The market is up 41. The SFE Futures were up 27 this morning.

The Dow Jones closed up 81 overnight. The Dow was up 88 at best and down 24 at worst. Another quiet day with trading volume well below average in the US (2nd lowest of the year). Only 3.6bn shares traded, compared to the average daily volume of 4.5bn. Home prices fell for the seventh month on the trot. The consumer confidence index fell more than expected in March. The oil price gained 81c to $104.79 and the gold price fell for the 4th day, down $3.70 to $1416.20. The Aussie dollar is at 103.02c up from 102.90 this morning.

Today’s main stories…

  • Lynas Corp (LYC) has entered a trading halt ahead of an announcement regarding “a strategic agreement and capital raising”. LYC last traded at 218c.
  • Brazil’s CSN says it will keep its investment in Riversdale Mining (RIV) despite the move from Rio Tinto (RIO) to up the bid yesterday from 1600c to 1650c and to declare it unconditional. CSN wants to use its Riversdale investment as a “hedge” to cover part of its own coking coal needs. RIV up 2% at 1642c, RIO up 111c to 8339c. Rio Tinto has said it will go ahead with its $3.9bn bid for RIV even if it ends with a minority stake.
  • Qantas Airways has announced cost-cutting measures including reducing capacity, retirement of aircraft, cutting management positions and ongoing fuel surcharges in response “high oil and jet fuel prices and the impact of significant natural disasters in Japan, NZ and Australia”. CEO Alan Joyce said “The significant and sustained increases in the price of fuel is the most serious challenge Qantas has faced since the Global Financial Crisis”. QAN up 1.9%.
  • UGL Ltd (UGL) has entered into a joint venture with a Saudi Arabian engineering firm to deliver facilities and property management services across Saudi Arabia. UGL up 1.8%.
  • Westfield Retail Trust (WRT) announced today the commencement of the $320m redevelopment at Westfield Fountain Gate. The centre is jointly owned with Westfield Group (WDC). WRT unchanged at 263c, WDC unchanged at 940c. Westfield’s annual report showed its retiring executive chairman, Frank Lowy, received a 7% per cent pay rise to almost $16m last year despite the falling WDC share price.
  • Talk in the AFR about who Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments (PMV) will bid for. They have a new CEO in disgraced Mark McInnes and $1-2bn in cash and debt to spend. That would cover buying any of Myer (MYR – $2bn), Pacific Brands (PBG – $750m) or Bras n Things ($250-300m). PMV up 1.6%.
  • Talk in the press that Goodman Fielder (GFF) have appointed an advisor to defend a potential bid. GFF up 4.2%.
  • Skilled job vacancy advertisements rose 0.6% in March; ads for professionals rose 1%, associate professionals increased 3.1% and trades were up 0.3%.

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