Sydney, Dec 22, 2008 AEST (ABN Newswire) - Wall Street ended mixed on Friday as the market remained uncertain on US government's rescue plan for the auto industry. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose after the US government said it would throw a $17.4 billion lifeline to car makers while Dow dropped as energy shares slumped on the sinking oil prices. The market will focus on government's emergency loans that General Motors and Chrysler are expected to access soon and the President-elect Barack Obama's expanded stimulus plan to create more jobs.
On Friday, the Australian market closed marginally higher with rise on most sectors except energy stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index gained 34.5 points, or 0.96 per cent, at 3,615.7, while the broader All Ordinaries index rose 25.5 points, or 0.72 per cent, to 3,547.2. Low trading volumes are expected this week.

At 0730 AEDT on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the March Share Price Index futures contract was up 11 points at 3,610.

The dollar has opened weaker as the US government's multi-billion package for its car industry boosted support for the American currency. At 07.00am (AEDT), the Australian dollar was trading at $US0.6832/37, down from Friday's close of $US0.6858/65.

The price of New York oil sank under $US34 per barrel on Friday for the first time for more than four and a half years, as weak global demand overshadowed a record OPEC output cut.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

Figures from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union show the monthly rate of construction companies with winding-up applications against them has gradually increased over the year from 15 in the month of June to 129 in the last three weeks before Christmas.

International Monetary Fund predicted a "very dark" 2009 which could be worse than expected if states failed to take sufficient action to fight the crisis, facing economies big and small. The IMF has called for global fiscal stimulus of about two per cent of GDP, equivalent to roughly $US1.2 trillion.

Today the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases new motor vehicle sales data for November.

M&A News

Babcock & Brown Infrastructure Group (ASX:BBI) said Monday it has secured an extension of around three months to its obligation to purchase a further stake in a Western Australia rail business. BBI said in a statement that its obligation to purchase the remaining 24% of WestNet Rail that it doesn't own, is now due in March 2009.

Babcock & Brown Power (ASX:BBP) is reviewing some non-binding bids to buy its business amid an ongoing company review of its capital structure. It also revised down its guidance for it fiscal 2009 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to reflect the divestments.

Important Corporate News

Travel agency group Flight Centre Ltd(ASX:FLT) says its first half profit will fall by as much as 11.7 per cent, due to weaker sales flowing from the global economic crisis. The company has forecast a pre-tax profit for the December half year of between $82 million and $87 million, down from $92.9 million in the previous corresponding period.

Telstra(ASX:TLS) says pursuing legal action against the Government for being excluded from the $15 billion national broadband network tender list is not a priority, though the telco has not ruled it out.

Commonwealth Bank(ASX:CBA) is expected to seek talks with investors in the new year to smooth any possible damage to its reputation. The bank said in an statement that the top executives has received full support from the board as regulators plan to assess whether CBA breached disclosure rules surrounding its A$2 billion capital raising.

Rural conglomerate Futuris Corp(ASX:FCL) has played down the possibility that it may sell its 43 percent stake in cattle station owner Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) for below book value.

1. Related Stocks - Mid Market (AEST 1230)
Company     Code   %Change   Volume   Turnover    Low   High
CWLTH BANK  ASX:CBA -1.15  2,543,667  $75,275,885  2728 2828
TELSTRA     ASX:TLS -1.07  7,503,800  $27,976,488  367  373
FLIGHT CTR  ASX:FLT -3.12  255,331    $2,022,661   765  869
BABCOCK &   ASX:BBP +32.69 13,294,150 $925,269     5.3  7.9
FUTURIS     ASX:FCL +1.68  1,373,943  $834,460     60   62
B&B INFR    ASX:BBI +1.49  5,315,647  $373,202     6.7  7.1
2. Top 10 ASX on Turnover - Mid Market (AEST 1230)
Company     Code   %Change   Volume   Turnover    Low   High
BHP BLT     ASX:BHP +.03   3,912,842  $123,621,942 2971 3035
CWLTH BANK  ASX:CBA -1.07  2,548,955  $75,421,273  2728 2828
WESTPAC     ASX:WBC -2.42  2,934,761  $50,499,967  1672 1720
CSL LIMITED ASX:CSL +4.78  1,039,324  $34,831,860  3212 3333
NAT. BANK   ASX:NAB -.55   1,603,329  $32,637,035  1979 2021
WOODSIDE    ASX:WPL +2.89  831,297    $28,569,078  3220 3348
FORTESCUE   ASX:FMG -19.9  14,992,097 $28,282,687  170  211
TELSTRA     ASX:TLS -1.07  7,510,069  $27,999,558  367  373
ANZ BANK    ASX:ANZ +1.5   1,800,337  $27,326,317  1460 1488
WESTFIELDG  ASX:WDC +.46   1,989,694  $25,698,485  1274 1309


Michelle Liang
Asia Business News Asia Bureau
Tel: +61-2-9247-4344

Related Companies

Telstra Corporation Limited.         
Flight Centre Travel Group Limited        
Elders Limited        
Commonwealth Bank of Australia        
Babcock and Brown Infrastructure Group         
Alinta Energy Group        

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