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Sydney, Jan 23, 2009 AEST (ABN Newswire) - Overnight the US stocks dropped on the news of disappointing earnings from Microsoft Corp and economic data which signaled the recession is deepening.

At 0824 AEDT on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the March SPI futures index was 24 points lower at 3,420.

Yesterday, Australian shares rose more than 1%, led by some banks and miners. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 share index closed up 44 points, or 1.3%, to 3,486.8, and the broader All Ordinaries index rose 37.1 points, or 1.1%, to 3,431.9.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed vehicle sales grew by a seasonally adjusted 1.8% in December. This marked the firstly monthly rise since June. The rise in vehicle sales was a delayed reaction to large interest rate cuts from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in the past few months.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has warned that the sudden collapse in China's economic growth reported yesterday will wipe $5 billion off Australia's annual exports and destroy domestic jobs. Mr Rudd's comments came after China revealed that its GDP growth had slowed to an annual rate of 6.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, its lowest level since 2001.

The International Monetary Fund is set to cut Australia's economic growth forecasts to almost zero as the global financial crisis extends into 2009 despite central banks repeatedly cut interest rates.

M&A News

Engineering group AJ Lucas Group(ASX:AJL) has collected about A$34 million from the sale of its major stake in takeover target Sydney Gas(ASX:SGL). AJ Lucas had entered into a pre-bid agreement to sell about 59.6 million shares, or 74 per cent of its holding in Sydney Gas to suitor AGL Energy(ASX:AGK).

Cape Lambert Iron Ore(ASX:CFE) says in a statement that it will issue 17 million of its shares to African Minerals to increase its project stake to around 35 per cent.

Newcrest Mining(ASX:NCM) says it is considering acquiring pure gold deposits to help offset the growing amount of copper production in its portfolio, amid speculation it is examining a bid for OZ Minerals's(ASX:OZL) Martabe gold project in Indonesia.

Important Corporate News

Wesfarmers(ASX:WES) yesterday launched a three-for-seven non-renounceable offer at A$13.50 a share - a 17.3 per cent discount to its closing price on Wednesday. The company said the raising was solely aimed at reducing its overall debt burden of A$9.7 billion, much of it inherited from its 2007 takeover of Coles.

OZ Minerals(ASX:OZL) has secured a bridging facility of up to A$140 million to keep its key operations open while it resolves debt refinancing problems.

Fusion Resources Ltd(ASX:FSN) has paid back a small debt to its former joint venture partner Cazaly Resources Ltd, clearing liabilities from its books as part of its A$17.8 million takeover by Paladin Energy Ltd.

Woodside Petroleum(ASX:WPL) has slashed its full-year profit forecast by A$430 million due to foreign exchange losses and the controversial end of its condensate tax exemption.

Santos Ltd(ASX:STO) has recorded an 8 per cent dip in output in 2008 compared to the previous year but it fell within its guidance range.


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

Related Companies

Woodside Petroleum Limited         
Wesfarmers Limited        
Sydney Gas Ltd        
Santos Limited         
Paladin Energy Limited         
Oz Minerals Limited          
Newcrest Mining Limited        
Fusion Resources Limited        
Cazaly Resources Limited             
Cape Lambert Resources Limited          
AJ Lucas Group Limited       
AGL Energy Ltd         

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