23 Dec 2008

Light trading on markets

8:17 pm on 23 December 2008

Investor interest continues to be mild ahead of the Christmas break in New Zealand.

At 12.26pm on Tuesday, the NZX 50 index was down 7 points to 26 72, on light turnover of $16 million at 12.26pm.

Telecom was up 2 cents at $2.28, Contact Energy was down 5c at $7 and Fletcher Building was down 9c to $6.01.

Air New Zealand was down 4c to $0.85. The Warehouse was down 3c to $3.50. PGG Wrightson was up 1c to $1.05.

In currency markets, the New Zealand dollar was at 57.25 US cents, 83.88 Australian cents, 38.59 pence, 51.61 yen and 0.4102 euro. The Trade Weighted Index was at 55.89.

The Australian sharemarket opened little changed on Tuesday.

MELBOURNE, Dec 23 AAP - The Australian share market slipped in the red to close around 0.7 per cent lower on light volumes, led down by weaker major mining stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 26 points, or 0.73 per cent, to 3,531.4, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 24.1 points, or 0.69 per cent, to 3,468.2.

On the Sydney Futures Exchange, the March share price index contract was 97 points higher at 3,650 on a volume of 18,216 contracts.

"There was a fall off the cliff around 1300 AEDT - a lot of people went out to lunch - and then we zig-zagged and finished up off the lows," Austock Securities senior client adviser Michael Heffernan said.

"But it was BHP Billiton and Rio that came in for a belting of the major stocks," he said.

Rio Tinto said it had suspended its iron ore production at one of its mines in Western Australia on Monday.

Rio's share price closed $2.03, or 5.43 per cent, lower at $35.37, while BHP lost $1.15, or 3.88 per cent, to $28.49 despite higher metals prices in London overnight.

Metals were broadly higher thanks to a weaker US dollar and rising Chinese imports, IG Markets' research analyst Ben Potter said.

China's central bank announced on Monday a cut of 0.27 percentage points in its benchmark one-year rate, which disappointed Asian markets today, Mr Potter said.

"Many participants had been looking for a larger cut, some as much as double the 27 basis points received."

Australia's largest energy retailer, AGL Energy, and Sydney Gas remained in trading halts pending an announcement which the latter says is in relation to a takeover bid.

AGL last traded at $15.45 and Sydney Gas last traded at 27.5 cents.

Gold stocks were mostly stronger. Lihir Gold was up three cents to $2.85, while Newcrest Mining advanced $1.02 to $32.42.

The spot price of gold in Sydney closed at $US844.50 per fine ounce, down five US cents on Monday's close of $US844.55.

Most banks lost ground with the exception of ANZ Banking Group, which gained one cent to $14.87.

"The banks have held up well today," Mr Heffernan said.

Westpac was the worst performer of the major banks, backtracking 52 cents, or 3.1 per cent, to $16.26, while National Australia Bank gave up one cent to $19.60.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia softened two cents to $27.04.

Shares in Bendigo and Adelaide Bank closed down 63 cents, or 5.37 per cent, to $11.11 after it said it had raised $175 million via a share purchase plan and an institutional placement.

Harvey Norman Holding Ltd finished steady at $2.35 after the electronics and furniture retailer said like-for-like weekly written sales were down by three to four per cent, on average, since October.

In the media sector, Fairfax Media firmed one cent to $1.55, while rival News Corporation eased 31 cents, or 2.3 per cent, to $13.15.

News' non-voting scrip lost 42 cents, or 3.32 per cent, to $12.24.

HFA Holdings was the most traded stock, with over 60.5 million shares changing hands for a value of $2.8 million.

Market volumes were "well down and really pathetic" on the 2007 pre-Christmas period, Mr Heffernan said.

"We were about $6 billion worth on the equivalent days last year," he said.

Turnover reached 914.2 million shares, worth $2.13 billion, with 371 stocks up, 470 down and 240 unchanged.

AAP ahb/jmc

Wall Street slips

Stocks in the United States have fallen on concerns over corporate earnings and falling retail sales.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 59.42 points, or 0.69%, to 8,519.69.

Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 16.25 points, or 1.83%, at 871.63. The Nasdaq Composite Index gave up 31.97 points, or 2.04%, at 1,532.35.

Trading was thin for most of the session and is expected to be light for the rest of the week which will be shorter due to the Christmas holiday.

Only six trading days remain this year and the markets are facing their worst yearly performance since the 1930s.

Shares in General Motors Corp sagged despite an announcement of a $US17.4 billion lifeline from the US government on Friday. GM was down 21.6% at $US3.52.

Shares of Toyota were down 5.4% at $US60.88 after the company said it was impossible to predict how severely the current "unprecedented emergency" would cut the global demand for cars next year.

Retailers were also down. J.C. Penney Inc shed 5.8% to $US18.77, and Liz Claiborne Inc lost 7.2% to $US2.98.

Trading was low on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 1.22 billion shares changing hands. About 1.66 billion shares were traded on the Nasdaq.

European shares in red

European shares closed 1.7% lower on Monday as volumes dwindled at the start of Christmas week.

The FTSEurofirst index of top European shares closed at 809.78 points. The index has shed nearly half its value so far this year in a credit crisis that has driven several major economies into recession.

The Paris CAC 40 fell 2.31% and the Frankfurt Dax was down 1.23.

In London, the FTSE 100 index was down 37.77 points, 0.9%, at 4,249.16. The index closed down 1% on Friday.

Earlier in the day, China cut interest rates and Japan warned it was sliding deeper into a recession.

Contributing to the gloom, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that up to 25 million people around the world could lose their jobs between now and 2010.

Auto shares fell after Toyota forecast its first operating loss due to a global slide in car sales and a rise in the yen.

Volkswagen fell 5.9%. BMW, Daimler, Peugeot and Renault fell 1.5% - 4.6%. French tyremaker Michelin fell about 3% after saying it is cutting operations to cope with a decline in demand for tyres.

Oil shares also fell as crude dropped more than 2%.