* The US markets had their biggest weekly decline for the year for all three indexes due concerns about European sovereign-debt issues and the disappointing jobs data.
* Many European markets are still closed for the Easter holidays.
* Asian stock markets are expected to trade lower today, as traders digested the news of disappointing Chinese CPI data.
* Commodities prices were lower, with Gold prices trading around $US1,642, while crude-oil closed around $US102.
Australian shares are expected to ease today after the long-weekend, as stocks sold-down in overseas markets. Markets remained above key levels but backed-off multi-year highs but traded lower in the European markets and in the US.
The SPI Futures is trading above the key pivot level of 4250, ending down -0.5% (or -20 points) at 4,315. The key levels for our index this week are 4230 to 4330.
See below for ASX listed companies in the news today.
Economics News Today
* March Australian PCI
* March ANZ Job Ads
* March NAB Business Confidence Survey
The US markets had their biggest weekly decline for the year for all three indexes due concerns about European sovereign-debt issues and the disappointing jobs data. All 10 S&P 500 sectors closed lower overnight, with industrial and financial sectors leading the declines. US non-farm payrolls data, released on Good Friday, came in much lower than expected, showing that 120,000 jobs were created in March, well below the market expectation of 203,000. The result snapped a 3-month streak of 200,000 plus job growth. The unemployment rate fell to 8.2% from February’s 8.3%, the lowest rate since January 2009, but the participation rate also declined. Investors are looking to tonight’s remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for prospects for more monetary stimulus efforts by the Fed. The start of the corporate earnings season begins tonight with the Alcoa results.
All ten company groups that make up the S&P index traded lower, with Materials down -1.4%, Energy down -1.3%, Financials down -1.5%, Industrials down -1.6%, Technology down -0.7%, while Consumer Staples were down -0.9%.
The Dow Jones closed down -1.0% (or -130 points) at 12,929, the S&P 500 index was down -1.1% (or -16 points) at 1,382, the Nasdaq ended down -0.8% (or -22 points) at 2,740 and the smaller cap Russell 2000 was down -1.8%.
Many European markets are still closed for the Easter holidays. Trading volumes were light but there are still lingering worries about Spain, where the newly elected government has announced it would push through an additional EUR10 billion worth of cuts, which are designed to boost investor confidence.
In London the FTSE 100 index last closed up 0.4% (or 20 points) at 5,723, the German DAX was last down -0.1% (or -9 points) at 6,775 while in France the CAC was last up 0.2% (or 6 points) at 3,319. Spain was down -0.1% and Italy ended down -0.2%.
Asian stock markets are expected to trade lower today, as traders digest the news of the Chinese CPI (consumer price index) which rose 3.6 per cent in March from a year earlier, compared to a rise of 3.2 per cent in February. These figures will make it harder for the Chinese central bank to pursue further easing by cutting bank reserve rate ratios. Note Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) figures are due out this week.
In China the SSE Composite last closed down -0.9% (or -21 points) at 2,285, while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index last closed down -0.9% (or -198 points) at 20,593 and in Japan the Nikkei 225 Index was closed down -1.5% (or -142 points) at 9,546. The South Korean KOSPI was down for the session, while the Indian market closed down -1.5%.
The Dollar Index was higher at 79.78 on a lower Euro, while the Australian Dollar last traded lower at 1.0312. Commodities prices traded generally lower.
For the session the benchmark crude NYMEX for April delivery was down -0.3% (or $US0.30) to settle at $US102.46. Copper prices are backing off a key resistance level as Copper for April delivery was down -2.0% (or 6.3 cents) at $US3.7160. April gold was up 0.5% at $US1,642.50.
ASX News Today
AQA – Aquila Resources has sold its main coal asset in order to fund a new iron ore project in WA.
BHP – BHP Billiton warns that strikes in central Queensland have hit its supply chain, as unions plan to step up industrial action.
AMC – Amcor the paper and packaging group has paid $US40 million for a tobacco packaging plant in Mexico.
BCI – BC Iron and equal joint venture partner Fortescue Metals Group have extended the life of their Nullagine iron ore mine in WA by 18 months.
CRF – Centro Retail announced that former Westfield Group chief financial officer (CFO) Marlon Teperson has joined shopping centre owner Centro Retail Australia.
IAG – Insurance Australia Group has completed its $NZ380 million take-over of NZ’s AMI Insurance after getting the all clear from regulators.
MTS – Metcash will cut almost 10 percent of its workforce as it undergoes a dramatic restructure due to excessive competition with its supermarket rivals.
ORG – NSW electricity customers could be spared up to $1.5 billion in costs over the next two decades thanks to a low-carbon energy network in Sydney’s CBD. Elsewhere Origin has acquired a majority interest in Chilean hydroelectric power company Energia Austral from Xstrata Copper.
PRG – Programmed Maintenance Services has bought golf course and race track maintenance company Turnpoint for $9.1 million.
QBE – QBE Insurance Group expects its premiums to rise by more than 7% in 2012 after an unprecedented number of natural disasters.
WPL – Shell is making noises about wanting to sell its over 20% stake in Woodside as it cannot see the Australian regulators letting it make a deal for the whole company. BHP is the most likely bidder.
TWE – Treasury Wine Estates, the wine business formerly owned by Foster’s, will receive a $31.5 million payment from the brewer to complete an IT overhaul.
Reporting today: none
Aberdeen Leaders (ALR)
Ausdrill Limited (ASL)
Dolomatrix Internat (DMX)
WAM Research Ltd (WAX)
ASX – to open lower
US & UK/Europe – lower
Commodities Stock Index down -1.3%
Gold Stocks Index up 0.4%
Oil Stocks Index down -1.3%
US ADRs – Broadly Lower
BHP down -0.2%, RIO down -0.1%; AWC down -0.8%
ANZ down -1.0% & NAB down -0.6%
NEM up 0.6%, JHX up 0.6%, NWS down 2.3%
By Michael Hevern
Head of Research
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