around China and Europe.

At 8.30am, the December 10-year bond futures contract was trading at 96.865 (implying a yield of 3.135 per cent), up from 96.855 (3.145 per cent) on Thursday. The three-year bond futures contract was at 97.450 (2.550 per cent), unchanged from Thursday’s close.

RBC fixed income strategist Michael Turner said bond prices had stabilised and moved little, after several days of weakness.

‘‘Bond markets around the world have been a bit heavy in the last session, and Aussie bonds have just managed to stabilise, after breaking through some key levels,’’ he said.

9.52am: Property Trust Charter Hall Retail has raised $100 million to fund its acquisition of several NSW regional shopping centres. Charter Hall said all 29 million units offered in a placement to institutional investors had been taken up. The new units were sold for $3.45, raising $100 million.

The funds will be used for Charter Hall’s purchase of 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.

9.46am: Health reporter Madeliene Heffernan says Insurance giant Medibank has rejected speculation that its healthcare contract with the Australian Defence Force will be changed due to a backlash over the deal.

Healthcare insiders say the four-year, $1.3 billion contract is likely to come under pressure due to healthcare professionals and hospitals baulking at the lower prices offered for the treatment of  wounded and ill Defence Force personnel.

But Andrew Wilson, of Medibank's health services arm, said there was ‘‘no truth’’ to suggestions the contract will be changed.

‘‘We have had several thousand specialists and allied health professionals signing up over the past few weeks, and we are currently finalising their contracts’’ Dr Wilson told BusinessDay.

9.42am: Two block trades in GrainCorp worth $536 million at a premium of 33 per cent to its previous close sparked speculation of a pending takeover bid for eastern Australia’s largest grain handler.

The two block trades of 22.8 million shares apiece went through at 7:05am at A$11.75 a share. Sydney-based GrainCorp closed yesterday at $8.85. Angus Trigg, director of government and media relations for GrainCorp, didn’t immediately return two phone messages requesting comment.

Such a trade “certainly would suggest that the company would be in play, particularly at this sort of premium,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, said by phone.

9.38am:China iron ore edged higher overnight. The bulk commodity added 10 US cents to $US115.50. BHP and Rio were both higher in US trade, with BHP adding 0.97 per cent and Rio up 0.98 per cent.

9.35am: Looking at Wall Street first, US stocks fell with technology stocks hit hard after Google disappointed investors with earnings results and was forced into crisis management mode when the results were released early and incomplete.

Here's some more on it, but in a nutshell, a draft press release which said "PENDING LARRY QUOTE" in place of comments from chief executive Larry Page was sent out hours before the planned release time. Embarrassing, and it wasn't helped when the company reported a 20 per cent fall in third quarter profits. Its shares fell 9 per cent.

9.32am: After three days of gains Aussie stocks are looking at a softer start after Wall Street eased and the dollar was a bit lower, but largely holding onto this week's gains.

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

  • The SPI was 10 points lower at 4540
  • The $A was trading at $US1.036
  • In the US, the S&P500 lost 0.24% to 1457.34
  • In Europe, the FTSE100 added 0.1% to 5917.05
  • China iron ore added 10 US cents to $US115.50 a metric tonne 
  • Gold lost $US1.95 to $US1741.45 an ounce
  • WTI crude oil added 36 US cents to $US92.48 a barrel
  • RJ/CRB commodities index added 0.53% to 307.81

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

This blog is not intended as investment advice

BusinessDay with agencies