Despite two nights of positive news out of the US and a strong early start, the Australian market couldn't hold onto the best of the day's gains, but still closed in positive territory.
The S&P / ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) closed at 4,375.2 and the All Ordinaries (Index: ^AORD) (ASX: XAO) at 4,445.0, both up 0.3%. The ASX 200 was up around three-quarters of one percent after the first ten minutes of trading, but that was to be the high point of the day, with the index giving ground steadily and largely unchecked throughout the day.
The Dow Jones Index had closed overnight up 0.7% after a gain of 0.6% the previous night, while the S&P 500 gained 1.4% and 0.4% respectively and while the Nasdaq was off 0.3% on Tuesday night, it well and truly recovered that loss with a gain of over 2% last night.
Jobs were in the spotlight today, with reports Ford (NYSE: F) plans to stand down 1,800 workers in Victoria and the St. George division of Westpac (ASX: WBC) looks to outsource 200 jobs, some potentially to India and elsewhere.
The big mover on the market today was television and newspaper proprietor Seven West Media (ASX: SWM). The company had released an earnings downgrade almost an hour and a half after the market closed on Tuesday, before the ANZAC Day closure. If Seven West had hoped to avoid too much coverage of its downgrade, investors certainly nixed that, with almost a quarter of the company's market value disappearing in the six hours of trade today after shares dropped 22.8%.
Much of the media sector felt the chill of the ill wind, with APN News & Media (ASX: APN) down 2.4%, Fairfax Media (ASX: FXJ) off 2.8%, Southern Cross Media (ASX: SXL) down 4%, and Ten Network (ASX: TEN) down 0.6%.
News Corporation (ASX: NWS) managed to buck the trend, closing up 0.1%, probably due to its now proportionally small exposure to traditional media in Australia, and possibly as investors were relieved that Rupert Murdoch's evidence at the UK's Leveson Media Inquiry didn't unearth any further damaging revelations.
Meanwhile, TPG Telecom (ASX: TPM) was today fined $13,200 for misleading advertising, putting Telstra (ASX: TLS), Optus, a subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications (ASX: SGT) and iPrimus – now owned by M2 Telecommunications (ASX: MTU) on notice for including too many "fine print qualifications" in their advertising material.
The Telecomms sector led the gains on the ASX today, up 1.1%, followed by Health Care, up 0.9% and and Utilties, which rose 0.7% in today's trading. Laggers were led by Consumer Discretionary stocks, down 0.9%, and the A-REIT sector which was off just 0.1%.
The ASX 200 was led by a trio of resources related companies, with OneSteel (ASX: OST) up 4.3%, Sandfire Resources (ASX: SFR) which put on 4.2% and Paladin Energy (ASX: PDN) which rose 4.1%. Other notable gainers included the Bank of Queensland (ASX: BOQ), up 3.6%, Imdex (ASX: IMD) up 3.5% and Boart Longyear (ASX: BLY) which gained 3.5%.
The largest losses on the ASX 200 were recorded by the aforementioned Seven West Media. Daylight was second, followed by Southern Cross Media. From the bottom 15 performers on the ASX today, it was perhaps no surprise that four were media companies.
Of the non-media stocks, the largest losses were Newcrest Mining (ASX: NCM), down 3.9%, AWE Limited (ASX: AWE), which fell 3.3%, Whitehaven Coal (ASX: WHC) which lost 3.3% and Troy Resources (ASX: TRY) which closed down 3.2%.
With consumer spending so soft, it's a brave investor who has significant exposure to media and retailing at the moment – but on the other hand as Baron Rothschild was quoted as saying, perhaps the best time to buy is when there's blood in the streets.
In either circumstance, the long term is what matters, not the daily gyrations of the market.
The ASX is already on the move in 2012, and Goldman Sachs experts recently said they reckon S&P/ASX 200 could top 5,000 next year. Read This Before The Coming Market Rally is a must-read for investors who don't want to miss out on the party. Click here now to request your free copy, before it's too late.
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Scott Phillips is an investment analyst with The Motley Fool. Scott owns shares in Telstra. You can follow him on Twitter @TMFGilla. Take Stock is The Motley Fool Australia's free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. Click here now to request your free subscription, whilst it's still available. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691).