The market is down 18 — The SFE Futures suggested a 2 point fall this morning. Retailers down after consumer confidence fell 4.3% in May, the biggest fall since May 1996 when it fell 6.4%. Billabong is out of its trading halt and down 17%.

Dow down 29. Up most of the session — fell around 60 points in the last half an hour. Quite a narrow range — up 34 at best and down 41 at worst.

Retailers down after consumer sentiment fell 4.3% — the biggest fall since May 1996 (down 6.4%). One economist has described them as “disastrous”. RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said confidence would be the key element of interest rate decision making … perhaps more rate cuts to come.

Making the news today…

  • James Hardie (JHX) announced a FY net profit of $US136.3m. Not paying a dividend as expected. Excluding asbestos and other payments, it made US$96.9m, at the lower end of expectations.
  • ABB Grain (ABB) announced a lower-than-expected net profit of $29.7m, down 12% due to a number of one-off items. Along with its profit result, it has announced it will be merging with Viterra valuing the company at around $1.6bn. The deal involves a special dividend of 41c to be paid by ABB and a combination of shares and cash. A vote to approval the merger will occur in September.
  • Billabong International (BBG) is out of a trading halt after raising completing its $230m institutional raising and $60m retail component.
  • Macquarie Airports (MAP) is cutting its 2009 distribution to 21c from 27c and is planning to sell its 14.9% stake in Japan Airport Terminal into a buyback tender for a $20m loss. April traffic was also up 1% at Sydney Airport, and fell less than previous months at Brussels and Copenhagen.
  • Arrow Energy (AOE) says two of its three gas-fired turbine generators at the Braemer 2 Power station in QLD have completed performance testing.
  • Iluka Resources (ILU) said its $420m Jacinth-Ambrosia has received final state government approval.
  • Lion Nathan (LNN) announced a 6.9% rise in 1H profit to $176m. The result is largely irrelevant as it been taken over by Kirin.
  • Leighton Holdings (LEI) — subsidiary John Holland has been awarded a $250m Maitland to Whittingham third road alliance project.
  • Wattyl (WYL) has provided a trading update.
  • Neptune Marines (NMS) secured $20m in Blue Chip contracts.

Other news…

  • Brokers aren’t impressed with APN News & Media’s (APN) decision to raise close to $100m yesterday. UBS says it’s still a Buy despite cutting its target price to 225c from 250c. Merrill Lynch maintains Underperform and cut target price by 17% to 170c. APN still in a trading halt — last traded at 119c.
  • Japan’s GDP fell 4% in the quarter (fastest retracement on record) after a huge drop in exports and weak domestic activity.
  • Australian wages grew by 0.8% in the 1Q from 4Q08.

The Dow Futures suggest a 14 point fall on Wall Street tonight.

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