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Australian shares are holding onto modest gains at lunch, snapping a two-day losing streak thanks to improvements from the big banks. The ASX 200 index is up by just 0.04 per cent, giving back most of this morning’s lift as mining stocks fade from a better start. Energy stocks – which only account for a small portion of the Aussie market – are the worst performers in percentage terms, with Origin (ORG), Woodside (WPL) and Santos (STO) being pushed lower.
The latest labour market data today was generally better than expected. 34,700 jobs were added in December (more than twice the market’s expectations) while the unemployment rate edged higher from 5.4 per cent to 5.5 per cent with more people looking for work. 19,500 part-time jobs were added while fulltime employment jumped by 15,100. With more jobs being advertised in Australia, there is a chance unemployment falls in 2018.
BHP Billiton (BHP) released its latest operational review and has maintained FY18 guidance for most of its commodities including iron ore, copper, petroleum and energy coal. It has cut production guidance for metallurgical coal (coal used to make iron ore). BHP said it should benefit from the recent drop in the US company tax rate over the long-term.
Sirtex Medical (SRX) remains a standout for the second day after lifting its profit expectations for the year on Wednesday mainly thanks to higher sales and cost cutting measures. SRX is up 2.3 per cent today and surged by 14 per cent yesterday.
Real estate group, McGrath (MEA) is up 7.4 per cent on no news this morning.
Whitehaven Coal (WHC) is being hit hard, sliding by 4.4 per cent after cutting production guidance from 22-23mt to 20.5- 21mt for FY17. The NSW based coal miner lifted the amount of coal sold over the past quarter.
Woodside Petroleum (WPL) – the country’s second biggest energy company – said it expects to produce slightly more oil in 2018 than last year. WPL anticipates FY18 production of between 85-90m barrels of oil equivalent.
Thursday will be the busiest day of the month for updates on China’s economy. This is usually released at around lunchtime but has been pushed back to 6pm AEDT tonight. The Australian market won’t have a chance to react to the results until tomorrow although currencies could still be impacted.
2.2bn shares have changed hands so far today, worth $1.8bn. 553 stocks are up, 512 down and 411 are flat.
Originally published by CommSec