International markets were collectively weaker overnight.
In Europe the FTSE shed 56 points (-1%) to settle at 5872, whilst the CAC (flat) and DAX (-0.5%) fared slightly better.
Take-up at the ECB’s second 3-year LTRO was again huge at €529.5 billion. This was a little more than at the December offering when €489 billion was borrowed.
Stateside, the Dow Jones lost 53 points (-0.4%) to settle at 12952, whilst the S&P 500 (-0.5%) and Nasdaq (-0.7%) lost similar ground.
Testimony by Fed Chairman Bernanke, giving no indication of further stimulus measures, was the catalyst for the weakness.
Bernanke acknowledged the slightly better run of recent data but provided no indication of any intention to move on QE3; “The recovery remains uneven and modest by historical standards while the decline in the unemployment rate had been somewhat more rapid than might have been expected.”
US economic data continues to be positive.
The Chicago PMI continued the run of decent regional survey data, jumping from 60.2 to 64.0 in February – marking the highest reading since April 2011.
US December Quarter GDP was revised up slightly from 2.8% to 3% – driven by a smaller than estimated decline in business investment.
The Aussie dollar pulled back a touch and is now buying US$1.074, whilst the US dollar rallied against the euro and yen following Bernanke’s comments.
Oil reversed early losses as the ECB stimulus offset the larger than expected increase in crude oil inventories. US crude inventories rose by 4.16 million barrels last week against expectations for a 1.1 million build.
Base metal prices were mostly weaker with the exception of Aluminium which rose 0.1%. Gold fell sharply, giving up 5.2% to $1698 an ounce.
In company news, Woolworths has announced a 17% fall in first half profit to $967 million. The result was impacted by one-off restructuring costs and a weak trading environment.
Today, Fairfax (2c), AGL (29c), IAG (5c) and Sonic (24c) go ex dividend.
We will also be in receipt of important economic data in the form of building approvals and private capital expenditure (11:30am, AEDT).