The Australian share market has resumed trade following the two day Christmas break on a subdued note. US markets closed in the red overnight as concerns over the looming "Fiscal Cliff" deadline again dominated, while weaker than expected holiday sales figures prompted selling in retail stocks.
Tim Wimborne / Reuters
People look at market display indicators through the window of the Australian Stock Exchange in Sydney
In early trade, the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) is unchanged.
Financial stocks are under the most pressure, with the sector lower by 0.3pct mid-session.
Consumer staple stocks are also lagging. Woolworths (WOW) has dropped 0.3pct to $29.43 while Wesfarmers (WES) shares are down 0.3pct to $36.69.
Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) is a stand-out. Its shares price has risen 2.6pct to $4.465 in early trade after announcing it will resume work to expand the Kings deposit at its Solomon hub next month following a rebound in commodity prices. FMG deferred work at the mine in September, blaming volatile market conditions which caused iron ore prices to plummet. CEO Nev Power says FMG will extract an extra 40 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of iron ore from Kings. This will enable the miner to reach total production target of 155mtpa by December 2013.
"The recent improvement in iron ore prices and market outlook, along with a number of measures undertaken by Fortescue, including the sale of non-core assets, a reduction in operating costs and the restructuring of existing bank facilities, underpinned the decision to complete Kings in the new year," Mr Power was quoted in a statement released today.
Elsewhere a firmer oil price is supporting the energy sector, but Australia's largest listed gold miner Newcrest Mining (NCM) is lower by 0.6pct to $22.565 despite a rebound in gold overnight.
On Monday, surf-wear retailer Billabong (BBG) allowed suitor Paul Naude access to its books in order to undergo "due diligence" in light of his $1.10 per share takeover bid. BBG shares are trading higher by 2pct in the early session to 84.75c.
Retail stocks are well supported in light of reports of record Boxing Day sales. Shares in Myer Limited (MYR) are firmer by 1.7pct to $2.105 in the early session while David Jones (DJS) is up 1.7pct to $2.38.
Volumes are very low on the exchange today, with many traders and investors still enjoying the Christmas break. At 11.45am AEDT, 281 million shares had changed hands, worth $266 million. 319 were up, 249 were down and 265 were unchanged.
The Australian dollar is weaker; buying US103.68c, £0.6424 and €78.32c.
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From our Twitter feed at 10.50am AEDT:
Best performing stocks on the ASX50 today: FMG up 2.3%, AWC up 1.9%, GMG up 1.3%, $PL up 0.9%, LLC up 0.9%
Worst performers on the ASX50 today: NCM dn 0.7%, ORI dn 0.6%, OSH dn 0.6%, SHL dn 0.5%, MQG dn 0.5%
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