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Market Update

Australian Markets at New 4-Year High; Fortescue, BHP, Suncorp in Focus

Author: Marcus Jacob
Last Update: 8:27 AM ET February 20 2013

6:30 PM Sydney Australian markets closed higher and the ASX index traded at a new 4-year high. Fortescue net declined 40% on lower iron ore prices. BHP Billiton announced chief executive Marius Kloppers will be replaced by Andrew Mackenzie. Suncorp raised dividend by 25%.

Australian stocks traded higher and regional strength lifted market sentiment. The benchmark ASX index increased to a new 4-year high after Fortescue and BHP Billiton met lowered earnings expectations.

The ASX 200 index increased 16.80 to 5,098.70 and the broader All Ordinaries gained 13.43 to 5,114.40.

The Australian dollar declined to $1.034.

In trading, turnover decreased to 1.77 billion shares worth $4.9 billion and 460 stocks increased, 546 decreased and 361 closed unchanged.

Stock Movers

BHP Billiton reported first-half net plunged 43% as the company blamed price weakness for commodities and rising costs. The resource company also said Chief Executive Marius Kloppers will step down in May and replaced by Andrew Mackenzie.

The company announced 4% dividend growth and said attributable profit was US$4.2 billion.

Rio Tinto slipped $1.12 to $69.39 and BHP fell 35 cents to $38.65. Lend Lease jumped 38 cents to $10.58.

Foretscue Metals Group declined 5% to $4.96 after the fourth largest iron ore miner said first-half net dropped 40% to US$478 million and guided demand from Chinese steelmakers is expected to rebound. Revenues in the period were flat at US$3.3 billion.

The iron ore mining company did not declare dividend and said its focus in paying down the debt and capital expenditure. The company is also in negotiations to sell its Pilbara assets to generate $3 billon and pay down the debt.

Woodside Petroleum climbed $1.16 to $39.07 and Origin Energy Limited added 10 cents to $12.38.

Monadelphous tumbled $2.62 or 10% to $23.55 and the engineering company reported record first half profit of $79.1 million.

Leighton Holdings jumped 4% after the media reports that the company is in negotiations to sell its telecom assets.

Suncorp declined 4% to $11.25 after the insurance company increased dividend by 25% to 25 cents a share after profit in six month period increased to $574 million. The dividend increase amounted to 55.7% of its profit, lower than 60% to 80% payout ratio.

Sources: Data collected by 123jump.com and Ticker.com from company press releases, filings and corporate websites. Market data: BATS Exchange. Inc