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Another Russian affected day today with the pressure still on after the Crimea surprisingly voted to become Russian. Looks like RasPutin is ignoring the West’s threat of sanctions and the closure of the ‘Brides of Ukraine’ web site as tension bubbles away.

The ASX 200 was always going to be under a little pressure with Ex Divs and negative leads from overseas and despite one or two efforts at rallying throughout the day,its heart was never really in it. Most brokers research seems to have more holds than a Greco Roman Wrestling tournament with little reason to get aggressive on the bargain hunting ,buyers were willing to let it come to them. In the wash up the ASX 200 fell 11.8 points to close at 5317 after a low of 5311 and a high of 5331.Small trading range bound day.

Financials were a drag led by Commonwealth Bank of Australia (A$74.85, -0.5%) and Westpac Banking Corporation (A$33.54, -0.3%) but Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (A$32.06, +0.6%) bucked the trend. Insurers though were generally better with QBE Insurance Group Limited (A$12.59, +1.3%) and Suncorp Group Limited (A$12.46, +1.0%) in the frame. Lend Lease Group (A$11.42, +0.9%) also did well today after being named preferred tendered for the NorthConnex Motorway. Industrials were generally a smidge off with Woolworths Limited (A$35.48, -2.3%) ex dividend, Wesfarmers Limited (A$41.78, -0.2%) eased as did Csl Limited (A$71.38, -0.4%).

Qantas Airways Limited (A$1.08, -0.5%) continued to slide but at least they haven’t mislaid any planes as yet ,Virgin Australia Holdings Limited (A$0.35, unch) held cruising altitude and Regional Express Holdings Limited (A$0.80, +3.2%) had a routine takeoff.

In resource land the Iron Ore stocks failed to follow through as bargain hunters looked elsewhere and even the news from BHP Billiton Limited (A$35.47, -0.5%) that they have so much cash that they are going to have to give it back to shareholders was not enough to help the sector. All suffered. RIO Tinto Limited (A$61.28, -0.4%),Fortescue Metals Group Ltd (A$4.91, -1.4%),BC Iron Limited (A$4.74, -0.8%) and Arrium Limited (A$1.29, -4.1%) .Others to feel the wrath of Khan included Sirius Resources NL (A$2.65, -2.9%),Iluka Resources Limited (A$9.41, +0.4%),Sandfire Resources NL (A$5.48, -1.8%) and Oz Minerals Limited (A$3.40, -1.4%).

Volume was uninspiring at around $3bn but it is a Monday. Big winners today included Oceanagold Corporation (A$3.09, +10.4%), Iproperty Group Limited (A$3.62, +6.5%) yet again, Northern Star Resources Ltd (A$1.325, +8.2%),Donaco International Limited (A$1.44, +5.5%),G8 Education Limited (A$4.29, +5.7%) after the Stirling Early Education IPO was scuttled by lack of interest nd olds like Evolution Mining Limited (A$0.995, +2.6%),Beadell Resources Limited (A$0.77, +1.3%),Medusa Mining Limited (A$2.51, +2.9%) and Perseus Mining Limited (A$0.52, +7.2%) doing well. In the loser camp today were Iron Road Limited (A$0.28, -11.1%),Lynas Corporation Limited (A$0.225, -6.2%)(again and likely to continue)Yancoal Australia Limited (A$0.665, +0.8%),Leighton Holdings Limited (A$20.65, -3.4%),Cardno Limited (A$6.24, -3.0%),Arrium Limited (A$1.29, -4.1%) and Karoon Gas Australia Limited (A$2.62, -3.7%) plumbing the depths.

Aussie dollar strengthened on safe haven buying to 90.6 especially given the recent jobs numbers. Government been strangely quiet on these Unlike Uncle Joe to refrain from blowing a trumpet or two! Gold was off its highs but still steady at around $1384.Tonight will be a big test to see if it can breech the psychological $1400 level.

Asian markets were in the red but not by much as we wait to see what happens in the Crimea.

Stocks and Stories

The much anticipated IPO of Stirling Early Education provoked little interest and has been pulled from the roster. Was supposed to raise $200m.

Good to see WBC’s Chief economist Bill Evans coming in from the cold and has dropped expectations of two further rate cuts this year, predicting a rate rise in 2015.

Sales of new motor vehicles edged up 0.1 per cent in February but were still down on the same month last year.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed new vehicle sales rose to a seasonally adjusted 92,799 in February, after falling 4 per cent to 92,706 the month before. Sales were down 3.5 %on February last year.

Profits at IRESS Limited (A$9.12, unch) have fallen 38 per cent to $24.2 million for the 2014 financial year due to delays in benefits from better market activity and the costs of its biggest acquisition to date.The company paid a final dividend of 24.5 cents, the same as a year prior, but 80 per cent franked this time rather than 90 per cent franked.

Tomorrow’s News Today

This seems a pretty good deal as Dubai has rolled over half its debt at 1%. Not bad. Borrowed $10bn from it s neighbour in Abu Dhabi at 1%.

Should be an interesting April in Japan as the new improved and increased sales tax comes into play. Hopes that the BOJ will get out the John Bull printing set and roll off some more Yen. Seems strange to increase taxes and increase monetary policy and spending. How much concrete can you lay!

Russia, the world’s largest oil producer, exported $160 billion worth of crude, fuels and gas-based industrial feed stocks to Europe and the U.S. in 2012.easy to see why sanctions will be tricky to enforce!

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group plans to go public on a U.S. stock exchange, possibly raising up to $15 billion in the biggest initial public offering since Facebook.It looks like the value of the company with top $100bn!

Looks like UK banks are suspending bonus to a whole swathe of traders and others as the Currency Fixing scandal deepens. No wonder the FX markets are dominated by computers now. Much harder to fine!

The co-founder of frozen yogurt chain Pinkberry has been sentenced to seven years in prison for beating a homeless man in Los Angeles with a tyre iron.

Is this really happening in Paris? The smog is so bad that cars will only be able to drive on alternative days. Odd one day evens the next. This is Paris ,not Shanghai or Delhi!

 

Clarence

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