The market is up 23. The SFE Futures suggested a 16 point rise in the market this morning.

The Dow Jones closed up 19 – Wall St. moved in a relatively narrow 62 point range and closed up on the back of better-than-expected home sales in February and easing concerns about the housing market and its impact on the broader economy. Existing home sales increased 3.9% in February, its highest gain in three years. Takeover speculation also helped to push the market to a higher close. Talk that DaimlerChrysler and General Motors will be bid for. The Dow had its best week in four years, increasing 3.06%, the correction a few weeks back now a distant memory. The NASDAQ closed down 0.11%.

Resources doing well today. BHP up 52c to 2972c. It has successfully completed its off-market buy back of 141.1m BHP shares, representing 4.03% of issued shares in BHP. The stock is up 12.5% since the announcing the buyback. RIO up 98c to 7784c. Metals down, Zinc down 1.4%, Zinifex up 9c to 1614c. Aluminium down 0.6% and Nickel was down a big 7%. Copper was unchanged. Oil price up 86c to $61.07, closing higher and making up most of the losses it posted last week. Woodside up 82c to 3778c. Gold down $6.90. Newcrest up 1c to 2357c.

There’s a bit going today and this week. A few companies announce earnings results, including the Coles Group reporting this morning. The market has taken the US lead in its stride and is looking a lot more confident as it makes it way back to the 6000 mark. Now 5982 on the ASX 200.

  • Coles Group (CGJ) up 26c to 1626c after announcing a 3.5% increase in 1H NPAT to $501m. Goldman Sachs JB Were had expected $459m. Supermarket division performed poorly. Target and K-Mart did OK. The result is a little bit irrelevant because the company has put itself up for sale and they have sent a letter to shareholders updating the process this morning. It’s been five months since the Coles board rejected a 1525c share offer from a consortium led by KKR, and is up 10.3% since the company put up the for sale sign.
  • Sigma Pharmaceuticals (SIP) down 6c to 257c after reporting a 2.9% fall in FY07 to $101.8m. below the $109m expected. It has forecasted underlying net profit growth of 10-15% in FY08.
  • Alinta (AAN) requested a trading halt to consider potential takeover bids. ANN said “The proposals are conditional and the company requires, and has requested, further information in order to evaluate the terms and considerations contained in the proposals.” Its stock last traded at 1415c.
  • Bank of Queensland (BOQ) up 1c to 1705c. It has decided to carry out an entitlements issue to raise up to $600m to help fund its $2.5bn merger with Bendigo Bank.
  • The KKR-Seven partnership and PBL Media have lost out in the battle to buy Telecom’s Yellow Pages. A private equity consortium consisting of CCMP Capital and Teachers’ Pension Plan took out first prize with a NZ$2.24bn bid.
  • Qantas (QAN) down 6c to 500c. There was a lot of press at the weekend on Qantas. With Balanced Equity refusing to accept the 545c bid and UBS likely to follow suit it looks very likely that APA will now be working on Plan B – what to do if they can’t get 90%.

Full details of the BHP buyback terms and allocation in the MARCUS TODAY newsletter along with this week’s Diary and an opinion on what to do with Qantas from here.

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