The ASX 200 added 21 points (+0.4%) for the week, settling at 4732.
Bluescope Steel (BSL) hit a 10 year low following last week’s 25.3% hammering. The steel maker continues to feel the impact of a strong Aussie dollar.
Iluka Resources (ILU) and Spotless Group (SPT) were among the sector’s bright spots, surging 16.8% and 22.5%, respectively.
Leighton Holdings (LEI) led the gains among the industrials after announcing plans to resume dividend payments in FY12.
James Hardie (JHX) was another standout following its 5% share buyback announcement. JHX rose strongly despite also reporting a decline in full year operating profit.
Weekly Economic Wrap
Housing data released on Monday revealed home loan approvals fell 1.5% in March, in another sign of the country’s soft housing market.
Approvals, which declined to a 10 year low, were weighed down by the Queensland floods and November’s rate hike by the RBA.
Tuesday saw the RBA release the minutes from its May meeting.
As expected, the minutes signalled the RBA may need to raise interest rates soon to combat medium-term inflationary pressures.
The RBA noted that above-average economic growth would be underpinned by a commodity price boom, prompting underlying inflation to exceed its target range.
However, the RBA was happy leaving rates on hold this month, citing the need to assess the growth and inflation outlook at future meetings.
Thursday saw the release of the wage price index (WPI) for the March quarter, which rose 0.8%, less than economist expectations of a 1.1% increase.
The data indicates moderate wage pressures in the economy, which is a key to keeping inflation in check.
Also on Thursday, the consumer sentiment index fell 1.3% in May compared to a 1.2% rise in April.
The slump in sentiment was likely due to concern over further rate hikes and a stringent Federal budget.
Overseas and Commodity Market Wrap:
Equity and commodity markets were mixed last week, with some of the global gains wiped out by big losses on Friday night when European debt fears accelerated.
The big three American indices all closed lower, but were in positive territory leading before falls on Friday.
The Dow closed the week down 0.7%, the S&P 500 dropped just 0.4% and the Nasdaq continued to underperform, falling 0.9%. The big company news of the week was the float of business networking site LinkedIn, which rose 100% on its first day of listing.
Across the Atlantic, the FTSE fared better, adding 0.4% for the week. The London market had its own big float, with the long-awaited IPO of commodities business Glencore finally hitting the boards before ending the week just below its float price.
In Asia most markets also closed slightly lower. The major Japanese and Hong Kong indices closed around 1%, while the mainland Chinese market dropped by 2.1% after reeling from the government’s latest measures to curb inflation and slow the economy.
The Australian market was a rare gainer last week, closing up 0.5%. However the local market fell heavily today, catching up with global losses from Friday night.
Oil prices finished the week slightly lower, down 0.2%, but gold prices bucked the trend and closed the week up 0.8%.
Other precious metals also closed higher, with palladium up 3.8% and platinum eking out a 0.3% gain.
Base metals were mixed, with aluminium and nickel registering big losses and lead and copper closing the week with strong gains.