Australian equity markets were flat today after negative leads from the northern hemisphere overnight. The bad news from overseas was tempered by good news at home, where the Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator (BSI) rose 0.8% in March, after rising 0.9% in February, and increases in the two previous months.
The strongest industry sectors were energy and healthcare. Next Tuesday Australian eyes will be on the first quarter consumer price index, given recent comments from the RBA about its importance as it considers a cash rate cut.
The S&P/ASX200 was down 0.07% to 4359.60. The All Ordinaries Index was down 0.08% to 4437.80.
The day’s winners
Oil and gas exploration company Karoon Gas Australia (ASX: KAR) was up 6.05% to $6.31 at 3.30pm. On April 5 the company announced it would begin drilling the Browse Basin as a 40% partner with US multinational Conoco Phillips. The Browse Basin is north-west of Darwin in the Timor Sea.
Senex Energy (ASX: SXY) was up 6.25% to $1.105 at 2.30pm. Senex Energy is an oil business holding an acreage position in Australia’s largest onshore energy precinct: South Australia’s Cooper Basin. On April 13 it announced it would begin drilling 6.5km from the Growler oil field.
The day’s losers
Engineering company Bradken (ASX: BKN) was down 11.94% to $7.45 at 2.10pm. Bradken makes products for the mining, freight and other large industries, with branches in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, China and the United Kingdom. The company announced to the ASX a downgrade in profit today due to a $16 million increase in costs and a $35 million reduction in sales.
Infrastructure investment fund Spark Infrastructure (ASX: SKI) was down 4.84% to $1.375 at 2.20pm.
The strongest sector was the S&P/ASX 200 Health Care (Sector) which was up 0.91% to 8975.10. The weakest sector was the S&P/ASX 200 Utilities (Sector) index which was down 0.92% to 4721.1.
The Australian dollar weakened today. One Australian dollar was buying $US1.0334 at 2.50pm.
Asian shares fell for the fourth day after the G20 warned Europe’S debt crisis was still a risk to the world economy, while new US data indicated the world’s biggest economy’s recovery was slowing. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 0.6% to 124.02 in Tokyo.
“I still think Europe overall is just buying time for its problem, which cannot be resolved in the short term,” Alex Au, Hong Kong-based managing director of Richland Capital Management, told Bloomberg. “From time to time in the next few years I think we will see panic situations. The market is very thin and liquidity is low, so if someone wants to push the market down it won’t be too difficult. Investors are holding a lot of cash.”
Japan’s NIKKEI 225 fell 0.43%, or 40.78 points, to 9547.78 at 3pm. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.24% to 20944.10.
Corporate lawyer Kazuhiko Shimokobe, 64, has accepted an offer from Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to become chairman of Tokyo Electric Power to restructure the company at the heart of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“Prime Minister Noda said it’s going to be a tough job but he would like me to become chairman of the new Tepco,” Shimokobe said, according to Bloomberg.
“I told him that I will make my utmost efforts so the new Tepco can take the first step and I will accept the request.”
Shimokobe is a former adviser at the Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan, the bailout agency that handled the restructuring of Kanebo and the sale of its cosmetics unit for $2.4 billion.