5 things you need to know about the Australian sharemarket today

Welcome to Friday. Here are the five things I’m looking at today on the Australian sharemarket.

  1. After four days of losses, the S&P/ ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) has again opened lower, losing 0.4% at the open, and at this stage it looks like we are heading for a fifth consecutive day of losses on the market. Oil stocks are being hammered, with Santos Limited (ASX: STO) down 2.7% and Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL)  losing 1.7%.

    Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones close up 0.2%, while the broader S&P 500 ended flat and the NASDAQ added 0.1%.

    It’s a different story in the UK.  The FTSE 100 index, has rallied in six of the past seven days.

    Amongst the commodities, gold, iron ore and oil were all down overnight.

  2. Mining giant Glencore has suspended its Australian coal mining operations for a few weeks, in an over-supplied market. Thermal coal prices have virtually halved since three years ago.Back in September, Glencore told analysts its coal output would be 14% higher in 2014 than in 2012, and still has more expansion plans in the pipeline.Glencore’s move may be aimed at the big miners BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) and Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO). The company’s boss Ivan Glasenberg has repeatedly criticised the two for expanding their iron ore output, in the face of lower commodity prices.

    Rio has been named as a potential takeover target by Glencore.

  3. New research by the Financial Services Council and UBS shows that self-managed super funds (SMSFs) have around 35% of their assets in cash, with around 25% in equities. The research also shows that around 7% of SMSFs are invested in direct residential property – which makes a mockery of the idea that SMSFs are responsible for rapidly growing prices in residential properties.The bigger issue for SMSF trustees is that the 35% of cash in assets is earning next to nothing in interest, with term deposit rates barely above 3% and high interest savings accounts offering not much more at 4%.When investors can earn above 7% before tax investing in quality blue chip companies paying fully franked dividends, plus the opportunity to see capital gains over the long term, many investors will end up with less than they might need in retirement. As we wrote yesterday, retiree couples will need a nest egg of $1.29 million just for a comfortable retirement.
  4. Tweet of the Day

  5. Stock of the Day – brought to you by Ryan Newman – Nearmap Ltd (ASX: NEA). One broker has just slapped a 90 cent price target on the photomapping company, but could they have underestimated the company’s potential? Find out here.

If you happen to be one of those SMSF trustees with a substantial cash balance, here are three of our favourite dividend plays you might want to consider.

The Australian Financial Review says "good quality Australian shares that have a long history of paying dividends are a real alternative to a term deposit." Get "3 Stocks for the Great Dividend Boom" in our special FREE report. Click here now to find out the names, stock symbols, and full research for three of our favourite income ideas, all completely free!

Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in Santos and Nearmap. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

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