The market is up 8. The SFE Futures were down 5 this morning.

The Dow Jones closed down 17 overnight and was down 98 at worst on the news that a 7.4 magnitude earthquake had hit Japan (it doesn’t seem to have caused much damage despite shaking Tokyo for a minute). The ECB raised interest rates to 1.25% as expected while the Bank of England kept rates on hold. Initial unemployment claims fell more than expected. The oil price gained $1.47 to $110.30 and the CRB Commodity index rose to the highest level since 2008. The gold price gained 80c to $US1459.30. The Aussie dollar reached 105.09 US cents overnight before pulling back to 104.64c.

Today’s main stories…

  • Equinox Minerals said it will oppose the C$6.3bn bid from China’s Minmetals Resources. EQN CEO Craig Williams said Minmetals’s C$7-a-share offer is “clearly opportunistic and seeks to frustrate Equinox’s offer for Lundin Mining”. At just a 9% premium to EQN’s recent average share price it is a “fraction of premiums paid in recent acquisitions of base metal mining companies”. EQN down 4c to 743c.
  • Treasurer Wayne Swan has formally rejected the $8.4bn ASX-SGX merger. He said his decision was based on information from the FIRB and that it wouldn’t give Australian-listed companies better access to Asian capital markets, saying “this is not the right deal to grow our role as a financial services hub in Asia”. ASX and SGX have agreed to terminate their merger implementation agreement but “will continue to evaluate strategic growth opportunities, including further dialogue with SGX”. ASX down 5c to 3343c.
  • Leighton Holdings (LEI) remains in a trading halt pending an update on its earnings guidance. There is concern that LEI may announce writedowns and a capital raising with Australia’s largest desalination project, worth $5.7bn, said to a year behind schedule. Leighton’s parent Hochtief fell 8.05% in Frankfurt overnight, saying it expects “significant adverse effects” on its 2011 guidance. LEI last traded at 2894c.
  • Rio Tinto (RIO) has approved spending $US238m to advance a feasibility study for extending the life of Kennecott Utah Copper mine in the US. RIO down 1c to 8597c.
  • Foster’s Group (FGL) has won an appeal against the ATO over disputed tax assessments relating to the financing of the Elders Finance Group in the 1980s and 1990s. Foster’s says it expects no change to its financial position. FGL up 1.1%.
  • Asciano (AIO) Patrick Corp are taking legal action to prevent Maritime Union strikes at ports this weekend. AIO owns Patrick Corp. AIO down 1.5% to 169.5c.
  • Stocks hitting 52-week high today include: AAD, ANN, CEU, COH, MML, ORG, ORI, OSH, STO, WOR.

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