Lending Association

Gold and Materials lead Australian markets higher

Australian markets rallied into the close, shrugging off the bigger-than-expected jobs data. Australian employment rose by 116,500 in February versus a consensus expectation of 40,000. The unemployment rate fell to 3.7 per cent. The February employment number and falling jobless rate raised concerns that the RBA is not in a position to cut rates any time soon.

The Gold sector remained one of the biggest winners of the day as the gold price surged to a record high US$2224 an ounce in morning trading, with local gold miner Northern Star (ASX:NST) closing 2.8 per cent higher at $13.76 and Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) closing 6 per cent higher at $3.50.

In company news, Australian Strategic Minerals (ASX:ASM) finished the day up over 19 per cent at $1.41 per share, pushing the stock up over 40 per cent in two days after the company said the US government may fund its rare earths project with debt of up to $600 million.

Singapore-based Olam Group surprised the market by making a $122 million takeover offer for Namoi Cotton. The offer values Australia’s biggest cotton company at 59¢ a share. The indicative and non-binding offer comprises 58¢ a share in cash and a special dividend of 1¢ per share. The offer sets off a showdown with French Agribusiness giant Louis Dreyfus that was in the process of bidding for the Australian company at a much lower 51 cps. Namoi shares closed the day up 20 per cent at 59.5 cps.

At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 1.12 per cent higher at 7,782.00.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 129 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 22 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 124 points.
The SPI futures are up 89 points.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Financials, up 1.74 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Utilities, down 0.59 per cent.

The best-performing large cap was Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN), closing 5.15 per cent higher at $3.47. It was followed by shares in Qube Holdings (ASX:QUB) and Sonic Healthcare (ASX:SHL).

The worst-performing large cap was Spark New Zealand (ASX:SPK), closing 3.67 per cent lower at $4.46. It was followed by shares in Mercury NZ (ASX:MCY) and IGO (ASX:IGO).

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has gained 1.91 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has gained 2.00 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has gained 1.25 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$2,206.90 an ounce.
Iron ore is 1.3 per cent lower at US$106.50 a tonne.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a 1.51 per cent rise.
Light crude is trading $0.16 higher at US$81.84 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 66.26 US cents.