The market is doing well today after a strong session on Wall Street overnight – up 43. The SFE Futures suggested a 33 point rise in the market this morning.

The Dow Jones closed up 101 overnight – It moved in a 131 point range and finished the session higher in what was a positive session ahead of the Fed’s decision on interest rates tonight. Financials started the week off well – the sector has lost 14% this year due to the credit crunch. UBS was the main sotry of the night in Europe – UBS put on 1.8% after investors in Singapore and the Middle East agreed to buy $11.5bn of UBS AG convertible bonds. It also told investors the credit crunch has resulted in around $76bn worth of losses and that they’re no longer forecasting a profit for the 4Q. According to Bloomberg, on November 26, the S&P 500 Financials Index traded on 10.6x profit, the lowest since tracking began back in 1995. Homebuilders also had a strong session , the sector put on 3% after the National Association of Realtors index indicated pending sales increased by 0.6%, following a revised 1.4% rise in September – D.R Horton closed up 5%. Takeover activity seems to be picking up again, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Blackstone Group (up 6.5%) might be planning a bid for Rio Tinto (note: Blackstone have now denied they have any intention to bid).

RIO Tinto down 60c today to 146010c. They have applied to the UK takeovers regulator to set a deadline for BHP Billiton (BHP) to formally declare a takeover bid. The panel may enforce a time limit. There is also a story on the front page of some of the business sections this morning suggesting that the Blackstone Group is going to buddy up with the $200bn Chinese Investment fund to bid for RIO. Blackstone have denied that this morning. The rest of the resources are doing OK today. BHP up 47c to 4406c. Metals all down overnight, Nickel down 4.2%, Zinc down 2.1% and Copper 1.2%. Aluminium down 0.8%. Zinifex down 14c to 1540c. Oil price down 51c to $87.72 in what was a volatile session ahead of the Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates tomorrow. Woodside unchanged at 4730c. Gold up $13.30. Newcrest up 27c to 3309c.

FOMC Meeting today – we will wake up to the decision tomorrow. Some economists are talking about rates being cut to 2.0% from 4.5% before this cycle of easing is over. The market is pricing in a 28% chance of a 50bp rate cut (down from 36%) and a 72% chance of a 25bp rate cut (up from 64%).

  • Asciano Group (AIO) have had their investor briefing today – they told investors a takeover of Brambles (BXB) is not on their agenda and that it expects to begin hauling coal in QLD in 2009 and making acquisitions in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and India. CEO Mark Rowsthorn said the 4.1% stake in BXB is no longer considered a long term investment and that the company’s main aim will be to extract maximum value from its assets. AIO has struggled since listing and is down 16.9% in the past quarter. Brambles down 18c to 1215c this morning.
  • Allco Finance Group (AFG) and Industry Funds Management will pay US$1.5bn for a portfolio of US power projects. AFG’s subsidiary, AllCapital, will invest up to US$287.36m for 37% of the equity. The acquisition is subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval as well as other regulatory agencies. AFG up 17cto 753c. AFG have their AGM tomorrow. Still rising after two brokers upgraded to a BUY last week.
  • AMP has sold its Cobalt Gordian insurance businesses to Enstar Group for $585m. Both the manager of the business, Cobalt, and the closed-book portfolio will be included in the deal. They will use the cash to up its dividend payment by 2c a share starting with the final 2007 dividend to be paid in April 2008 – good news for the income investors holding the stock. “The sale of Cobalt/Gordian means that AMP is now fully focused on its core businesses … and is well positioned to continue to grow earnings and shareholder value in these areas”. AMP up 0.5%.
  • PMP said an audit by the ATO will result in a $43m boost to the bottom line in 2008. It will carry forward income tax losses as at June 30, 2007, of $190m, an increase of $143.5m from the amount recognized in its financial statements this year. PMP up 1.5c to 186c.
  • Nufarm down again after the bid for the company fell through yesterday. It has dropped from 1625c to 1433c. UBS have cut their recommendation to NEUTRAL from SELL on the company and their target price to 1510c from 1725c after the Chinese led consortium failed to come up with a deal before the deadline. They say, “The lack of any agreement has no impact on NUF earnings with no break fee payment. The $17.55 bid implied 22x our FY08e our FY08e earnings”. NUF now 1470c.
  • Goldman Sachs JB Were maintain their BUY recommendation and 994c target price on Macarthur Coal (MCC) saying their $275m acquisition of Custom Mining looks like a reasonable buy and makes lots of sense. “The deal does look reasonable from a strategic point of view”. MCC up 35c to 1000c.
  • Adelaide Brighton has acquired a 50% stake in aggregate and ready mixed concrete supplier Mawsons. ABS down 4c to 544c.
  • Austock (stockbroker) listed on the ASX today – it has started well – up 16% to 210c.
  • VTP goes ex dividend today 5c.

We answer some more of your STUPID QUESTIONS in the newsletter today including why we look at substantial shareholdings, what is the Future Fund doing, what do you hold in a recession, how do you exercise a company option, do you make more money in gold or gold stocks, and why Marcus won’t reply to questions that simply say “Discuss” – would you?

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