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Sydney, Jan 28, 2009 AEST (ABN Newswire) - Overnight the US stocks ended slightly higher as upbeat corporate earnings reports overshadowed the low reading of consumer confidence.

The Australian share market yesterday closed around 3% higher. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 101.3 points, or 3.03 per cent, at 3444, while the broader All Ordinaries index lifted 92 points, or 2.79 per cent, to 3392.3. With the positive lead of Wall St. the market is expected to continue its upward movement today.

At 0812 AEDT on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the March SPI futures index was 43 points higher at 3,419.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is to release the Consumer Price Index for the December quarter, with economists tipping a quarterly decrease after fuel prices slid. But economists also say that even a rise in the inflation rate will not prevent the central bank from taking a sharp interest rate cut next week. The producer price index released yesterday unexpectedly rose 1.3 per cent in the December quarter.

NAB's survey shows business confidence rebounded in December after firms received a boost from the federal government's fiscal stimulus package. However confidence is still at levels last seen during the early 1990s recession, and many businesses expect a recession in 2009.

M&A News

AngloGold Ashanti Ltd (ASX:AGG) will sell its indirect 33.33 per cent joint venture interest in the Boddington Gold Mine in Western Australia to Newmont Mining Corporation (ASX:NEM) for around $US1.1 billion.

Rio Tinto(ASX:RIO) has completed the sale of its half stake in the Alcan Ningxia aluminium joint venture in China, to Qingtongxia Aluminium Group for $189.25 million cash.

Stockbroker Patersons Securities has agreed to buy loss-making rival Tolhurst Group(ASX:TNL) in an all-scrip deal worth as much as A$7 million. Patersons will take control of Tolhurst's entire stockbroking and client advisory business.

Important Corporate News

Babcock & Brown Capital(ASX:BCM) said yesterday it would return A$100.7 million to shareholders, pending approval at a meeting to be held next month, in a payment of about 60c a share.

Westfield Group(ASX:WDC) forecasts an A$3 billion asset write-down and a cut in dividend for 2009. Analysts said it would most likely be followed by further write-downs this year as economic conditions deteriorate, particularly in the US.

Onesteel(ASX:OST) has cut steel production in response to lower than expected sales levels caused by a global economic slowdown.

Perth based bauxite explorer, Bauxite Resources Ltd (ASX:BAU) announced that it will commence mining at its South Darling Range Project, which is initially targeting 160,00 tonnes (approx 4 ship loads). The recent signing of MOU's with state-sanctioned Chinese interests has further strengthened BRL's firm position as an emerging and significant resources entity.

Lihir Gold (ASX:LGL) said its gold production output rose 26% to a record level in fourth quarter, allowing the company to report a third successive year of record annual production in 2008.

IBA Health Group Limited (ASX:IBA)(PINK:IBATF), today announced that German hospital group, Krankenhaus Buchholz and Winsen, is set to become its latest iSOFT customer for LORENZO. IBA specializes in IT healthcare and medical applications.
Brick maker Boral(ASX:BLD) has cut its full-year profit guidance by 40 per cent due to the deepening deterioration of the US housing market.

Worley Parsons (ASX:WOR) announced its largest contract win being selected by SAMREF, Saudi Aramco Mobil Refinery Company Limited to execute it's clean fuels project Yanbu Al-Sinaiyah, Saudi Arabia. The service contract is valued over USD $400 million. Worley Parsons Al-Khobar office will provide in-Kingdom logistics support and resources.


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

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