The market is up 36. ASX 200 Futures were up 38 this morning. Dow Jones finished up 129 on strong volumes. The Dow was up 153 at best.

The Federal Open Market Committee minutes from the March 19/20 meeting were officially released after being leaked Tuesday early afternoon. The minutes suggested “several FOMC members saw a halt to QE by year end” and that “all but a few” think it’s appropriate to continue asset purchases at the current pace through midyear.

European markets up — UK FTSE up 1.17%, German DAX up 2.27%, France up 1.99%, Spain up 3.35%, Italy up 3.19%.

Metals mixed — copper down 0.74%, nickel down 0.95%, aluminium down 0.44%, lead up 0.02%. Spot iron ore up $1.50 to $140.60c. Gold down $29.00 to $1557.70. Oil up 38c to $94.58.

BHP and RIO were both down 0.68% in ADR form in the US with BHP closing at the equivalent of 3349c down 19c on last night’s close here.

  • Woolworths (WOW) — Q3 sales — Has lifted its quarterly sales by 2.5% to $14.4 billion despite challenging retail conditions. Its core Australian food and liquor operations includes increased sales by 5.6% to $9.9 billion. The company says retail conditions continue to be challenging. The company said “the momentum of the first half has continued into this quarter as a result of a sharpened focus on our core businesses and early results from work on our strategic priorities.” WOW is up 0.83% to 3417c.
  • AGL Energy (AGK) — A $1 billion NSW gas project may be terminated because of political hostility towards CSG gas. This may force the company to buy more gas from suppliers such as BHP. AGL is the country’s biggest gas retailer which is relying on the Gloucester gas venture to help offset a drop off in their contracted supplies starting at the end of 2016. AGK is up 1.43% to 1557c.
  • Leighton Holdings (LEI) — BHP has terminated its contract with LEI at their QLD coal mine Peak Downs two years ahead of schedule, replacing it with a cheaper operator. The loss of the contract will only have a small impact on LEI’s revenues. LEI is up 3.35% to 2065c.
  • Bank of Queensland (BOQ) — Sir Richard Branson is selling his Virgin Money financial services business in Australia to BOQ for $40m. The bank will have exclusive use of the Virgin Money brand for 4 decades in exchange for an ongoing royalty to Sir Richard’s Virgin Group. Brokers think that the deal will only have a minor effect on FY13-14 earnings. Recommendation and target prices are unchanged this morning. BOQ is currently on a PE of 14.7x, has a gross yield of 7.8% and a ROE of 1%. BOQ is up 1.25% to 970c.
  • Cochlear (COH) — Shares have fallen 17% after hitting a 12 month high of 8287c in late January. The share price tumbled after a major competitor in the hearing aid field purchased Neurelec. Analysts say the company could face further losses without the release of a new product to match those of rivals. The company’s underlying growth also appears to be slowing. COH is up 0.5% to 6332.5c.