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Housing starts fall 6.9% in December quarter: Midday roundup

Housing starts fell further than expected during the December quarter, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The data shows that starts fell by a seasonally adjusted 6.9% in the three months to December 31, to 33,653 units.

This came after a revised decline of 5.8% to 36,806 units in the September quarter, while analysts had expected a 6% fall in new homes built.

But, on an annual basis, starts were down 13.4% compared to the previous corresponding period.

Fortescue announces major capital raising

Fortescue Metals has announced plans for a $US1 billion capital raising in order to fund expansion plans.

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, Fortescue said it had launched a bond offering for $US1 billion in senior unsecured notes.

The company intends to use the money in order to triple output to 155 million tonnes of iron ore every year by the end of June 2013.

Stockland extends buy-back

Property group Stockland has extended its on-market security buyback to as much as 10% of issued capital.

In a statement this morning, Stockland said it would fund the increased share buyback through the sale of more assets.

 “Our securities are trading at a level that in our view does not reflect the underlying value of our business nor our strong capital position,” managing director Matthew Quinn said in a statement.

“With our conservative balance sheet and ongoing asset sales, we are well placed to continue to fund our buyback up to 10% of issued capital while retaining our strong financial position with low gearing and long-dated debt.”

Shares open higher after strong US retail data

The Australian sharemarket has opened higher this morning after a strong lead from the United States, where investor confidence has been bolstered by positive retail data.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 44 points or 1% to 4292 at 12.00 AEST, while the Australian dollar remains at $US1.05c.

In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 218 points or 1.7% to 13,177 after data showed retail data increased 1.1% in January.

Fitch upgrades Greece after credit deal

Fitch has upgraded Greece to B- from its “restricted default” status after the country managed the biggest debt writedown in history.

The ratings agency has now said Greece has been given a “stable outlook”.

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