The market is down 12. SFE Futures were up 9 this morning as the Dow Jones finished up 3 on below average volumes overnight. US markets cooled off last night and saw some profit taking after seven straight sessions of gains and ahead of retail sales and trade balance data out tonight. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ indices were both down. US weekly chain store sales were up by 2.7% in the latest week.

Best sectors — telecoms (+0.6%), healthcare (-0.4%) and basic materials (+0.3%) sector stocks.

Worst sectors — financials (-0.7%), technology (-0.6%) and industrials (-0.5%).

Apple down 2.16% after it said there was a 25% chance it would miss its quarterly revenue forecast.

European markets mixed — UK FTSE up 0.11%, German DAX down 0.23%, France up 0.10%, Spain down 0.26%, Italy down 0.42%.

Metals up — copper up 0.94%, nickel up 0.80%, zinc up 1.25%, aluminium up 1.56%. Spot iron ore down 70c to $143.40. Gold up $14.20 to $1592.20.

Announcements and stories:

  • The Westpac/Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment rose 2% to 110.5 points in March, its highest level since the end of 2010.
  • NAB strategy report out this morning. It outlines its investment in technology as well as $800 million of cost-cutting over five years. It will have short-term profit implications (higher depreciation) but offset by cost savings in the long term. Seems to have come up short on best expectations — the technology upgrades will take until 2016 to show customer benefits and is behind the timeline for technology improvements set by the other banks. NAB down 2.25% to 3084c.
  • Media reforms — Will go to Parliament in a week but looks likely to be blocked by the coalition and the Greens and get mothballed. There is media outrage at the changes as the government appoints itself as policeman and arbitrator of deals in the sector.
  • iiNet (IIN) — Down after an ACCC draft of a final access determination for wholesale ADSL services. IIN down 4.27% to 471c.
  • Southern Cross Media (SXL) loses some of its bid premium today as a deal with Nine Entertainment looks less likely as Seven and Ten use the media discussion this morning to lobby against the abolition of the reach rule that would open the door for a Nine/SXL deal. SXL down 5.23% to 163c.
  • CBA versus BHP — As of last night CBA had a market cap of $113.5 billion and BHP $114.5 billion. CBA is threatening to become the biggest stock in the market. CBA down 0.55% to 7019c & BHP is up 0.98% to 3602c.
  • Ramsay Health Care (RHC) — An article in The AFR says the company is close to making a deal to expand its operations into Asia. The company is believed to be working on a JV with Malaysian Sime Darby. RHC shares are up almost 80% over the past year. RHC is down 0.67% to 3121c.