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ASX Hot Stocks: APA Group, Leighton and Pacific Brands

The S&P / ASX 200 Index (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) has closed 0.5% higher at 5,209, although well below its intraday high of over 5,245. Looking at the sectors, the Financials climbed 0.7%, with Utilities the best performer, up 1.24%. The moves follow another day of new records on US markets. On Friday, the Dow Jones rose 0.8%, while the S&P 500 rose more than 1%.

Here’s why these three stocks are hot right now.

APA Group Limited (ASX: APA) rose 3.6% to $6.95. APA runs Australia’s largest natural gas infrastructure business, with pipelines threading every state and territory in Mainland Australia. Late last week China state-owned company State Grid Corporation of China agreed to buy a 19% stake in SP Ausnet, as it looks to buy up electricity supply assets and networks around the world. APA Group could be attractive to State Grid, as well as other energy companies.

Leighton Holdings (ASX: LEI) saw its shares rise 3.7% to $18.67, after the company reaffirmed its full year net profit guidance. Confirmation that Leighton’s business hasn’t been severely affected by the same conditions would have been comforting news for investors, after several mining contractors issued profit downgrades in the past few weeks. Still, Leighton is not sitting still, announcing that it needs to make further productivity gains and cut costs in its mining fleet.

Pacific Brands (ASX: PBG) fell 7.6% to close at 72.5 cents, after Citigroup analysts said winter fashion trends were failing to inspire shoppers, with apparel sales sluggish. Pacific Brands, which owns popular brands such as Bonds, King Gee and Everlast, may also be suffering as department stores ramp up their private label and in-house fashion brands. Both David Jones and Myer want to increase the level of their private label sales, which generally have higher margins. Oxfam is also putting pressure on clothing companies with suppliers in Bangladesh, to release the details of their factories, so workers conditions can be assessed. Earlier this month, a garment factory collapsed, killing 427 workers.

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