The market is down 8. Our futures were down 13 this morning with the Dow Jones down 33 on below average volumes as global markets continue to speculate ahead of the reopening of Cypriot banks tomorrow. Italian and Spanish 10 year bond yields up 21bpts and 15bpts.
Market sentiment was soft in the wake of the ongoing inability for Italian politicians to get a government in place. Eurozone finance ministers have prepared an explanatory document that says key components of the Cyprus rescue package was not a template for future fiscal/bank financing misadventures across the region. US pending home sales were down 0.4% in February to 104.8 after a downwardly revised estimate of 105.2 in January.
Best sectors — healthcare (+0.53%), utilities (+0.4%) and energy (+0.3%). Worst sectors — telecoms (-0.6%), financials (-0.4%), technology (-0.4%) and consumer goods (-0.3%). The VIX (Volatility Index) up 2.82%.
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European markets down — UK FTSE down 0.18%, German DAX down 1.15%, France down 0.99%, Spain down 1.13%, Italy down 0.92%.
Metals mixed — copper down 0.21%, nickel up 0.44%, zinc up 0.29%, aluminium up 0.56%. Spot iron ore up 30c to $137.40. Gold up $8.70 to $1604.40. Oil up 30c to $96.64. BHP and RIO up 0.17% and 0.85% in ADR form.
- The TD Securities Melbourne Institute Monthly Inflation Gauge increased by 0.2% in March for a 2.1% annual rate.
- Nufarm (NUF) — The company booked a 53% fall in first-half profit to $8.4 million. It also cut its outlook for the financial year. The company has blamed hot, dry conditions that have reduced demand for crop protection products. NUF is down 14.26% to 409c.
- Leighton Holdings (LEI) — Will sell 70% of its phone and internet assets to a Canadian pension fund. The deal between Leighton and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan covers the Nextgen Networks, Metronode and Infoplex businesses — valued at $885 million. LEI is up 0.58% to 2074c.
- Bathurst Resources (BTU) — Has received tentative approval from the Environment Court to go ahead with their Escarpment Mine project on the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau. BTU is up 18.33% to 35.5c.
- Bluescope Steel (BSL) — New Bluescope and Nippon Sumitomo Metal joint venture starts up. BSL receives $US540 million net proceeds. BSL is up 3.9% to 506c.
- Qantas (QAN) — The tie-up with Emirates was granted final ACCC approval yesterday but on conditions that they do not reduce flights between Australia and New Zealand. The regulator will be closely watching the tie-up for signs of higher airfares. QAN is down 0.57% to 175c.
- QBE — Shareholders registered a protest vote at the company AGM yesterday against former boss Frank O’Halloran’s $2.3 million retirement allowance and long-term incentive payments. QBE is up 0.67% to 1351c.