Atlas Iron Limited (ASX:AGO)
Atlas Iron Limited (ASX:AGO)

Sydney, April 15, 2009 AEST (ABN Newswire) - US stocks dropped overnight on disappointing retail sales data. The US government said the sales at US retailers fell 1.1 per cent in March unexpectedly after two months rise.

Yesterday the Australian shares closed with a three months high, lifted by stronger banks and resources stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 2.2%, or 81.3 points, at 3752.9, while the broader All Ordinaries index also gained 2.2%, or 80.5 points, at 3698. The financial sector was largely buoyed by the US bank Goldman Sachs’ first quarter earnings.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

The National Australia Bank's monthly business conditions index rose three points to minus 17 points, while the measure of business confidence rose nine index points in March, to minus 13 points. The pace of decline in business conditions has been slower in March but still imply further negative growth.

The Reserve Bank of Australia said tight housing supply, rising household incomes and higher lending standards have helped Australia avoid the same drops in home values in the US and UK market. Australia's homes prices were still rising moderately at the time of the US market meltdown.

M&A News

China's National Development and Reform Commission withheld approval on Hunan Valin Steel's bid for 17 per cent of Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) amid concerns over additional conditions imposed on the deal by the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board.

Gold producer Avoca Resources (ASX:AVO) has made a A$49 million takeover bid for Dioro Exploration (ASX:DIO), picking up a 14.95 per cent stake from the target's major shareholders. Avoca is offering one of its shares for every 2.82 Dioro shares held, valuing Dioro at A$0.53 a share.

OZ Minerals (ASX:OZL) has signed off a $US1.2 billion asset sale agreement with China Minmetals, including a no-shop, no-talk clause for its flagship Prominent Hill project, after the original takeover bid by Minmetals was knocked back the Foreign Investment Review Board on national security grounds.

Important Corporate News

Lihir Gold (ASX:LGL) will slash 200 jobs from its underperforming mining operation in Ballarat goldfields. The company also said the mine may not reach the production guidance of 50,000 to 100,000 ounces issued in a recent quarterly report.

BrisConnections (ASX:BCSCA) shareholder Nicholas Bolton has sold the voting rights to his 77 million units to Thiess, a subsidiary of Leighton Holdings (ASX:LEI).

Bank of Queensland (ASX:BOQ) has cut its standard variable rate on mortgages by 10 basis points. The bank's new standard variable rate on home loans will drop to 5.89 per cent from April 24.

International rating firm Standard & Poor's has cut Telstra's (ASX:TLS) long-term debt outlook from "stable" to "negative". The change is largely due to "significant uncertainties" posed by the government's proposed A$43 billion national broadband network.

Atlas Iron (ASX:AGO) expects to secure a joint venture partner for its Ridley magnetite project by the end of the year. Atlas said it has not ruled out ultimately selling the entire project, which could produce 15 million tonnes a year of blast furnace grade magnetite.


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

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