The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 74.5 points, or 1.49%, to 4937.4, while the broader All Ordinaries fell 68.9 points, or 1.35%, to 5,020.5.The local share market slumped to a two-year low after US equities fell on concerns that problems in the US financial sector may not be over.
Oil prices rebounded by more than $US5 a barrel Thursday, as another missile launch by Iran stoked worries that escalating political tensions in the Middle East could cut off supplies out of the region.
Key Economics Data
THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) says inflation risks in Australia are "clearly on the upside" and the Reserve Bank should be quick to lift rates if economic growth does not slow as expected.
Further increases in energy prices are in the pipeline and capacity constraints, especially in the mining and housing sectors, could push wage and CPI inflation higher than envisaged.
However, it said a global slump could weaken export demand, and further international financial turmoil could tighten credit conditions and increase bank's funding costs.
The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 4.2 per cent in June as the number of people employed bounced back sharply, keeping open the risk of another rise in the official interest rate. The Australian Bureau of Statistics data released yesterday shows the number of people employed jumped by a seasonally adjusted 29,800 in June with full-time employment rising by 24,000.
IPO And M&A News
National Australia Bank is in discussions to buy ABN Amro in Australia and New Zealand. The bank said it's participating in a process conducted by Royal Bank of Scotland. There is no certainty that a transaction will happen, and any acquisition will be subject to due diligence and regulatory approval, NAB said in a statement.
In a change in substantial holder notice posted to the Australian Stock exchange, Sinosteel said it now held shares representing 50.97% of voting power in Midwest.
In one of its largest deals yet, Cameco Corp. is buying a 70-per-cent interest in the Kintyre uranium deposit in Western Australia from Rio Tinto PLC for $346.5-million (U.S.). There's only one problem: The state government has long prohibited the development of new uranium mines in Western Australia, including Kintyre.
Stocks to watch
ASX:PRY - PRIMARY HEALTH CARE LTD - up 20 cents to $4.70
ASX:MTS - METCASH LTD - unchanged at $3.83
Diagnostics and medical centres operator Primary Health Care Ltd is likely to receive less for its Symbion pharmacy services business after grocery wholesaler Metcash Ltd withdrew its bid, according to analysts.
Primary is selling the consumer and pharmacy divisions of Symbion following its $2.65 billion takeover of Symbion.
ASX:CWN - CROWN LTD - down 10 cents to $8.50
Gaming firm Crown Ltd today denied that it was interested in acquiring United States "local" casino operator Ameristar.
ASX:MCC - MACARTHUR COAL LTD - up $1.80 to $17.10
Macarthur Coal Ltd, the supplier of more than a third of the world's pulverised coal, has increased its annual profit guidance after a rise in expected sales.
The Queensland-based coal miner has forecast net profit after tax (NPAT) of between $80 million to $90 million for 2007/08, less than two months after providing guidance of $67 million to $75 million for the year.
ASX:MAH - MACMAHON HOLDINGS LTD - down six cents to $1.54
ASX:ASL - AUSDRILL LTD - down three cents to $2.35
Macmahon Holdings Ltd has extended its scrip takeover offer for Ausdrill Ltd by four weeks until August 15. Macmahon is offering 1.45 Macmahon shares for every Ausdrill share.
ASX:RIO - RIO TINTO LTD - down $1.55 to $121.60
Rio Tinto Ltd will sell its Kintyre uranium project in Western Australia to a joint venture consortium for $US495 million ($A518.3 million), as it moves closer to completing its $US10 billion ($A10.5 billion) asset sales target for this year.
The sale of the project to subsidiaries of Cameco Corporation and Mitsubishi Development Pty Ltd is expected to close in August.
ASX:SEK - SEEK LTD - down nine cents to $4.85
Online job search engine Seek Ltd has almost doubled its stake in Chinese employment website Zhaopin Ltd by about 70 per cent as it looks to capitalise in the growing jobs market in China.
Top 10 Most Up By Value Securities $AU Last Chg Value --------------------------------------------------- ASX:AWC Alumina Ltd 4.54 7.33% 22.52M ASX:LGL Lihir Gold 3.17 4.28% 23.23M ASX:OXR Oxiana 2.25 4.17% 33.94M ASX:NCM Newcrest Mining 30.92 3.65% 40.59M ASX:WPL Woodside Petroleum 59.99 3.61% 27.65M ASX:QBE QBE Insurance Group 21.99 3.59% 61.74M ASX:GPT GPT Group 1.57 3.09% 26M ASX:NAB National Aust Bank 26.81 2.90% 125.81M ASX:BHP BHP Billiton 39.92 2.89% 193.42M ASX:RIO Rio Tinto 124.4 2.30% 50.01M ---------------------------------------------------
Rio Tinto Limited
Primary Health Care Limited
Macmahon Holdings Limited
Macarthur Coal Limited