Markets Live: ASX 200 peaks over 5200

Oil is trading at 1 2015 high after another overnight rally.

Saudi Arabia's strategy has killed Opec, writes the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

The collapse in the Opec talks with Russia over the weekend makes absolutely no difference to the balance of supply and demand in the global oil markets. The putative freeze in crude output was political eye wash.

Hardly any country in the Opec cartel is capable of producing more oil. Several are failed states, or sliding into political crises. Russia is milking a final burst of production before the depleting pre-Soviet wells of Western Siberia go into run-off. Sanctions have stymied its efforts to kick-start shale fracking in the Bazhenov basin.

Saudi Arabia's hard-nosed decision to break ranks in Doha punctures any remaining illusion there is still a regulating structure in the global oil industry. It told us that the cartel no longer exists. Beyond that it was irrelevant.

Hedge funds were clearly caught off guard by the outcome since net "long" positions on the future markets were trading at a record highs going into the meeting. Brent crude plunged 7 per cent to $US41 a barrel in early Asian trading, but what is more revealing is how quickly prices recovered.

Market dynamics are changing fast. Output is slipping all over the place: in China, Latin America, Kazakhstan, Algeria, the North Sea. The US shale industry has rolled over, though it has taken far longer than the Saudis expected when they first flooded the market in November 2014. The US Energy Department expects total US output to drop to 8.6 million barrels a day (b/d) this year from 9.4 million last year.

China is filling up the new sites of its strategic petroleum reserves at a record pace. Its oil imports have jumped to 8 million b/d this year from 6.7 million in 2015, soaking up a large part of the global glut. Some is rotating back out again as diesel: most is being consumed in China.

Read more.

Saudi Arabia is not rich. Per capita income is the same as in Greece. Saudi Arabia is not rich. Per capita income is the same as in Greece. Photo: New York Times
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Shares have ended the day solidly higher after climbing commodity prices sparked a renewed stampede into miners and energy plays, with the big banks coming along for the ride.

The ASX 200 peaked above 5200 points for the first time since January before settling up 52 points, or 1 per cent, at 5189.

The Aussie dollar has also been bought, as it headed towards 78 US cents through the day.

BHP jumped 5.2 per cent and Rio 3.9 per cent, while Fortescue added another 6.8 per cent to trade at near 18-month highs. Woodside added 4 per cent and Origin surged 5.7 per cent.

The big banks all climbed, with NAB adding 2.5 per cent, ANZ 1.5 per cent, CBA 0.7 per cent and Westpac 0.4 per cent. Macquarie climbed 2.9 per cent.

Retailers didn't have a great session. The supermarket owners fell, Woolies by 0.2 per cent and Wesfarmers by 0.8 per cent. JB Hi-Fi lost 3.2 per cent and Pacific Brands declined 3.3 per cent.

Qantas dropped another 4 per cent, while nobody wanted to be defensive: Transurban dropped 2.5 per cent and Sydney Airport 2.4 per cent.

Winners and losers in the ASX 200 today. Winners and losers in the ASX 200 today. Photo: Bloomberg
Tenants market: residential rents are barely budging.

Two out of three Australians believe the housing market is vulnerable to a "significant" correction in dwelling values according to a new housing market sentiment survey.

The March survey of more than 1000 Australians by CoreLogic and TEG Rewards also found weaker appetite from both buyers and sellers to transact in the current market, indicating a mood of growing pessimism.

Buyer sentiment was particularly weak in Sydney with only 50 per cent of respondents believing now was a good time to buy. Only Tasmanian buyers were more pessimistic. On Monday, struggling real estate group McGrath blamed a drop in listings and sales in Sydney's northern suburbs for an earnings downgrade.

The 66 per cent of respondents who fear a house price downturn was unchanged from a year ago, but slightly down on 68 per cent who feared one six months ago.

In minutes released from its April Monetary Policy Meeting on Tuesday, the Reserve Bank said conditions in the established housing market had "moderated over the past six months, with aggregate measures of year-ended housing price growth continuing to ease".

The survey found that concerns about a house price downturn are strongest in the Northern Territory and Tasmania (80 per cent of respondents) and weakest in Sydney, where 61 per cent of respondents feared a downturn in March compared with almost three-quarters a year ago.

The Housing Market Sentiment Survey also revealed a very strong perception – despite any strong evidence and amid a clampdown on illegal offshore purchases and tighter lending rules – that  foreign buyers were driving up house prices.

Of those surveyed, 94 per cent believed foreign buyers were placing upward pressure on house price growth, with almost half (44 per cent) saying foreign buyers were putting "strong" or "extreme" pressure on house prices.

Most Australians are worried about a "significant" house price correction. Most Australians are worried about a "significant" house price correction. Photo: Greg Newington

Embattled listed law firm Slater & Gordon has filed its UK accounts which, unlike its Australian filings, include a note the company is rated as a going concern only until the end of March 2017

April 30 this year looms as the deadline Slaters has to convince its bankers to hold off on calling in its debts in March next year.The company owed its banking syndicate, which includes Westpac and NAB, $783 million as at December 31. 

The law firm is in a fight for survival following a horror 2015 that saw its market capitalisation plummet following an accounting scandal in its UK arm and weaker than expected growth in both its British business and its Australian arm.

The urgency for a debt restructure was increased after the company booked an $876.4 million write-down in February, which saw its debt-to-equity ratio blow out and is believed to have led to the company breaching its covenants

If a deal is not reached by the end of the month Slater & Gordon's lenders have the right to ask the company to repay its debts in March 2017 – a move that could spark a massive capital raising by the company. 

A going concern is a company that has the resources to operate indefinitely and meet its obligations.

Slaters shares are 1.9 per cent lower today at 26 cents.

Read more.

Slater & Gordon's lenders may force the law firm to launch a massive capital raising. Slater & Gordon's lenders may force the law firm to launch a massive capital raising.  Photo: Jessica Shapiro

The US sharemarket is around an all-time high, but nobody is particularly enthused about its prospects, says IG Markets' Chris Weston.

US markets near all-time high

There's still negative sentiment about the US markets so why are they close to an all-time high? This video was produced in commercial partnership between Fairfax Media and IG Markets.

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Worst performing Australian IPOs. Worst performing Australian IPOs. 

Long-live the initial public offering spree. It's been a boon for investment banks, retail brokers, private equity firms, a handful of family-owned businesses, the ASX and the capital markets set more generally.

It's also kept ASIC busy. The AFR's Street Talk column understands the corporate regulator has ramped up its IPO watchdog duties, with dozens of calls to listing companies' boards, management teams and advisers reminding them of their duties. 

Sources said a big part of ASIC's latest crackdown was about reminding companies and their advisers about who they can and cannot market to during the pre-prospectus period. Non-sophisticated investors should not be targeted in front-end bookbuild processes until after prospectuses are lodged. 

ASIC has also targeted brokers, reminding them of what they can and cannot say during bookbuild processes. 

It comes at an important time in the IPO cycle. The window is open and there are plenty of companies in front of investors this week spruiking their wares. This week's candidates include plumbing supplies business Reliance Worldwide Corporation, recruitment software business LiveHire, tech start-up Visual Amplifiers and traffic news business GTN Ltd

Fund managers are generally receptive to the new ideas, while they may take issue with some of the earnings forecasts and valuations.

As always, though, there are a few investors looking backward at some of the blow-ups. Since the window opened with Virtus Health's float in mid-2013, the likes of Vocation and Dick Smith have been and gone, while McAleese is on death's door. Other shockers, in terms of share price performance, include Ashley Services Group, Intueri Education, 3P Learning and Wellard. And then there is McGrath Ltd

[For what it is worth, the strongest performers list is headed by Aconex, IPH Ltd, Smartgroup, APN Outdoor, Burson Group and oOh!media.] 

It also comes as the UK considers potential IPO reforms. The UK regulator has called for a breakdown between companies' lending agreements and IPO mandates and allowing sell-side analysts to get access to management teams early in the marketing process, among other things. 

ASIC seems more focused on information going to retail investors.

shares down

JP Morgan, the co-advisors to the McGrath real estate float, have weighed in on the property groups share price fall with a price downgrade, yet maintaining their "overweight" recommendation.

It listed in its risks to ratings and price target "Key man risk, including chief executive and founder John McGrath".

In a note to clients, the broker changed its share price target to $1.60, down from the $2.10 float, based on the revised McGrath forecasts of net profit after tax down 27.3 per cent to $8 million, compared to $11 million previously forecast for the full 2016 year to June 30.

"Our share price target is based on the future value of our valuation, less any dividends to be paid between now and the target date," JP Morgan's Russell Gill says. The forecast dividend is 3.3¢ from 4.5¢ per share.

"The key downside risks to our rating and share price target include: changes in Australian residential real estate market sales volumes and pricing and changes to industry competitive dynamics and disintermediation."

Mr Gill said the market is pricing in further weakness in earnings, given the company is currently trading on about 4.5 times EBITDA on the broker's rebased earnings forecasts, and remains net cash.

He added of the $4-5 million downgrade by McGrath to forecast EBITDA, $1 million (20-25 per cent of the downgrade) in "our view relates to operational issues within management's control, with the remaining 75-80 per cent related to market dynamics, with McGrath management continuing to believe the business is gaining mark share in the areas where it has seen lower listings". 

This comes as the McGrath share price rallied in morning trade up 7c to 97c. That remains a far cry from the $2.10 float in December.

Bell Potter, the other float advisor, is holding firm with a "buy" rating and a $2.25 share price target, according to Bloomberg data.

Read more.

Why investors turned on John McGrath

Listed real estate agency McGrath has struggled since its IPO, and bad timing is just one cause.

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Block out the "noise" of a grinding election campaign and look beyond the sharp volatility in financial markets and nervousness about real estate prices, say top financial planners.

Investors need to accept that generating good returns in the short-term will be a hard slog, particularly now that extra uncertainty has been injected into the mix with a lengthy election campaign, but there are good returns likely for sharemarket investors with a three to five-year timeframe.

Chris Smith, national winner of the Certified Financial Planner of the Year award in 2015, says it's crucial that investors remember to make investments with an appropriate time frame, and think about where the sharemarket is likely to be sitting in 2019 and 2020.

He says people who are looking for a good return over the next few months and stability of their capital, need to re-think.

"You can't have both," he says.

But smart investors prepared to look over the horizon on a three-to-five year timeframe will do well in the Australian sharemarket, and he believes the same goes for property investment in the right areas.

The much-maligned big four banks, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac, which have been heavily sold off in the past few months, are worth a close look.

"If you look at the reasons they are big, they are still relevant," Mr Smith says. The spotlight is even brighter on the big banks now that Opposition leader Bill Shorten has promised a Royal Commission into the banks, but Mr Smith says on a five-year time horizon they are likely to deliver solid returns.

This is despite the likelihood of lower dividends in the short-term because of increases in bad debts and more capital requirements imposed by banking regulators.

Mr Smith says property will still be an important wealth creation tool for investors, even though care is needed in the short-term to avoid the "red-flags" in apartments and other hot-spots.

Read more at the AFR.

Investors would be best served adopting a longer-term horizon. Investors would be best served adopting a longer-term horizon. Photo: Tanya Lake

Telstra faces a tough decision over how to best use the spoils of the $2.1 billion sale of the majority of its stake in Chinese online car retailer Autohome.

Many fund managers and shareholders are comfortable with the telecommunications giant reinvesting the cash in growth opportunities, but are divided on the best way to use the funds if a prudent investment cannot be found.

Late on Friday, Telstra announced that it would sell down a 47.7 per cent of Autohome to China's second largest insurer Ping An at $US29.55 per share totalling $US1.6 billion ($2.1 billion), leaving the telco with a 6.5 per cent stake.

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn did not revealed exactly how the company would use the cash injection – it expects to book at accounting gain of $1.8 billion in the current half.

"In terms of the proceeds from the sale, we remain committed to our capital management strategy," Mr Penn said.

At December 31, Telstra had cash, or cash equivalent, assets of $2.2 billion

Telstra has been searching for growth opportunities in Asia as it tries to boost returns in the face of a mature and competitive telecommunications market in Australia.

The telco's Asia strategy suffered a setback in March following the collapse of negotiations with Philippines conglomerate San Miguel to build the country's third mobile network.

"Hopefully they can find other things. They have stepped back from that Philippines investments, the market likes that discipline - that they won't invest willy-nilly," Investors Mutual portfolio manager Hugh Giddy said.

However, Mr Giddy noted that less risky investments are expensive. 

Mr Giddy said a low balance of franking credits may make returning capital via a special dividend less tax effective for shareholders.

Read more.

Andy Penn and Telstra are still keen on Asia expansion. Andy Penn and Telstra are still keen on Asia expansion. Photo: Louie Douvis
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Time for a lunchtime update and shares have come a little off the boil but are still riding high, led by hard-charging resources stocks.

The reason for the festivities is the overnight resilience in the oil price, alongside a general uplift in commodities, including a 3.6 per cent jump in iron ore.

The ASX 200 jumped as high as 5219 in early trade but now sits at 5193, up 55 points, or 1.1 per cent.

BHP has surged 5.1 per cent, while Rio is up 3 per cent and Fortescue a mighty 6.1 per cent to its highest levels since November 2014 (have a look at the chart below).

Energy stocks are the day's best. Woodside is 3.5 per cent up, and Origin 5.5 per cent.

The banks are enjoying the momentum, although they have eased a little from early trade. NAB's still up 2.3 per cent, though, while ANZ has climbed 1.9 per cent, CBA 1 per cent and Westpac 0.8 per cent. Macquarie is up 3.3 per cent.

Among the losers are retail stocks. JB Hi-Fi is down a full 4.7 per cent, while Harvey Norman is off 2.5 per cent and RCG Corp (which owns Athletes Foot) and The Reject Shop are 2 per cent down.

Qantas, after being dumped yesterday, has dropped another 1.9 per cent.

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Currencies can have a big impact on global returns.

This chart shows that while the ASX 200 has hardly done brilliantly, you would have been better off in Aussie equities than in major world sharemarkets - at least on an unhedged basis.

The reverse is true when it comes to US investors in our market. The ASX has done splendidly in US dollar terms in 2016 - up 6 per cent, including dividends.

The RBA minutes have supported the market's view that no rate cut is imminent but underscored a sense of growing discomfort with the value of the Australian dollar.

The Australian currency was trading at the highest level since mid-2015 when the board of the Reserve Bank last gathered. 

"Members noted that an appreciating exchange rate could complicate progress in activity rebalancing towards the non-mining sectors of the economy," the minutes reveal.

The board put the appreciation down to the increase in commodity prices as well as fading expectations for an interest rate hike for the United States Federal Reserve this year.

Indeed, the US dollar traded lower than when the Fed first hikes rates in December 2015 for the first time in almost a decade.

In the month leading into the April meeting, the Australian dollar rallied 7 per cent in US dollar terms, and 4 per cent on a trade-weighted basis which measures the currency against a broader basket.

The currency was broadly unchanged at US77.75¢ after the release of the minutes for the April 5 meeting. It got to US77.85¢, a new 2016 high against the greenback.

The Australian cash rate was held at a record low 2 per cent for a tenth straight meeting earlier this month. Based on current pricing, financial markets are not counting on a rate cut in the next 12 months, attributing only a 51 per cent probability of a cut heading into the December meeting.

Governor Glenn Stevens and the board signalled they will be keeping an eye on employment trends.

"New information would allow the board to reassess the outlook for inflation and decide whether the improvement in labour market conditions evident last year was continuing," the minutes say.

"Continued low inflation would provide scope to ease monetary policy further, should that be appropriate to lend support to demand."

Weaker commodity prices pushed Oil Search's quarterly revenue lower despite record production, including a stellar performance from the PNG LNG project.

Oil Search said its first-quarter sales fell 34 per cent to $US313.1 million ($404 million) from the year-earlier period and were down 9 per cent on the previous three months.

The average realised price for oil and condensates was 32 per cent lower than in the March 2015 quarter, while the average LNG price was down 45 per cent at just $US6.84 per million British thermal units.

Output climbed 3 per cent from the December quarter to 7.72 million barrels of oil equivalent, the fourth straight quarter of production growth. Oil Search's share of output from the ExxonMobil-operated PNG LNG venture reached 5.94 million boe.

Managing director Peter Botten said PNG LNG "achieved its highest quarterly production since coming onstream", producing at an annualised rate of 8 million tonnes a year. He said production had been increased beyond the rated capacity of the project "at almost no additional capital cost".

Further opportunities are being examined to potentially raise production further, he said.

Production from PNG LNG will however be reduced this quarter after a short partial shutdown for "routine maintenance" this month, Mr Botten added.

The impact of the shutdown has already been taken into account in the production guidance for PNG LNG for the full year, which is unchanged at between 7.5 million and 7.9 million tonnes.

Turning to opportunities for expansion, Mr Botten has ramped up pressure for a potential integration between the expansion of PNG LNG with Oil Search's second LNG project in PNG, the proposed Papua LNG project operated by French oil major Total SA.

"Given the current environment of low oil and gas prices, Oil Search believes that cooperation between, and possibly an integration of, these two potential developments, is essential to maximise value and avoid high-cost infrastructure duplication in PNG," Mr Botten said.

Oil Search shares are 4.7 per cent higher at $6.51.

Read more.

Lower prices affected Oil Search's revenues from the PNG LNG venture Lower prices affected Oil Search's revenues from the PNG LNG venture Photo: Joseph Lynch
commodities

The global iron ore market faces increasingly severe oversupply, according to Citigroup, which said the commodity's gains will probably be reversed in the second half.

Gains in production, including from miners that restarted output after this year's rally, coupled with likely losses in steel prices, will combine to hurt iron ore, the bank said in a quarterly commodities report. While iron ore's price declines may have been delayed, they're still coming, analysts led by Ed Morse wrote.

Iron ore surged 23 per cent in the first quarter as Chinese mills ramped up output to take advantage of a rebound in steel prices, and some supply was disrupted in Australia. Citigroup said that both of those supportive factors were likely to reverse, hurting the outlook for the market. Last week, Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said that iron ore may fall in the second half as new production offsets improving demand in China.

This year's surprise recovery contrasts with three straight years of losses through 2015 that were driven by rising low-cost supply from the biggest miners including Vale in Brazil and BHP and Rio Tinto, which helped to spur a surplus. Citigroup estimated that the global glut will more than double to 38 million tonnes in 2017, before dipping to 14 million tonnes in 2018 and rebounding to 44 million tonnes in 2019.

China pushed steel output to a record 70.65 million tonnes in March as mills fired up plants to take advantage of a price surge that's rescued profit margins. Still, in the first quarter supply fell 3.2 per cent. The country makes half of the world's steel.

Iron ore is one of the outliers in Citigroup's view on raw materials as a whole, with the bank saying most prices in the sector have probably bottomed. While Citigroup said it saw growing evidence that virtually all commodities have reached their lows, bulks including iron ore are the least likely to show significant recovery in the medium term.

Read more.

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Qantas's plunge yesterday highlights the secret airline fare war, writes BusinessDay columnist Elizabeth Knight:

There is a new but more-secretive price war raging among Australia's domestic airlines.

But the cheap flights haven't sufficiently enticed travellers to head for the airports. Stage two in this battle has kicked in as airlines are now cutting back on capacity growth.

On Monday Qantas was the first to fess up to clipping its own capacity growth wings. It had planned to add 2 per cent more seats in the January-June period, in its combined Qantas and Jetstar domestic brands.

This growth target has been reduced up to 75 per cent.

Virgin doesn't give capacity numbers to the market but industry sources say it has also been paring back growth in the number of seats on offer.

Qantas domestic flights booked for April had fallen about 8 per cent and flights for May had dropped about 15 per cent compared with the same period last year, Deutsche Bank said in a note to clients.

The announcement from Qantas ignited fears the Australian airline duopoly might revisit the bad old days of a few years back when irrational fare pricing and oversupply of seats cost both the players hundreds of millions in profits.

Qantas shares plunged more than 11 per cent in Monday morning trading. It was a brutal reaction.

Qantas had been the sharemarket darling in Australia for at least a year. It was priced for perfection – all tailwinds and no headwinds.

Indeed it's the first slightly negative commentary to come out of Qantas since it regained its mojo more than a year ago, after undertaking a massive restructuring and experiencing the effects of a weaker oil price.

But investors can be well assured that the management at both airlines will take a very different approach to a softening market this time around.

Read more.

Qantas stocks take a tumble

Qantas shares plunge after announcing it was reducing planned flights on domestic routes.

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Netflix's stunning growth phase in Australia appears to be over.  

Now it has entered a period of mere "steady" growth, and for investors, it's a problem.  

The streaming video company reported its quarterly results in the US this morning. Shares have tanked by as much as 10 per cent in after hours trading, after it forecast weaker than expected growth in subscribers in the current quarter - and it turns out Australia is a key part of that. 

Netflix said it expects to add 2.5 million subscribers globally in the June quarter - 500,000 of them in the US, which is in line with previous quarters; but just 2 million globally -  down from 2.4 million a year earlier.  

The reason for the international slowdown? In a word, us.  

"Our international forecast for fewer net adds than prior year is due to a tough comparison against the Australia/New Zealand launch," the company said in its letter to shareholders.  

Last year's launch in Australia and New Zealand created a  "growth spike" that saw the number of new international subscribers more than doubling compared to the same period  a year earlier. But now "while ANZ is growing steadily this Q2, it is less than the launch spike last year," Netflix said. 

So there it is: Australians (and New Zealanders) love Netflix, it's just that a lot of us have already signed up to the service. Or to put it another way, Netflix's Australian launch last year went so well, it's finding it hard to replicate that growth here or in other international markets.  

When you consider how many Aussies were using Netflix before the official launch (via VPNs) then perhaps this is not terribly surprising. 

According to some estimates, Netflix has already has 1 million subscribers in Australia. That kind of scale is enviable, but sometimes, for investors, steady growth is not enough.

Read more.

Netflix subscribers Netflix subscribers 
market open

Shares are jumping higher in early trade as optimism around resources builds, with the Aussie dollar also continuing to climb.

The ASX 200 has broken through 5200 points for the first time since January, led by the big miners and energy stocks, with banks coming along for the ride. The index is 66 points or 1.3 per cent up at 5203. Only another 100 points or so and we'll be level for the year!

So BHP is up 4.5 per cent and Rio 3.6 per cent. Fortescue has powered 5.3 per cent ahead and is now approaching 18-month highs. Woodside is 3.4 per cent ahead, pacing gains in the energy sector, the morning's strongest corner of the market.

The banks continue to ebb and flow with the market's momentum, and NAB is a full 2.6 per cent ahead, ANZ 1.7 per cent, Westpac 1.5 per cent and CBA 1.1 per cent.

Telstra is up 0.9 per cent, but most "quality defensive" names are lower: CSL is down a touch, while Transurban has dropped 1.8 per cent. Domino's is down 2.1 per cent.

Yesterday's biggest loser, Qantas, is down another 0.8 per cent.

Winners and losers early. Winners and losers early. Photo: Bloomberg
commodities

Rio Tinto has maintained its iron ore export target for 2016 despite being behind the pace required to reach that target and despite flagging problems with its automated train system.

Rio shipped 84 million tonnes from its operations in Australia and Canada, including tonnes owned by joint venture partners like Sinosteel and Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting.

The result was slightly better than analysts had expected.

But exports from the Pilbara were weaker than expected with the company pointing to disruptions from a cyclone.

Rio was supposed to be shipping 350 million tonnes from the pilbara in 2017, but indicated it would not meet that target because its "autohaul" system of automated trains were running behind schedule.

Rio lowered its guidance for the pilbara to between 330 and 340 million tonnes by 2017, "subject to final productivity and capital expenditure plans".

The autohaul system should have been in place already; first trials occurred in December 2014 and Rio had vowed to have 41 autonomous trains working its network by the second half of the 2015 calendar year.

"Testing and verification of Autohaul is continuing with over 75,000 kilometres of mainline trials completed, however some delays are being experienced," said the company in a statement.

The cut to 2017 guidance is another sign that Rio is finding the final stages of its pilbara expansion the hardest; Rio once spoke of a long term export target of 360 million tonnes per year, but outgoing chief executive Sam Walsh has watered that down in recent years, saying in December that the target had been "modified".

Read more.

Rio Tinto's March results were better than expectations. Rio Tinto's March results were better than expectations.  Photo: Ian Waldie

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IG market analyst Angus Nicholson breaks down the overnight moves:

The oil price may have been helped somewhat by news of Kuwait's oil workers striking on Sunday, but also sentiment in the market has improved substantially, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a report on April 14 predicting that global oil markets "would move close to balance" in the second half of the year and that US shale production next month would fall to its lowest level in two years.

The Aussie dollar gained over 0.3 per cent yesterday, but with huge intraday volatility.

Today's release of the RBA's most recent minutes is likely to be quite volatile for the Aussie, as its lofty levels make it very susceptible to any noticeable jawboning. Iron ore also gained 3.6 per cent overnight to push back above the US$60 level, helped along by solid further gains in Chinese house prices and weakness in the US dollar.

But the big development in Australia last night was the definitive rejection of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Bill by the Senate. The Bill needed six out of eight of the cross-benchers in the Senate for it to pass, but only four cast votes in favour, providing the Turnbull government with a clear-cut trigger for a double dissolution election to take place on 2 July.

This largely means rate cuts by the RBA are definitively off the table in the second quarter as a national election campaign is carried out, and given governor Glenn Stevens retires in September the earliest possible time for RBA cuts is likely to be the final three months of 2016.

Read more.

News of a likely election in July suggests less chance of an RBA rate cut in the coming few months. News of a likely election in July suggests less chance of an RBA rate cut in the coming few months. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
dollar

The Australian dollar is hovering around 10-month highs, buoyed by the unexpected resilience in oil prices.

The Aussie last fetched 77.5 US cents after gaining more than a penny in overnight trade. The currency, alongside equities and other commodities, largely followed the encouraging strength in crude prices, with Brent oil gaining 8 US cents to $US43.18/barrel.

Iron ore jumped 3.6 per cent to $US60.36/tonne.

Investors had expected commodity prices to be hit hard following the failure over the weekend of major oil producing countries to reach an agreement to freeze production levels. The oil-reliant Canadian dollar also ended the night higher against the greenback.

"Investors were relieved that oil did not fall 10 per cent on the back of the Doha meeting and they were quick to reward risk currencies like the Australian and New Zealand dollars with gains," BK Asset Management strategist Kath Lien said.

The continuing strength in the Aussie will sharpen focus on the release this morning by the RBA of its most recent monetary policy minutes.

The currency fell sharply after the last RBA meeting after the central bank said that "under present circumstances, an appreciating exchange rate could complicate the adjustment under way in the economy".

Investors interpreted this to mean discomfort with the current level of the currency, Ms Lien said.

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