* US stock markets closed higher again, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq at its best level in 12 years.
* European stocks managed modest gains overnight, in anticipation of the ECB LTRO liquidity injection.
* Asian stock markets generally rose yesterday, as energy prices eased.
* Commodities prices were lower, with Gold prices around $US1,768, while crude-oil closed around $US108.
The SPI Futures is trading above the key pivot level of 4180, ending up 0.3% (or 11 points) at 4,268. The key levels for our index today are 4230 to 4300.
Australian shares are expected to hold on to recent gains today as miners and banks found support overnight, and as the Aussie reporting season continues. Markets continued their melt up in the US and Europe overnight.
Economics News Today
US stock markets closed higher again, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq at its best level in 12 years.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 13000 points for the first time in nearly four years (May 2008) overnight. In the broader market seven of the top ten S&P 500 sectors ended higher, led by technology and consumer discretionary shares after consumer confidence figures can surprised to the upside. The S&P 500 stock index closed above the key 1365 level, and the Nasdaq is approaching the 3000 level.
In economic news the Conference Board reported that US consumer confidence rose to its highest reading in a year, lifted by a better outlook on the job market. The Commerce Department report on durable goods showed orders in January fell at the fastest pace in 3 years, decreasing 4% (compared with the 1.1% drop expected), while a regional Fed measure of economic activity in the mid-Atlantic area expanded modestly, for the third month in a row. The Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index found that US home prices fell 3.8% in December from a month earlier, ending 2011 at the lowest level since mid-2006. Commodities continue to rise, but crude-oil eased, see the details below.
The ten company groups that make up the S&P index traded mixed, with Materials up 0.3%, Energy down -0.3%, Financials up 0.3%, Industrials down -0.1%, Technology up 0.7%, while Consumer Staples were up 0.3%.
The Dow Jones closed up 0.2% (or 23 points) at 13,005, the S&P 500 index up 0.3% (or 4 points) at 1,372, the Nasdaq ended up 0.7% (or 20 points) at 2,986 and the smaller cap Russell 2000 was down -0.4%.
European stocks managed modest gains overnight, in anticipation of the ECB LTRO liquidity injection. The Stoxx Europe 600 closed up 0.2%.
Across the region banking and mining shares were boosted by investor sentiment after US consumer confidence rose to its highest level in a year in February. There is optimism ahead of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) second long-term refinancing operation (LTRO) and German parliament approval of the Greek bailout package. On the flip side the Standard & Poors Rating Agency has downgraded Greek sovereign credit to “selective default,” a move that was widely expected.
In London the FTSE 100 index closed up 0.2% (or 12 points) at 5928, the German DAX was up 0.5% (or 38 points) at 6,887 while in France the CAC was up 0.4% (or 12 points) at 3,453. Spain was down -0.1% and Italy ended up 0.2%.
Asian stock markets generally rose yesterday, as energy prices eased. Across the region airline stocks rose as crude-oil prices eased during the session, while financial stocks provided support. In Japan the market was helped by a weakened yen and strong retail sales, after a 1.9% year-on-year rise for January retail sales. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index continued higher (at 6-month highs) and in China the Shanghai Composite advanced to the 2450 level.
In China the SSE Composite was up 0.2% (or 4 points) at 2,452, while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index was up 1.7% (or 350 points) at 21,568 and in Japan the Nikkei 225 Index closed up 0.9% (or 88 points) at 9,722. The South Korean KOSPI was up 0.6% for the session, while the Indian market up 1.6%.
The Dollar Index was lower at 78.35 on a higher Euro, while the Australian Dollar last traded higher at 1.0695. Commodities prices traded mixed.
For the session the benchmark crude NYMEX for April delivery was down -1.9% (or -$US2.13) settle at $US106.43. Copper prices are seeking a support level as Copper for February delivery was up 0.8% (or 3.2 cents) at $US3.9035. February gold was up 0.8% (or $US13.40) at $US1,786.
ASX News Today
AGO – Atlas Iron says its 1H12 net profit has fallen 79.8 percent as the company remains on target to ship about 5.5 to 5.7 million tonnes of iron ore in fiscal 2012.
ALL – Aristocrat Leisure, the gaming machine supplier, expects global volatility and currency headwinds to continue, but says the release of new games in 2012 will help boost underlying profit.
BBG – Billabong International says it has rejected an increased takeover bid of $3.30 per share from private equity giant TPG Capital.
BLD – Boral the building products maker, has delivered a 65 percent rise in 1H12 net profit due to gains from acquisitions, but says weak housing markets continue to affect its underlying performance.
JHX – James Hardie Industries the building products maker, has increased its underlying profit and maintained its target for full year profit despite weak housing markets.
QBE – QBE Insurance Group’s annual net profit plunged 45 percent during what it described as one of the worst years for catastrophic events and is seeking to raise $US500 million from institutional and retail investors in order to replace its current tier two convertible debt.
SGT – SingTel Optus has failed to gag AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou from claiming the telco was “lifting” content owned by sporting bodies, behaviour “akin to stealing”.
SXL – Southern Cross Media has almost tripled its net profit after acquiring the Austereo radio group.
TLS – Telstra’s participation in the national broadband network (NBN) has cleared the final hurdle after the competition regulator, said it had accepted the telco’s structural separation undertakings.
ASX – to open higher
Commodities Stock Index up 0.2%
Gold Stocks Index up 1.6%
Oil Stocks Index up 0.1%
US ADRs – Broadly higher
By Michael Hevern
Head of Research