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Corporate potential

Becalmed global markets mean the Australia 200 index is again subject to the highs and lows of company reporting. Strong US data had little impact on trading overnight. Similarly important capex numbers due this morning may be ignored in favour of results from top companies as the reporting season draws to a hectic close this week.

House sales in the US grew at a rate of 3.3% in January, above forecasts centred on 1.1%. However, there was little impact on trading, possibly reflecting the fact that major US indices are already at all-time highs. If confidence is the missing ingredient in the Australian economy today’s capital expenditure survey may flag a shift in thinking, given the lift in other business confidence indicators released recently. Analysts will look to the accompanying survey of intentions as much as the predicted 0.5% fall in Q4.

Over today and tomorrow 45 top 200 companies release their half year earnings. Given 153 have already reported by Friday investors will have a clear picture of the corporate health of Australia. Themes are emerging. A big lift in mining earnings is driving overall profit growth of around 25%, but sales growth across all companies of around 3% is more in line with economic data. Energy, healthcare, consumer services and financials all displayed earnings growth.

Key reports today include Nine Entertainment, Platinum Asset Management and Southern Cross Media. Reports so far from Iluka, Alumina, Qantas and Ramsay Healthcare have all disappointed, suggesting the main index may fall further than the 13 points indicated by futures markets. Only Westfield and Perpetual have delivered above expectations so far.

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