Stocks eye flat start on weak leads

Australian shares are set for a flat start after overseas markets dipped as Standard & Poor's said Greece may have to restructure its debt again and lower-than-forecast profits fueled concern China's growth is slowing.

Australian shares are set for a flat start after overseas markets dipped as Standard & Poor's said Greece may have to restructure its debt again and lower-than-forecast profits fueled concern China's growth is slowing.

Australian shares are set for a flat start after overseas markets dipped as Standard & Poor's said Greece may have to restructure its debt again and lower-than-forecast profits fueled concern China's growth is slowing.

On the ASX24, the SPI futures index was 5 points lower to 4335. The Aussie dollar has climbed back from a low of $US1.0305, a level not seen since mid January. It was recently buying $US1.0365 after closing late yesterday at $US1.037.

Investor sentiment was tempered overnight when a top EU official said Greece was making progress but was not out of the woods yet and this year would be decisive as to whether Athens can stay in the euro.

Eurozone finance ministers are preparing to meet to raise the combined firepower of the region's two bailout funds to a potential 940 billion euros from 500 billion on Friday (local time), a draft statement showed.

Making news today

In economics news:

Private sector credit for FebruaryHousing Industry Association new home sales for FebruaryRBA financial aggregates for FebruaryIn company news:

Fortescue Metals vs ASIC High Court hearingThe following companies hold general meetings: AUSTAR United Communications, Goodman Group, Pro-Pac Packaging, Axiom Mining, UXA Resources, Intermoco, Austin Exploration, Flinders Mines, Blackgold International Holdings, Eagle Nickel, Jacka Resources, Quintessential Resources Offshore overnight

Bond markets

Spanish bonds fell and Italian notes slid by the most in two months as industrial action in the Iberian nation highlighted the challenges facing euro-area governments as they seek to cut costs and reduce deficits.

Spain's 10-year bond yield climbed 13 basis points, or 0.13 percentage point, to 5.46 per cent Italy's 10-year yield climbed 10 basis points to 5.21 per centGermany's 10-year bund yield dropped three basis points to 1.81 per centTreasuries rose, pushing 10-year yields to a two-week low, as investors sought the safest assets on concern Europe's debt crisis is poised to flare again.

US treasury 10-year yields dropped five basis points, or 0.05 percentage point, to 2.15 per cent How we fared yesterday

Australian shares ended marginally lower, dragged down by losses in mining and energy shares as worries about growth in the United States and China depressed commodity prices.

At the close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 5.6 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 4337.9, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 9.5 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 4422.

BusinessDay with agencies

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