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The Australian sharemarket has kicked off the week innegative territory, with the ASX 200 index down 40pts or 0.6 per cent to 6655.5 at lunch. Losses from Financials, Industrials and Property companies are weighing most.

A number of key updates on China’s economy were released at 12pm AEST today and most were above market expectations. Retail sales rose by 9.8% in the year to June (consensus 8.5 per cent), industrial production jumped by 6 per cent (consensus 5.9 per cent) while GDP was largely inline with forecasts lifting by 6.3 per cent. The Australian dollar strengthened post data while equities bounced off intraday lows.

AMP Limited (AMP) is down 14 per cent at lunch after saying it is unlikely to pay a dividend to investors due to the sale of its Life Unit for $3.3bn falling through. This will make it the first time since making its market debut in 1998 that it will not pay an interim dividend. AMP agreed to sell the division to Resolution Life in October last year. Its trading volumes are substantially higher than recent averages.

Mining stocks are bucking the trend so far today despite choppy performances from commodity prices on Friday. Iron ore fell by 0.6 per cent or 70c to US$118.55 per tonne but was still up almost 4 per cent over the week and remains near five-year highs due to supply shortage concerns. Shares in BHP and Rio Tinto (RIO) are improving while Fortescue Metals (FMG) is standing out, lifting by 2.6 per cent.

The price of oil remained steady on Friday at US$60.21/bl after hitting a seven-week high on Thursday and improving by 5 per cent over the week. Concerns of Tropical Storm Barry in the US Gulf of Mexico and tensions between the US and Iran are keeping oil prices elevated.

Elders (ELD) has entered a trading halt as it raises funds to help pay for the acquisition of Australian Independent Rural Retailers. ELD aims to raise $137m through an equity raising and issue $79m of new ELD shares. The purchase will provide an entry to the wholesale rural services market according to ELD.

1.1bn shares have changed hands so far today worth a relatively light $1.6bn as school holidays continue in a number of states. 449 stocks are up, 532 down and 369 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec