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Market Update

China Exports Plunge Drags Australian Stocks, Leighton Soars 11%

Author: Marcus Jacob
Last Update: 9:29 AM ET March 10 2014

5:00 PM Sydney – Australian markets closed lower on the worries that a slowdown in China would dampen the demand for commodities. Leighton Holdings soared 11% after its German parent Hochtief AG offered to increase its stake. Insurance Australia plans to raise $200 million.

Australian stocks traded lower on the worries that Chinese demand for iron ore will decline. The general weakness in commodities prices also sapped market indexes.

Over the weekend, China released sluggish economic data that showed slowing economic climate.

Inflation in February decreased to 2% from 2.5% in January, Chinese government data showed.

Exports in the month plunged 18.1% and trade balance swung to deficit of $22.98 billion in the month from a surplus a year ago month, China’s customs agency reported.

China also set the target of 7.5% in the current calendar year.

Australian markets were also weak after Japan lowered its economic growth assessment for the December quarter to 0.7% from 1%.

Australian dollar dropped to 90.37 U.S. cents and stock market trading turnover gained to 764 million shares worth $4.5 billion.

The ASX 200 index slumped 50.80 or 0.9% to 5,411.50 and the broader All Ordinaries dropped 46.20 to 5,430.80.

Stocks in Review

Rio Tinto plunged $3.74 or 5.8% to $61.20. BHP declined $1.56 or 4.1% to $36.16. Woodside Petroleum Limited rose 5 to $38.71.

Westpac fell 13 cents to $33.77.

Insurance Australia Group Limited slid 0.6% to $5.41 after the insurance company plans to raise up to $200 million in subordinated debt to partially fund its planned acquisition of Wesfarmers insurance underwriting business.

Leighton Holdings Limited surged 11.4% to $23.09 after the Australia-based construction company’s German parent Hochtief AG offered a conditional cash takeover proposal for $1.15 billion or $22.15 a share.

Hochtief proposed to increase its stake to 74.23% from the current 58.8%.

Also, last week Leighton told securities regulator that the company was unaware of the jump in the stock price.

Seven West Media Ltd gained 1.4% to $2.17 after the media company said it does not support the changes to media ownership laws proposed by the Federal government.

The company made partnership with global media company Acxiom and is also looking to recruit a new head to spearhead the HBBTV, the digital channel.

WestSide Corporation Limited soared 13.5% to 29.5 cents after the coal seam gas explorer received a takeover offer from a Chinese port, refinery and resources owner Landbridge Group Co Ltd for $160 million.

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