Markets Live: ASX closes higher at 6179 points
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Markets Live: ASX closes higher at 6179 points

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The S&P/ASX 200 has closed at nearly 6180 points, putting the index back where it was four sessions ago.

There was strong interest in telco giant Telstra, which gained 2.9 per cent to $3.20. Its competitor TPG is still doing well on the back of its announced merger with Vodafone and TPG shares are up 48.5 per cent in one month.

The biggest drag on the market today was CSL, which went ex-dividend and dropped to $210.63. It was trading as high as $227.44 last week, which pushed its market capitalisation up and made it the third biggest company on the ASX. CSL's drop has allowed Westpac to wriggle its way back into the third biggest company on the ASX, with a market cap of $95.86 billion today, compared to CSL's $95.32 billion.

Insurance Australia and BlueScope Steel also took points off the market. And Pact Group is hovering around four-year lows at $27.89.

As we head toward the market close the S&P/ASX 200 is up 39 points at 6180.8, rise of 0.6 per cent.

The telecommunications index is out-performing and rose 2.7 per cent today, closely followed by the energy index, up 2.1 per cent.

The only indices declines were relatively small in health, down 0.3 per cent and consumer discretionary, down 0.3 per cent.

Telstra reached its highest price since August 23 and is at $3.20 this afternoon.

The other company giving evidence today, Freedom Insurance, is up 19 per cent today to 15.5 cents. However, Freedom tends to have dramatic intra-day trading swings, often moving as much as 20 per cent.

The biggest shareholder of Freedom Insurance is managing director Keith Cohen, with 27 per cent of shares on issue. The next biggest stockholder is Forager Funds with 11.2 per cent.

With all these revelations about ClearView coming out of the royal commission, lets take a closer look at who owns it.

Michael Alscher's private equity firm Crescent Capital currently owns 38.6 per cent of ClearView shares and Sony Life owns 14.86 per cent. Crescent Capital used to have 53.6 per cent when it bought into Clearview in 2012 as part of an 80 per cent takeover for 59 cents per share.

However, by 2016 Crescent Capital was trying to sell and found a partner in Sony Life. There were rumours of a $950 million take over in 2017, but reports did not name the potential buyer. Shares are trading at 93 cents this afternoon, giving Clearview a market cap of $621.5 million.

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You may find fund managers and stock brokers are in lots of "meetings" this week and harder to get on the phone than usual. That is likely because management teams from listed companies usually head out onto the road at this time of year to meet directly with major investors to discuss their full year results.

Investments advisor Andrew Look from Morgans Financial said trading at this time of year can be tricky because "the market is theoretically fully informed post reporting season".
"My gut feel is that markets are efficiently priced at the moment. Having said that there are always pockets of value out there if you're prepared to do the work".
"Companies are in road show mode currently, travelling around the country and the world presenting their results to fund managers and institutional investors. And those presentations can lead to substantial changes in investors' views."

Deutsche Bank has shaken up its research team and put James Gurry in charge of Australian mining stocks. He has made a splash this morning with a few upgrades and downgrades that are clearly playing out on the market.

For example, Mr Gurry upgraded South 32 and Whitehaven to 'buy' and both stocks are up today. South32 is among the top leaders, up 2.4 per cent to $3.63 and Whitehaven is up 4.8 per cent to $5.05. On the other hand, he downgraded BHP from a 'buy' to hold "after its solid year to date performance" and BHP was down by as much as 50 cents today but has recovered somewhat and is currently trading at $31.13.

"But here comes the dividend harvest," Mr Gurry writes. "Largest caps are pregnant with capital returns...we see potential for off-market buybacks of the ASX lines of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton as they both deliver on promises to return asset sale proceeds to shareholders".

The S&P/ASX 200 is firmly higher this afternoon, up 36.6 points to 6178. The best gains are coming from Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Macquarie Group, and Woodside.

Meanwhile CSL has slipped 0.96 per cent to $210.17 after going ex-dividend this morning. It now pays the dividend in US dollars, which boosted the Aussie dollar valued of the dividend up to $1.28.

The director at Melbourne broking firm, JP Morgan and Sons, Alex Moffat, says his clients are very happy with their portfolio performance, particularly stocks like CSL, Cochlear and Wisetech.

"We feel warm and fuzzy, like the slippers are warm and comfortable and we would really like this (market rise) to go on as long as possible," Mr Moffat said this afternoon.

"I am just wondering what it is that is going to tip the market over the edge. I am trying to spot what is going to be the catalyst for a major down turn and at the moment I cannot really see it."

You can read about Estonia, or rather e-Estonia, in an account by American writer Nathan Heller published in Platinum Capital's annual report issued today.

He writes how the country is bound by a "once only" policy, "which dictates that no single piece of information should be entered twice".

Every glance at data is recorded and reported, emphasising how individuals own their own information.

"The history of nationhood is a history of boundaries marked on land," Heller writes. But, "Today, the old fatuities of the nation-state are showing signs of crisis."

Is it possible, as he suggests, "to imagine a future in which nationality is determined not so much by where you live as by what you log on to"?

Here's a link to the listed investment company's report.

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Slater & Gordon held a press conference about their class action against retail superannuation funds. Ruth Williams went along and heard its head of class actions, Ben Hardwick, say some AMP fund members were getting negative returns on cash investments.

The market is rewarding all parties in this class action, with Slater & Gordon shares up 12.2 per cent to $2.75, Commonwealth Bank (which owns Colonial First State) shares are up 1.87 per cent to $72.07 and AMP is flat at $3.28.

"On our calculations, fund members of Colonial and AMP combined have lost over half a billion dollars from their superannuation accounts," he said.

"This will fundamentally degrade their retirement. We intend to bring class actions to recoup as much of this money as we can."

Mr Hardwick said Slater & Gordon was in "advanced discussions" with a number of litigation funders to bankroll the actions.

The company was also speaking with potential lead plaintiffs for the cases, he said, and had recieved "a number of" registrations since it announced the class action on Tuesday morning.

Full story available here.

Ship builder Austal has just announced it will build a fast ferry for Trinidad and Tobago, which lies just off the north east coast of Venezuala. The ferry will be a 94 metre high speed catamaran that will travel between Trinidad and Tobago, a distance of about 32 kilometres according to a quick Google search.

"Austal looks forward to negotiating and resolving terms for the purchase of this vessal as quickly as possible. In the meantime, this initial announcement will trigger the release of a down payment which will allows the design of the nessal to commence and for initial long lead materials to be procured", the company told the market this afternoon.

Austal is 18 per cent owned by fund Allan Gray and 8 per cent by founder John Rothwell.

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