Small gains on the local market, as companies keep their cost cutting on track.
The market is up 28 points. The Dow Jones was up 118 points at 16,519 — The market opened stronger on positive developments in Ukraine/Russia but early gains were lost and the market was down as much as 44 points at one stage. The Dow and S&P rebounded after comments from the Fed but technology stocks weighed on the NASDAQ. Volume was about average and the Dow closed near its highs in a 170 point range.
Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin reported to be attempting to de-escalate the rising violence by calling a meeting with regional leaders including OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Chair and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen spoke to the Joint Economic Committee. Much of what she said was similar to previous comments but there were a few points to note. She said there was no actual timetable for the first rate hike and that geopolitical tension and the recent flattening in housing activity are risks to the economic recovery. Despite this, she expects the economy to grow at a “somewhat faster pace” this year than last year. She argued that the equity market is not in a bubble.
Earnings and economic data were both generally weaker than expected but not the key focus.
European share markets were mixed — The German DAX rose 0.57% and the French CAC rose 0.41% but the UK FTSE fell 0.03%.
The Aussie dollar is weaker and is currently trading at US93.27c.
Gold fell US$18.90 or 1.44% to US$1289.70 an ounce.
Oil rose US$1.35 or 1.366% to US$100.85 a barrel after US inventories fell unexpectedly.
Iron ore fell US$0.90 to US$105.10 a tonne.
Base metals were mostly lower — Zinc fell 1.21%, copper fell 1.04% and aluminium fell 0.88% but nickel continued to rise, up 0.54%.
NAB (3384c) — First half cash profit was up 8.5% to $3.15 billion thanks to reduced losses from bad debts. The result was in line with an expected $3.158 billion. Net profit was up 16% to $2.856 billion compared to the $2.466 billion recorded previously. Interim dividend up 6c to 99c fully franked above an expected 98c. First half net interest margin down 9 basis points on year. First half charge for bad, doubtful debts down 52%.
AMP — First quarter cashflow, AUM and wealth protection update. Wealth management posted a 72% increase in net cash flows for the first quarter on the back of an uptick in business in their retirement products. Total assets under management rose to $101 billion from $100.5 billion in the December quarter. CEO Craig Meller said the overall result was “solid” and that their focus on Asia was delivering results. Performance of their insurance business was in line with guidance.
RioTinto (RIO) — AGM — Chairman Jan du Plessis has given shareholders a pessimistic view of global financial markets in the short to medium term. He said “Financial markets continued to be volatile in 2013 and while the outlook is now brighter in some parts of the world, we believe that volatility looks set to remain in the short to medium term as a number of structural deficiencies remain unresolved.” RIO posted higher underlying earnings of $US10.2 billion in 2013, on the back of their iron ore business. Dividends up by 15%.
AurizonHoldings (AZJ) — Flagged up to 480 workers could lose their job cuts as part of a restructure of its heavy maintenance operations in Queensland. The job cuts are part of the company’s efforts to improve productivity by more than $130 million by the 2015 financial year.
BoartLongyear (BLY) — Is down 13% on a market update. First quarter revenue came in at US$197 million vs US$370 million previously. They say their cost cutting target of more than US$80 million is on track.