After a flat start, the Australian stock market surged higher in early trades on Friday, shrugging off a weak lead from Wall Street. However, with investors turning cautious at higher levels, the market pared most of its early gains and is currently trading just marginally above the unchanged line.
Financial, property trusts, mining and energy stocks found some support early on, but are currently trading off their highs. Consumer discretionary and healthcare stocks are trading weak.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which rose to around 4,598, is currently trading at 4,584, up 1.2 points from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 2.1 points at 4,595, off an early high of 4,607.3.
Caltex Australia shares are up more than 2.5 percent following the company returning to profitability thanks to a jump in petrol sales. Boral, Regis Resources, Paladin Energy, Seek and Investa Office Fund are trading higher by 1.3 to 2 percent.
Fairfax Media is down 3.7 percent. Boart Longyear is losing about 2.7 percent. Iluka Resources and Insurance Australia Group are trading lower by 2.4 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.
PanAust, Crown, Ramsay Healthcare, Whitehaven Coal, Bluescope Steel, WorleyParsons, Primary Healthcare, Lynas Corp., Tatts Group and Tabcorp Holdings are also trading notably lower.
APN News & Media shares are down more than 6 percent after the company warned of a sharp slump in full-year earnings. APN said weak advertising markets would slice its underlying net profit for calendar 2012 by more than a third.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened weak and was quoting at US$1.0515 in early trades, down 0.3 percent from Thursday's close of US$1.0552.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are trading weak. New Zealand is up marginally, while Singapore is trading flat.
On Wall Street, stocks ended lower on Thursday as lingering concerns about the looming fiscal cliff overshadowed a batch of largely upbeat economic data. Profit taking after the recent upward trend too contributed to the weak close.
The major averages ended the session well off their worst levels of the day but still closed firmly in the red. The Dow eased 74.7 points or 0.6 percent to 13,170.7, the Nasdaq slid 21.6 points or 0.7 percent to 2,992.2 and the S&P 500 dropped 9 points or 0.6 percent to 1,419.5.
Major European markets too ended weak on Thursday. The French CAC 40 index edged down by 0.1 percent, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index dipped 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil settled below $86 a barrel on Thursday, erasing gains made in the previous session, on continued demand growth concerns despite some upbeat macroeconomic data. A higher than expected surge in inventories too contributed to oil's decline.
Crude for January delivery ended down $0.88 or 1 percent at $85.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
by RTT Staff Writer
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