Better than expected Chinese data helped propel the share market today, following a flat start to the day's trade. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) closed firmer by 15.1pts or 0.3pct to 4745.2 after hitting an intra-day low of 4723pts.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, July 22, 2010.
China´s trade surplus increased sharply in December, to $31.6 billion compared with a $19.6 billion surplus in November, as exports surprised on the upside. Exports were up 14.1pct in December compared with the same period a year earlier, while imports rose by 6pct.
Markets around the Asian region were also generally stronger, with a weaker Yen strengthening Japan's Nikkei Index.
Construction and contract mining firm MacMahon Holdings (MAH) today received a sweetened offer for its construction business from India owned Sembawang Australia. MAH has already agreed to a $20 million deal to sell its construction business to majority shareholder Leighton Holdings (LEI). Sembawang has increased its offer to $38 million, up from the $25 million it offered last week which was denied because of the agreement in place with Leighton. MAH's board is to consider the latest offer; MAH shares finishing higher by 1.8pct to $0.28 while LEI was down 0.4pct to $18.88.
Industry fund First Super has announced plans to sell its NewsCorp (NWS) shares, after a push to end Rupert Murdoch's dual role as CEO and Chairman was defeated at NWS's AGM back in October. First Super co-chairman Michael O'Connor says the interests of minority shareholders have been ignored, and that "open, transparent, representative governance is not only overdue but essential for improved risk management within the company."
Financial stocks were generally firmer, with the sector up ..pct.
Index leader BHP Billiton (BHP) ended down 0.5pct to $37.41 while Rio Tinto (RIO) was up 0.4pct to $67.10. The spot iron ore price ended unchanged overnight at US$158.50 a tonne. Shares in Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) added 2.3pct to $4.85.
A weaker gold price saw Newcrest Mining (NCM) shares hit near six month lows. NCM fell 2.1pct to $21.56 by close as the gold price remains subdued at US$1655/oz.
In economic data today, dwelling approvals rose by 2.9pct in November, after a 5.1pct decline in October (revised up from 7.6pct fall). Economists had tipped a 5pct lift in approvals. The number of approvals is in line with decade averages and three per cent above five year averages.
The weekly Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating cent rose by 3.1 points to a 12-month high of 118.3 points.
"The latest economic data suggests that interest rate settings are about right," said CommSec Chief Economist Craig James of the data. "The construction industry can look forward to a year of Goldilocks activity - not hot or cold but about right."
The Australian dollar ended the day's session at US105.5c, £0.6589 and €80.88c.
On the market overall, a total of 1.5 billion shares were traded, worth $3.6 billion. 524 were up, 403 were down and 360 were unchanged.
At 4.45pm AEDT the SFE 200 Futures was at 4692, up 14pts.
Ahead tonight, weekly jobless claims and wholesale sales data are released in the US.
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