The market is down 38.  The SFE Futures were down 58 this morning.

The Dow Jones closed down 168 overnight after being up 35 early in the session. Unrest in the Middle East continued to escalate with fears that it will spread to Saudi Arabia and Iran (No.1 and 2 oil producers). Bernanke said that the oil price rise is unlikely to have a large impact on the US economy but that it could lead to weaker growth and inflation if sustained. The oil price rose $2.60 $99.63. Up to $115.39 in the UK. Gold rose $21.30 to hit a new high of $1431.20. The Aussie dollar fell to 101.38c from 101.87c.

Today’s main stories…

  • 4thQ GDP has come in at +0.7% and 2.7% for the year against consensus of 0.6% and 2.6% although some brokers expected 0.8%. The A$ initially dropped on the number.
  • Treasurer Wayne Swan has approved the $13bn bid for AXA Asia Pacific (AXA) by AMP Ltd (AMP). AXA shareholders vote on the merger today (a formaility). AXA up 1.1%, AMP down 1.1%.
  • Telstra (TLS) and Consolidated Media Holdings (CMJ) boards have agreed to Foxtel making a $2bn bid for Austar (AUN). TLS is a 50% owner of Foxtel while CMJ is a 25% owner. TLS up 0.4%, CMJ up 1%, AUN up 17.7%.
  • Metcash (MTS) has downgraded its full-year earnings guidance thanks to difficult trading conditions. It warned of a possible downgrade when it reported its half-year results in November. MTS down 0.5%.
  • Qantas (QAN) has reported passenger numbers up 9.5% in January from a year earlier. QAN down 1.7%.
  • Murchison Metals (MMX) has requested a trading halt pending an announcement regarding a port and rail project. MMX last traded at 138.5c.
  • Westfield (WDC) has appointed Peter Lowy and Steven Lowy as joint CEO. Executive chairman Frank Lowy will become non-executive chairman. Directors David Lowy and David Gonski will stand down in May at the company’s AGM. WDC down 0.7%.
  • Tata Steel raised its stake in Riversdale Mining (RIV) to 27.1%, making Rio Tinto’s (RIO) $3.9bn takeover bid for the company difficult. RIV down 2.7%, RIO down 1.4%.
  • Morgan Stanley has removed Foster’s Group from their Best Ideas List saying, “While we continue to believe the stock is substantially cheap, the risk of a lack of immediate catalysts makes us think that the stock might take some time to perform in accordance with our recommendation”. FGL down 0.9%.
  • Singapore Stock Exchange CEO says they will not sweeten the bid for the ASX from here. ASX down 0.5%.

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