The market is down 23. Our futures were up 16 this morning as the Dow Jones finished up 56 on below average volumes. The Dow was up 75 at best and down 12 at worst on soft economic data. Non-farm payrolls and other major employment data is out tonight.

US new claims for unemployment insurance were up 28,000 to a four-month high of 385,000 last week, which was above the forecast of 350,000. February factory orders: headline US factory orders were up 3.0% in February, near market expectations of +2.9%, after a better than an initially reported 1.0% decline in January (was -2.0%).

Best sectors — telecommunications (+1.3%), utilities (+0.9%), financials (+0.9%), and materials (+0.8%). Worst sectors — technology (-0.2%) and energy (-0.1%).

The Bank of England kept their bank rate at 0.5% and the asset purchase target at 375 billion pounds. The ECB kept the refi rate (interest rate) at 0.75% as expected and the overnight deposit rate at zero.

Bank of Japan yesterday doubled asset purchases in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

European markets down — UK FTSE down 1.19%, German DAX down 0.73%, France down 0.77%, Spain down 0.71%, Italy down 0.30%.

Metals mixed — copper up 0.74%, nickel down 0.05%, zinc up 1.85%, aluminium up 0.90%. Spot iron ore was up 30c to $135.90. Gold up 60c to $1554.10.

  • David Jones (DJS) — ex-dividend (10c) — down 14c.
  • Harvey Norman (HVN)  — ex-dividend (4.5c) — down 5c.
  • Billabong (BBG) — Paul Naude has submitted an offer of between 60c-65c for a full takeover of the surf wear manufacturer valuing the business at between $287 million -$311 million. VF Corp have submitted an even lower bid — at around 50c. The company has called an indefinite trading suspension while negotiations with two potential suitors drag on.
  • Fairfax Media (FXJ) — Has once again re-arranged their organisational structure. Brokers are seeing the new reshuffle as means to help reduce costs going forward. Target prices are up a little. The share price is making higher highs and holding the uptrend. FXJ is up 0.82% to 61.5c.
  • Adelaide Brighton (ABC) — Down 4.7% yesterday after they held an investor presentation. The company has advised that they now expect cement and clinker volumes to be “marginally lower” than in 2012. ABC is up 0.3% to 331c.
  • Gold stocks — the bull run for gold stocks is well and truly over with companies such as NCM and KCN in free fall as the gold price hit a nine month low.
  • A study into a proposed independent rail network to carry iron from the Pilbara to a major port in the region has found the railway could help smaller mining companies. Brockman Mining along with Atlas Iron (AGO) and rail operator Aurizon Holdings (AZJ) released the first phase of a study into a multiuser railway to connect iron ore mines in the East Pilbara to Port Hedland.