28 Dec 2012

Thin holiday markets lift on hopes of US compromise

1:28 pm on 28 December 2012

Hopes of a fiscal cliff compromise before tax rises and spending cuts in the new year have seen global markets rise.

US president Barack Obama is cutting short his Christmas break to return to Washington and resume negotiations with Republican Congress leaders.

There are hopes that a compromise based on president Obama's offer of a $US400,000 threshold for tax increases may be agreed before 1 January.

In New Zealand, the benchmark NZX 50 index lifted 7.63 points (0.19%) to 4065 points.

Over 3 million Chorus Ltd shares changed hands but the price remained teady at $2.95.

Cornerstone stock Telecom dropped by 3 cents (1.32%) to $2.25, and big online auction house Trade Me fell 1 cent (0.25%) to $3.92, while Precinct Properties rose half a cent (0.51%) to 99 cents. In each of these stocks, over a million shares changed hands, but the day's total volume for the index was a tiny 16 million shares valued at $65.5 million.

Across the Tasman, the All Ordinaries index was up 15.8 points to 4661 by 4:33pm (Australian time), while the ASX 200 was about 0.3% higher at 4648, albeit on very low volumes following two public holidays, the ABC reports.

In a rare piece of company news on Thursday, Australian miner Fortescue has announced the resumption of its expansion plans.

In September, the company suspended the development of its Kings deposit in Western Australia, as iron ore prices slumped below $US90 a tonne.

However, iron ore prices have risen more than 50% since then, back to $US135 a tonne, causing Fortescue to restart its Kings development in January.

The expansion is due to be completed by the end of next year, and Fortescue's shares were up 3.3%.

Australian retailers also gained as queues outside the major department stores' CBD locations provided evidence that bricks and mortar shopping is not yet dead.

This year the department stores are also hoping online sales will put some icing on that post-Christmas cake.

Retail lobby groups have estimated that around $A1.8 billion was spent yesterday alone.

That has seen Myer shares up 2.4% to $A2.12, and David Jones shares have risen 2.6%.

However, Australia's major banks - which are mostly New Zealand's have been a drag on the market.