Auctions market remains flat as confidence wanes: Midday roundup

The residential auctions market has remained flat as consumer confidence has continued to wane.

According to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, Melbourne only recorded a clearance rate of 59%, compared to 61% last week and 56% this time last year. There were 586 auctions reported.

Australian Property Monitors has reported a slightly more disappointing result for Sydney, with a 56.9% clearance rate from 442 listings, while Adelaide and Brisbane recorded rates of 38.9% and 42.1% respectively.

Rinehart lifts Fairfax stake, attacks board

Billionaire Gina Rinehart has raised her stake in Fairfax to more than 13%, making her the largest shareholder in the company, while she has also taken aim at the rest of the company’s board.

In a statement given to Fairfax, Rinehart said it’s too early to tell whether Hancock Prospecting will continue to buy more shares or “find some other satisfactory solution”.

“There are questions to be raised concerning the current chairmanship that has presided over both an approx. 60% loss in share market value and continuous loss of circulation of all (its) major mastheads, which in turn (affects) revenue,” Rinehart said.

“Answers need to be given as to how the chairman will address this in the interests of all shareholders, rather than merely hoping for improvements in circulation, revenue and share price or perhaps trying to blame…industry conditions.”

Optus NBN deal nears approval

Optus has come a step closer to selling its cable customers to the National Broadband Network in an $800 million after a draft decision by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was released.

Optus chief country officer Paul O’Sullivan has said the deal is a “win-win”.

”The ACCC acknowledges that this draft determination represents a finely balanced decision, drawing on public information and submissions and a large amount of confidential information provided by NBN Co and Optus,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

”In essence our decision was based on weighing carefully two clear public benefits arising from the HFC agreement against a potentially large but less clear detriment.”

However, critics have attacked the deal, saying it will reduce competition the market for broadband infrastructure.

Shares higher as European fears fade

The Australian sharemarket has opened higher this morning as markets begin to improve on growing investor sentiment Europe will be able to emerge from its current financial turmoil.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 28 points or 0.7% to 4057.5 at 12.00 AEST, while the Australian dollar was trading at US98c.

In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed out last week down 0.6% or 74 points to 12,454.8

Online sales in Australia reach $11.1 billion

National Australia Bank’s online retail sales index released today valued online sales in Australia for the year to April 2012 at $11.1 billion.

The Index found online sales are equivalent to 5.1% of traditional retail spending, up from 4.9 per cent in 2011.

The survey found a clear slowdown in growth over the past year, with the year-on-year growth rate declining to just 15% for the month of April – although growth in online sales continued to outpace traditional retail.

Domestic retailers – those that are Australian for tax purposes – continue to dominate online retail sales, with a 73% share of the market.

NAB head of consumer sectors, David Thorn, said while online sales are becoming a larger proportion of retailer turnover, businesses are taking a multi-channel approach by developing an online presence alongside a traditional storefront.

“There’s no doubt that Australian’s retail sector is undergoing a structural change as consumers become more sophisticated in their purchasing decisions and how they engage with a retailer,” said Thorn.

Greek opinion polls buoy investors

Australian investors are likely to be encouraged by the latest opinion polls from Greece according to Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

These show that the pro bailout party, New Democracy, has a 5.7% lead over the left wing anti-austerity party Syriza.

“Poll results in Greece have the potential to be the key driver of investor strategy over the next two weeks,” said Spooner.

“If a realistic possibility of an effective pro bailout government emerges, we are likely to see risk being re-priced and a rally in equity markets.”

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