The market is down 8. The SFE Futures were up 7 this morning.

Wall Street closed down 5 overnight. The Dow was up 3 at best and down 37 at worst. It was a quiet session with volume significantly down on the average. The S&P 500 is now up 13% since the beginning of December. President Barack Obama presented his $3.7 trillion budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year — no great impact. Oil price fell 77c to $84.81, Gold price put on $4.70 to $1365.10 and the Aussie dollar crept to 100.30c compared to 100.09c yesterday morning.

Today’s main stories…

  • Westpac Bank (WBC) released an impressive 1st Q Trading Update. Quarterly cash earnings increased 5% to $1.55bn, slightly down on the $1.6bn reported last year. WBC is up 10c today to 2453c.
  • Brambles (BXB) down 7c to 716c (was down as much as 3.7%) after announcing results that missed analysts expectations. They reiterated FY guidance.
  • Foster’s Group (FGL) announced a lower than expected result, although the focus is on the demerger which is going ahead. FGL up 1c to 575c.
  • GWA Ltd (GWA) results below expectations. 1st H net profit of $33.2m, up 30% on last year. Declared an interim dividend of 9.5c — as expected. GWA unchanged at 328c.
  • Primary Health Care (PRY) said EBITDA fell 17% to $122.7m but said earnings would improve in the 2nd H. PRY unchanged at 357c.
  • Australand Property Group (ALZ) posted a net profit of $165.8m in the year to Dec 31, a turnaround from a $298.24m loss in 2009.
  • AXA Asia Pacific (AXA) announced profit fell 11% of last year. The result is rather irrelevant considering it has been bid for by AMP Ltd (AMP).

In other news…

  • ASX Ltd (ASX) — Trading Halt — pending a statement on the progress of talks towards a merger with the Singapore exchange. Last traded at 3835c.
  • Analysts expect BHP Billiton (BHP) to announce an underlying net profit of $US10.6bn when releasing their results later today/tomorrow. The market is factoring in a capital return to shareholders of around $US10bn. BHP up 3c to 4731c and has hit a fresh 52 week high.
  • Total personal finance commitments fell 0.2% in December, seasonally adjusted, to $7.740bn.
  • Chinese inflation data at 2pm. Could worry. Expected to be up from 4.6% to 5.3%.
  • RBA Statement on Monetary Policy imminent.
  • Stocks going ex dividend: Argo Investments (13c), Alumina (3.94c), BKI Investments (3c), Computershare (14c).

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