Markets Live: Shares close at 2012 high
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Markets Live: Shares close at 2012 high

Australian shares have posted their highest close of the year, buoyed by the big miners.

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That's all for today, folks - thanks everyone for reading this blog and posting your comments.

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

The financial regulator has cautioned banks about keeping customers’ financial data overseas, as the sector eyes cost savings in a bid to bolster slowing profits.

Westpac, NAB and ANZ Bank all carry out some of their back-office functions overseas, sparking concerns from unions and politicians over the privacy risk to consumers.

Now the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has identified ‘‘offshoring’’ as a key area of weakness in banks' data management policies.

Some noteable movers today:

  • Lend Lease shares rose 2.2 per cent after the company said it was selected as preferred bidder for a $1 billion revamp of Sydney's Darling Harbour convention centre and entertainment centres.
  • Shares in engineering firm Downer EDI jumped 5.2 per cent to $3.65 after the company reached a negotiated settlement on a Singapore tunnel dispute and agreed to pay $S50 million.
  • Linc Energy told the ASX in response to a query it had no explanation for the 17.5 per cent surge in its shares today. Linc said it has provided updates on its Carmichael coal project and clean energy technology in recent days.
  • Investors shied away from recent strong gains for high-yielding stocks, sending Telstra down 0.7 per cent. It was the most actively traded stock.

 

Back to the mixed messages - sharemarket strong, economy weak: Australia’s hiring pace is expected to remain at its lowest level in over three years, research shows.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey for first quarter 2013 shows that employer hiring intentions are at their lowest level since third quarter 2009.

AMP Investments chief economist Shane Oliver says the results of the survey are not surprising given other economic data also suggest the economy is softening.

‘‘It’s consistent with what we’ve seen with other indicators,’’ he says. ‘‘The National Australia business confidence survey out today was at its lowest level since April 2009, job advertisements measured by the ANZ and skilled jobs measured by the government have been falling for last eight or nine months.

‘‘The Reserve Bank hasn’t done enough yet,’’ he notes.

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Back to the local market. Here's how some of the blue chips performed today:

  • BHP: +1.3%
  • Rio: +0.8%
  • ANZ: +0.2%
  • CBA: +0.6%
  • NAB: +0.5%
  • Westpac: +0.4%
  • Fortescue: +4%
  • Woolies: +0.5%
  • Wesfarmers: +0.1%
  • Telstra: -0.7%

The miners have been on a roll in recent days, buoyed by stronger commodity prices, and are fuelling the market's rise.

As the local market embarks on what can cautiously be called a Christmas rally, there are a number of potential spoilsports around. The Federal Reserve meeting that starts overnight is one. Another is the Italian political situation, which is shaking some confidence at the open of the fixed-income market as 10-year yields approach 5 per cent, IG Markets analyst Chris Weston notes:

  • It is an interesting and perhaps testing time to hold Italian paper, not to mention with its planned auction of €6.5 billion of one-year bills tomorrow and €3.5 billion in three-year bonds on Thursday, at a time when traditionally liquidity is thin.
  • In the short term though, the budget is scheduled for debate in the senate next week and potentially will be approved prior to Christmas, and most expect this to cause a few problems.

The materials sector led the charge today, rising 0.9 per cent, while energy gained 0.4 per cent and financials added 0.3 per cent. Telcos were the biggest loser, falling 0.7 per cent.

The sharemarket has closed at the highest point of the year. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 rose 18.1 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4576, while the broader All Ords gained 18.9 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4581.3.

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Australia is falling behind other nations in terms of women in corporate and political leadership positions, a new study by the ABS shows.

ABS director Jane Griffin-Warwicke said while women made up just over half of Australia’s population, only 3.5 per cent of ASX 200 companies had a female CEO, and only 12.3 per cent of corporate board directors were women.

Australia faces a slowing economy that will require some fine-tuning of its labour market framework after producing one of the highest rates of employment growth in the industrialised world, a global agency says.

The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development report released today says labour market reforms over the past 15 years have boosted employment and cut welfare dependency.

But more effort is needed to help disadvantaged jobseekers get back to work and address the high number of people in part-time work who want full-time jobs.

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