Australian Market Report of December 8: On Hope of US Trillion Dollar Rescue

US stocks roared back from steep losses on Friday after Labor Department reported the US economy lost a shocking 533,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate jumped to 6.7%, and the market speculated the government will step up measures to curb the recession. Overnight Barack Obama announced the first details of a stimulus package that could ultimately exceed $US1 trillion.

On Friday, the Australian stock market closed lower, with the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 42.5 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 3,489.9, while the broader All Ordinaries reversed 40.9 points, or 1.18 per cent, to 3,427.2. The ASX200 lost about 6.8%, and the broader All Ordinary fell 6.7% for the week. Resource stocks may continue the decline after the price of commodities, including gold, oil and copper fell.

At 0649 AEDT on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the December Share Price Index futures contract was up 52 points at 3,575.

The Australian dollar opened firmer as US measures to stem recession led to a rally on Wall Street and a boost in the appeal of the risk-sensitive local currency. At 0700 AEDT, the Australian dollar was trading at $US0.6460/65, up from Friday's close of $US0.6442/45.

The price of crude oil fell to the lowest in almost four years after the worst job data in 34 years, signalling the recession is getting worse. A deeper reduction on oil output may be expected when OPEC meets on December 17. The contract for light, sweet crude for January delivery closed at $US40.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down $US2.86 from Thursday's close.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

The Olivier Job Index declined 9.83 per cent seasonally adjusted in November compared to October, with ad numbers down 16 per cent on November last year. In raw terms there were 48,000 fewer employment opportunities advertised per week in November on the three major Australian job boards, compared to October. All of the 16 industry sectors surveyed were hit during the month.

The Australian Industry Group - Housing Industry Association performance of construction index (PCI) fell 4.4 index points in November to 32 points. It was the second steepest monthly fall since the survey began in September 2005 and the ninth straight month the index has been below the key 50 level that separates expansion from contraction.

In economic news today, ANZ releases job advertisements data for November. Deloitte releases its 2008/09 Australian Mortgage Industry Report.

M&A News

China National Petroleum Corp, the largest oil producer on the mainland, is considering pairing up with a foreign oil company to make a bid for Australian oil and gas major Santos(ASX:STO), market sources said. It is said that Santos has hired Deutsche Bank and Australia's Caliburn Partnership to run the company's defence of expected takeover attempts by multinational oil and gas firms.

Qantas(ASX:QAN) faces hurdles as it aims to settle the details on its ambitious A$8 billion merger with British Airways(LON:BAY). Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says Qantas must remain an Australian-owned airline for security reasons. The BA and Qantas boards are expected to vote before Christmas on whether to proceed with plans for the world's first cross-continental airline partnership.

Important Corporate News

Leighton Holdings Ltd(ASX:LEI) said its 45% owned company AL Habtoor Leighton Group has won a 4.9 billion dirham contract to build with its partners a new terminal at Dubai Airport. Leighton chief executive Wal King on Sunday also said the Middle East would need to make some adjustments in order to navigate the current credit crisis.

BHP Billiton(ASX:BHP) is expected to slash its iron ore production by up to 25 per cent as demand for steel falls in the face of a global recession. This comes as Chinese steelmakers look to present a unified front against iron ore producers in a bid to drive down prices.

Retailer Harvey Norman(ASX:HVN) is warning some of the stores will close during the next six months because of the economic slowdown. Sales in all key areas of the business - furniture, electrical and computers - had slumped three to four per cent in recent months. The retailer's pre-tax profit fell by 32 per cent in the three months to September.

1. Related Stocks - Mid Market (AEST 1230)

Code   % Change   Volume     Turnover  Low   High
ASX:BHP +2.44  9,316,153  $248,316,704  2615  2700
ASX:STO +9.05  3,001,266  $40,529,139   1275  1408
ASX:LEI +10.04 342,631    $7,936,662    2262  2362
ASX:QAN +5.85  2,319,027  $5,371,287    224   235
ASX:HVN +2.97  2,485,056  $6,008,193    237   244
ASX:BLT +3.03  40,000     $1,360        3.4   3.4
ASX:SPL +5.26  10,000     $2,000        20    20
2. Top 10 ASX on Turnover - Mid Market (AEST 1230)
Code   % Change   Volume     Turnover  Low   High
ASX:BHP +2.44  9,316,153  $248,316,704  2615  2700
ASX:RIO -1.81  2,930,047  $100,419,712  3105  3250
ASX:NAB +4.79  3,708,178  $76,423,003   2029  2092
ASX:ANZ +2.67  4,130,491  $61,462,025   1468  1508
ASX:CBA +6.4   1,824,676  $60,134,814   3130  3305
ASX:WBC +3.08  3,435,642  $59,605,197   1715  1751
ASX:TLS +2.18  11,596,200 $48,844,598   418   425
ASX:QBE +2.85  1,920,783  $48,490,299   2480  2561
ASX:WPL +6.07  1,210,663  $43,824,469   3066  3294
ASX:STO +9.13  3,001,766  $40,535,769   1275  1408

Michelle Liang
Asia Business News Asia Bureau
Tel: +61-2-9247-4344


Copyright (C) 2008 ABN Newswire. All rights reserved.

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