The Australian stock market drifted lower in early trades on Friday with investors pressing some sales amid concerns about the global economy following a batch of weak U.S. economic data. However, thanks to support at lower levels, the market regained some lost ground subsequently and is currently trading just below the unchanged line.
Consumer staples, energy and healthcare stocks are trading weak. Mining, financial and industrial stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to around 4,186 after opening flat, is currently trading at 4,205.5, down 1.2 points from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 0.7 points at 4,235.7, off an early low of 4,217.3.
Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank are down 0.5 to 0.9 percent, while Westpac is down marginally. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are trading slightly higher.
Among miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are down marginally and Fortescue Metals is losing over 3 percent, while Newcrest Mining is trading modestly higher.
In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum, Caltex Australia, Oil Search, Origin Energy and Caltex Australia are all trading lower by 0.3 to 1 percent.
Shares of Hastings Diversified moved higher amid anticipation of a bidding war for the company following the competition watchdog, the ACCC, giving APA Group the nod to pursue the company. Meanwhile, APA Group shares are trading lower by 2.5 percent.
Arrium, David Jones, James Hardie Industries, Bluescope Steel, AGL Energy, Resmed Inc, CSL, Echo Entertainment Group and Ramsay Healthcare are trading lower by 1.3 to 2.3 percent.
Seven West Media is up nearly 7 percent. Alumina is trading 6.8 percent up. Panaust and Paladin Energy are trading higher by over 4.5 percent and Beach Energy is up by around 3.5 percent.
Boart Longyear, Downer EDI and Leighton Holdings are also trading notably higher.
Ten Network Holdings is poised to announce the sale of its outdoor advertising business Eye Corp. The stock is currently under a trading halt.
In economic news, Australia will release import and export prices for the second quarter of 2012, during the day. Import prices are expected to rise 1.5 percent on quarter after shedding 1.2 percent in the first quarter. Export prices are called flat after plummeting 7.0 percent in the previous three months.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar is trading at six-week highs following investors rushing into buy safe-haven currencies on the back of recent weak U.S. economic data. In early trades, the local unit was quoting at $1.0427, up from Thursday's close of $1.0393.
On Wall Street, stocks ended higher on Thursday, with technology stocks adding to the substantial gains posted in the previous session. Disappointing economic data limited the upside for the markets, but stocks still extended their recent upward move.
The major averages all ended the day in positive territory, although the Nasdaq outperformed its counterparts. While the Nasdaq advanced 23.3 points or 0.8 percent to 2,965.9, the Dow rose 34.7 points or 0.3 percent to 12,943.4 and the S&P 500 climbed 3.7 points or 0.3 percent to 1,376.5.
Major European markets too closed higher on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 0.5 percent, the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index ended higher by 0.9 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil rallied to settle sharply higher for a seventh consecutive day Thursday, the best in over eight weeks. Geopolitical issues, lower U.S. crude stockpiles and a weak dollar contributed to the surge in oil prices.
Crude for August delivery ended up $2.79 or 3.1 percent at $92.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after touching a high of $93.25 a barrel intraday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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