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Market Update

Australian Vehicle Sales Fall, BHP Reaffirms Dividend Plan

Author: Marcus Jacob
Last Update: 3:51 AM ET March 17 2014

5:00 PM Sydney Australian market indexes turned lower after choppy trading on the rising tensions in Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. Australian vehicle sales in February declined 3.5% from a year ago February 93,000. BHP reaffirmed its plan to return $6 billion as dividend in 2015.

Australian market indexes closed lower after choppy trading as investors worried about the growing uncertainty in Crimean peninsula.

At a referendum in Crimea, citizens overwhelmingly approved to secede from Ukraine. Nearly 97% of votes were in the favor of an independent state and the regional parliament declared independence from Ukraine.

Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev approved to call thousands of reservists to join military.

In domestic economic news, new motor vehicle sales declined in February from a year ago.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported motor vehicles sales in February rose 0.1% to 92,799 units compared to 92,706 in January. On a seasonally adjusted basis new motor vehicle sales declined 3.5% in year to February.

Australian dollar closed at 90.54 U.S. cents and stock market trading turnover declined to 604 million shares worth $3.4 billion.

The ASX 200 index slid 11.80 to 5,317.60 and the broader All Ordinaries fell 11.90 to 5,335.20.

Stocks in Review

Rio Tinto slipped 22 cents to $61.28.

BHP lowered 19 cents to $35.47 and the chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie said at a British press gathering reaffirmed $6.1 billion cost-cutting target by the end of 2014 and a reduction in debt to US$25 billion.

Mackenzie also estimated in the 2015 financial year BHP would be in a position to return up to $6 billion of free cash flow to investors.

Net debt in the first-half of current financial year for the company was reported at $27.1 billion.

Woodside Petroleum Limited fell 29 to $38.01.

Westpac decreased 11 cents to $33.54.

Beach Energy Limited slumped 1.5% to $1.63 after the Australia-based oil and gas explorer plans to acquire the Habanero logistics and operational support base from Geodynamics Limited in South Australia for $1.5 million.

Transurban Group rose 4 cents to $7.26 after the toll roads operator selected Lend Lease and its French partner were selected as preferred tendered to design and construct the NorthConnex Motorway in Sydney with estimated project cost worth $3 billion.

Lend Lease and its partner French construction company Bouygues Construction will have construction budget of $2.65 billion.

Lend Lease increased 0.9% to $11.41.

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