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Sydney, Feb 16, 2009 AEST (ABN Newswire) - US Stocks finished more than 1% lower on Friday and ended the trading with a weekly decline of 5.2 per cent as investors are sceptical about the effectiveness of a US stimulus plan and hit by more gloomy economic news.

Last Friday Australian shares ended higher, capping a winning week after reports that the US government was working on a program to help troubled US home owners. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 rose 44.8 points, or 1.27 per cent, at 3,559.1, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 38.2 points, or 1.1 per cent to 3,496.7. The Obama administration's seeking to lower expectations of a quick fix to the financial crisis and the coming earnings reports may send the market to a negative territory.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

SQM Research says rental returns exceed the cost of the mortgage will trigger a recovery in the housing market as vacancy rates are still tight. The market could see a rise in the number of investment properties.

Today the Australian Bureau of Statistics is to release lending finance data for December and National Australia Bank will report its agribusiness survey for the December quarter.

M&A News

Institutional shareholders are urging BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) to launch a second takeover bid to Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) in an effort to scuttle the miner's $US19.5 billion deal with Chinalco, says a UK newspaper. The institutional investors promised to support BHP to raise funds for the renewed offer.

US based Thoratec Corp (NASDAQ:THOR) has agreed to buy the Australian medical device company HeartWare (ASX:HIN) for $US282million in cash and stock.

Important Corporate News

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd (ASX:BEN) has posted a 16.9 per cent fall in first half net profit. The bank is believed to be considering funds-raising from shareholders.

Austereo (ASX:AEO) has reported the first-half profit rose to A$27.9 million from A$27.8 million due to a weak advertising market. Then commercial radio broadcaster said it expected conditions in the industry to be tight in the second half.

Rural services provider Futuris (ASX:FCL) booked a first half net loss of A$329.16 million for the six months to December 31, 2008.

Automotive Holdings Group Ltd (ASX:AHE) has reported a net loss of A$1.75 million for the half year to December 31 2008, compared with a net profit of A$23.7 million in the previous corresponding period.

Challenger Financial Services Group Ltd (ASX:CGF) posted an A$107.9 million net loss for the first half after the declines in the value of its investments.

Crane Group Ltd (ASX:CRG) has reported its net profit for the six months to December 31 fell to A$30.1 million, from $35.7 million in the previous corresponding period, a 15.7 per cent fall in first half profit.

Logistics and data storage provider Brambles (ASX:BXB) has reported a 28% fall in half-year profit. The profit for the six months to December 31 was $US212.8 million, down from $US293.7 million in the previous corresponding period. The company also warned that deteriorating trading conditions made it hard to provide guidance.

Contact

Michelle Liang
Asia Business News Asia Bureau
Tel: +61-2-9247-4344
Email: michelle.liang@abnnewswire.net


Related Companies

Thoratec Corporation        
Rio Tinto Limited          
HeartWare International, Inc.    
Elders Limited        
Crane Group Limited        
Challenger Limited         
Brambles Limited         
BHP Billiton Limited          
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited         
Automotive Holdings Group Limited        
Austereo Group Limited        
Aluminum Corporation of China (CHINALCO)        

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